India & Sri Lanka - Fall 2013 travel blog

Chinese nets

feed the kitty

hemmed in


fish market

fish market

fish market

fish market

what we ate for lunch

red snapper

shark fin

laundry drying

laundry worker

16 lb. iron

no clothes pins

sari lesson

St. Francis church

dinner hosts

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Chinese nets

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fish market

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The first learning and discovery lesson started at 6:30am before we had even eaten breakfast. Charles paid a total of $.60 for all of us to take a ferry and then $2 for all of us to take a bus to the fish market. This was a much bigger operation than we saw in Sri Lanka. Some of the fishermen stay at sea for weeks at a time and there was a frenzy of unloading the catch and bidding on it. I was glad to see lots of ice as some fish was loaded on trucks for trips as far away as Delhi and Bombay. We waded through the melting ice water mixed with fish juice adding to the sweaty smell that seems inevitable when it's 90º and 75% humidity. We were always in the way as the hard working men tried to conduct business, but no one scolded us and we got lots of smiles.

After a tuk tuk ride and another ferry we were back where we started. Chinese nets lined the shore. These large nets are attached to wooden towers weighted with boulders. They snag small schools of fish along the shore and the boulders are counterweighted to help the men get the nets full of fish out of the water. Our menfolk gave it a try, but their nets came back empty. Bad white skin karma.

Since we are always hot and sweaty we send out a lot of laundry. The hotels have provided us with cheap and reliable service, but today we saw where some of our clothing really has been washed. The people previously known as Untouchables are often in the laundry business. With Charles’ recommendation we brought bags of smelly stuff to the dhoti and saw how it will be cleaned. Lots of beating on rocks takes place. I’m not sure how that gets the clothes clean, but I can’t argue with the final product we’ve experienced so far.

Then we headed to Jew Town - sounds rather disrespectful, but that’s what it is called. For hundreds of years European Jews lived here and flourished as traders. Today there are only seven Jews still living here. They cannot have a service in their beautiful synagogue without ten men being present. Sometimes some attend from the countryside, but they are a real minority now. It felt like we got here 300 years too late.

We also went to St. Francis church, an Anglican church where Vasco de Gama was buried. Students who remember their history lessons know that he was the first European to sail to India from Lisbon. He profited from the good advice of Arab traders who had noticed that the monsoon winds are very reliable blowing one direction for six months and the other direction the other six. If you left southern Africa at the right time the round trip was quick and easy.

In the evening the group split in two and we visited local homes for dinner. The one we visited was very nice - only a year old. It had two stories and four bedrooms. It would have been even nicer if it had had A/C. But this really was not an affluent family. The man of the house is never in the house since he has spent most of the last fourteen years working in Bahrain. They have put their son through college and he plans to go to London for a master's degree. The resourceful lady of the house has turned two of the bedrooms into B & B. We met a young French woman who was staying there. She hosts groups like ours for dinner as often as she can and also gives cooking lessons. It sounded like she misses her husband very much; theirs was a love marriage. She lives for their daily Skype conversations. She lived with her mother-in-law, her son, her widowed sister, and her niece and nephew. Despite what seemed to us as a challenging life, she was cheery and bubbly and had a ready laugh. Although she was paid to host us, it truly felt like a fun encounter for her and it certainly was for us. Although she was too polite to say so, I would guess that she would find our small families and solitary lifestyle rather sad.

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