For some reason, I actually looked forward to my long plane ride to India; maybe it's the time alone to read, watch movies, meet others, and rest. My initial flight from DFW ended in Switzerland, taking about 9 hours. I have to say that American Airlines was a disappointment. This was made more obvious when I then took Swiss Air. Swiss' service, food, and amenities were much more satisfying. They even offered free wine; I couldn't pass it up!
I then had a stop in Switzerland for 5 hours. When we landed, I followed the inviting sign: “Swiss Lounge”. I had to find a place to rest. When I got there, I heard the disappointing welcome: "Hello, are you a first or business class traveler?" :(
Their sofas looked so soft and comfortable! . . . thank God that the rest of Swiss airport was clean and well-kept.
My next flight took me to Muscat. Here I had to switch to Oman Air. What a change of scenery! As soon as I stepped out of the plane, it was obvious; this airport must have been built in the last century. Agents were still using paper filing . . . my only prayer was that my luggage would safely transfer.
A prevalent sight at this airport was their Muslim citizens. I have nothing against them wearing their traditional, very conservative clothing. But the conflict with this practice versus "modernization" was all too obvious. The Muslim women covered their heads, but pictures of half-naked women were regularly seen advertising perfumes and jewelry. I could hear rap music in the background while waiting in line. As we landed, Marriott's and Hilton's were all around the city . . . westernization is taking hold even in this otherwise very conservative land.
On Oman Air, my neighbor shared with me his life in Dubai. He's on the way to see his wife and two sons in North Kerala. Though he describes life in Dubai as restrictive, he's been there for the past 16 years. Every year that he makes his trip to India, he promises not to go back. But he goes back thinking one more year . . . the money is hard to pass up. His life consists of working two years then going to India to see his family for 4 months . . . what a life! So we talked about how certain things are priceless; thank you MasterCard!
Welcome to Kerala
I landed in Kerala at 6 am and was all too relieved to see my luggage come through safely. Going home, I noticed that highways were in impressive condition.
But then we took the local roads . . . still the same:
The first morning began with great news. The goat at my uncle's house just had two babies! In watching them, I noticed how a mother's love for their children is universal; she keeps them close, licking them constantly.
If you look at this picture, a dog is also in the stable:
My cousin tells me that the mother is great friends with it. But now with her babies, she's constantly poking at the dog violently to make sure he doesn't come too close . . . that's mom!
My Initial Observation
While traveling I couldn’t help but notice guys urinating on the roadside; it's hard to miss. How repulsive I thought; don’t they have decency?! After seeing this many times, guess what?:
Now this is a great transition to my next topic:
Daily Religious Life
Let's move on to a more serious topic. I noticed that faith is put into action regularly in the religious culture of Kerala. For instance, whenever one passes a cross, they make the sign of the cross. People do it instinctively as they pass by. There are many of these cross towers all around:
Besides the cross towers, I’ve noticed many cars, trucks, and buses have God's or a saint's name written on it. Businesses have pictures of Christ or saints prominently on their walls. All these are reminders of who they are. Of course, it's the faith within us, in our hearts that matter, but these tangible gestures and visuals couldn't hurt.
So far, I’ve been waking up at sunset. My aunt said that it's still common practice for locals to wake up at 5am for morning prayer. In fact, our nearby church rings its bell at this time. I take a walk for some exercise (I need it after all the food I’m eating!); plus walking helps in getting to know my surroundings. I hope I can keep up this routine.
These are my main observations after my first week in Kerala. I'll try to post as often as I can, and please post your comments, too. Hope everyone's doing well . . . God bless!
Starting from August 2007, I'll be staying in Kerala until May to experience our rich Syriac Orthodox tradition and become "keralized". On a random basis, I'll be posting my thoughts and experiences. Enjoy!