Our team decided to do some sightseeing on weekends, knowing that most of us will never have the opportunity to visit India again after this sabbatical. Last night, 10 of us boarded a plane to Cochin in Kerala, along the southwest corner of India on the Arabian Sea. There are many differences between here and our home base in Chennai. Cochin (previously called Kochi) was settled by the Portuguese in the 1500’s. Vasco de Gama actually died here in Cochin. When I learned about him in school, I never dreamed I would be visiting the land he discovered. Much of the old architecture style remains, and the region is 50% Catholic. Believe it or not, they actually have beef on the menus here. After seeing some of the cows just meandering down the road, none of us had the heart to eat red meat for dinner. Kerala is the spice capital of India. When you walk into the shops, the smells are amazing (and my stomach starts growling).
Everything is incredibly green here. They have amazing “rain trees” that look as though they’ve been here for hundreds of years. The people are more accustomed to foreigners here, so we’ve had fewer stares. You can imagine how much attention we draw in Chennai: 11 foreigners, 9 of whom are Caucasian, 1 Asian, and 1 Middle Easterner. Here in Cochin, we’ve seen a wide variety of races and religions. Imagine sitting next to a Hindu, near a Catholic church, while listening to the Muslim call to prayer. Very diverse. I even saw an Indian with dreadlocks. Considering the wreck this humidity has made of my own hair, I might need to give that a try.
The biggest eye opener was when we walked to the beach. No one was in a swimsuit. I mean no one. There were some people in the water, wearing regular clothes. A few ladies lifted their saris above their ankles to step in; even most of the young girls were formally dressed. There were two ladies in burkas standing towards the back of the beach. It looked like a scene from a movie. The beach fills up with sunset gazers. Wish my camera could have capture the vivid red in the sky. Breathtaking.
Tomorrow we are taking a backwater tour on a houseboat, then three of us fly on to Bangalore to meet with the Villgro team there. It is a short trip, only two days, but I am looking forward to seeing where so many of my SAP colleagues live and work. Then we fly back to Chennai Tuesday night. My flight schedule over here is almost as crazy as back home. 😀