Sunday, January 07, 2007

Thanks for ruining it for me, Jeremy Pivan

Whew, had to get out of the Cochin heat for awhile, though I hear it's pretty steamy in D.C., too. Let's cross our fingers that keeps up til I get back, because I didn't bring any winter jackets for the post-airport run to my house. I've finally taken a day off to stroll around the shops and pick up some things. I've decided to totally revamp my jewelry collection, because you can find great bracelets and earrings for about $1. Also, I bought a carpet. Ah! It was actually the one thing I was looking for that I was willing to spend a bit, and I found this gorgeous silk handwoven carpet at this shop, and threatened to walk out three times before he gave it to me for about a third the price, shipping included. I think it'll have to go in the living room, so you all can rub your feet on my soft shiny new floor decoration.

So, Jeremy Pivan. Oy. I was sort of jokingly excited to watch "Journey of a Lifetime" last night, because goodness knows I have nothing better to do at 8pm on a Saturday these days. I'll try not to waste too much time blogging about freaking Jeremy Pivan, but it really got a reaction out of me. Not that I should be surprised, but so much of it was annoying, insincere drivel, and every viewer should have been clued in at the beginning when he said, "I'm a student of the culture, you know, yoga, meditation...all that stuff." Jeez. And I don't really understand how someone can be obsessed with Indian culture and then supposedly SHOCKED (shocked!) by absolutely everything. I'm sure hamming was involved. However, he did say a couple interesting things, like "The India of my imagination slammed into the reality," which is something I've been thinking since I got here. Also, he went to this orphanage in Bombay, and of course it was set-up for the show, but, if you've been reading the blog, you know I've been totally suckered in by the children here. (On the way here a little 3-4 year old girl holding hands with her mom, grinned madly and held out her hand for me to shake as I passed her.) Mr. Pivan noted that sponsoring a child for one year cost Rs. 10000, or about $200 (btw, I hope you left a fat check there, actor boy), so since I have two full days in Bangalore, I might try to do the same. I'm going to turn into freaking Angelina Jolie here...

The other thing that annoyed me is that he pretty much did my trip. If you watched it, you know that houseboat cruise he did? Well, that's what I'd just gotten back from when I watched the show. And Cochin? That's where I am now. It's a little weird, like he was following me around with a camera or something. But those houseboats he was on? Those suckers cost a fortune, and while swanky and probably something I'd like to do with a few more people on another trip, are actually not the best way to see the canals.

I, on the other hand, rented this boat that was a little larger than your average canoe, with a bamboo canopy in the middle and a mattress with pillows underneath. So you can sit and take photos or lay down and watch the coconut trees pass by, while one man paddles slowly in the back. Man, talk about the life. For four hours I drifted along the water, through the lilypads, and into the tiny sized canals (where those large houseboats can't go). Like I wrote in my journal at the time, if I didn't come out of there with some phenomenal pictures, then I'm a photographer beyond help. Oh, and the children! The motorboats and houseboats fly by too quickly, but we would drift right up to the edges where the houses were, where the women were beating clothing on the rocks or washing rice for dinner. Some of the children were out swimming, but all of them would smile and wave, ask me my name or for an 'English coin.' Which reminds me, I need to buy some pens. A long time ago I read that you should keep a pack of Bics to give to children and I thought, wow, that sounds incredibly stupid. Well, not so much. I get asked for pens almost everyday.

I encountered two young boys with toy guns, of course. The universal toy. Ah, I wish I should really share with you all the encounters I have with these kids. Like the little girl who jumped and jumped on the dock to show off for me. Or the one who hid shyly behind her father's pants until he happily dragged her out and posed for a picture for me. Or the one who yelled "Happy New Year!" So adorable!

My boat man was pretty awesome, too. We stopped after an hour to get tea, just pulled right up to a cafe like we were in Venice, debarked and relaxed for a few minutes with a cup of masala. Then after another hour and a half, we stopped near what I think was his house, because he knew everyone and I met lots of folks. We walked and walked, but he didn't speak much English so I had no idea where he was taking me. Finally we emerged out the back side of the houses to the expansive rice paddies. There was a raised pathway we walked down, through the middle of the fields, the water reflecting the setting sun through the rice grass. After trekking down quite a way, past the cows munching in the fields, I saw a couple of men in the distance and this sound....it sounded like an enormous bee hive, just this incessant buzzing. But as we got closer, I realized they were ducks! It was a duck farm! Apparently after the rice field workers go home for the day, they let these ducks out of their pen to graze, and three men using canes, sticks, and even an umbrella corral them to keep them together. You have never seen anything like duck herding. It's both hilarious and adorable. They squawk and eat and then suddenly stampede when one of the herders gets near. We watched as they herded them in groups back to the pen. I took a video because you guys just have to see this. Effing duck herding in the rice paddies.

There's so much to write about, if I wait more than I day to email or blog I feel overwhelmed with thoughts to share. I write in my journal but even that's not really enough; it's really the only downside to traveling alone, the downtime before you can talk to anyone about what's happened. Especially on a trip like this, where you can't barely pass a sign without thinking, "omg, i have to tell someone about that." For the sake of space and your kind reading eyes, I'll stop for today. In Cochin, which is on the sea, they have many shacks by the beach about a block away where you can pick out a fish caught today and they'll grill it in front of you, so I think I'll go have some dinner.

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