One week left in India...

It’s been a while but I have finally found the time to sit down and write a blog post. My last week or so has been action-packed and I have made tons of wonderful memories. I haven’t had the best access to Wi-Fi recently, but we are currently staying a very nice hotel on a coastal town south of Chennai named Mahabalipuram. We were here for New Years, but we celebrated Christmas in a few smaller towns on our way here. This may be the last post of mine before we fly to Bangkok, Thailand on the 8th so I’ll do a little bit of a summary of our time in India.

The beach town we are staying in right now is very pleasant and isn’t very touristy at all. However, there are tons of rock sculptors that are selling little souvenirs all over the city and I got one of them to carve a black cobra out of granite as a way to remember our time in India. I even had him write Tromso to Tokyo on it! The town is right on the beach and there are quite a few temples in a few different locations around here. There is one by the beach that is super pretty, although it costs 500 rupees for foreigners. (It only costs 30 for locals…) Anyways, it was cool to look at it from outside the fence and there were plenty of other temples on some rocks close by that we were able to explore as well.

About a week ago, we visited a place called Proto which is a small town that is working towards being a fully sustainable village that started about four years ago. They have a few huts that they have built and have a large portion of land in which they have starting farming. There are about 30 people that live there, although a few of them have houses close by in which they go to at night. We found out about Proto from our friend Lead who we met in Agonda about a month ago. It was super enjoyable to meet a bunch of new people there that supported protecting the environment and starting a prototype village. They grow their own food and are working on finding a way to filter the water they get from a well, and they even had a little school that the 15 kids attended. We were lucky to be there when we were, as the second night we spent there was their first annual festival in which there were lots of art, music and good food. They had recently built a huge amphitheater, where they held a large performance that evening featuring multiple dancers, singers and Grammy award winner Ricky Cej. It was a wonderful night and it was super fun to watch some cultural dance and listen to some Indian music. They had an amazing sitar player who we got to talk to after the performance.

From that village we biked towards the coast. As we have been stopping at around 11am to stay out of the sun, we ended up stopping at a convent looking for a place to take a break on Christmas Eve day. After meeting one of the sisters, she invited us to stay the night. We thought it would be an interesting experience and so we agreed to stay. Later that evening, we got a ride over to a newly inaugurated church where we attended a special Christmas mass. Following the service, we enjoyed some plum cake, sung Christmas carols and watched the parking lot explode with fireworks. It was quite late by the time we got back to the convent, but Sister Mary Jaya wanted to sing even more Christmas carols and enjoy some more delicious treats. We have learned throughout our travels that it’s a lot easier to say yes and have done our best to do so. Although it was a pretty late night, it was a fun experience and it was interesting to attend a service that was held in three different languages.

As I said, we have had a very eventful past week. A few days after Christmas we met up with our distant relative in Uthiramerur, a town that is south east of Chennai. We were welcomed by a large group of people that accompanied us into town where we were welcomed again by about 50 or 60 villagers that were all smiling and taking photos of us. There were even a few that were playing instruments and within the first few minutes of being greeted, our shoulders were covered in a few different clothes and really cool necklaces made out of little yellow wooden beads. The day continued on as we met the Lion’s Club, the Rotary and many other wonderful people that lived in that village. The town has a great water purification and waste disposal system that we got to see firsthand. It was a village that was a great role model for others and I was happy to see a village that was so developed in such positive ways that kept the people healthy and the town clean. By the end of the day, our stomachs were stuffed full of delicious Indian sweets, tea and meals on top of banana leaves. We stayed at a farm stay house that evening and biked to Mahabalipuram the following day.

One of the friends that we met at Proto village came to visit us while we were in Mahabalipuram and it was nice to spend some time with somebody other than a McFerrin. Her name is Shanthi and she is a volunteer at Proto. She is relatively new there but it was fun to spend some time with her and walk around town. She’s a bit older than me but it was super nice to hang out with a friend again. We had stayed in contact after we met at Proto and she ended up spending a couple days with us. She lived in the states for a few years where she did her masters in Biochemistry. Shanthi left yesterday afternoon as she had to return to Proto, but my family really enjoyed spending time with her.

Our New Year’s was super fun as we spent an evening of good food and stayed up for the fireworks. The fireworks were amazing and although the rest of my family had gone to bed a little earlier, I stayed up until the glorious fireworks started and got a few nice shots on the camera. It was incredible as they were shooting up into the sky in every direction that I looked. It was the first time that I had seen that and it was truly beautiful. Our hotel is four stories high and the roof was a perfect location to see the fireworks that surrounded us. We met a couple from Spain that is staying at the hotel and they are visiting his grandma for the holiday season and they were up on the roof at the same time. The guy, Jule is actually from France and so we got to speak in French for a bit and that was fun. The fireworks continued for the next hour or so and have also been going of randomly for the past few nights that have followed New Year’s.

We are approaching our departure date fast and I am sad that we will be leaving India. I am going to miss so many things, but I know that I will come back someday. I think that the food and people will be the two things that I will miss the most. Indian cuisine has been some of the best food I have eaten during the trip and I will definitely be going to my good friend Maharshi’s house a lot more once I get back. He is Punjabi and moved from India when he was young. I have already warned him that I will be quite deprived of my Indian food and will be coming over soon after I return in August. However, I am also excited to go to Thailand as I have heard so many good things about Southeast Asia from my parents and it will be fun to learn about another different culture and try their local cuisine. As for now, we are going to spend a few more days in Mahabalipuram and then we will bike into Chennai to fly out on the 8th. I have posted a ton of photos on the India page and there are mini stories that are included in many of the captions. Enjoy and I will do my best to post a bit more frequently!

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