After all of the love/hate stories we heard about India, I was very nervous to come. Still, after 3 blissful weeks in Sri Lanka, we were ready to see what this place was all about.
First impression of India —> We land in Cochin to an airport as quiet as a library. After a zero-minute wait we are greeted by a friendly immigration officer, and easily take our first steps into India. We jump on a local bus that is quiet with plenty of seats and get dropped off a few yards from our new home without any trouble. The smooth transition into this country quickly faded away all the misgivings we had! (As we’ll share in a future post, the warnings are with good reason and not to be forgotten…)
Our best resource here has been Couchsurfing.org. It has allowed us to connect with amazing local people and really emphasize Incredible India. Through Couchsurfing we found an opportunity in Cochin to stay at an English School. Our arrangement was to live for a few days with the 20-30 year old students, allowing them to have real conversations, and as we found out later, we had to teach classes too!
Being the first 2 white people most of the students had ever met, let alone lived with, this was a truly unique cultural exchange for us and them. Imagine Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews all living in the same room!
The interaction was what made this experience magical. Meeting the students was a real shock. Almost all of the 20+ students surrounded us and started introducing themselves at once, eager to practice what they had learnt so far and at the same time learn about us. We constantly had to relieve their concerns: “Did you eat enough? Is the bed ok? Are you happy?”It was very intense, and made us feel so appreciated.
Rafik, one of the students even joined Andres for a run at 5 am; the first run in his life. The poor guy almost fainted and could barely walk the next day from the pain in his legs! All just to spend some “precious” exclusive time with his new English teacher.
On our last night at the school the students were waiting for us in the classroom to say goodbye. As we entered the room, we were surprised to find music blasting and the students dancing like crazy to throw us a fun goodbye party. Here is a funny Indian Harlem Shake from that night!
Funny story —> “My wife needs me!”
Since we slept in the same room as the students, Suz and I had to sleep separate from each other, and we had to each be in our respective room at 10:30 pm. One night, it was 10:30 pm and we were hanging out with the teachers in the dining room. Suz needed my help with something on the computer so I told the guy “Sorry, I cannot go to the room now because my wife needs me” he insisted I had to go to the room, to which I replied “Sorry, I can’t go now, I am fine sleeping in the dining room if needed, but I cannot leave my wife now because she needs me.” In the end, I won the battle and everything was fine.
The next morning, one of the school managers calls me in to speak privately and says “I also have a wife, and I know that it is hard to not be able to be “together”. My wife also “needs” me all the time. Therefore, from now on your wife can enter the room after the students have gone to class so that you can be “together””. I tried explaining that what I meant when I said “my wife needs me” was that she needed my help with searching something online. However, with the poor level of English, this explanation fell on deaf ears and they were left thinking that Suz was some kind of sex addict 🙂
Some other fun experiences in South India:
There are goats everywhere. And they eat everything…including grass, garbage, and posters off the street walls.
The streets of Fort Cochin can be touristy but still very charming.
With Cochin as our base, we took a night trip to explore the backwaters of Kerala. So relaxing!
You can rent one of these boats for a few nights! Probably cool, but we opted not and instead rode a couple of local ferries through the many villages in the area.
We liked how vendors differentiate themselves by being creative with their displays!
Mysore Made Me Sore
We broke up the trip from Cochin to Hampi with a few days in Mysore/Mysuru. Here we got to see the impressive palace and try some Ashtanga yoga… that literally made me sore for a few days.
We love having close contact with elephants but before you smile :(… notice the chain on his leg, the amount of unnecessary weight on his back and how its reaching for the garbage for some food… very sad to see this cruelty all over…
Oh, we saw a woman looking through elephant poop with her hands and celebrating with her friend when she found who knows what in there (Fortunately, it was not a homeless woman looking for food)
Mysore to Hampi—> Here we are on the train, hampily enjoying the sleeper class on our first Indian train bound for the magical town of Hampi!
PS. Purchasing the tickets for this train ride and then finding our seats was an adventure in itself but we’ll save you that story for another day.