Only Birds Fly South for the Winter

Greetings from the other side of the world. It’s your favorite friendly neighborhood nerd here to word vomit the contents of her brain onto your screen again. Let me apologize now for the mess; its been a wild couple of weeks and alas my poor blog has fallen by the wayside. Is anyone surprised? But I’m back again as my friends and family have asked for updates on:

a) where am I now

b) did I steal photos from the internet and actually secretly never left my room

and

c) am I still alive

All that and more to come. I’ve decided to do a little review to shake things up.

 

This brings us to: The Episode Recap…

When we last saw our hero she was diving head first into the bacteria infested waters of the Ganges. Cue dramatic sound effects. With the support of her trusty companions, she survived the waters and the following three showers it took to feel clean again afterwards. But alas the murky waters of the Ganges weren’t the only white waters on the horizon. No, that was just one small step on the path towards the greater villain on the horizon, Travel Week. Would our dear heroine survive the journey? Stay tuned to find out.

I really hope you’re all reading this in a dramatic old timey tv show narrator voice or otherwise that’s just going to sound silly. Go back and do it again. But seriously, when I left off my Varanasi crew and I were preparing to head south for the winter- al la the birds- for Travel Week. I know what you’re thinking, “SPRING BREAK 2017 WOOHOO” but it wasn’t that at all. Well… maybe just a bit. It is college. But for the majority, think of it as a very long educational field trip… a school chaperoned educational field trip. In short, grab your buddy because we’re going back to elementary school kiddos. Juice boxes will be provided.

Even though I was dreading being stuck in a car for long periods of time- nothing in India is close to each other- I was really excited to experience a new section of the country. I’ve come to the realization that India is really weird. Varanasi is nothing like South India; South India is nothing like New Delhi; New Delhi is nothing like Varanasi. Each part of the country is its own little world with its own traditions, politics, language, religions, and style. All that Hindi I’ve been working my ass off to learn? It’s useless down south. From the moment we got off the plane we were back to square one, just as lost as confused as when we arrived in this strange, confusing, country. Peachy.

Our first night in town we were in Kochi, a small beachfront city that looked more at home in Florida than India. Or it would if it weren’t for all the communist flags. Yeah, that’s right. Kerala is a communist state. I will admit I was very very tempted to steal a flag… for science. It wasn’t the most noteworthy part of the trip by a long run but it was a surprise to see so many flags. No, the icing on the cake for this trip was that my motley crew and I were not alone in our communist extravaganza. Oh yes. In Kochi, we met another Alliance (my program) group from Manipal which was the pre-health counterpart to our culture studies program aka my people. I spent two weeks in the mountains of Kerala with a bunch of science nerds and it was heaven.  Our grand total was three Varanasi girls, one Varanasi boy, one of our Program Directors, and on the opposing team five Manipal girls, and their two Program Directors. It was a very full van. But it was also a really fun van. I felt like I really got to know the girls well and we even have plans to meet up in Agra later this month. Look ma, I made friends!

On to the adventure. We had a pretty jam-packed schedule. In Kochi, we visited the beach for a hot second, the Chinese fishing nets, the Paradesi Synagogue, St. Francis Church, and the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica which was hosting a concert that night when we stopped by which was an adventure in itself. We didn’t spend long in Cochin but we had fun. I admit Kochi didn’t make as lasting an impact on me as Munnar did, which was our next stop.

Hello mountains.             Hello cold.          Hello almost home.

Munnar was my favorite stop on the trip. High up in the “mountains” of India, this rainforest town was a jewel. That opinion has nothing to do with the fact that our hotel there had the first hot shower we’d seen in two months… I boiled myself like a lobster and I’m not ashamed to admit it. A nice, happy, clean lobster. One of the reasons Munnar was so incredible is because of the tea plantations. I know what the word plantations evokes in America but it’s not the same thing here; it was a co-op which was cool because I didn’t really expect that for India. We visited the tea museum and learned that green tea can solve all of our problems.

That afternoon we went to Blossom Park, this crazy beautiful garden on top of a cloud. I pretty much went wild after being nature deprived for three months. NEATURE. We also went to this place called the Pothermedu View point and you know I got lost. We may have (not my fault) misread the sign and went waaaaay past the view point and down a very scary road but nobody died; also, I got some super cool photos so it was a win-win in my book. The view point was breathtaking. There were points where we were actually in the clouds. I know what you’re thinking- “Fog, Laney, the word you are thinking of is fog”- but it wasn’t. I stand by my original statement of clouds. We also went to the National Park in Munnar which was a completely different kind of beautiful. I love nature. I live in a city where people dump their trash outside their doors every morning so it was really nice to see how seriously Munnar took keeping its nature preserved and protected. We weren’t allowed to bring any food into the National Park in fact; they searched our bags and made us throw things out. On the last day in Munnar, the girls and I woke up at 5am to watch the sunrise over the river. Let me just say, I am not a morning person. I will never be a morning person. India is country full of morning people with Grace and Emily being two of them. It was a rough couple of days… I am honestly surprised they didn’t leave me in the forest somewhere. But they didn’t and eventually we abandoned our hot shower (I miss you) and headed to our house boat in Alleppy.

So, I don’t know if any of you have spent a considerable amount of time on a house boat in the back waters of South India- just me?- but there’s not much to do. I drove the boat. I slept. I took silly photos of Grace and Emily to keep as future blackmail in case they do try to leave me somewhere for being a night owl. And I was attacked by cockroaches. Yeah… not cool. I hate cockroaches. Deadly fear of them in fact. And I found not one but two in my room with the girls. There was a lot of screaming, a lot of hiding on the bed, and not a lot of sleep. Also, we had to abandon ship because a bat decided to commandeer our vessel. It was anarchy on the low seas. Out of all of the places we went, the boat was my least favorite. Once we disembarked the death boat, we headed to a church where we got lost, a coir museum (all about the fibers from the husks of coconuts), and the beach. The beach was interesting. While it was our initial intent to swim, it didn’t end up working out that way. Long story short, it ended with our swim suits getting locked in the van and our driver going to lunch… Emily, Nolan, and one of the girls from the other program went for it any way while the rest of us watched from the beach. I don’t regret my decision not to swim as we had an overnight train that afternoon. The train wasn’t too bad looking back but at the time it was horrible. I got really motion sick which made for a pretty miserable ride. But it did its job and we wound up in Bangalore.

Bangalore is where things get a little Spring Break woohoo; I would like to officially state that I am 21 and my actions are completely legal in the United States not that it matters. Moving on. Our officially itinerary for Bangalore was to go to the mall and don’t die. Seriously. Bangalore is the first city we’ve been to that’s actually a city so we may have made some plans. Our directors dropped us off at the mall and we did what any young, single, attractive girls would do and hit up the food court. That night we went got dinner and drinks at our hotel to kick off the night and to celebrate my first official drink as a legal adult since we missed my birthday. As for the rest of the night… use your imagination. I will say that nobody died although somebody did get close when a rude ass rickshaw driver refused to give us our change back and had the nerve to giggle as he did so. Yeah; that didn’t go over well.

In the morning, we rallied the troops for breakfast, gathered up our stuff, and loaded up on a bus much to our dismay. Another bus. Yay. But we ended up at a really cool complex called the Art of Living Ashram.  The facility is centered around wellness and giving back to others.  It was really pretty and we had the chance to view the head of the facility which was apparently akin to seeing Obama. Alas, from there we said goodbye to our new friends and headed to the airport.

Thus, ended this episode of a Goofball goes Global.

Tune in next week for Leni vs. Rajasthan.

I’ll be back soon to update you all on my solo trip to Rajasthan which is affectionately known as “Camel Week.” It was a whole different cup of chai… a lot has happened.

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