Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ah, to be in God's own country! (Keralan slogan...)

Wow, it's been too long since we've had a chance to post. Now Paige and I are posting from the comfort of a freaking awesome home in Kerala. Let's get the pictures rolling!

Near the end of the permaculture workshop at Solitude Farm in Auroville, we got to harvest rice. Running around with little hand-held scythes you cut down the rice stalks and collect them into piles. Then, taking great handfuls of rice, you beat the **** out of it against a barrel, loosening the rice grains. Enthusiasm is a must, or at least a little bit of rage to let out. Harvesting a staple crop adds to our farmer street cred, dont'cha think?

The Sunday before we left, we made a day trip to Fertile Farm, run by an old Aussie guy named Johnny. He's been there since basically the start of Auroville in 1972, and has been tinkering there ever since. His constraints (no electricity) lead to quite a lot of creativity. Johnny hosts a potlucks, and he always makes the dosa (fermented rice pancakes) for them. Of course, you need a lot of dosa for a potluck, so he made a dosa mixer powered by a sterling engine. A fire is started, cold water is piped through the engine, and it runs off the difference in temperature.

Last Monday we departed for Kerala on the southwest coast of India. While waiting for the train--in the middle of a city--a cow walked down the platform with no apparent owner, took a moment to browse a trash bin full of empty paper tea cups, then walked on. After arriving in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala (also the head of the communist government here!), we partook in what seems to be a ritual now: we went to an Indian Coffee House, the best damn breakfast and coffee franchise this side of the Ganges. Jumped up on caffeine, we explored the city. Lots of coconut trees. We went to the natural history museum (admission: 5Rs or 12 cents). Turns out natural history museums are the same everywhere: dead things in jars. They also had a very nice zoo (admission: 10Rs or 25 cents). In the evening, we went to see Avatar--in 3D (admission: 65Rs or $1.50)! It was awesome! Some luxuries are not lost on us.
Having worked our asses off on a farm we decided to go to a beach, a town just north called Varkala. It was a bit touristy, but damn it was pretty. We got a cavernous room in the government guest house--normally for politicians when they travel--for super cheap, then hit the beach. It's separated from all the restaurants and hotels and such by a giant cliff.

An elephant in some dude's yard.


  1. Good to know you are enjoying Kerala. My parents are moving back there next month.

    - Pod

  2. Glad to hear you're loving the home state :-) Miss you two terribly, and can't wait for you to be back.

  3. Your photos continue to show an impressive beauty of the country. What a beautiful world we live in!! It appears you walk barefoot in public places. Is not broken glass or debris a hazard there? Brings to mind the signs of "No Shoes, No Shirts, No Service" here in the States. Cultural differences are so fascinating!! A recent TV documentary talked of a Karalan-area practice of being "blessed" by an elephant touching you with it's trunk...did you hear of that?

    Now that you know how to thresh rice, you can apply that experience to the harvesting of wild rice in canoes in northern Minnesota. Wild rice is a very lucrative cash crop, and a nice seasonal income for harvesters.

    Your posts are such a learning experience for us as well as yourselves, not only from the Indian citizenry, but the fellow foreign travelers you've reported meeting. Looking forward to your next post. Stay well. Gr. Wanda