Sunday, September 5, 2010


The past couple of days has been very busy. We continue to receive lots of information from Thomas John Achen about everything under the sun-- different foods,  Dos and Don'ts, how to travel, information about our sites and our jobs, culture and history lessons, and lots more. It is a lot to take in and by the time of late evening we are usually pretty tired (I think it has to do with the humidity and the final stages of jet lag and adjustment). In the past couple of days we have done a number of 'touristy' things during the afternoons.

Left to Right: Achen, Me, Maggie, Madison, Binu
On Friday we went to an elephant training center to see them raising and domesticating elephants for use either for heavy manual labor and in temples around India. We were the first groups of YAV volunteers who were not able to take an elephant ride upon visiting this training center. Selfishly I was disappointed although I think the change in policy is a good thing. It comes from recent legislation that has passed raising elephants to the status of heritage animals meaning that the government recognizes their status as a symbol of India and of many of the states, businesses, organization, etc. within the country (fun fact: Kerala's state emblem has two elephants facing one another with their trunks raised). So for good reason we were unable to take an elephant ride. We still spent a lot of time around them and were able to take pictures with them and play with them.
Me in my jubba and mundu and the girls in their churidars
Today (Sunday), we all got up at 6am to get ready and have breakfast before heading out to a church about 30 minutes away that Achen was preaching at. There we were introduced by the other minister and we were asked to say a few words about ourselves and our time here in India. After this we sang a song to the congregation that we had learned during our week long orientation in New York but that was further taught to us by Achen and Binu. The song is in malayalam although the verses were translated into english by a group of past volunteers. After the service a lot of people came up to us and thanked us for our visit to the church and said how wonderful it was to see foreigners know such a traditional and well known malayalam song.

 After church we headed further north to Kochi. Kochi is a port city which was widely used by traders from all over the world including Jews, Portuguese, Spanish, Arab, and many others. The highlights on our tour around Cochin were:

Jew Town-- an area of the city that at one time held several hundred Jewish families (many of them left when the state of Israel was created although still 50-60 roughly remain).

The synagogue, located in Jew Town, is the oldest synagogue in the lands formerly contained in the British Empire. It was built in the 1500s and remains operational to this day.

St. Francis
St. Francis Church which was a Catholic Church until the British came when it was operated as an Anglican church and finally, now, it is a church of CSI (Church of Southern India). Its claim to fame, which draws a lot of tourists, is that it was the original burial site of Vasco da Gama before his remains were moved to Lisbon, Portugal.

After a long day out and about we came back home exhausted. We have been lounging and napping and relaxing (all under the fans of course). Only 30 more minutes until tea time!


  1. I love the girls' outfits - and yours of course- and I want one when I get there.

    We're off to My Father's Pizza for lunch. Will talk to you later.

  2. I'm so glad to hear you're doing well. From your last post to this one it already seems like you've adjusted well. How many peppers are you up to?? :)

    I am curious about the church services/music in church in India. How is that? And what does the song you sang mean?

  3. Looking good Jim! Sounds fascinating. I look forward to keeping up with you through your posts.