The “Unternet” – as Max calls it – is down so this blog will be posted with a delay. It’s amazing we even have Internet connection at all. The day we moved in here they were putting the wires in which basically meant that two guys showed up went on one of the balconies, pulled in a wire that came from above, started drilling holes where they saw fit and disappeared again.
Unfinished Jobs Everywhere
It has been working, slowly and intermittently ever since but, hey, it’s been working. The power outage today must have done it in, though, and I just hope that there are more people in this building who miss internet access as much as we do and will call – whomever – and get it fixed – eventually.
The whole city/state seems to be filled with these unfinished jobs or jobs that were once done and then promptly fell into disrepair. A bit of history: Kerala was once, actually twice, but that would be going into too much detail, ruled by a communist government. Whatever negative things one might want or has to say about the communists, they are generally good at achieving better conditions for the poor. That is exactly what one can see in Kerala where literacy is higher than in the rest of India, life expectancy is at US levels and child mortality is low. Land reform has improved the lot of the small farmers and despite what I wrote about the latent sexism yesterday the female to male birth ratio is about what one would statistically expect – unlike in much of the rest of India where still suspiciously few girls are born (or making it through the first few days/weeks of their life). After a period of stagnation Kerala has started to prosper again beginning earlier this decade and the developing middle class is doing rather well and so does the “average” citizen. It seems a large number of projects where undertaken at some time in the not so distant past with lots of enthusiasm but then sort of quietly fell by the wayside and in disrepair.
Like the Childrens’ Amusement Park we went to today. Located right by the waterfront it takes up excellent real estate next to the main Ferry Jetty to Old Kochi (itself a modern building somewhere between one half and two-thirds finished with no signs of continuing work). The entrance fee is 10 rupees for adults, 5 for kids. Not dirt cheap but affordable for local families. It was planned real nicely: little cars with pedals, streets and street signs for traffic education, a small pond with little boats to paddle around in, a large number of climbing structures, slides, seesaws etc. – everything is almost but not quite falling apart. The pond is but a smelly, brown, brackish liquid with an oily film on top, the jump house lies deflated in a pile, most of the cars have one part or another missing, and the associated “Renewable Energy Park” has sun collectors that power nothing and is reminiscent of a ghost town. We were the only ones venturing there and only because we seemingly where the only ones who didn’t know any better.
Somebody built it with the best of intentions but whoever is responsible for it apparently has not seen the need to budgeted for ongoing maintenance. Whatever money they make through the admission seems to be spent on three people sitting in the ticket booth selling you entry tickets, plus two more opening and closing the gate plus another three selling the (additional) boat tickets plus the guy who pushes the boat into the pond once the guests have embarked.
We saw similar efforts in other places. Munnar had a really nice park with flowers along the river – the bridge to the gazebo in the middle of the pond was – you guessed it – broken and the climbing structures for the kids where dangerous – and by that I don’t mean dangerous in the American sense where, even if you jump head first off a structure you can’t possible harm yourself too badly.
Green Kerala – Good Intentions but the Execution Lacks
We saw plenty of signs advertising a “Green Kerala” reminding people to keep Kerala clean and not to litter. Good luck with that – not a trash can in sight anywhere and everybody merrily tossing their trash everywhere (we were stared at for reclaiming the wrappers of the cookie we shared with the tea pluckers and putting them back into our backpack). So you’ll have the Do not Litter sign right next to a pile of plastic bottles, ice cream wrappers, chips bags, coke cans and worse.
For me, having grown up in Germany at a time where the Green Party was all the rage and we were constantly reminded of the importance of environmental conservation it is painful and at times – I have to admit – completely incomprehensible how people can treat their environs with such utter disrespect. I have to remind myself over and over again when I see grown-ups unwrapping their ice cream and just throwing the paper on the ground wherever they are not to yell at them or call them names – something I would probably do in Germany (and to some extend in the US) and wouldn’t be alone in doing so. I have seen the same thing in China 20 years ago, in Southeast Asia 10 years ago and somehow I had hoped by now everybody who lives under conditions advanced enough to be using plastic bags in absurd numbers to have understood that they won’t just go away or disappear or biodegrade. (I don’t want to give the impression that this is an Asian problem, Mexico is full of trash and I have occasionally fantasized about being part of an Anti-Litter-Squad on Kauai where we would lie camouflaged in the greenery waiting for idiots throwing their Dr. Pepper bottles down the waterfalls and fine them the maximum allowed amount of $1000 – each, for every bottle). The term I have heard recently was ”photo-degrade” which basically means nothing other than: they break down in smaller and smaller pieces so eventually one doesn’t see them anymore but the plastic material itself will not “go away”.
I could go on ranting, but enough already. Hopefully on an more upeat note tomorrow.