Monday, September 27, 2010

On a lighter note...

I assure you that this post is of a far lighter nature than the previous post so if you thought about not reading it, don't worry!

This week went by without much incident. I continue to adjust and become ever more familiar with my new surroundings, my new friends, and my new responsibilities. On Friday we met for our first monthly retreat of the year. Once a month (or near enough) we will be meeting up as a way of taking a break from our sites, seeing our fellow volunteers and to be exposed to different realities. This retreat, being our first, was mainly focused on all of us coming together and spending time discussing our success, failures, challenges, and even funny/weird things that had happened at our sites. It provided us with a safe space to talk about and work out our problems and to be open amongst friends. Achen led us in several bible studies which, as always, take old well known stories and turns them on their heads. I will reflect on one such story later this week. 

Backwater life is simple
Other than spending time together we ate a lot and laughed a lot and got to go on the world famous Kerala backwaters. If you haven't read or seen anything about them take time to google or wikipedia them. Essentially they are a series of natural and man made canals similar to Florida's inter-coastal waterways that links up the western coast of almost the entire state of Kerala. They were and are still used for transport goods and commodities-- especially spices. Life for the people who live along these backwaters is simple and many of the distractions of our daily lives are not things they deal with. Electricity is minimal and lives are often spent working in rice paddys or fishing in the backwaters.

House Boat
In more recent years, as tourism has increased in the area, the traditional barges used for transporting goods were converted into luxury house boats which can be rented out for up to a week. They take tourists up and down the backwaters in considerable style. They have bedrooms, satellite televisions, A/C, kitchens (and a chef), and basically every amenity one could possibly need to enjoy a few days on serene and relaxing backwaters.

A Palmetto State
South Carolina claims to be the Palmetto State but as you can see in the pictures the title is much more fitting for the state of Kerala. It was a relaxing day out on the backwaters before returning home, chatting late into the evening and then waking up early for breakfast and church. I can already tell that the time spent during our retreats is going to be a welcome break from our time at our sites. Future retreats will focus on more serious issues in India such as the lives of tribal groups high in the Western Ghats and the lives and challenges of Dalits in India.
Asides from our incredibly relaxing and peaceful time on the backwaters we also had a wonderful conversation with Dr. Rajan the Vice-Chancellor and professor of Economics at Mahatma Ghandi University about the Kerala Development Model (more to come on this later). And we also had a lecture from our newest friend Anne on teaching methods and suggestions which was very helpful!

Sunset at the end of our backwater cruisin'


  1. Beautiful .... do they take old Pastors on the backwaters?

  2. I'm so glad you felt refreshed and renewed, and what a strange coincidence that we were also relaxing on the river at the same time.

  3. ahh, absolutely beautiful. im jealous jim. :D

  4. Hello, glad to hear you're doing well! I'll be keeping up to date on your progress whenever possible!

    Lots of love, from Gran (via Jonathan)

  5. To be truly effective we have to give ourselves time to rest and recharge our batteries. Your blog certainly sounds as though you ahve taken advantage of that. I am sure you will have made full use of it back at site.
    Please tell your dad to cut out the comment about "old" given that he is 7 months younger than me!!!

  6. Hi James! This is the first posting I've read and its reminding me of my time in Kerala in 1984 (pre-kids!). If memory serves me, the backwaters are really brackish so while life is simple in the villages along the way, water and air are actually cleaner in more affluent parts of the world, industy not-withstanding. The floating tourist boat is wild. I wonder whether the local population benefits them. Ok, ok, before I sound like a person only with a past, I wish you well. Soon. Auntie Tammy

  7. Hi Jim just caught up with all your news on my return from holiday. Kerala looks like an interesting place to visit When I was younger I remember the hatred that existed between Protestants and Catholics both in Ireland and in the West of Scotland and the hurt and unnecessary killings of innocent people I especially remember grandma and I being in M&S in Edinburgh when they announced we had to leave due to a bomb scare I was about 8 at the time and as I had seen images on TV of bomb blasts it was very scary .As you can imagine Grandma's main concern was for my safety ( grandpa & dad we probably watching the Well beat Hearts ) sorry Im rambling what I wanted to say we must all learn to live in unity and respect each others beliefs love you