India: The Colorful South

Motorbikes, Silk Worms, and Pooping

A whirlwind of a few days, it has been!

I have practically forgotten what life is like before this India trip where we are herded through the unknown lands and spectacular sights with barely a breath to process it all.
I last blogged about our glorious diet coke find and the fish market. That was our first experience in Fort Cochin. Later on Friday we visited a church, and then attended a home hosted dinner with a very gracious host. She was a teacher, and her husband was not home because he is a tour guide now. They have two teenage sons who were sweet and accommodating but upheld the universal teenage stereotype of wanting to be left alone. Afterwards we went to a temple where there was a parade of elephants and camels, which is an annual celebration taking place in conjunction with the full moon.

Saturday we woke early for our exotic hour and all hopped on motorbikes! Uncle David and I had been making subtle comments blatantly overt demands since Day 1 that we would not feel fully satisfied with our experience here until we drove a two wheeled vehicle through the streets of India. Though we were secretly plotting to take matters into our own hands even if it meant buying motorcycles on Craigslist, Lakuma made it happen for us! Oh the exhilaration of it all! Everyone else took the back seat as biker babes and together, we whisked through the streets – even badass Grandma, who hadn’t been on a motorcycle in 20 years! and visited a local laundromat where men cleaned clothes by slapping, banging, and scraping them against rocks (that explained the roughness of the towels in our hotels, which we previously attributed to their Ayurvedic methods for exfoliation).
On the way back we stopped briefly at a local beach and it was 100%men doing yoga in speedos and playing volleyball – inspiring my slogan to lure international women to the beach of India: “Indian beaches: bringing sausage-fest to a whole new level”.

We then raced over to the Republic Day Parade (India’s Independence Day) where we sat behind a few Freedom Fighters for the ceremony. The ceremony consisted of a parade of military bands and student platoons, a speech from the chief minister of thr state, and other music and award presentations. There were quite a few national newscasters covering this and many cameras were directed towards us. Sure enough, we made the front page of the national newspaper the next day! Elmira is front and center shaking hands with the Freedom Fighters who were being honored at the parade. Who cares that the Freedom Fighters contributed to India’s independence, Elmira is from America!

Following this we visited a Dutch palace, where no pictures we allowed, but the walls were meticulously painted with the epic Ramayana and historical artifacts were beautifully displayed.
The afternoon we feasted and shopped (the true bulk of our trip), and saw a Kathakali show. This show was 1 hour of makeup where the two dancers were transformed from a man to a demon, and a man to a woman. The next hour was an explanation of the meaning of facial expressions, common words, hand gestures, and the dance of a seduction and battle.

No rest for the weary – we raced from the dance performance to a quite fancy dinner in honor of grandma’s upcoming 80th birthday. She began celebrating back in December for her Feb 15 birthday, and seems like she has plans to continue the celebration until November of 2013, when the celebration for her 81st birthday will begin anew.

Sunday we woke at 4:30am (!) to catch a flight to Bangalore. When we landed in Bangalore we then drove 5 hrs to Mysore and saw a Bollywood movie! Despite it being in Hindi, the plot was simple and easy to follow. And the Krishna song was so catchy that I’ve been humming it ever since.
All play and no sleep makes jack a cranky girl. Yes, after two weeks of my best behavior and ‘what does it matter’ attitude, I got a little snippy. India is not the place for someone who just wants to be alone with some quiet time. Neither is a guided tour with 16 people. Luckily I have a family who is forgiving and understands the Sloves characteristic behavior – snide remarks and sullen expressions that are brief and not meant to be offensive, but generally pass after a good nights sleep. I apologized and all was forgiven, but karma is not as so. Read on to find out what I mean, but be forewarned of the graphicness.

I woke Monday after 10 hrs of sleep, feeling fresh and rejuvenated. A smaller group took the optional tour to a temple, which was the most detailed yet. The gods carved immaculately into every inch of stone. We also stopped at a village along the way, that was more prosperous than the villages we stopped by further south in India I have referenced previously.

Afterwards we dined in a palace, where I felt like Keira Knightly from any of her Victorian movies. We then met up with the rest of the group and toured the rest of the palace (no pics allowed). Just a couple hours later after driving to a scenic overlook and seeing the 5th largest Naandi (cow sculpture guardian/transportation of the gods), uncle David and I ditched the Mysore markets and our compatriots to find a restroom. The juxtaposition of the palace to the more authentic experience of defacating somewhere is hilarious, but only in retrospect. It was quite terrifying at the time, as we paced up and down blocks of Indian streets where the sheer amount of things is just appalling. We finally found the holy hole of an Asian squat toilet in an optometry wing of a public hospital. At least, I did (despite the insects and lizards crawling on the walls and a strange noise coming from the large bucket in the corner) – uncle David tried to find the men’s restroom in the men’s wing, where instead he only found recovering patients. Needless to say I took his word for it that I didn’t need to see that for myself and we should GTFO.
Meanwhile, Grandma spent the market time sitting and chatting with a wholesale market where it was the only place she could find a seat. Now she knows the guys entire life story. Meanwhile Shanon stepped behind the jewelry counter where she helped the guy sell bangles to passersby. Between the Sloves clan, it seems like we had the most comprehensive experience yet.

The evening we had a lovely farewell dinner, as only the Sloves clan and a couple others are heading to Goa for another 5 days. And now, getting back to the karma thing…
I believe that because of my crankiness, I am being punished with a spectrum of digestive problems. First, 3 days of constipation (surprisingly!), and then the other side of it… After two cups of real coffee in the morning (our first cappuccinos of India – made from a real espresso machine!) and then a mocha frappe from Cafe Coffee City (the Poor substitute of Starbucks in India) during our morning bus stop, I found myself breaking into sweats and a rumbling in my lower digestive tract as I typed away on WordPress from the back of the bus. Just in time, I was able to run to the front of the bus and request a nature stop where I sprinted out of the door, vaulted over a conveniently placed stone wall on the side of the freeway, and let it all go. Cleansed, if you will. Popped some pepto bismol, and feeling like a whole new woman now.

Other stops of note on our bus ride of note: a family that processes jiggory (sugar cane processed beyond molasses), and a silk worm cocoon market ran.

A teary goodbye with Lakuma in Bangalore left us with a first world mall to cope. It was her time to go back to her family in Chennai and only the Sloves clan and two others are venturing forth to Goa and Mumbai for the final few days in India.

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