We made it to Kochi, Kerala, India sort of in one piece. Three days into our India-experience I am still struggling to summarize how I feel about. Maybe I am struggling because I simply don’t know yet how I feel or I am so overwhelmed that I am just overloaded. I don’t even know which of the two is true, or maybe both.
I am certainly overwhelmed, so overwhelmed in fact that I haven’t even taken any pictures and that should tell you something. The 10.5 hours time difference between Merida and India would make this challenging on the best of days even for grown-ups but having that 3 ½ year old standing bright-eyed next to your bed at 1:27 am – after you just managed to fall asleep – asking “Mama, shall we go out a bit” and then have him bounce off the walls for the next three hours only to sleep-walk around for the rest of a day after an unsatisfactory nap between like 5 and 9 am – adds, well more than a little challenge.
If Merida was all about walking everywhere Kochi is certainly all about avoiding to walk anywhere. Walking just doesn’t seem to be an option. When we ask people how to get from here to there the answer will invariably be “take a tricycle taxi”. When we ask “How far is it and could we walk there” we generally get that truly puzzled look that indicates that the person either thinks that they misunderstood us and are still trying to figure out in their head what we might have said because “could we walk there” doesn’t compute or they are thinking about calling the police and report that three mad Westerns have broken loose from a maximum security loony-bin.
Measurements – people here to have a fairly loose relationship with them. Despite repeated questions about the size of Kochi we only managed to narrow it down to the following “Kochi is smaller than Mumbai”. Distances seem to forever be ½ hour by car and if we insist that we want to know distance in like kilometers it is always “2 kilometers”. Even the oldest tricycle taxi will cover 15 kilometers in ½ hour so I sort of concluded that we are asking a question that is utterly irrelevant to people and therefore can’t get a “real” answer, the practical answer is: “take a tricycle taxi”.
One of the first things that struck me in India is the availability of a sheer unlimited number of staff, help, people to do things for you. I first noticed in the hotel in Mumbai when I was poking my head out of my room to see whether Uli was coming over from the computer room and every time I did as much as showed my forehead three people would appear from nowhere and asked how they could help me. When we loaded the luggage in the car (admittedly a fair number of pieces) we had no less than 7 people standing around trying to be helpful. The fact that we are used to do everything ourselves (an American taxi cab driver usually doesn’t offer to put your child seat into your car, let alone the Europeans, they will not only not offer, they will refused when asked) and fiddled around with trunk didn’t make matters any better. Today we had four waiters serve our food, can’t remember when I last had somebody put food on my plate from the little saucers on the table.
I went to a clothing store today because the tight black Mexican ¾ pants are oddly out of place here. It was an upscale one, 5 floors of saris, fabric, scarves, and other beautiful stuff and there must have been 300 sales girls in there. I am not joking, this isn’t hyperbole, there must have like 300 sales girls in there. I myself must have spoken to a good two dozen in the course of a rather brief visit. Max got so much attention he was hiding behind everything he could hide behind and then started acting up, running through the store screaming, climbing on couches and turning sharply away any time anybody as much as looked at him.
I am trying to teach him manners but it’s hard and I understand him in a way – it must be difficult for him to have strangers come up all the time, not just one but three, four, five people at a time and touch him and talk to him in his least preferred language, English. Had he grown up here I am sure he would take to it more kindly but he simply isn’t used to that much close-up attention. I bought two of the pant/long shirt outfits that are so practical and a beautiful piece of night-sky blue silk with silver embroideries. No idea what I’ll do with it but I had to have it. Might have to redecorate the whole house to go with it 😉
The heat and the smell along with the mosquitoes got the better of us last night at around 3:30 am when nobody had slept more than an hour and so we decided to take a break and go up to the Western Ghats, the mountains just east of Kochi, where the temperatures are lower (however, we couldn’t find out how much), people are fewer and there are mountains, lots of green leaves, and trails to hike. I am looking forward to it. As much as I love the heat it will be a nice break to wake up to 20 degrees not 30 and do as much as get out of a chair without breaking a sweat. I hope to be able to take some truly ground-breaking, creative photographs of tea leaves 😉
After that we’ll return to Kochi and move into our temporary apartment. It is supposed to be a nice, spacious modern apartment in the high rise next to where we are staying now and it is supposed to have Internet access.
Got to go take the third shower of the day and then try and find some sleep, now that it is about 1 pm Merida time and therefore time for a nap.