So I finally got out of Cal for the America India Foundation Midpoint, which was held in Kerela. Unfortunately it was held in one of the dullest places in the entire beautiful state. Kerela is known to be one of the big vacation spots in the south but AIF found lodging in Kottayam. Which is only known for its bird sanctuary (we visited and found many bats, but only a few birds. At least the bats were huge) and Back-water tours (the entire area is filled with canals much like Venice and some just live on house boats it was really nice).
Thanks to one of the board members Sridar, (who by the end of the weekend we were referring to as Uncle Sridar or Uncle-ji) the week ended up being both semi-useful and enjoyable. (His family is also the same family who made sure that Andy and I got to see Durga Puja this year and helped us find our flat).
The highlights were:
Getting an Ayuretic oil massage: Full body oil massage (head-toe) with sweet smelling oil. A steam bath and then a nice shower to clean off excess oil. The auntie really enjoyed my hair, though she was slightly surprised with how much oil my hair can soak up. Did I mention we were at the Taj (really nice hotel chain) for this and we had just come off of a 36 hr train ride.
Impromptu boat ride and dinner at the Windsor Castle resort: After a field visit to see a goat breading projects (goats are cute, but not as cute as the pygmy goats in Ghana). Uncle Sridar Ji asked if we would want to go on a boat ride that evening. A bunch of us said yes, so we headed down to the dock and rode around for about an hour. We passed the Windsoor (which was actually where Sridar was supposed to be staying, but he humbled himself to stay with us at the Amos Center [essentially dormitory style rooms with 2 to 8 beds, very orphanage-eque]). On a whim we boated up to the resort restaurant and asked if they had room for 20. It rocked.
Meeting an RPCV from the third Peace Corps Group EVER. Azad Oomen’s (the NY director of the fellowship) parents live in Kerela and his mother was a PCV in 64 in Egypt. It was great meeting another person in the PC family and talking to her about friendships made and connections. The funny thing was when I said one of the acronyms COS (Completion of Service) and she didn’t know it. She was around before the acronyms. And like most PCVs I have met an amazing and wonderful person.
Dinner with a bunch of the fellows in Ernakulum the day before we all parted way: ½ of the fellows went to the beach in the south and the other ½ headed up north to where most of us would catch our planes and trains. We had a great dinner, which wasn’t too expensive at a restaurant that was just opening in a hotel. The best thing is that with all of our varied orders they somehow all came out great. Then we went to the coffee shop downstairs for dessert. Though we were all exhausted it was a great evening.
My last day I went into Cochin with my friend Aditi and Catherine intending to see the palace and the Jewish synagogue, but unfortunately everything is closed on Friday due to the Sabbath and we ended up walking around town and doing a little bit of shopping and some really shrewd bargaining.
All in all it was a good day, and I started my long train ride alone to Kolkata. I was with my friend Shalu up to Chennai(a 12 hour ride), which was her home town so she helped me find some breakfast and got me set for my next ride at 9 am Saturday back to Kolkata. I arrived at our station around 4pm Sunday, which makes my longest train ride yet. But I don’t think it truly beat my 36 hours-ish ride from Mali to Senegal.