Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Kerala Adventure begins!


First things first, I think India is on to something when it comes to giving change after buying something. In the US, all you get are those annoying pennies…because everything is marked $9.99 to try and make us feel as though it’s actually cheaper and worth the purchase. So we end up gathering pennies…which it costs more to make a penny than it’s actually worth. Anyways, in India, when you don’t have those annoying little bits of change to give them when purchasing, the take it, round it up and then in place of those little would-be-pennies, you get candy. That’s right, candy. And not those silly little hard candies that no one wants from the candy jars. You get Cadbury chocolates. Sometimes you get gum, Orbit I might add. I think the US should adapt this system. I thoroughly enjoy the occasional chocolate or piece of gum than those annoying coins you can’t do anything with; and I think a lot of other people would as well.

Moving on to more important things, like the adventure it was to get to Kerala.  Since I last posted, there were lots of things happening. ISP final proposal, Hindi Final, Hindi Final project, final preparations to leave for ISP, farewell parties that of course ended in tears and moving out of our host families homes. It’s official, I’ll be home in less than a month. Where on earth did the time go? So, for the last month-ish of the program, I do a research project. I will be continuing research from last semester, looking at the movement of Muslim women from the home sphere to the “public sphere.” I’m working with an AMAZING organization called Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and they have been wonderful about everything thus far.  One other girl, Colleen and myself both came to Kerala which is wayyyyyyyyyy down in southern India.

Let’s start from the beginning; Colleen and I know we have an apartment waiting for us in Kerala, her advisor is picking us up at the train station and we were both all set with getting started on our research. First thing we have to do is get to Kozhikode (Calicut), Kerala. Kozhikode is 1,357 miles from Jaipur where I was based. This translates to a 6 hour drive north, to Delhi to take a 36 hour train ride south to Calicut. Here’s a map, the red line shows the route that we took (roughly…)



We started our journey Saturday morning, driving with the group of students from our program that are doing their research in Delhi. We arrive in the evening to their swanky/ritzy apartment (it’s really freakin nice) and crash there for the night. We wake up in the morning and I’m not feeling great. Actually, I’m feeling terrible. Breakfast doesn’t come and we have to leave. As we are leaving, I get sick. There’s nothing we can do at this point, we have a train to catch. Colleen is wonderful and trying to carry her stuff and help with mine as we go to hail a rickshaw to the New Delhi Station. A rather bumpy and overpriced rickshaw ride later, we get to the train station with plenty of time, which is great since I felt like I really needed to rest. Colleen goes to ask the enquiry desk what platform our train is leaving from….
Cue adventure part two. We actually went to the wrong train station. The train station we need is on the other side of town and we have less than an hour to get there. This would seem pretty reasonable in most situations, but not in Delhi.  It’s population is 14 million and is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It’s massive. Time to find a new rickshaw, who can hopefully get us across town in a very short amount of time. We call Manoj-ji, our go to guy back in Jaipur, basically being like HELP WE DON’T KNOW WHA TO DO! (I should mention that if we missed this train, we probably would not have made it to Kerala for at least another week…if we were lucky to get another train ticket there at all.) Manoj-ji asks to speak with the Auto driver, I don’t know what he said, but that driver kicked into high gear. Now starts one of the most terrifying rickshaw drives of time in India. This guy was not messing around. He got us there though, just in time. We literally, just made our train. It was pulling in when we got to the platform.
                We then find our seats/beds, in the air conditioned car and the train leaves. Needless to say it was a stress start to my research period. We had some very nice men sharing our compartment with us. So we had good conversation with the less then delicious train food. (Colleen liked it, I couldn’t quite get myself to be able to just yet.) Thirty-six hours later we arrive at our station, the nice guys help us off the train and tell us where to go to meet Colleens adviser and off we went. Manoj, her adviser, whisked us off to the apartment which is very nice, but had no bed sheets or kitchen utensils. We are currently borrowing them from our advisers. (My adviser also found me a SIM card for my phone since my original one stopped working. Womp.) There’s air conditioning though in each of our bedrooms, which is perfection since it’s REALLY humid here and pretty hot. We have Tuesday to get settled in and a couple of girls from the organization I’m working with came to welcome us to the area.
They’re really enthusiastic to have me working with them and I’m really excited to work with them for the month too. They’ve already compiled a list of people for to talk to. They brought me to chat with one woman already, who after a conversation then offered me fresh pineapple juice and snacks. When I mentioned I liked the mangoes down here, she sent her brother to pick me a BAG of them from their mango tree in their yard. The people are so welcoming and Kerala is beautiful. It’s called God’s Own Land, and I can completely understand why. Especially after spending two and a half months in the desert. There is green everywhere, palm trees, jack fruit trees, mango trees, flowers, the beach is within walking distance, rivers, everything. It’s so wonderful here. So far it’s been great and I can’t wait to explore it more. I unfortunately have almost no pictures as of yet, but hopefully that will change after some exploration this weekend!

View from the apartment :)

 Sunset today







On a separate and more serious note, something else I want to talk about is more related to home. When I woke up and heard about the bombings in Boston, it was tragic. I had friends, like a lot of people, who were running the marathon and know so many people who go to school in Boston and go to watch it. It was a nerve wrecking day to realize that this happened so close to where I live and grew up. It was ground shaking and both the girl I live with, and myself, were unsure what to do with ourselves. People we care about were there, and we’re here, thousands of miles away.
I then got upset thinking about how many people were concerned for my safety in India, but this could happen at home? Having to come to terms with the fact that tragic things happen all over the world, even so close to home, is hard. However, as I continued thinking about it and reading updates I recognized something. It’s times like this that we really need to remember and appreciate, is those people that rushed towards the blast to help. There first concern was helping their fellow person; their fellow human. In all the tragedies around the world, there are people like this. There are more good people in the world than bad. More people rushed to help and support and do what they could to those injured, shaken or distressed, than there are bad people in the world. These every day heroes, who do so much extraordinary are in all countries, communities and speak all languages and are of all religions. I recognize that at times that can be hard to realize that the good outweighs the bad but we need to remind ourselves of that.
 My heart goes out to all of those who were affected by the blasts and their friends and family. Also, my thanks goes out to all of those brave souls, both pedestrians and trained professionals, who risked and helped so much on that day; as well as those medical professionals that continue to work so hard for those injured in the blasts. Thank you.

4 comments:

  1. is a beautiful state with many picturesque attractions, which gathers the tourist from all over the world.
    I really appreciate sharing this great post. Keep up your work.
    Tour and Travel Companies in Chandigarh

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  2. Hi Kiley,
    Silver Lake here. We're looking forward to your visit on the 21st. Just a couple of questions for you this week.
    First, Paige would like to know what the reaction is to your technology and do the people there have anything similar?
    Second, Jacob wants to know if there are any gun control laws in Kerela?
    Looking forward to your answers.

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  3. Paige, in regards to technology, I don’t tend to flash it around when I’m walking. I keep my iPod in my purse, and the cell phone I have here is really, really basic. As in, the type of cell phone I got when I was 12 or 13. Most Indians have a better cell phone than me, so I’m not too worried about that. However, the people I’ve been working with in my research and the people that worked at the center I took classes, are all fairly well off. So the technology did not really illicit any sort of attention from them. But when I bring my big camera out for pictures, I do get attention for having the camera and a lot of people stare. I think it’s just a general rule of thumb, be aware of where you are and try to not flash the pricey iPhone or iPod you got, just like you wouldn’t advertise a ton of cash.
    Technology is pretty big here overall though. I’d say almost everyone has a cell phone, lots of the time they’re smart phones. Macs are expensive, but you see them around and most students have laptops, at least in the middle to upper class. However, poverty is a huge problem in India, so I’m sure this would differ in those communities.

    Jacob, that’s actually a really good question. I know India as a whole has pretty strict gun control laws. It seems to be a federal issue and not a state by state issue because I did some research and couldn’t find any information on gun laws in Kerala specifically; it all is based on India as a whole.
    So, in regards to gun control laws in India, it is pretty difficult to get a gun. You have to provide a reason for why you want the gun, background checks and be at least 21 to own one. Some statistics I’ve seen say that in 2009, India had a little over 3, 000 homicides by fire arms. The same year, the United States had over 11,000. (http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/india, they have their citation for statistics next to the number.) Who would have thought that by restricting access to guns, gun related deaths would lessen? The United States is about A QUARTER of the size of India and had almost 3 times the number of deaths.… Problematic? Yes. And yes, I would like to point out, India does have lots of problems. However, their gun control laws seem to be fairly on point, at least in my opinion.
    Anyways, long story short, yes India as a country has gun control laws, they seem to be fairly effective (if you look at the statistics, as gun control laws were enacted, gun related deaths lessened) and their policies are more conservative than in the United States.

    :)

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