Monday, April 30, 2012

Last two weeks in Southern India

I am actually about to board my flight home now that I am finally getting around to writing this. After the program ended, I started travelling for three weeks and although I have certainly had numerous, fantastic experiences which I would have loved to share with everyone immediately, sometimes it is nice to simply disconnect from the world and solely focus on one's surroundings at hand. It truly makes a difference in the way you experience a place once you've put the camera, the phone, the computer, etc. away and focus on being engaged in the world around you. Although now I guess I have some catching up to do with this blog. I finished out the last two weeks of my program in Trivandrum (the full name is actually Thiruvananthapuram!). Things went very smoothly overall for being a brand new setting and type of clinical work for CFHI. Along with exploring Trivandrum and palliative care, we were able to go on a few trips on the weekends we were off. One of the first places we went to was called Ponmudi where we hiked to a nice waterfall and hilltop station. It's interesting to think that people travel so many hours to go see this place, and places like this, but to me it looked like my backyard in Oregon. Just another silent reminder of the fortunes we have, yet we so easily seem to forget. Although the scenery was quite lovely, it was the road there that I remember most vividly. First off, there were ten of us crammed into a small SUV, the four of us girls, and the rest doctors and nurses from the program. The driver, and other locals, told us we will be there after 22 hairpin turns to the top, and I remember thinking that's funny that they have counted them out and that's how they give people directions. Then I saw the first sign, "1/22 hairpin", then the next one "2/22", and so on. So I guess once the car sickness kicks in, you can count down the turns to safe ground! Speaking of signs, this is a subject I am always entertained by over here. All over the place there are posters, billboards, etc. boasting statements like "The Best chicken in all of India", which doesn't mean much when you've seen 4 restaurants in a row saying the same thing. There's also the actual names of stores and little shops like "The Fantastic Store". I don't know what's in there but everything must be fantastic! It makes me laugh thinking about such a store name going up in the U.S. Anyway, back to my weekend trips. The second weekend I spent a nice relaxing day at Kovalam beach, a white sandy oasis where I swam in the warm Arabian Sea, followed by a trip to the absolute southern tip of Inida called Kanyakumari, in the state Tamil Nadu, where three famous bodies of water come to a single meeting point - the Abarian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Gulf of Mannar. Although it was quite crowded and hectic, there stood grand statues of Hindu gods and temples, as well as had a breathtaking sunset, which more than made up for the chaos of people. The last weekend before leaving, we met up with two lovely English and German girls, and the six of us gals spent all day and a night on a beautiful houseboat, in Alleppey, floating on the Kerala backwaters, famous around the world for the unique dispersion of water forging endless canals and lagoons through thick palms and wetlands making for a secluded tropical paradise. We soaked up the hot sun while lounging around on a large, two bedroom, two story houseboat, made of bamboo and filled with luxourious furniture, while we glided graciously through the serene backwaters. I think we all at one point or another probably asked ourselves, does it get any better than this? The very last place I went before leaving southern India was a place called Varkala beach. Although I don't have much to say about the beach itself, the place I stayed in was so perfect for the simple traveller, like myself, I could have easily stayed there for months on end. I payed 150 Rupees a night, which equals to less than US $3. Atop a small guest house on the roof lay out 8 to 10 twin matresses each with a mesquito net cover where we slept, while down below hung 4 hammocks, a swing with the ropes long enough to hang from a three story building, and a quaint, covered lounging area in the center where travellers from all around the world could hang out surrounded by a tropical palm paradise. There was an open kitchen only footsteps away and all the ammenities one needed without excess. I know this place would be considered seriously below par for many, but I found it to be a hidden oasis, and the type of place I consider to be paradise. One man's trash is another man's treasure. I found this saying to hold true and repeat it's lesson throughout much of my time in India. I was reminded often of the importance of putting yourself in other people's shoes, whether it be someone of a very different culture or even a friend. We all have two eyes, but we do not all see the same view.

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