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India blog 11

April 1, 2010

I have been riding a bike for the past few days up the Kerala (south west India) coast and have had ups and downs.  There is no radio on the bike and I cant wear headphones for obvious reasons so I end up having to pass the time singing loudly and thinking about random things:

I can only fit 5 liters petrol in the tank at one time.

I have no working spedometer or head light.

I have never really driven a bike before.

I saw the largest elephant on the back of a flatbad truck that I have ever seen.

I saw a sumo wrestler Indian by the side of the road.

The road I am on is old but most of the signs I see say it is new.

What is ozonized?

If superman can read fast shouldn’t he be extremely enlightened and express himself more?  Maybe he is zen

Family restaurant means you can bring your wife but she’ll be the onyl one there.

If the restaurant is set back down a driveway and it is busy, it is good.

Day 1:  I left Kovalam and arrived in Kollam, taking a few hours longer than I expected but whatever.  The ride was enjoyable but I forgot to put sunsceen on the top of my hands and got a little burnt.  I am staying at the government guesthouse, which is exactly what it is, a totally decrepit but under construction government house where city council meetings take place right outside my room.  Now, Kerala is communist, so it is not really a government, it is a group of elder men who do all the thinking.  I have come to find out that the younger people of Kerala aren’t too happy with this setup and their junior congress has become somewhat outraged.  I read that in the paper, but I also talked to a lot of 20’s age guys who don’t think they have any rights when it comes to government or police or work.  The place where I am staying is right next to a maiden (an open field area where soccer and cricket are played, sometimes on top of one another, and lots of boys and men come to shoot the shit) where I met, Deepak, Joker, Eating Machine, Idiot, and a few others.  We hung out til dark and made plans to meet up tomorrow as their college vacation had already begun and this is all they basically did.

Day 2:  They came to my room around 11am.  We went in their car to Kollam Beach where they made fun of the couples for being couples.  The whole concept was hilarious to them.  We talked a lot about girls, seeing as they aren’t really allowed to approach them in public, they had a lot to say about it.  They all agreed that their children’s generation would be allowed to date, but that it was too late for them.  They are not the one’s who make the rules and the police, who are brutal and not to be fucked with in any way because they will just try to place you at the scene of an imaginary crime if they feel like you are annoying them, are the least of the problem.  The biggest issue is the reputation of the girl, who could be hurt or killed, and at least laughed or scorned out of town, for being seen as a filanderer just for being in the company of a man who is not her father.  Most people around here don’t believe this should be the case and allow their children to hang out with the opposite sex while at home, but only in a friendly way and always supervised.  And for these boys, who are well past the days where they should have been pining flummoxingly over girls, they tend to act entirely different when the conversation turns to the opposite sex.  They seem to lose 10 years in a second.

After the beach, we go searching for “beautiful” elephants, but find none because they are all getting ready for Pooram, the upcoming festival that features a procession of 60 elephants.  Later in the day we go back to the maidan to watch the soccer and hang out.  I teach them how to roll ciggarette and spin a ball on their fingers.  After dark, we are still there, the games have stopped, but the time has come to go up and down the street doing wheelies on their street bikes.  I don’t participate because I don’t want to die, but I watch and talk about politics, religion, education, and the US with two Muslim engineers who can’t wait to graduate and move to the US to further their education.  We talk about racism and cultural differences for a few hours;  they ask question after question and it is amazing to hear how much they know about random things, but how little they know about major instances because of how sheltered their upbringing has been.  Despite any of that, they have strong opinions and the group all seems to have their heads on their shoulders, probably more than me at 21.  Around 10 they go home and I go back to my room to stay up and watch English Premier League games, crappy movies, and map out the plan for tomorrow.

Day 3:  I leave at around 11 because I stayed up too late, but arrive in  Alleppey in the early afternoon.  While Kollam was a coastal entrance to the backwaters of Kerala, complete with house boats and traditional craft making, Alleppey is the main hub for this form of tourism.  The city is boxed in by streams that wind inland, where many people still live by ancient traditional means.  The city is called the Venice of the East, but really it is just like every other city along the coast except for the waterway entry points, with its clothing, spice, hotel restaurants, STD phone stands, repair shops, and hundred of tiny holes in the wall that sell or fix incomprehensible objects for the thousands that seem to wander the streets going to and from home and the many errands set for the day.  I am not ready to do the backwaters, wanting to make it a romantic journey of love and coconuts with Mary when she is done Yogaing, so I get to my hole in the wall room, put down my things and get in line to wander.  Around sunset it starts to pour uncontrollably.  I am soaked so I wait under an awning with 3 Indian midgets (way better than other midgets because they are mustachioed like every other Indian male above 2 years old) and a group of elderly men waiting to go home.  We make gestures to each other about the weather and smile politely until I get over seeing midgets and am sick of not being able to have a conversation with extremely interesting people.  I run out and round the corner to where I will eat dinner.  An Indian version of Chinese food it is.

Day 4:  Not much to do in Alleppey if not on the backwaters, so I leave for Kochi, home of Jew Town, giant Chinese fishing nets, and the only death metal apparrel store in thousands and thousands of miles of here.  I get into town without a clue where to go.  I know the fort area and jewtown are expensive so I try to find lodging on the outskirts.  I stop and eat a samosa and Khuruma lunch at a bakery and the guy there offers to hop on the back of my bike with me and help me find cheap lodging.  Way Way nice of him.  He helps me find a place that is a little more expensive than what I wanted but whatever.  I drop him back off, come back to the hotel, and pay.  I nap for an while before the power goes out and the room becomes uncontrollably hot, so I have to leave.  I wander around the area, realizing that this is not the area where the tourists go in this very touristy city.  Its not a problem, its just that the restaurants dont seem so nice and the place is filthy and dark because of the blackout.  I wander around until I find an internet cafe with their lights on, but the connection is down.  I notice a guy with a Slayer shirt on outside and decide to approach.  Turns out he is the drummer for Kerala’s only death metal band, War Horse Chained.  They play brutal death and we immediately hit it off.  He takes me into his friend’s store where Suffocation is being blasted and Nile, Cryptopsy, and Vital Remains shirts line the walls.  There are Cannibal Corpse bags and pins next to an Iron Maiden coffee mug, and I realize this is fucking nuts.  All the guys there play death metal and they start to talk about bands that I either love and have seen, or want to see.  They know about all kinds of metal, and we spend an hour listening to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden while switching back to Death Metal every time the conversation turns to the question of, ”  Hey have you heard of _____?”  Each time either they or I say yes and we rejoice and listen to said band for the next few songs.  The owner of the place’s favorite band is Rainbow, random I know, he is about 35 or 40 and loves all kinds of music, but especially brutal technical death metal.  This is easily the most random unexpected encounter I have had  in a while.  I stay there for hours talking about and listening to metal.  Their band only has a few original songs, which reminded me of Obituary, but they also cover Decapitated, Vital Remains, and Cryptopsy songs etc.  All were really great guys and I will probably go and hang out with them again tonight.

Day 5:  Today I went around and saw the outside of the jewish synagogue (closed for passover) and fort kochi, which consists of amazingly large hairy trees, giant chinese fishing nets, and a bunch of christian relics from the portuguese and dutch explorers.  I even saw Vasco De Gama’s original burial place before his body was moved to Lisbon some time later.  I like this city a lot and am considering staying a 3rd day, but I was a bit dissapointed religiously speaking.  It turns out they aren’t really any jews here.  They migrated out of here over the last few decades and even Jew town has only the synagogue left as its namesake.  I tried to find any semblance of jewish food, driving around for hours, but found only a christian with 7 phones.  His name was Jeffcely Fernandez and I asked him for directions, but instead he invited me to his home for a soft drink under the auspicion that he would try to find a jewish restaurant.  He didn’t end up succeeding, but its ok because we had a great conversation about the passover portion of the old testament, the state of Israel, Orientalism, East vs West, teaching children, and travel.  He is a travel agent and if anybody needs any help in this area involving tours or anything let me know because this guy is great.  Ok, I’m off.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2010 4:58 pm

    i am sooooo loving these blogs!!! i feel like i’m living this trip too. i can’t imagine a better education and experience than the one you’re having. your descriptions are so vivid. I’ll bet you’re looking forward to Mary joining you. STAY SAFE AND HEALTHY XOXOXOXO

  2. April 2, 2010 12:23 am

    Hey Alex, great stuff. Sounds like an amazing adventure. You’re metal conversation reminded me of this documentary called Global Metal. I saw it in Jeong-ju a few years ago. This anthropologist metal head travelled the world interviewing local metal bands. Interesting stuff.

    Good journey, and congrats on the mad blog hits hahaha

    • April 2, 2010 10:48 am

      not sure if I saw that, but I did see an interview with an Iraqi metal band a few years back that was interesting. I will try to find global metal, thanks for the heads up

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