Tuesday, March 19, 2002

"Flies, flies, flies yeah... they're gonna get you"

Hey All,

Perhaps it was the cow or the goat or the dog and chickens but today’s worksite also had a lot of flies. No matter, we are a lean machine. We did much of what we do best… haul sand and gravel in rubber buckets. Also got to do a bit of concrete block making, which was not that hard of a job but was in the sun so a bit unpleasant. And that wraps up or last work day.

Tomorrow is a house dedication and then on Thursday we bust a move for the north.

In addition to the work, we have been having some fabulous die trips, “Hello, hello. Please, please, come, come.” So much repetition of words here. I thought one woman’s son was named Jay Jay but really his name is only Jay it was just being repeated for my benefit.

So the side trips… one afternoon we went to this resort about ½ hour to the north in Alapuzha. We went body surfing in the Arabian Sea. My timing is not so good. We also swam around in the pool, and then ate dinner while a band that was hired for us played Jingle Bells. It was almost a precious as hearing the little girls in the schools sing Skip to My Lou.

Over the weekend, we took a 4 hour bus ride to, oh hmm, a place that starts with a K and went on an overnight cruise of the backwaters. It was like floating through the pages of a National Geographic. So lush and beautiful. Palm trees lined the river while we cruised in luxury with our crew of three (for the 4 of us) brought us tender coconuts (I’m getting sick of the tender coconuts, we drink/eat them once if not twice a day. I have become very skilled at pouring coconut juice out while the people who had to climb up the tree to get it aren’t looking).

People along the river were out doing their business, laundry, dishes, fishing. Everyone smiled and waved and we sat there in awe feeling it was all a bit surreal. We were served a Keralan dinner on a banana leaf and then stopped off at the local moonshine shack to get this coconut beer made with fermented coconut juice… it was nasty, the palinca of Kerala.

We were caught in a rainstorm and all the boats tied up along a bank. Our boat which had myself, my roommate and Una and Nana, went out along the bank in the rain with flashlights visiting from boat to boat.

The next morning we stopped by a church and went walking through this village that doesn’t get a whole lot of western tourists. I am the Malayalam linguistic ambassador and said “sughamano” (how are you) to everyone we saw. Sometimes they answered, “sughamanu” (fine), other times they laughed and I almost always got the head waggle.

When you ask people questions they waggle their head in a way that kind of looks like “no” but not entirely and it means “yeah, I understand what you’re saying to me”, I think. Oh, Sister Sally and Leila from the Habitat committee are riding a scooter out on the street… precious.

We had some Habitat people join our boat on Sunday afternoon and we played musical chairs. When you lost, you had to perform a song or dance, though the last guy hopped around on the floor like a frog.

So, the backwaters of Kerala… do it. That’s all I’m saying. Flushing toilets, gourmet food, attentive crew. Our guys sang Malayalam songs to us in the evening when we were anchored for the night and the other boats could hear it. So, so great.

One of the women on the trip and I are giving everyone chola names in honor of the hotel next door, “Chola International”. No one else really gets it though. I am La Funny Girl and she is La Peety (in honor of her bringing Peet’s coffee and a French press with her).

Tonight we are having a group dinner and awards, I actually have to get going for the last group reflections, followed by happy hour on the roof then dinner.

Oh, also, riding an auto rickshaw through the town gives you and idea of what it must be like to be an ant and be running in a panic with all the other ants trying to go, you’re not sure where. Crazy, diesel fuel and chaos.

I may not get to check in with y’all before I’m back. So, stay strong.

See you soon.

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