Hello! There is so much to fill everyone in on! So much! Leaving Pannai… HARD! and SAD! And then traveling with Grace – AMAZING! There are so many unexpected things that have happened. Each place –
Allepey and now Ooty – has been so different.
Bus rides jolted us through hopping bazaar towns, amidst vast rice paddies stretching to horizsons of Coconut palm trees, and dense jungle, dripping moisture from wide green leaves. The train rides tend to be calmer and steadier. We had a WONDERFUL time taking the toy train up to Ooty. It was a good 6 hours in the train, but you climb up hills covered in green, overgrown with morning glories and teeny tiny daisies. We passed over bridges that dropped straight down (you could just see the wooden poles jutting out from teh train tracks) to water splashing over rock. Grace particularly enjoyed the tiny villages where children in varied stages of dress waved to us as we rumbled by and she also really liked the houses with the laundry hanging out to dry – flags of color, so personal, such an integral part of people’s domestic lives, flapping in the breeze, soaking in the morning sun.
Ooty reminds me somewhat of Kalimpong, though it is less hilly. It is a hill station as opposed to being a part of a larger range of mountains. Today the gray sky hovers over this bustling little town, houses nestle together along the slopes which are textured either by tea gardens, a green carpet that follows the shape of the hillside, or terraced fields of
green. We are stayiing at a lovely place called “Reflections Guest House” where a painting of a white tree hangs over the twin beds pushed together, because tehre’s no space to have them otherwise. This morning, we enjoyed the warmth of our heavy blankets before pulling ourselves together and walking into town where we ate idlies and chutney (my favorite) for breakfast at a little place where teh waiters were chuffed that I spoke Tamil.
It is lovely to be back in Tamil Nadu. Kerala was beautiful, but I was such a foreigner. Here even dressed in pants and a long-sleeved shirt, I am more at home, I can speak a little bit. After breakfast, we headed out walking, follwing the signs to the botanical garden. We walked along the top (it’s very well maintained as Grace commented). Eventually, we decided to walk through a little gate out onto a road which we follwed up. After some time of walking, we were greeted by some very enthusiastic small children aksing for their picture to be taken. Grace complied, and they crowded around to see images of themselves on the screen on Grace’s camera. Their father pointed us to a small path that led us up and up. Up into the forests of eucalyptus, evergreen and deciduous trees we walked. We’ve been together pretty much nonstop for two weeks, and we still have HEAPS to talk about! What a gift!
Anyway, when we finally started coming down again, we decided to go a different way along a small road that led through a settlement of small colorful houses made of cinderblock and corrugated iron. A section of road
was a muddy mess, and we squished our way through coming out with VERY muddy feet. We met a woman whom I greeted in Tamil and asked where we could rinse off our feet. She invited us down to a field where she poured water from one of her water jugs over our muddy feet. A little girl, presumably her granddaughter recited the alphabet for us. And the woman’s name was GRACE!
The next group of women we met invited us inside for tea after we exchanged greetings with them in Tamil. We agreed, and were led to a small home with a green and blue door, three reddish lines, about the length of fingers were
traced on. We received sweetened black tea that really looked redder in color served in metal tumblers. We sipped it slowly asking questions, giving answers, about family, marriage, work. The women slipped a glass bangle onto my hand and Grace’s and fingered red powder onto our foreheads between our eyes. Then our hostess, Deviki, reached into a pouch in her saari and removed a ring, which she gave to me. Nanga sisters, she told me. We’re sisters. Deviki walked with us back to the main bazaar area, collecting pretty flowers for us along the way.
I am so blessed. And really feeling it right now. I feel right with the world in a big way. Being with Grace, a friend who knows me intimately and loves me unconditionally, is a gift as I make yet another transition in my life. I am eager to arrive in Nepal, on July 26th. Speaking the language somewhere makes such a difference, and I look forward tothe enconters that I will have there like the ones that have blessed my visit here in Ooty. I am excited not to live in an institution, instead to work to be part of a family and then of a wider community.
AND, wry smile, I cut my hair off again. It’s the length it was after graduation. And I love it! I really like short hair and think I’m going to stick with it for a while. It fits me. Grin.
I know this is long and also that it has been AGES since I’ve written a
group email or since I’ve writt4en to many of you individually. I Hope you
are all well.
So much love and peace,