Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Come again please

Evening All,

I am emailing you from Calicut where I am now based for the duration of my trip. Calicut also has the name Kozhikode which is approximately a 7 hour train journey from Trivandrum.

In the early hours of Thursday morning I was taken to Trivandrum railway station where the staring and intrigue started and my first India railway experience began. Much like the amusing sketch show Little Britain, instead of portraying Matt Lucas as the only gay in the village, I was certainly the only white person in the village and this remains the case today!

The train journey was enchanting and there was no end of sellers offering food, water, papers including the Times, books and toys! Unfortunately I travelled via cattle class although I suspect that given that the Cow is sacred to Hindus, they would have undoubtedly been more luxuriously accommodated! I was in a non air conditioned carriage which may appear ungrateful but in 33 degree heat and humidity that kicks arse it was a little disappointing!!! However this is an adventure

and I have not travelled to India to enjoy comfort! What was rather amusing was the cost involved in a one way 7 hour train journey covering an expanse of 200 miles - any guesses? - how about £7.00!! Priceless! In return, I was entirely spoilt with the breathtaking views of Kerala and a stunning scenery that has left a lasting impression on me.

After 7 long hours,  I arrived at Calicut train station where the hustle and bustle was an intense as Waterloo congestion both inside and outside of the station. I took my life into my own hands when exiting the station and dodging the traffic - there is every conceivable mode of transport available here in India and therefore more missiles that could strike at anytime!

I was collected by the Principal's driver who drove in air conditioned car that actually felt and looked roadworthy! It was simply amazing! The ability to feel cool for the first time in several days was almost magical! It's the small things in life! Another hazardous journey in the car similar to that of the wacky races was endured - overtaking cars whilst oncoming traffic is driving at us at speed! Adult nappies should be an essential ingredient whilst travelling here in India, simply for encountering the car journeys! Fortunately the Delhi belly has not yet struck but tummy grumblings have been experienced!

Since my arrival at the Principal's house, I have been shown such kindness. My first night was a little overwhelming and in true Linington style the waterworks appeared. Despite the language barrier, the  family displayed such kindness which helped a great deal. There are 6 children here ranging from two 12 year old twins up to 21 years. Five girls and one boy! I get on particularly well with Shafi (the 15 year old boy) as we share a love of cricket. I inadvertently caused a stir amongst the family two days ago when I hit a ball straight over the boundary fence for 6. There are no male ego's here - just smiling reactions by all those who watched and very refreshing it is too!

The mealtimes here at the house are similar to bush tucker trials on I'm celebrity get me out of here only there is no Ant and Dec laughing hysterically as I sample curious food but the family watching me intently and I mean intently! I am given curry for breakfast, lunch and supper interposed with 
mango juice, bananas and coffee! The weight loss programme is not going so well! I was introduced to ladies finger two days ago which I understand to be part of the cucumber family - I dread to think what my reaction was when they announced this ingredient!

The fascination the family have with me and my background is quite amusing and one example is my hair which is frequently touched because it so unusual, all be it bottle blonde and browny hair, but this has not been seen in these parts before! A rather amusing experience occurred yesterday when a young child was introduced to me via the family and whilst I accept that I'm no oil painting, I was rather upset when she took one look at me, burst into tears and ran off in the opposite direction! Beats the incessant staring and at least it was short and sweet!!

The school is not far from the house and I am getting to know staff gradually - the biggest challenge is remembering names as there are no Steve, Dave, Tom's of this world found here!

I find it somewhat amusing that the lavatorial habits are in my view so archaic and yet most Indians have knowledge, sight and ownership of Apple products however this could not be said of the Kindle! This device has not yet reached these parts and the family were rather amused that a large number of books could be stored on it! Funny what tickles people's sense of humour!

The power cuts continue to plague these parts and I am thankful that my iPhone has a torch facility. My phone travels everywhere with me I can tell  you! Such was the humidity two nights ago and with a lack of fans operating, the Principal sort refuge by lying in the garden trying to get cool! I thought for a moment that he may of snuffed it but fortunately not!

Another example of the cultural differences was once again highlighted when I was told about the arranged marriages. An advert is placed in the marriage classifieds section of the local paper requesting that a suitable candidate come forward for consideration. Such approval is met by the bride's parents and if the parties agree then the couple will only see one another twice before the ceremony itself. Agencies are also instructed to locate suitable candidates - pardon my language but sod that for a game of soldiers! 
In any event I'm not sure that I would ever find a suitable husband who would have me after making the catastrophic error of wiping my face with "lav wipes" instead of face wipes, a few evenings ago! I did wonder why it was rather abrasive but being so tired from the heat didn't make my discovery until the following morning! Oh deary me!!!! For the avoidance of doubt, it was clean however it is not a recommended course of action!!

So guess what it's curry time once again! I may have to bring out the marmite jar soon but whilst I am being kindly accommodated so my bush tucker trials continue!!!

I have attached some photos which include henna artwork on my hand which the students who I have not yet corrupted in the classroom yet, completed two days ago. Don't worry Dad - it's not permanent!!! Those who know me well will appreciate that I don't do chav badges! (Tattoos) This is only temporary!

The term starts June 3rd so I will begin my educational journey from then. I will of course update you as to what I think will be my disastrous style of educating these delightful unsuspecting Indians then.

Hope your all well wherever this finds you!

Much love xxxx

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Belly belly good!

Eevning All!

I hope life is treating well wherever this finds you!!

I am emailing you from Kovalam Beach, Kerala, where I've been staying since my arrival on Monday morning. The flight on Air India which has been previously known as "Scare" India was very pleasant. I met a delightful young Indian couple who couldn't be more helpful and have been texting me since to check all is well!

Since leaving Trivandrum airport I have encountered a sensory overload! Colours, smells and incessant beeping of rickshaw hooters which are NOT used in the same capacity as we are used to but merely to inform you that if you don't shift your arse you're likely to become brown bread! The driving standard adopted here is similar to what I can only imagine to be a number of blind motorists taking to the road. The rule that everyone has a right of way is simply ridiculous and on several occasions I have shrieked out loud but I figured there is a load of old people pottering about so I reckon I have a good chance of surviving the next 7 months!!

The hotel I am staying at is charming and so too are the people who run it. The manager sleeps a few doors down from my room outside on a mattress on the veranda to keep watch over his guests!  Poor guy has drawn the short straw with me staying along with a crazy 68 year old Irish lady who has been nomadic for roughly 12 years travelling the world and bases herself here in Kovalam! Pam, the Irish lady is such an interesting and entertaining lady who has been extremely kind to me and has made a positive difference to my stay whilst I have been adjusting to my new surroundings!

My hotel room is very amusing in that the fan which I am very grateful does work, sounds like a combine harvester and my shower is no more effective than a watering can, not to mention the lack of key in order to lock and open the door! A couple of bolts and a padlock does the trick! There is also the power cuts that place approximately twice a day and can cause a problem if your showering at the time! In so far as the lavatorial habits go, such is my desperation that I am pining for the "aeroplane lav" where I could at least enjoy loo paper as opposed to the alternative; that being a hose - I make no further comment!

On my first night I was taken by the chap, who runs the education company I am working for, to his house where I met his wife and 4 children. They were very welcoming but intrigued by my appearance (no jokes please!) - in fact I was stared at for sometime. I am pleased to say it wasn't like the "Buckland" stare but more like observing a freak of nature I suppose! The meal provided was delicious but not without its challenges!!! No weaponry to use just my right hand and this proved pretty difficult. Imagine scooping up sloppy curry one handed into a manageable heap to then shoving it in your cake hole? I must of looked so desperately unattractive with curry dribbling down my chin. No napkin to wipe away the mess and worse of all NO USE of the left hand as this is your lavatory hand! I can now understand why I was looked at with such horror when I tore the chappati bread with both hands! Not a good look - for the avoidance of doubt, my hands were clean prior to dinner!

The beach and scenery here in Kovalam is beautiful although the beach, sadly, is very built up and geared towards the tourist market. It doesn't entirely detract from its beauty but being in the minority of white people I am repeatedly targeted for wooden elephant souvenirs, dresses, restaurants and bongo drums!!! The one thing that stands out is the repeated attempts made by two women in particular to sell me mangos, bananas and pineapples. On every occasion, a new ailment develops and their desperation intensifies! One of the women hasn't yet mentioned the need to sell fruit in order to have her teeth treated and focusing on her priorities, she would I'm sure generate more business if this mentioned first off!!!

Moving forward I am on the move tomorrow at 0430 local time to take a train up to Calicut where the school is based. I understand this to be a 7 hour train journey which I have specifically asked for during the day so that full advantage can be taken of the scenery and experience!

I will be staying with the school principal for the next two weeks until the new English volunteer arrives, at which point we will move into a shared house together.

I am now on the move, I have an early start tomorrow so will sign off by sending you all lots of love

Luce xxx