We were invited for breakfast with our friend and cooking instructor, Sreelakshmi, in her home. She cooked us a traditional India breakfast of masala dosa with sanbar and coconut chutney. It was delicious, and she served us until we couldn’t eat anymore. Then we enjoyed great conversation with her husband joining us occasionally. She told us about their traditions, customs, and ceremonies. She explained the differences of a kurta and a sari and when girls start wearing saris by tradition. She showed us her basil plant that stays in the front of her home and explained that Basil is considered a plant of the gods. You can only touch it after a bath and even then only at certain times of the day. She showed us the jewelry she wears to signify that she is married and she gave us great suggestions for Mumbai. It was a wonderful morning and we sincerely hope that one day our paths might cross again.
After breakfast we took a rickshaw tour of Fort Kochi with Shihab as our guide and driver. We started the tour with the Dutch Palace. This is a building constructed by the Portuguese for use by the Keralan ruler, but the Dutch lived in it when they ruled the area from 1661 to 1795. It is now a museum displaying some wall murals and royal artifacts from this time period.
Next stop was the synagogue and the surround streets knows as “Jew Town”. The Jewish presence in south India dates back to the first millennium. The streets had a great little market area with tourist goods as well as spices to buy. The synagogue was simple yet beautiful inside, with over 20 chandeliers of all different shapes and sizes; most were clear, though there was a row of colored lights. The walls were a pale blue, with a floor made from blue and white Chinese tiles, each tile depicting a landscape scene. There were no photos allowed inside though. The outside was simple but striking in blue and white with a clock.
This dog is married:
Next we asked to go to the ginger warehouse and spice market. Much to our disappointment the market was closed and the warehouse empty; it was a Sunday. The area of the market was quite beautiful though, and there was one store open. They were selling ground spices and whole spices. We bought some candied ginger for upcoming minibus rides.
They had a dish filled with colored powder that was stunningly bright. It is the powder used in the festival of color (holi) in India. We could only imagine what it must look like to have such bright, vibrant colors being thrown by thousands of people. Maybe, we will have to return to witness that as we do have a 10 year visa.
We saw St. Francis Church which seemed like a bit of an illusion. When standing in front of the church you can see the blue of the sky in the windows against the white front. It took a moment for the truth to register- the building was under renovation and currently had no roof.
The pole out front was interesting, since it was a version of the dwajasthambam flag pole that local temples have. They symbolically connect the location to heaven and carry a symbol of god. (The one we saw in Chennai had a representation of the trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu, & Shiva)
We asked Shihab to take us to a good seafood restaurant. Kerala is known for its seafood, and we wanted to eat the seafood one last time before we departed. He took us to a great location where Megan had garlic ginger prawns with lemon rice and Christopher had a syrian fish curry – the dish apparently was traditional among the Syriac Christian community in the area; it featured a very spicy sauce with a vinegar flavor. We ended the meal with fried bananas topped with ice cream.
We saw the Chinese fishing nets on the shore. The technology of the nets were brought over by the Portuguese who witnessed them in Macau, China. We were quite fascinated watching them dropped into the water and pulled back out. Each net takes 5-6 people to manage it and they run 24 hours with a day crew and night crew. They explained that during dry season they are not able to catch many fish and we never saw they bring in more then a handful at a time. The seabirds flocking around the net seemed quite optimistic though! The best fishing is monsoon season. For a small donation we were allowed to help pull the net in, collect the fish and out the net back out. We also walked the beach here for a bit and touched the Arabian Sea for the first time!
We toured the indo-portuguese museum which had many catholic artifacts from the churches in Kerala. The museum was on the same grounds as the bishop’s house. We were unable to enter the home but did walk around it. It was built in 1506 for the Portuguese governor, and used later by a local bishop.
We ended the day on FortKochi Beach for sunset. We expected a quiet moment on the beach, watching the sunset over the Arabian Sea, but that is not what we found. There were about two hundred people on a small sliver of beach! Some were sitting in the sand or on rocks while others were in the water. It is currently summer in India and the schools are closed for two months, therefore a lot of India’s families take vacation now. It was great fun to watch the families on vacation. The kids were in the water, jumping the (surprisingly large) waves with their parents. There were many happy noises being made by the families. A few boys were in bathing suits and while everyone else was in their clothes, they still we’re wading into the water and enjoying the ocean and waves. For Megan, it was one of those magical moments when, despite language, cultural and religious differences, you just don’t seem all that different at all.