The published itinerary left us with the impression that today was a mostly driving day. We did do a lot of driving, but every so often Charles gave the secret signal to the driver and we pulled off the road for an adventure. Our first stop was in a village totally off the tourist trail. Charles had brought some tourist groups here before so they were not totally astonished to see our white faces, but we still had enough celebrity to bring people out of their houses to gawk at us as we gawked at them. People are just so darn friendly here. Everyone waves and smiles and seems pleased to have their photograph taken. Now that we have learned the Indian head bob, we bob at them, they bob at us and everyone feels great. The village is on the coast so fishing is a big deal there. The men head out at 3am to secure the catch and by the time we got there at 9:30am, they were carrying the fish on to the beach where the women were engaged in selling them, it looked like to one another. This was a very noisy activity and it sounded like the loud voices got angry sometimes, but what was really going on was an auction as the ladies tried to get the best possible price. In the quieter part of town moms were braiding the long, beautiful hair of their daughters and getting their sons ready for school. Although these folks are pretty poor, there are enough government subsidies to give kids an education for as long as they are willing to go and the message has come through loud and clear that education is the way to improve your lot in life. The kids we talked to said they loved school and couldn't wait to go.
Then we headed to a produce market and Charles gave us all big plastic bags and told us to buy vegetables for the orphanage we are visiting tomorrow. No one here spoke English, but it wasn't a barrier. After our market lessons in Sri Lanka, I recognized many of them and pointing and gestures got the job done. It will feel good to deliver that heavy, heavy bag of extremely fresh veggies tomorrow. I spent about $1.50 for all that I could carry. The atmosphere in the market was very congenial. Again people smiled, head bobbed and seemed glad to see us.
The next stop was in a town that makes wicker furniture and floor mats out of switch grass. Since India has such a huge population, it is hard to keep everyone employed and many cottage industries have sprung up in the countryside. There were many steps to the mat making process. The grass was dried and beaten into submission by a skinny old man who looked like he weighed about 90 pounds. Some of the grass was dyed and the various colors were fed into a loom that chugged out the mats. Traditionally, these mats are given as wedding gifts and a big spender pays extra to have the name of the bride and groom women into the mat.
All these interesting stops made lunch ver late. As we drove on Charles walked up and down the aisle handing out interesting Indian snacks. Rather than buying a whole bag of something we ended up not liking, this gave us a chance to give many a try - kind of a bus buffet. Our lunch stop was at a resort complex that manufactures brass statues in addition to churning out great food. The statues were created in wax, put in sand molds, the wax was melted out and the brass was poured in. It took a worker three days of chip off the extra bronze bits and bring the surface of the statues to a nice sheen.
As we drove on to Tanjore and the hotel, I kept wondering what other little adventures we were passing by. We love that this trip is so much more than looking at temples and museums