INDIA

I went to India. 

A friend invited me to her wedding on the other side of the world... and I went!

I’ve done a bit of traveling. I went on my first big adventure with Semester at Sea too many years ago. The itinerary was predetermined and we always had a place to sleep. It was adventurous, stimulating and it changed my life. I was a kid though and ate up a summer of traveling with my silver spoon. 

When it came to planning a trip to India, admittedly I was at a bit of a loss. I avoided making travel arrangements for a lot longer than intended. That was definitely rooted in fear. Then, the Universe intervened. Via social media, I saw that an old friend from Semester at Sea was in town. I reached out and we had coffee. The reunion reminded me of two things. First, how much I care for this human. Second, how much I miss traveling. With his kind suggestions, our itinerary fell together. 

And so the adventure began. As a true type-A personality, I researched endlessly, sent a lot of emails, finally figured out how to use Indian payment portals and booked us a trip. 

The Trip: SFO > Cochin / Kochi  > Houseboat on the Kerala Backwaters > Resort in Kumarakom > Tea Plantations in Munnar > A Wedding on the Beach in Goa > SFO

Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India AF Blogger

Arriving in India

Arriving in Cochin, short one large (use-to-be) white bag, we were met with humidity and jet lag. While pulling out rupees at the ATM, I was approached by two tweener Indian boys. 

Indian tween: “May I ask, madam, where do you come from?” 

Strangely, this is such a disorienting questions. What do you say? America? The United States? The other side of the world…?

Me: “California” was the answer I landed on. With a sleepy smile. 

They were very excited by this. They clapped even. 

Luckily, the hotel shuttle attentively waited outside as simultaneously the humidity showed us what it was made of. 

Once at the hotel, I slept laying down for the first time in 20 hours. At least for a little while... 

I was up at 4:00 am and experienced Indian television for the first time, something I would weirdly learn to find normal. You think American television inundates you with advertisements / corporate brain washing? Well I do. TV in India takes this to a whole new level. And smoking kills. They remind you of this every ten minutes in a news-like banner across the bottom of your screen. It's super intrusive and awesome all at the same time. 

When the sun started to rise, I sat between the wide window and the hotel curtain and watched the world wake up. Indiana Jones was sure to drive by at any minute. I saw my first tuk tuk, windowless busses and old trucks that you would only find on a salvage yard here at home. It became very clear that I was in a different reality. I was electric. 

After breakfast, where zero Indian food was eaten, our driver arrived. He spoke very little english, but finally got him to understand that we needed to go to a mall to buy some clothes, as we were still missing one large (use-to-be) white bag. 

Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger

The car ride to meet the houseboat was one of the most thrilling parts of the entire trip. I was awake and observing this new, foreign place. This was a world so different from mine. I experienced Indian traffic for the first time, where honking was normal and windowed vehicles were not. The trucks were florissant, scrawled with bible verses and patronages to saints. Little girls in the back of tuk tuks driving past would have their driver slow down so they could wave. The driver DJ'd an Indian pop playlist that we grew to memorize. This was the favorite song. It was a totally insane experience. 

Excited to finally make it, we left our air conditioned car and adventured through a tiny town to get to the boat. The Kerala Backwaters on a house boat is pretty rad. I rented the nicest boat I could find (before arriving, which I highly suggest). It was the perfect way to beat the jet lag as the only requirement was to relax. I could watch the scenery pass by as we enjoyed the inside air conditioning of the boat. They took incredible care of us. They fed us way before we were even close to hungry. Serving coconuts, fried bananas, copious amounts of Chi Tea and huge sprawls for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger

That day on the water was special for so many reasons. I felt so one with the world, busting with inspiration and gratitude for my life at home that allowed for me to experience this. It was transcendent. I spent a lot of time reflecting on life as a concept, coping with potent emotions surrounding the sudden illness of my grandfather, who insisted I go on this trip. I came to a place of peace out on that water. Understanding how different life is for other humans and finding so much thanks for the life I was given. This is what I wrote that day:

April 3rd, 2016

Today I feel alive.

I watched a boy climb a palm tree to throw down coconuts to his grandmother below. I’ve felt famous more times than I can count. They want to take pictures of me, like I am something rare and special. How insane? 

I watched a busy Indian city pass by. Ads of extreme color and over exaggeration are everywhere they can possibly fit. It’s incredibly theatrical. But it's a paradox. The reality below is unfinished complexes. People living in these buildings that are just skeletons. It is so unfamiliar. Hundreds of people shoved into buses, making the Muni look incredibly luxurious. What makes this place magic? People are happy here. Deep in their soul happy. Laughing. Singing. All of this with dirty feet.

The city soon dwindled into a small town, where every block housed huge piles of coconuts for sale with a lackadaisical attendant watching over. Above, an ad of a man holding a rat upside down. It’s the third time I’ve seen it. Sure wish I knew what it was for.

On the topic of ads, in a world so different than mine there sure are a lot of ads for companies I know. Western companies. For being the only two white people I’ve seen today, there are a lot of them in advertisements. Makes you think.

Also florescent, the never ending forests of palm tress. A jungle of neon green trees. It's the exact scene from the cover of 'Where The Wild Things Are'. Also, my legs are florescent. They are so red from heat rash. It’s incredibly hot. And so humid in a way that I’ve only fractionally felt in Louisiana.

And here I am on a boat. A houseboat. A private one. Who am I? How did I get here? How did I get this lucky? How did I get here to this moment?

The boat drifts by small houses, void of electricity and air conditioning. I wonder what life is like for the humans living in these houses. How simple and wonderful their lives must be. The water. The palm trees. This is a place people travel across the globe to experience. What are their worries? What do they know? What do they believe in? Sadly the language barrier keeps me from asking the men on our boat. The staff of three, for the two of us. But that is life, this life at least. My life. I am proud of us for being here. For choosing adventure. Day one, I like you.

Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger
Travel India SF Blogger

That night my grandfather passed. I’ve never cried so hard. I’d been struggling for weeks to determine my intimate feelings about death. It turns out that living a full and adventurous life somehow gives you some peace about death. At least it has for me. There is no question that my sense of adventure and unquenchable thirst for learning came from him. I believe that even though I was on the other side of the world, I was very much with him when he went. There were so many wonderful things about India, but the peace I was given on the backwaters was nothing short of magic. 

 

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