Friday, Mar. 27, 11:12 PM
Thrissur, Kerala, India
1. Like clockwork, it’s Friday night again, the only time each the week which I repeatedly get the impulse to drag my Macbook out of pannier #4 (I need a system to know which bags my life is organized into), to be dusted off for another recap of the week’s happenings. And it does indeed get dusty, like all my things, and especially me. 2. My trusty purple sarong emblazoned with red hindu symbols (Om, trident, conch, Vishnu) is the honorable duster, but it’s also so much more: my blanket (tonight), my dhoti or lungey (traditional man skirt) for days when shorts are just too much to bear (tomorrow most likely), my cover when the direct sun is too much, and again on my shoulders when the sun goes down, or when the mosquitoes come out. Multi-purpose. 3. Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my possessions, the intentionally unknown amount of weight I drag around with me in 6 pieces of luggage, the force that pulls me down and feels like I’m dragging a dead body just after my cruise down a hill curves up to become uphill. Every night it seems I’m repacking, analyzing my belongings to see what isn’t pulling it’s own weight in usefulness. In every town I leave someone behind. Who’s getting dropped next? Jamey’s stuff weighs 1/2 that of mine. Amy/Lasse’s stuff, less. Last week I mailed a box of winter stuff home (to Dad), but I feel still heavier. The air is thicker here in Kerala, hot and humid, and the blood in my thickening legs seems viscous and sluggish on the hills. Somebody’s got to go.
4. What am I blathering about!? I had a feeling that my format (I did this, then that, then we saw this, and then we met him, and them, and we slept here and I felt this) is getting old. So tonight I’ll circumvent the plot and yammer on around it.
5. I’ve been stepping outside the story to take a look at where I am on this trip, what I’ve gathered and how I’m living day-to-day, and now the narrative is beginning to look more like a big 1000km tapestry… this place I live… yes, I live in India, on highway 17 all the way down to Trivandrum. Reflecting, figuring, more than mere experience this is a period and bridge in my history. This is my crude cave drawing.
6. I heard Arup, our host tonight, say that it is similar from Mumbai (mid-Western India) down to the bottom of Kerala, which may be true in terms of climate, nuanced throughout of course, but these states together connect in a chain of Southern Indian life and customs passed down throughout too many thousands of years of culture for me to fathom from my wee cultural periscope. Kerala and its Keralites are a new chapter, definitely unique from it’s neighbors (and increasingly weird, quirky and hilarious – I’m giggling more at everyday things every day!) The bit of land I’ve covered is tiny in the big picture, and also on the map of India, but I’ve seen it in one continuous line, my own tiny Indian lineage. And now it feels like My Life. It’s such a tiny piece and yet it’s so big and infinite to me!
7. Over dinner tonight when asked about my life and what I do, I told our new friends (who we met today): “I bike a lot, eat a lot, talk a lot. That’s about it!” Jamey cracked a huge smile and agreed. Our random days and nights are The Life, and we’re living it. 8. The old life seems like a faraway dream. 9. Some people, upon meeting us and learning that we’re 28, without jobs or spouses or kids, and with explosive beaming wistfulness and fantasy in their eyes and voices, exclaim these words: “They’re FREE.” Repeatedly, we’ve been showered with this compliment!
10. Okay, one today story. Today we met a friend of a couchsurfer we contacted today for the first time, and within 2 minutes he asked us to step into his classroom (surprise, right through this door!) to meet the kids. 11. Lasse and I looked hilariously shabby and ridiculous in our dhotis, (his traditional and well-fitted, mine a make-shift, too-short, poorly-tied rainbow polka-dottted affair – it’s laundry time!) but we couldn’t refuse. They were a group of 20 mid-twenties English students (so that’s where they keep all the girls!), and we told random stories of how we met, what we’re doing, what our home cities are famous for, where we’ve been staying in their town (12. like our first night: in a field, and getting woken-up at 6am by a security man with babushka (grandma) shawl on his head throwing rocks and collapsing our tent with his stick and me inside), our experiences (this whole last week) in their mighty good state, Kerala, and it all sounded so absurd. 13. Later, at dinner with the teacher he told us that we were the first foreigners any of them had ever met, and how they adored us. We’re living a dream of freedom they will never know.
14. Recently, the every day string of new cities has become a bit routine, so we’re changing up the format. 15. Lasse and I cheated (for the 1st time taking public transport to cover any of this distance since we started in Goa), going ahead 300km from Jamey, who biked the whole distance in 3 days to catch up with us this morning in Thrissur, a big city from which we could explore neighboring villages for their rich arts and festival culture. I suggested we take the train so Lasse could rest his bum knee for a few more days, and so I can better experience this region for all it’s worth. My time in Kerala (and India) is ticking… in only 6 weeks we’ll be on a flight to Thailand, minus 2 weeks at the Auroville farm 1000km away, so there’s much to be seen in a little time (and I don’t mean a lot of highway). 16. We’ve done so much in 3 days: got tips at the State Dept. of Tourism, perused and read at the Public Library, 17. visited 3 Arts Akademis, 3 museums and a Palace, Town Hall, saw 2 films (18. and transported to Jackie Chan’s China for two glorious hours, dubbed into English on the big screen), strolled in gardens, parks, and the fabulous Zoo (19. no joke, brilliant peacocks, storks, bison, tigers, leopard, lion, cheetah, giant reindeer, turtles, monkeys, porcupines), 20. taken a dozen passenger rickshaws, eaten a dozen mangoes, and had 1/2 dozen milkshakes. This weekend we festival-hop in the nearby towns, hopefully see plentiful elephants, maybe a ritual of low-caste pilgrims shouting drunken and lewd obscenities at their female deities (Bharani fest), perhaps trek and waterfall swim in the hills… before next stop: boating in the famous Keralan backwaters 50km south.
21. I’m living-up this Staying-put, I thought tonight while sipping fresh mango juice in my plastic throne from the blissful and breezy high-rise terrace of our friend Ajiraj, chatting again with the locals about horribly dated gender roles even in liberal Kerala. Damned unbelievable vantage from which to see this life.
22. I’ve recently had moments of delayed culture shock… as India is settling into my thickened hide, alternating between both disturbing and delighting me deeper. This love and hate I’ve heard so much about for India is very real, switching back and forth in an instant. 23. I think I’m ready to move-on; Thailand looms on the horizon. My wanderlust yearns to taste something all new again. 24. But I’m not done with India. In fact, I’m totally addicted, and I feel like I’ve only peeled away one thin layer from the mystery. It’s a place to grow and learn, and also to dive into oneself. I don’t think I found my taproot here yet, but I’m truly fascinated, and I want to travel wider and go further into her. And there are places I’d like to revisit.
25. I read some of my friends’ 25 Random Things About Me on Facebook the other day, and didn’t think I had the random gene in me to do it. But this week’s circumcised recap was random as hell. Random week. Random life. Random roof over my head. Random tune on the iPod. Random thoughts on my mind. This is Life. This is My life.