Little People, Big Things

“Unstuck”. The quotation marks in this post below are all too familiar. They stemmed from well-worded conversations that traveled across the 16,894 kilometers between Kochi, India, and Costa Rica. Between me and Crist Inman. About “getting back in”. Going back and forth on happiness and redefining it. On dreaming. Together.

And, I remembered this bouncing, hugging ball of happiness that owned me by the beach at Xandari Pearl in Kerala. Little person, but home of good things.

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Fixed-Dome Bio Gas

Bio-

Bio-Gas Plant

In my opinion sustainable tourism/practices, if done correctly and efficiently, will both benefit the environment and a company or individual. Although today, we are still trying to accomplish the previous with as much at hand as possible. Ideally, sustainability will come hand in hand with positive environmental outcomes and social and economic benefits.
However, some practices are more beneficial (in both instances) than others. Take recycling paper for example: the margin in producing new paper vs. recycling is much lower so incentives are likely lower. Aluminum cans on the other hand are much more cost effective to recycle, bringing higher benefits to both the producer (by reusing material) and for the environment (aluminum has a longer decomposition time). Continue reading

The Backwaters of Kerala, India

Upstairs deck/lounge

Upstairs deck/lounge

Our group of four was greeted with “tender coconuts” to drink while we got settled into the boat and into our bedrooms. Our houseboat was over 100ft long with three bedrooms, a dining room, an upstairs lounge deck and all the amenities of a hotel (including AC), I was in awe. The outside was covered in a coconut palm woven shell tied together by coconut husk rope. Truly a product of “Kerala”, meaning “Land of Coconuts”. Continue reading

Kuttanad – “the rice bowl of Kerala”

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If you are like me, you enjoy the fresh air, green scenic views and appreciate a variety of cultures. Kuttanand, south of Cochin is a promising destination with its rich rice picking culture and its backwater systems. It also offers diverse species of animals, especially birds which can easily be spotted due to the open landscape.

Next on my Kerala bucket list!

To read more click here

(photo credits: Keralatourism.org)

A drive to Fort Kochi, India

Sunrise over Cochin Harbor

Sunrise over Cochin Harbor

I flew into the Cochin airport in Kerala a few days ago for the first time. This is my first time to Asia and to a country whose language I do not speak (fluent in english and spanish). I was greeted by Udayan, one of Raxa Collective’s drivers who began driving me to the hotel. If you had read my last post, you would know that I am here to do an internship under Crist and Amie Inman (owners and operators of Raxa Collective), who I have been communicating with for months now. Amie especially, had warned me of the driving and how “In some parts of the world, people drive on the left side, others on the right side, but in India people drive everywhere”! That could not have been closer to the truth. As soon as we leave the airport parking lot, I hear horns going off, almost in symphony to one another, communicating back and forth. Tuk-tuks (a type of small yet quick 3 wheeler) are swerving in and out of traffic, motorcycles and cars zig-zagging in and out. The driver, completely calm and very good at what he does tells me that it will be a 45min drive. In my mind, I thought this wasn’t driving, but a type of noisy tetras.

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Introduction & Upcoming posts

I would like to take a quick moment to introduce myself, my goals for the next few months and what I will be posting in this blog. I am a recent graduate from the University of Central Florida, Rosen School of Hospitality Management and I was born in Costa Rica.

I am excited to be interning at Marari Pearl (Kerala, India) starting this January. I don’t believe there will be a lack of material for me to write about in Kerala with its unique culture, customs, spicy foods and amazing animals! This will be my first time to Asia and I am quite sure it will be a great and rewarding culture shock and I want to convey my observations and thoughts about something totally new to me. Continue reading

South Indian Music at the Kathakali Culture Center

I had the pleasure of listening to classical South Indian music the other night with a guest I happened to connect with at the 51 restaurant in Spice Harbour. We went to the oldest remaining theater in Fort Cochin for Kathakali, which is a traditional art form of Kerala that originated in the early 17th century. In this theater, they have famous Kathakali dance as well as classical music, meditation, and yoga. Even though we just went for the music, I got to learn a little bit more about the dance.

kathakali2

The made-up face of the Kathakali dancers is ubiquitous around Kerala. To do the make up takes at least one hour.

In Malayalam, ‘Katha’ means story and ‘Kali’ means play. I didn’t see the traditional Kathakali dance but from what I learned the dance has a storyline that is acted out through mime and drama. The stories are mostly based on Hindu mythology.

The instruments that we listened to were flute, mridangam, and kanjira. Mridangam and kanjira are drums. There was also a drone playing from an electronic shruti box.

The music put me into a dreamy state of mind. As I was listening I found my mind drifting back to all my music theory classes to help me wrap my mind around what I was listening to.  In the beginning they told us the ragas were in 8 count rhythm. Our minds can easily predict phrases that fit within a 4 count rhythm, so I wondered what made an 8 count so different. Then I realized the emphasis was on the 5th and 7th count which was pretty cool and made me understand why the phrasing was so unpredictable. Something about the syncopated rhythm and the ambiance sent me into a theta state of deep relaxation.

I was grateful to spontaneously meet that friend and get to experience that traditional aspect of Kerala culture!

 

Reflecting: Half-a-World Away

Cardamom Siesta

Cardamom Siesta

Five months have elapsed since my departure from Cardamom County and Raxa Collective in Kerala — sufficient time, in my opinion, to think back on my experience and growth during my adventures there, as well as the time I have spent back in the United States.

Words cannot express how thankful I am for having been given the opportunity to travel farther and live longer away from home than I ever have before, and in a truly amazing, diverse, and different region of the world than I could ever imagine.  The head honchos, Crist and Amie Inman, have an ethos rooted deeply in progressive ecological conservation that is truly admirable, and for the area they are established, borderline revolutionary.

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Old Spice Market in Mattanchery, Fort Kochi, Kerala

 

Bazar Road

Bazar Road, Mattanchery

The Spice market in Mattanchery has retained its status as an important center of spice trade in India. The exotic fragrance of the finest ginger, cloves, cardamom, turmeric and pepper, also known as black gold, emanate from the spice warehouses lining both sides of the street that our new property, Spice Harbour, calls home. Continue reading

Kerala Culture and Arts – Ranga 2014

Ashtapadi

With the goal of conserving the cultural art of Kerala from extinction, Nilambur Kovilakam recently conducted an event called ‘Ranga 2014’ on the 17th and 18th of January.  It was a two day event wherein artists portrayed their talents to a mixed audience of people from the Kovilakam and visitors from farther afield. The major intention of this event was to showcase the cultural heritage of Kerala and demonstrate its art forms to an invited audience from various parts of the world.  Continue reading

Dance and Textiles – A Connection

dance

It was mandatory in my family culture that young girls learn dance and music, the traditional dances like Bharathnatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kathakali, as well as Carnatic music. And I was inducted into a well known school of art to learn them.

The theory part included learning about the various dance formats, stories, and most importantly the costume. Continue reading

Periyar Through The Water

When I think of Thekkady and the Periyar Tiger Reserve, what comes to mind is a lake surrounded by thick, dense forests, and the iconic dried tree snags created when the lake was formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam over 100 years ago, not to mention the elephants that often frequent the water’s edge. It was cloudy when I left for the boat excursion and by the time I reached the boat landing, it was pouring; it is monsoon season after all. Salim said there would be fewer “sightings”, as the locals put it, since the animals tend to take cover in the rain.

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Temple Elephants

THE LORD

“The Lord”

Historically elephants have been part of the rich culture of Kerala. As the physical representative of Lord Ganesha, people consider this animal a harbinger of good fortune, a remover of obstacles and an inseparable and integral part of religious and economic life as both temples and mosques embraced the animal during festivals. Continue reading

Reducing Waste While Contributing to Communities

When “first world” travelers are planning a trip to the “third world”, their doctors often require them to take a handful of vaccinations, and a few prescriptions. This summer, about 40 students from a graduate program at the University of Western Ontario interned in Kerala, hosted by Raxa Collective; many of them, to err on the side of caution brought medicines for tropical diseases, including malaria. However, most of those medications are not needed in Kerala, whose health profile is comparable to Costa Rica, and which happens to be malaria-free.

As weeks progressed, many of the interns stopped taking their pills and consequently they were left with an excess, which are worth much more to those in need than in the garbage can back home. Continue reading

Into the Periyar Tiger Reserve

Tree in the Periyar Tiger Reserve

A couple of days ago, I had my first trekking experience in the Periyar Tiger Reserve and because of its name, I had a flawed perception of what was to come.  I expected to see many animals, perhaps even a tiger. However, I did not. In fact, during the few hours I was there, I only saw a couple sambar (a species of Indian deer), an Indian Gaur (the largest living bovine), and a handful of birds. My experience in the Periyar Tiger Reserve was the antithesis of going to a zoo, and this actually made it much more enjoyable. Continue reading

My Houseboat Experience

View of the Kerala backwaters

View of the Kerala backwaters

A few days ago, I had the privilege of going on one of the Raxa Collective River Escapes houseboats to tour the backwaters of Kerala and although it was quite rainy, it was still very beautiful.  First off, the houseboat itself was fantastically designed for traveling the backwaters. While it contained all of the first class amenities that anybody could ask for, it did not go overboard (pun intended); instead of an abundance of glass and feeling as if you were in a bubble, other than the bedrooms the boat is open air, and as the cool breeze danced across your face, it really felt like you were out on the backwaters.

What is so astonishing about the Kerala backwaters, and consequently what I, a student from the United States, have to often remind myself of, is that these backwaters define the lifestyle of so many individuals. Continue reading

Navigating the Backwaters of Kerala

Have you ever felt like you were in a book ?

 Traveling on a houseboat  in the Backwaters was a desire of mine for quite a while, and I had been told the monsoon was the ideal period to take a trip on the Backwaters. The boats are fewer on the waterways, you can see locals compete in spectacular snake-boat races, the rice-paddies fill-up with rainwater, everybody gets around by canoe or ferry. It’s as different to my everyday life as can be. Continue reading

St. Francis Church

St. Francis Church- The original burial site of Vasco da Gama

St. Francis Church- The original burial site of Vasco da Gama

Today, for the first time in my life, I visited Fort Kochi. One of the first places I stopped at was the St. Francis Church, which is the oldest European church in India, and the original burial site of the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama.  In 1498, Vasco da Gama became the first person to sail from Europe to India. Both the Portuguese and the Spanish were in search of an ocean alternative to the Arab monopoly on the lucrative spice trade, and the Portuguese had the good fortune to sail east vs. west. He and a few other Portuguese men who followed were allowed by the Raja of Cochin to build a fort in Kochi, and subsequently, in 1506, Francisco de Almeida, the Portuguese viceroy, was allowed to build a Christian church.  Ten years later, the church was completed and was dedicated to Saint Anthony. Continue reading