Since my last entry, I have enjoyed a sightseeing adventure which finally felt like I was actually on holiday. Naomi (the other volunteer teacher) and I ventured to Kochin which is within the state of Kerala. We abandoned our teaching duties on Friday lunchtime and headed South to Kochin by car. As per the norm here, we had a driver for the weekend which in my view is the only way to travel (and safely too!) in this country. Having experienced and witnessed driving standards that frankly would result in multiple prosecutions for 'driving without due care and attention' and 'dangerous driving', I was somewhat concerned about the long journey ahead. It was wasted energy because our wonderful driver Abeesh drove so beautifully that those lunatics of which there are many didn't register on my radar at all!
On the way to Kochin and some three hours from the school, we visited an elephant sanctuary in Thissur which cost a staggering 5 rupees to gain entry and a further 25 rupees for the privilege of taking a camera in. That amounts to approximately 25p! There were at least 30 elephants to observe from and the highlight was being given the opportunity to stroke a female elephant called Tara. I must confess that I was a little apprehensive in approaching her and faced with the prospect that she could react badly to my being stood next to her, I was somewhat surprised but largely amused by the biggest burp she let rip. The noise was similar to that of a walrus mating call but fortunately, given my close proximity, it was odourless. I was mightily relieved, otherwise it could have been a very nasty gassing indeed. For a split second I thought I was in Bridget Dassow's company after consuming a can of diet coke! Class!
On leaving Thissur, we endured a further two and a half hours in the car before reaching Willingdon Island, home to the Indian Navy and a relatively short distance from Kochin itself. We stayed in a positively luxurious hotel compared to my current living arrangements. There was hot water, fluffy towels, a television, a comfortable bed, beer let alone it being cold and varied foods other than curry and rice!!!!! I can confirm that I have not seen or experienced such treats for 9 weeks so it was simply amazing to once again sample such delights! How life becomes so simplistic here and yet back in the UK those items listed above are almost considered essential in the day to day living standards of the Western world!
Saturday was a day spent in paradise aboard a houseboat cruising the Backwaters. We joined the boat in Alleppey late morning and spent the rest of the day and night on board being thoroughly spoilt. A houseboat to ourselves in glorious sunshine, which is a treat during the monsoon season and being waited on hand and foot, life was a struggle. Lunch was a delicious mix of fresh fish and vegetables until the pud was presented. Their famous rice noodle soup arrived on the table and consisted of a grey coloured gloopy liquid similar in appearance to that of paper mache, with what can only be described as bits of spaghetti floating around, sugar, oh and the occasional pistachio nut making a guest appearance! The taste, well frankly it was as disgusting and unappealing as described. In an attempt to discard the soup overboard and prevent any offence caused by leaving a full bowl, I managed to tip the entire contents onto my lap and my prized sunglasses slid off my head and sunk to the bottom of the muddy waters. However when I asked if there was a net available, I was very surprised to see one of the crew members jump in and after several minutes, my sunnies miraculously reappeared! (God know how he was able to see anything) Most definitely Indian madness and kindness all at once!!!!
Sunday was slightly less eventful - a relatively short drive back to Kochin where a guided tour of the Chinese fishing nets, Fort Kochin, Jew Town and the Dutch Palace took place. Fascinating sights and once again we were extremely fortuitous with gorgeous weather. On the way back to Calicut, we were able to stop off at the LuLu Mall which is the biggest shopping mall in Asia. It didn't disappoint and with all the major brands available it was a much larger version of Westfields in London. The rest of the day passed off without incident - a couple of prangs and cars written off by suicidal drivers going about their daily business at 300 mph the wrong way, on the wrong side of the road and probably without a licence but that's the norm here, so nothing out of the ordinary to write home about!
We reached Calicut at around 8pm on Sunday evening a little weary but in great spirits. I feel extremely relaxed and refreshed and ready to kick the kids' asses once again.
Normality is once again upon us and Monday morning slapped me in the face like a big bowl of rice noodle soup. Suddenly immersed into present continuous and simple present tenses was not all that appealing but then being met by bus loads of children with beaming smiles and their charming broken English, how could I remain glum for too long?!!!
As I am writing this, the power has just given out much like the appearance of a lot of the Muslim students who are part way through Ramadan (Holy fasting month). No filling their faces from 0450 until 1850 including all liquids makes for very tired students, colleagues and the Principal and his family. Amazingly there are no short tempers or displays of petulance from food deprivation but perhaps a little less concentration than usual. Frankly they are entitled to be offline during this month and they are certainly a race to be admired!
I was thrilled to learn of England's victorious performance against the Aussies! The students here are all supporting England so at last there is united front over cricket teams. I am occasionally teased for the ICC Champions Trophy defeat last month but I would still rather beat the Aussies in a test match over a game of pyjama cricket!
Nothing to report on the lavatorial front finally! The main objective during the week is not to get caught short at school but I have pretty much mastered the required fluid intake necessary to survive the day without having to impose myself on the squat bogs.
Will be in touch again soon - much love to you all
Luce (Ci Ci) xxx