Thursday, March 3, 2011

Leaving Home

It's funny how quickly you can get attached to a place.  I spent about 2 1/2 weeks in Varkala (one week in the with other people from my group, the rest on my own) and it got to feel surprisingly like home -- familiar, comfortable, easy. 

My living arrangements were substantially more, er, basic than I'd have at home, though.  Instead of a relatively nice apartment in downtown Toronto, with all mod cons and a wine store conveniently located outside my front door, I had a hut.  One room, bathroom cubicle, thin bamboo walls and a thatched roof.  No A/C, just a fan in the ceiling.  Pink mozzie net over the bed to keep away the nasty biting critters, but lots of other things could wiggle their way in through the many cracks and vents; geckos were a common visitor and I learned (eventually) to block out the sound of their chirping so I oculd finally fall asleep.  I like geckos, since they eat mosquitoes (anything that does that is aces in my book); I wasn't so found of the grey furry thing I saw scuttle across the floor one night.  (A rat, I think, but I didn't venture a close look.  Anyway, it kept well away from me so it didn't bother me too much.)

The location was superb:  just a short walk down an alleyway and I was on the clifftop overlooking the beach, with a vast array of shops and restaurants and cafes at my service.  (Or not, as the case may be -- did you read my post about customer service here?)  The broad stretch of beach at the base of the cliff, reached by means of some very steep sets of stairs (none with handrails), was a lovely place to hang out in early morning; it got too hot and crowded later in the day, and by late afternoon the waves were ferocious.  (As I'm not a fantastic swimmer, I kept fairly close to shore -- I could easily have gotten into big trouble if I'd been swept off my feet!)

I got to know a few of the cafes and their regulars quite well, as I went back a lot, and it didn't take long before I got to know some of the shopkeepers by name, too.  They learned pretty early on that I'm not a shopper, but that didn't appear to matter; they were just happy to chat and pass the time of day.  It's a friendly wee town, this Varkala.

But I've left, now, as I made my way north on the train yesterday to Kochi.  Train arrived late, but not dramatically so by Indian standards (only an hour or so), and I eventually got to my hotel after some confusion on the part of my rickshaw driver.  I was getting very snippy with him when he didn't appear to be listening to me trying to explain with my map how to find it; I realized afterward that he might not've actually spoken much English.  I've gotten so used to everyone being able to here (with varying degrees of expertise) that I've just started assuming I can communicate in my own language; how easy it is to fall into that arrogant-foreign-tourist trap!

Another rickshaw driver eventually rescued us, and led the way to my hotel with a minimum of fuss.  He appears to have become my best friend now, as I found him waiting outside my hotel with his rickshaw this morning, wanting to take me on a tour of the city.  I declined as politely as I could, saying I was heading out for a walk; he popped up a couple of other times along the way and kept lowering his price for the tour.  Either he really likes my face, or he's really hard up for business, as he says he'll come by tomorrow morning as well to see if I'm ready for that tour yet.  (Maybe I'll plan to be gone early.)

It's steaming hot in Kochi as well, so I'm heading off now to find a cool, shady cafe to have a cold drink.  I have a few days here, so I'm not rushing around madly; I have lots of time to see the sights before I catch my night train to Goa.

So think of me, sitting in the sun and drinking some lemon soda (or possibly something stronger), as you wade through the snowdrifts of Europe and North America.  I'll soak up some sun for you, too.

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