As we spend our final days in Chennai, shopping and eating, I find myself reflecting on the trip. Favorites would have to be the spice plantation homestay at Varnam in Northern Kerala (where Andy climbed the coconuts), trekking the Munar tea plantations, and the houseboat cruise. I laugh now at our trepidation in spending the money on that luxury, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I'll remember it to the end of my days.
As far as these objectives I listed to the right, we met all of those. It was definitely fun to spend time with Andy having adventures that the stress and work load of life at home doesn't really allow for. We ate so much wonderful food! And it renewed our sense of overall satisfaction with our lives.
It can be really easy at home to feel like we're not making enough money. I think this is a totally American experience, everyone feels this at one time or another. Being in India, encountering people just scraping by, usually on about $2-4 per day makes you realize how good we really have it. Aside from the exceptionally high level of creature comforts that we are able to afford in the west, we have disposable income, that lets us have hobbies and travel to the other side of the world. We come home with a sense of awe at how truly wealthy we are. We have a great life!
India definitely put both of us outside our comfort zones at times. The filth has probably been the hardest thing for me to deal with on a daily basis. Things do not get properly cleaned here, ever. On my first trip to India six years ago I realized that one of the advantages to the women wearing so many bright colors and intricately patterned clothing is that it doesn't show the dirt of daily life. On that trip I was sort of in awe of the developing world, I thought, "wow, this is what it's like, this is how they live," but this time it was much harder for me to tolerate. Those who know me will know that I'm a pretty fastidious, anal, clean person, and I often found myself outside my comfort zone in this regard. And the South is noticeably better than the North.
As for the air quality, what can I say? Every breath in India is either diesel exhaust, open sewer, garbage fire, or rot. I'm not kidding. Coming from Montana, this is hard to tolerate, and makes you feel kind of sick all the time. I look forward to the cool crisp air of my home that rejuvenates you. Right now I could spend a week just breathing!
The overpopulation in India is extreme, as the photo above demonstrates. You can feel this oppressive mass of humanity all around you, especially now in the state capital Chennai. Most of the people here will never experience the open space, and pristine environmental quality that we enjoy in Montana. And this trip has renewed my love of my home. I am definitely lucky to be from such an amazingly beautiful place. With only 1 million people in the whole state!!! I really have believed for a long time that a lot of humanity's problems are directly related to overpopulation and this trip only strengthens that feeling.
As an artist, India was not as inspirational as some other places that I've traveled. Their style in jewelry, clothing and art, like their daily lives, is incredibly intricate, loud, and busy. Which is hard to incorporate into my sort of pared-down, simplistic, line and shape based design. Indian's really enjoy a lot of stimulus all the time. Having said that, I did do a lot of sketching and harvesting of new ideas, and I feel a renewed sense of excitement to get into the studio and start cranking! I found myself getting a lot of ideas on long bus rides. My mind was able to wonder, and my eye was able to ponder the jewelry, fashions, and even hair accessories of Indian women at very close range. My show schedule kicks off this year with two March events down in Arizona. I am shopping here in Chennai mostly for textiles to use in new displays for both wholesale and retail booth designs. The tough part is choosing one sari over another because they are all so beautiful! And cheap!
We splurged on a luxury hotel (see below) for $65 a night for our last stint in India. And it is an absolute haven to come "home" to at the end of a long shopping day in Ranganathan street (above). Most places we've stayed cost between $8-20 a night.
We found a great restaurant that we will be hitting up for our "Last Supper". They have amazing food, and a website. It's called Thalappakatti (say that 5 times fast) and you can check them out here. http://www.thalappakatti.com/
Don't forget to check the Youtube link on the right for the final video post, and I leave you with one last image below. This one because it is so quintessential India!
Thanks for reading my blog. I really hope you've all enjoyed following our travels. It's been a fun way to document the trip!
Having travelled in India before I know it as a country of wonderful food, sights, and rituals. But also as a country that tests a person almost everyday. Thus far I haven't been pushed to my limit on this trip... Until yesterday!
Hampi is a place with fantastic scenery, the accommodation not so much. A look at the photo here may explain to the reader why we put up with what we did for 3 days. This is the view off the porch swing of our deceptively cute bungalow. The boulders for climbing are literally a 3 minute walk off the porch.
When we checked in we noticed the bathrooms were not quite clean, but that's not unusual in India. We've become expert at going to the bathroom, showering, and doing laundry without touching anything. We discovered later that the toilet never really flushed. Don't get me started on Indian plumbing, but you can imagine what this situation amounted to after 3 days.
The first night of our stay we realized there were certain creatures living in the ceiling, probably mice. Oh well, the foam ceiling tiles look intact so, other than the occasional scurrying and chewing noises, we didn't really see that as a threat.
Eventually we started leaving the bathroom window open to air it out, and the bathroom door closed to the room. There were bars on the window so the monkeys wouldn't cause problems.
On the third morning I opened the door to the bathroom and sitting on the windowsill contemplating how he was going to get down was a rather large rat!
Ok that's it, I'm out of here!
I closed the door, left the bungalow and headed to town to find new digs.
A lot of things that we wouldn't tolerate in the states you find yourself just sort of saying, "oh it's not that bad", or "well we've dealt with worse", remember such and such a place. But after packing and moving to a new location in record time I sat and thought about what just happened. It's amazing how final and nonnegotiable the feeling is when you really do just hit your limit. There's no discussion or contemplation. It's like a switch flips and you just act.
Our new bungalow is great (I say that in the Indian sense of accommodation, it still has it's flaws, but they are within the realm of tolerable) and we are back bouldering and sight-seeing.
Last night we climbed 1000 steps to a Hanuman temple to watch a miraculous sunset over the vast landscape of boulders, rice paddies, and banana fields, that seemed to go on forever. It's like City of Rocks with palm trees!
Alison B. Sweeney
Why We Travel?