Prickledy and the Warmit

 

“Prickledy got to wear a regular dress at school because of the warmit,” Alice tells me.

“First,” I say, “I really think her name is Prakriti.”

“NO!” Alice answers, getting frustrated, “her NAME is Prickledy.”

“Okay,” I shift gears, choosing not to fight this battle, “why did she get to wear a dress again?”

“Because of the warmit,” Alice answers, but because she now uses a little bit of a faux British-Indian accent, it sounds like wahm-it.

“Oh,” I say, as it dawns on me, “did she get sick? Do you mean vomit?”

“NO!” Alice answers again.

“I think that is the way your teachers pronounce vomit,” I reply. What we think of as a V sound is often pronounced as a W here.

“Well, it means the same thing,” Alice says, “but it’s NOT the same word.”

This is what happens when two know-it-alls get locked in combat.

 

This is but one of many things that get confused in conversation.

Like this exchange between William and our favorite friend Shambhu:

William (who loves to cook): “Do you cook?”

Shambhu: “I cook seldom.”

William: “What’s seldom?”

Shambhu: “Seldom is not a food! It is an adverb of frequency!”

Yes, this is how Shambhu talks, and yes, it is just as adorable IRL as it sounds.

The turn of phrase here is one of the things we like best.

I am referred to at work as the Full Bright scholar, which I think is lovely. I’m often told in messages or in person to “do the needful.” In context, it usually means something along the lines of “complete the process”– but I am not sure I’m getting it all the way.

People, upon meeting, often ask us for our “good name,” which we would call our “first” name.

Alice now says something is “paining” her instead of saying she is “in pain.” The children talk about their “learnings” at school.

At about this time last year when we had an interview with their teachers at TRINS, they kept talking about the “potions” they would send us to help the kids prepare for enrollment. We didn’t ultimately take them up on it because we didn’t register for TRINS before we arrived. But in our minds, we imagined a magical box of Harry Potter-esq chemistry supplies.

Much much later we realized they were saying “portions”– which is what we would call “assignments” or maybe “curriculum.”

We have had a wonderful time trying to suss out playground games– which may have different names, but are often recognizable. Here is a sampling.

Teacher Teacher– This is just playing teacher. One (let’s just say it, bossy) kid plays the role of teacher and everyone else falls in line… or else.

Itsy Itsy Spider– This is something that happens at the top of the slide and it involves singing “Itsy- Itsy” spider [not Itsy Bitsy] and then sliding down the slide at the end. I’m always hoping they’ll slide down on the waterspout line, because it seems more fitting, but no one is asking me my opinion on this, to be sure.

Spinner– Classic twisting of the swing until it’s too tight to twist any more, then letting go to the vertigo-inducing spins that only a child can love punctuated with delighted screams.

Catch and catch– This is, as far as I can tell, what we call tag.

Ice and water– As Willy describes it to me, everyone is Water, and one person is Ice. If Ice tags you, you’re Ice, then you can only become Water again if you touch Water.

“Touch water?” I ask, “Like because someone spits on you? How do you touch water?”

“No,” Willy tells me, “just a person that is water touches you.”

Sounds like what we used to call freeze tag.

Tom and Jerry– I am not sure I get this one at all, and I don’t remember any Tom and Jerry based games from my childhood. Willy says that everyone is in pairs, with one Tom and one Jerry. If you are Jerry, you can pass it on to someone else by tagging them. Tom stays the same. But I’m not sure why you need to be in pairs for this one. Or why everyone needs to be a Tom or a Jerry. Please be assured, I asked many questions for clarification, which were met overwhelmingly with rolled eyes and exasperated sighs, so this is the only description of Tom and Jerry that I have for now. What you need to know is: Jerry passes it on, Tom stays the same. It begs the question: who among us, in this great game of life, are Toms and who are Jerrys? We may never know fully.

We are nearing the end of April, which means only two months remain of our time here. We’re already getting the sense that it will be over in a flash.

About a month ago I was asked by the US Consulate to visit the Maldives as a Fulbright Specialist to provide programming on marine debris. The original plan was to meet the ambassador there and hold events with Ministry officials, representatives from NGOs, and industry. We planned to host two cleanup events with school children and volunteers, even traveling from Mále to the far north island of Kulhudhufushi to see their mangroves. The relevant consulate actually covers both Sri Lanka and the Maldives and is based in Colombo. We spent weeks making plans, having Zoom sessions in preparation, and reviewing schedules. After the bombings in Sri Lanka last weekend, we were told it would move forward in a modified version, but by Friday, the plan was scrapped. For a few hours we thought we might continue on with a family trip to the Maldives instead (the flights were all booked, so why not?), but then it was recommended that we not do that either.

The kids were a little disappointed, but Mike and I are relieved in a way. It has been a tough week on a lot of fronts, and a few action packed days of international travel –tropical vistas notwithstanding– can be exhausting in their own right.

Instead, we’ll pack the kids up and go to our local beach Kovalam for a few nights.

While we may wish we were with our extended family this week, a little down time with the kids is the best we can do. It might be just what’s needed right now.

 

Agroecology in Kerala: crops and culture

So while Katharine has the glamorous job of quantifying marine debris on the hot beaches of Kerala, I have been looking for some way to learn more about the local forests and incredible diversity of plant life in south India. This month, I took the opportunity to join a course on Agroecology at the University of Kerala co-sponsored by the EU Nextfood project. The course has a really interesting format and utilizes a multidisciplinary methodology that involves action research- a fitting concept for looking at whole food system issues. The idea is that to address complexity in agricultural systems, policy design should be informed by holistic research that captures all the ecological interconnections of the process- this includes viewing a farm as an ecosystem that accounts for biological processes (and limitations) as well as a social component that recognizes the economic and cultural inputs to the system. In practice, this means observation, analysis, and policy recommendations take place through the multidisciplinary lens of a range of academic approaches, include as many stakeholders as possible in the process (farmers, suppliers, consumers. marketers, community members), and consider a multitude of scales from the local to the global. Inspired by the devastating impacts of industrial agriculture and the ineffectual track record of uni-disciplinary policy design, agroecology aspires to form practical, actionable, and sustainable solutions for regional and global food systems.

So I am all in! Our group (mostly economists and social scientists with a few biology/botany folks) looked at 3 local organic farms as case studies, as well as a range of other sustainable agricultural models around Trivandrum. It has been a really amazing way for me to share the perspective of Kerala grad students, meet (and eat!) with local farmers, and begin to get an idea of the incredible biodiversity that remains in this tropical landscape.

My group’s case study focused on the 2.5 acre farm of Shyla Basheer in Navaikulam, a small village in northern Thieruvanthapuram district. The farm is situated around a defunct quarry that provides water and is a testament to growing crops on a really difficult (steep) site. The family relies mostly on milk, eggs, rubber, and honey as their main products but grows a huge variety of vegetables and fruit as well.

 

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Gourds and pumpkins growing in suspension over other crops and interspersed with banana and mango trees

Cow manure and poultry dung are collected as fertilizer- they make a viscous compost tea!

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Breadfruit!
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Hanging gourd by one of the many beehives
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This is bunchosia glandulifera- peanut butter fruit- tastes just like peanuts!
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Pista- pistaccio flower!
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Two of the twelve well tended dairy cows
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The hillside climbs up and around the quarry and then back down to the house. The whole thing is stepped and covered to grow more in more places-
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A cashew fruit, very sweet- the nut has been pulled off the top and will be dried
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Basheer and his grandson watering the melons at the top of the hill; its the dry season now but the quarry allows them to fill tanks at the top for distribution down hill
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The quarry around which the farm is built
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I did not get a picture of the amazing lunches we had on the farm- always rice and three kinds of curry and two kinds of pickle, but this is a drink they make when it is very hot- curd, lime juice, cardamom, and chile (and salt). very intense!
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Rubber trees- the latex sap can be harvested regularly for about 35 years
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Ash gourd- this variety is grown for medicinal purposes
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Pineapple is often grown under rubber trees, as pepper plants are often trained to climb coconut palm or areca nut trees

Ancie showed us how to get the nectar from banana flowers- very sweet!

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The family also has some paddy fields nearby the farm- the rice had been harvested and some legume was in the ground now
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There are so many fruits growing around the gardens, many like starfruit can be harvested all year round; on our third visit we found these- translated as ‘water apples’ they were really crunchy but light texture and sweet
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Holy basil- or tulsi- is everywhere and is a sacred plant used for cooking and medicine
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Tamarind- eaten fresh it has a really amazing flavor- like 20 lemons condensed but also salty and a little sweet
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Shyla, Basheer, Swathy, Ancie, me, and Vishnu

It was hard to encapsulate all the other crops and plants on the farm- cowpea and casava (tapioca), pepper and cardamom, elephant foot tubers, eggplant etc- and then the ubiquitous coconut palm, banana, mango, and jackfruit trees. All cultivated together on the hill to capture the rainfall, fertilized by the cows and poultry, and pollinated by the farm bees. Not a system designed to produce a huge market share of products but enough value added goods- especially some of the medicinal plants and honey- to make a pretty sustainable family farm. Our initial analysis, after talking at length with the farmers about their vision, includes expanding the (very stable) dairy business- where they have the room, applying for a government program that could install solar panels to drive the water pumps and provide electricity, and looking into producing more of the crops that can feed the cattle and poultry.

For a slightly different perspective, we also visited the Sangamaithri Farmers Co-op in Trivandrum, a group that supports 6500 members that grow organic produce on 5 well situated and irrigated acres on the edge of the city. This operation is designed to produce more, but also retains the focus on helping farmers with micro-finance schemes and contributing to local community healthy food initiatives for schools and the local community.

They also have rubber trees around the property; milk and rubber are sold to national and local corporations where there is a very steady demand-

Its a really beautiful and tranquil setting; their irrigation is fed directly from a nearby dam

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The farm manager talking to the group about banana varieties
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Banana is a big deal- there are dozens of varieties and the co-op has a facility to ripen banana and mango
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The central portion of the land is a lot of a hybrid cassava, interspersed with spinach and amaranth

The whole property is supplied with water through irrigation canals and the soil has been amended with a great deal of compost and manure to support the volume of crops-

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My ‘sunbrella’ critical for the tropical field toolkit. I get a lot of sympathy from the group because I often look like I am going to melt

Pepper plants growing up the areca nut trees

On the left is the remains that are left when coconuts are harvested; there is no English term for it but the group said there were something like 14 different words in Malayalam! On the right is how you make a necklace or bracelet from tapioca leaves. Regardless of people’s academic interests, everyone here seems to know an incredible amount about local species and have a real attachment to the landscape and how it is being changed by development.

I am so lucky to have had this chance to take part in this short course in terms of understanding local ecology and how it is deeply connected to local culture and I can already imagine bringing this perspective back to New England and seeing our food system in a way that recognizes the opportunity for closing systemic loops and using our resources in a sustainable way.

And, some photos

Phillip sent along some of his photos from the trip and we had to share.

It’s so nice to have someone capture the family with a real camera!

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The kids playing in the river near our accommodations near Ponmudi– yes, that’s real river debris sitting next to them. It’s everywhere.

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Willy’s first instinct was to build a dam!

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Best. Christmas Card. Ever.

Truly, one for the album– if we had such a thing. Alice is falling, James is hanging upside down, I’m supporting Alice and Willy is …managing!

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Big guy with big rocks: Ponmudi.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The boys would have gone off exploring for hours if we’d let them. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alice loved meeting this family– several of the women were wearing beautiful pink dresses and that was all it took to enchant her. Here we are asking the kids their ages. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The view over the bridge to the River County Resort.

Willy on Malayalam

A short interview with Willy about learning Malayalam.

Q: What do you think about Malayalam so far?

A: Well, it’s complicated. It’s different than English in many ways, but overall fun to learn.

Q: When I look at the letters, I can’t see letters– how do you learn a whole new alphabet?

A: During every class I basically learn a new letter set. I copy down those letters all through about two pages of my notebook. Then the next lesson, I copy all the letters I’ve learned so far.

Q: What’s a letter set? In ABCs we learn them in one big group.

A: So there are  groups of letters and you learn them differently. You learn the vowels as one group, but for the consonants each row is one set.

Consonants: വ്യഞ്ജനങ്ങൾ (pronounced venginakswara)

malayalam_cons

 

Vowels: സ്വരാക്ഷരങ്ങൾ (pronounced swarakshara)

malayalam_vwl

 

Q: I still see the letters as pictures, so I think “bug head,” “squiggly B,” and “golden arches,” when I see some of the letters– do you use pictures to remember them, or do you see them as sounds now?

A: At the very beginning when I only knew 8 letters, I associated their names with their shape. The first letter [rha] is a simple arch. When I saw it, I connected it with the picture of a rising sun and the Egyptian sun god Ra.

Q: That’s a great way to remember it.

A: I know. For my second letter [na], I was stuck. I couldn’t associate two arches with anything. This is the one you called “golden arches.” I eventually just remembered them.

willy malayalam

Q: Do you think you’ll learn Malayalam while you’re here?

A: Fluently, no, but I’ve already picked up some useful phrases like:

Hello (Namaskardam)

How are you (Sugmarnoh) and  I’m Fine (Sugmarnoo)

What’s your name (Peru Endarnuh) and My name is ______ (Ente Peru ______)

A: I’ve also learned some words that I can recognize when my friend Shambhu and his family talk to each other, especially the names of family members. I found it interesting that the word for younger brother and younger sister are very similar. And older brother and older sister are very similar.

Mother-Amma

Grandmother-Amooma

Father-Achen

Grandfather-Apoopan

Elder Brother-Cheyta

Elder Sister-Cheychee

Younger Brother-Aniyan

Younger Sister-Aniyathi

 

See how some Malayalam letters are made here.

“Close all the doors and windows, the bees are hunting”

Sunil makes this pronouncement, then hangs up the phone.

Our caretaker is a man of few words.

This message about the bees is not totally surprising, as we have noticed a lot of honeybee activity in the last week. We’ve found anywhere from 1 to 3 inside our house each night as the sun sets. Having bees up at the 13th floor seems strange. It’s not totally out of left field, though, as our neighbor, delightful fourth grader Shambu, mentioned in passing that Sunil had to remove a large hive from the floor above ours last year. We close the doors and windows and seem to have escaped a hive that may or may not be seeking new digs. For this day.

I am a lifelong lover of all things insect, and while I’ll take beetles over ants any day, I do love a good ant. Much of this is to do with my deep affection for the myrmecologist E.O. Wilson. I even have a copy of his treatise The Ants, co written with Bert Hölldobler. It won the Pulitzer for non fiction in 1991. Have I read it cover to cover… no. At 700+ pages and weighing in at over seven pounds, I have not. I only own it because in the late 1990s a guy I was dating said he wanted to buy me “something expensive” and it was the only thing I could think of. Ugh. Glad that didn’t work out. Back to the point. I hope this demonstrates that I am okay with ants, generally speaking. But the ants in India have been a bit much. There are many species. Allow me to describe them to you, not in scientific terms, and in no way informed by Wilson and Hölldobler’s The Ants.

There are large red ants which reside all around the playground– they crawl along the walls. They also create bundles of leaves in the trees above the playground, which leads us to believe they are weaver ants. It can be disconcerting to have them drop onto you as you stand under the trees. At *least* they are large and you can bat them off pretty quickly. It’s something.

There are the small red ants that I found on the tea kettle last week. I didn’t realize they’d been hanging out there until it was much too late. This is a plug-in-the-wall kettle, and it was well on its way to a hard boil before I noticed the macabre rave happening on the lid– two dozen small red ants frenetically moving faster and faster on a burning hot dance floor. It wasn’t pleasant, but was kind of fascinating to watch. After a nice cup of tea I calmed right down.

There are the pale brown small (thankfully) non stinging ants that reside in my office. They blend in with the brown and gray tablecloth that covers my desk/table. So much so that it might take a moment to realize the whole surface is moving. They are opportunists who will flood the room if even a crumb is left behind. Forget having an office stash of snacks. If an unnamed husband accidentally leaves his lunch container in said office and only realizes after returning home, then one must encourage the unnamed husband to make a hurried call to a colleague to remove it from the office immediately. Or so I imagine.

These may be the same ants that crawled in and out of my computer with regularity the first month I was here. There is a thing, apparently, with ants being attracted to electronics. If you don’t live in a region with the Rasberry crazy ant count yourself lucky. But don’t get too snooty about it, thanks to climate change you will meet them one day.  When they come in contact with electronics and complete the circuit, they are fried– but they leave a pheromone signal that attracts other ants, furthering the cycle. Crazy ants are not here, but the phenomenon of ants sending a signal from my computer to other ants seemed to be happening for about a month. I wiped the machine down daily for a while and it seems to have stopped the cycle. Big sigh of relief.

Some of the worst are very small black ants that we encounter often. About the size of a typical flea, they can be found in your house or out in the wilds. My first interaction came when I was trying to discuss the Indian school system with a parent at the playground. About halfway through our conversation I noticed a stinging on my neck, a few minutes later, one on my chest, then on my torso, then my side. I tried to wrap up the conversation to get back home. I assume I had brushed up against a bush or they had fallen from a tree. The initial sting is painful, but it’s the second day that it really hurts– that’s when the quarter-sized swelling produces a terribly intense itching that lasts for days.

Another ant can also be found in our home– it’s pale like the office ant but engages in different behavior. We’ve found these ants on two occasions. We tend to hang on to the boxes for electronic equipment– not sure why. Maybe we’re still working under the delusion that things aren’t designed for the dump (don’t get me started on planned obsolescence). Twice, a family member has gone to pick up one of these boxes, only to find (after lifting it from the shelf) that something small and pale was … dripping isn’t the right word, but it’s almost the right word… let’s go with… dripping from the box. After a quick run to the porch and a swift opening of the box, we found the ants had overtaken the space to create a large nest. The ant eggs were the pale drips cascading from the lifted box. You know, like one might experience in a HORROR MOVIE. Twice was more than enough to encourage us to clear all of the electronics boxes from the apartment.

The most common house ant is a bit different from all of these. It’s darker brown than the office ant, but not black or red. It does not sting. These ants tend to have a trail marching toward and from the compost bin and trashcan at all times. For these we wipe the trail down each day, and they begin again. They at least keep to the kitchen area. If someone forgets to put the lid on the compost it turns into a real party up in there, but for the most part we hold them at bay.

This is just the tip of the Indian ant iceberg. A listing of common ants doesn’t even mention most of these pedestrian house varieties. We are learning a lot about this branch of the insect family– though you won’t catch me saying I’m eager to meet them all.

Weaver ants from the playground

The adventures of Hunk McShunk

First– I forgot to mention a few of our most important books in my reading post.

Right now I’m reading Amitar Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies set in the era before the first Opium War, and really loving it. So much history and very beautifully written.

Sea of Poppies

But the books that are keeping us entertained on a daily basis are these little gems we picked up in Denmark. They feature the beloved bear cub Rasmus Klump and as they’re in Danish, we have only the images to guide us on his adventures. Alice loves to regale us with the tales of “Hunk McShunk” as she calls him. How do a bear, a penguin, and a pelican all live in the same climate? Is that dog gigantic or just badly drawn? Did his rocket really take him to the moon? We don’t have answers to these questions. Sometimes you go with whatever works.

Hunk McShunk

So much has been happening that I’ve struggled to keep up with posts. We have been busy in the last month since our trip to Kochi.

A few days after our return, my colleague Dr. Jaya took Mike to meet the former director of the Tropical Botanical Research Institute, which was a great bit of networking for him. He has since signed up for a short course on Agro-Ecology Action Research (this announcement is from an earlier iteration) co-led by researchers from a Norwegian university that begins this week. He’s also trying to make connections to do a little volunteering with mangrove ecosystems while we’re here.

In research news, I have started to evaluate the debris picked up in master student Alwyn’s first cleanup at Kollam beach. He is going to make this study the focus of his own work, but I asked to use what he found to complete a brand analysis.

A brand analysis is when you evaluate the material collected and record which brands are being found among the debris. When you think about it, producers wrap their products in material that will take from dozens to thousands of years to break down and then walk away. It is consumers and communities who must contend with the costs of disposing of what everyone knows is a material that will pollute our soil and water for generations. The producers glean the benefits—the costs are all passed on to taxpayers, communities, governments, and our great great great grandchildren and beyond.

So, I am working with students to record the brands within what we found to publish an analysis, hopefully to highlight how unsustainable this is.

 

In the last few weeks the University of Kerala hosted a lecture series with noted coastal oceanographer and ecohydrologist Eric Wolanski from Australia’s James Cook University. He has published a bit on modeling the dispersal of marine litter, but this is just a tiny fraction of his hundreds of publications, which cover many many topics. He has over 18,000 citations of his work! It boggles the mind. His lecture series was integrated into a national seminar on the environmental status of estuarine and coastal ecosystems in India. I was able to present an overview of my own work at the seminar and to hear presentations from local researchers and students.

Top left, then clockwise: Everyone wore sarees for the first day, which was really amazing; Eric is presenting my statue for being an invited speaker; lighting the ceremonial candles; more students in sarees, and me speaking.

The entire event has led to some neat collaboration opportunities with faculty and students here, which is exactly what the Fulbright folks hope will happen as a result of the exchange program, so it’s a real boon for me.

At the end of that week, we took the kids to Kovalam for a night to enjoy the beach. We looked for a “hotel” that was inexpensive and very close to the beach, which is exactly what we got. I’m not sure we’d go back to that particular spot, but it was a fun and relaxing trip. While there were some tourists, it wasn’t as overwhelming as Varkala had been, and the food was excellent. Beachside services included deliveries of chai and coffee from the man who rents beach chairs and umbrellas, and fresh fruit plates of papaya, pineapple, and mango. It really could not be beat.

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Fresh crab grilled with a garlic sauce

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Panoramic view of the beach

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The kids being observed at play by a nice group of ladies.

 

Upon returning, I spent a day with Dr. Jaya and students collecting at our neighborhood Menamkulam Beach. We found a great deal of material, which we’re still sorting through and counting. We also visited Shankamugham Beach that day, the Shangamugham art museum, which had an amazing show of Indian artists, and then the Biodiversity Museum in Trivandrum proper.

From top left, clockwise: Menamkulam waves and Menamkulam Beach, students at the shark sculpture at Shankamugham Beach, a piece of art from the museum, and the biodiversity museum’s entrance. 

If that wasn’t enough, the week ended with Leslie and Philip arriving from Hartford by way of Mumbai and Bangalore! Leslie and I have worked together at Uhart for the last ten years and fortunately, Philip’s work coincided with our time here. They brought Cheerios and left their spare travel medicines—what more could you ask for? We also loved hearing about their experiences in Mumbai and Bangalore, which are very different from Kerala. Together we visited Ponmudi Hill Station just at the edge of the Western Ghats.

 

2019-03-23 11.15.57The River County Resort is a little riverside compound accessible only by a walking bridge (the luggage comes across in a wheelbarrow, thoughtfully lined with a cloth. It is surrounded by mango, cocoa, and palms. They served up a series of excellent meals that kept us happy and full.

Alice at Meenmutty, together with me, and with the supermodel/forest officer who works there. 

We were able to view a little wildlife (primates, birds, and bugs), visit Meenmutty Waterfall, and take the twenty-two hairpin turn drive up the mountain to Ponmudi.

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River County is just to the left of this photo, taken from the walking bridge

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Primate by Meenmutty Falls

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Big guy meets bigger tree (it’s a Kapok, for the record)

 

It was an adventure—they label each of the twenty-two turns, which allows you to track your progress. This can be a mixed blessing. Ponmudi itself was awe-inspiring.

 

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There was a lot of throwing arms wide to the open sky on the mountain top

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In this case with dad saying, “get down, NOW, before you fall”

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A panoramic from one side of Ponmudi

 

 

Overall it was a relaxing trip—it wasn’t much cooler in the mountains, but a heavy rain on Saturday night was a welcome relief. Visiting with Philip and Leslie was a true delight, and as the parents of two adult kids, they could roll with the craziness you encounter when traveling with a family.

And we even managed to take a couple of selfies before they had to be off.

The kids are thrilled that their school year is winding up—Alice will be done by mid-April and William by the end of April. James’ exams will conclude in April, and then the students begin working on their ninth grade curriculum for the month of May. He is lobbying hard to skip this “extra” material, despite being reminded that he is actually finishing up his school year a month early.

Our neighbors have all finished their exams: the International School is on a slightly altered calendar. It was pretty amazing to learn that none of the neighbor kids were able to play in the afternoon for the month preceding their finals. Instead, they spent every single afternoon and most weekend days preparing for their examinations. As one father explained to me at the playground, “jobs are very competitive and to get them you have to have high marks.”

 

The system is quite different here—in most US states, the idea of a comprehensive final exam that measures all your knowledge on a topic each year seems, well, incomprehensible. We’re thrilled that the kids get to experience this system and see how seriously their new friends take their education. For the record, I haven’t noticed any of this academic seriousness rubbing off on our kids, but I am hopeful they will take it in and remember it.

 

We are actively seeking camp opportunities here so that Mike and I can do the work we need to do in the coming weeks.

 

Mike has been busy finishing up what seems to be the world’s longest literature review. His first draft was given a big thumbs up from his advisors, so he’s really happy. He’s polishing it up and prepping for the experiments he will run upon our return. We’re also both working to establish long-term contacts and collaborations here that we hope will allow us to return for many years to come.

 

If you can believe it, we’re just now passing the halfway point of our adventure!

We’ve bought most of the tickets home, and will be visiting Karen and family in Laos for a few days…

Vientiane_montage

Creative commons photo by laotian4laotian

Making a quick jaunt to Tokyo to hopefully see the Ghibli museum, or maybe just cry outside the gates if we can’t get tickets

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Ghibli Museum creative commons photo

Then flying via Honolulu to Alaska for a week.

If someone has ideas for twelve (potentially cranky) hours in Honolulu, send them along.

From there we will fly back to Hartford in time to catch the last wisp of the Connecticut summer.

It will be here before we know it!

 

 

 

 

Students learn by doing– but when it comes to marine debris, do they also get depressed?

For my National Geographic grant I have signed up for a blog writing bootcamp– and I need to post my assignment! Enjoy!

Perhaps our experience ebbs and flows like the tide, pulling us in surprising ways: depressing us, enlightening us, and empowering us all at once.

For now, that’s what I’ll believe.

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