Saturday, January 17, 2009


I've been in Trivandrum for two days now. It is my favorite place we've been so far. Nagercoil was beautiful, but a bit too "rustic" for comfort. Although it has about 2 million people in it, the Indians call it a "village," not a city. For Indians 2 million people is like 2,000, it seems. So this village was very rustic, meaning they don't clean bathrooms. Our hotel was like the 4-star hotel of Nagercoil--as nice as it gets. But the last time my shower was cleaned was when the British left, I believe. You know I exaggerate a lot, but I'm not right now. Thank God for flip-flops, my silk bed sack and my Turkish bath towel I brought with me. 

Trivandrum has beautiful grand buildings jumbled in with the short shabby buildings. It is a more Christian area, where many of the British missionaries moved, so you see many tall churches and universities. And my hotel room is very clean. This makes me very happy. 

Around Trivandrum, the roads are lined with buildings that block your view out. If ever you get a quick view through the buildings, it's beautiful. Rolling hills blanketed in palm trees and rubber trees as far as you can see. Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit one of these areas. We interviewed two people. One is Shibu, a 27-year-old man from a Hindu background who was sponsored through Compassion. When he was younger, his father died. His father's family kicked them out of the home (in India, a married woman goes to live with her husband's family) and wanted nothing to do with them. Shibu's mom couldn't take care of her 3 children, so he was sent to live with an aunt. But they used him as a slave--if he wouldn't do all their work, he wouldn't even get a cup of water. 

But he became sponsored, and was able to move home with his mother and go to school. Through Compassion, he got his degree in graphic design and now has his own business, which he named after his sponsor, and is able to support his mother and sisters.  

The girl we interviewed is named Asweti, whose home we visited. She lives on a beautiful winding road through the hills. There are huts next to beautiful homes--the first really nice homes I've seen anywhere. Her family lived in a shack made of banana leaves. Her father had polio and was confined to a wheel chair and couldn't work, but died when she was in 2nd grade. Her mother works at a construction site. She loads stacks of bricks onto her head and walks them from one side of the site to the other all day. This is very difficult labor. I've seen men doing it, and can't imagine how this thin 45-year-old woman can do it 6 days a week. She has never gone to school.  

The Compassion project found out about the family's poor home that the rain came through and destroyed in the rainy seasons, and they built them a solid cement home. Asweti, the daughter was able to go to school through Compassion. Her brothers work on rubber plantations, but she is getting her masters in commerce and insurance management. A very bright girl. 

The family gave us coconuts with red straws in them before the interview to drink. After the interview, they gave us pasayam, the milky cardamom soup I had yesterday, red bananas, and some kind of baked goods. Here this woman was--a 45-year-old hard laborer with barely anything--serving us a feast. Very humbling. The daughter brought us into the second room of her home to show us her awards. There's no light, so you had to strain to see, but she had the little trophies she'd won in competitions in the Compassion project neatly lined up. Next to them was a chicken who seemed to have the black lung or something dreadful. 

After this interview, I walked up the road, where Jayaseelan had told some neighbors there was an American who had never seen a rubber tree. I was quite a novelty to them. I'm getting used to being stared at. Rubber trees are how many of these people make their living. One of the daughters of the family showed me how they score the tree in a spiral. White milky sap that looks like Elmer's glue drips out and down along the spiral into a cup on the ground. They score the tree everyday to gather rubber and sell it. 

This family was so picturesque and they let me take lots of pictures. Chuck and Dave found out about the picturesque family and came and took even more. My pictures turned out OK, but theirs were stunning. I'm going to steal them and pretend they're mine. Their tata, grandpa, was sitting in a salmon-colored cement building to the right and he let me take his picture. He had a great face. 

Today is a rest day, finally! It's pretty tiring. So we'll lay around then go to the beach in the afternoon. 


Mike said...

Sounds amazing. Really interesting stories and it's so neat to see a window into their lives. It's all so adventurous and exotic sounding.

Tara said...

Your adventure is wonderful. I love your pictures of the man in the red house. He is so sweet.

It was fun talking to you tonight!Can't wait to hear about the beach!