Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sisters. India.

If you think that India is crowded and noisy and, well, just a bit overwhelming, you are right. About some areas. But, India is the world's seventh largest country by land mass and, if you want to take in some culture without the mayhem of crowds, you might consider heading south to Kerala.

During my trip to India in May, my class met with the guys from Ideaworks. They presented the class with an idea challenge. The prize? An all-expenses-paid trip to Kerala (aka God's Own Country). How could I resist a prize like that!

And, I'm a winner, baby.

While the prize was technically just for me, the Ideaworks guys went the extra distance and made arrangements to include my sister when I mentioned that she would be joining me.

Starting with a few nights at a homestay on Lake Vembanad, Meriah and I had a chance to taste the best of India. Peace, nature and a touch of a different culture. We were of just a few 'western' tourists in the area, which gave the place a seemingly rare feel of an authentic indian experience. Our location was perfect for checking out the 'backwaters' and local life, including daily stuff like kids going to and from school in a tuk tuk.
I'm not a safety expert; however, I would venture to say that 13 kids in the back of a tuk tuk would not pass any inspection in Canada. Then again, it appeared to be a perfectly efficient and appropriate means of transporting these little guys around.

We had heard that 'houseboating' was popular in the backwaters. I was apprehensive at first, given that my impression of houseboating is shaped by the frat-boy-replicas who take over certain areas in the okanogan every summer. But, houseboating in India is a bit more of a family affair. And a luxury one at that. Equipped with televisions, air conditioning and a kitchen, despite their aged appearance.
We took a boat out to see the bird sanctuary, but it turned out that the birds are only there in the spring time.
Nonetheless, it was a nice nature walk, and we spotted a kitten, a puppy, a turtle and some hooligans (my sister included).
Our next stop, Kochi, was a bit busier, with locals and tourists. But, with the crowds came a new indian experience.

We took in theatre,
martial arts
I've been to a few cultural shows over the years and I have to say that the quality of performances in Kochi was among the finest. These weren't contrived displays of hula skirts or masked men, they seemed to be legitimate and unique performances.

This country is so large and diverse that the impression one comes away with depends on where you go and who you are with. Between the lake Vembanad, the backwaters and Kochi, it was such a pleasure to introduce Meriah, and myself, to India in this way.


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