It's... a beach!

No. Way. Varkala is beautiful no doubt. It looks like a postcard meaning, it really looks like all other sandy beaches on the southern hemisphere. I'm not being cynical or saying that this is something negative, it is however, not very inspiring I find, to take photos. Or rather, it's not very challenging.

But I have finally taken a few photos of Varkala, enjoy!

Tony's kitchen. Is never used, except for making tea and coffee and for the ants

The main beach

The indians can rarely swim and if they do they keep all their clothes on. Most of the women however enjoy standing by the edge of the water, avoiding the incoming waves

Crabs of all sizes pop up when the tide is low

North cliff beach. Two hour walk from the main beach

Fishing boat, later on used for shade by a couple of Indians that were stalking us

 Beach + your typical stalking Indians


Stuck inbetween

I would like to add something brief about Varkala. I arrived smelly and tired to the Arabian Soul where Carolin + husband are staying and I joined them for a porridge breakfast with fruit, with awesome smoothies. Right now I am staying with a wealthy greek man, he likes sailing, and organising parties and business possibilities and making investments and talking about... sailing and money. We get along on a pleasantly surface kind of way. I accidently mentioned the environment to which I regrettably had to listen to a 15 minute tirade on living in the now and how there's no point in one person trying to make any difference.

I've been invited to his grand house in Greece where I can enjoy a week of sailing and decadent shops and restaurants. I will politely decline.

Varkala is beautiful and peaceful. The main area is high up on a cliff, and the beach is at a steep decent of a few minutes. The water is bright turqoise and very pleasant, and the general atmosphere of the place is an orderly chilled out one, not one reeking of alcohol and other similar things one might expect to run into in the more touristy part of India. I am quite at peace, drinking juices and eating fruit and gazing out across the clear ocean.

However, a few small things bother me. Some of the people I have met here have spent months in India, and yet as a large group of us went to have traditional Keralan food yesterday, none but myself and one or two others knew how to eat the food with our hands, or even less so that one is only allowed to use the right hand. None had used a traditional Indian toilet, and most were absolutely bedazzled by the food, which, though very good I'll admit, was pretty much just your average south Indian thali. Am I a bit bored to be talking about sailing, and hotels and food? A little, but I am not surprised. Sometimes I wonder though if the life I lead excludes me from other parts of life, and if it is actually making me a difficult, if not occasionally boring person to spend time with, because, as I have realised a few times already, I do not enjoy frivolous talk, or enjoy talking at all unless if I really have something that I want to say and having to participate in such pointless conversations between people usually has me silent and rather openly bored after the first 10 minutes of mindless bantering.

So I don't seem to fit in with most youth, talking about clothes, facials, tanning, shopping, etc. But then adults aren't really much better. I must keep my eyes open, lest I become a dry, shrivelled, pretentious person completely incapable of speaking about anything that's not been quoted in 600-page book.

Tourist resorts are maybe just not my thing, and I will probably never enjoying shopping, not even in India. And I don't care for boats, or waxing, or shoes. But the beach is where I'm heading to next and in the awesomeness of hot, blue water, I am certain to find some peace of mind.

Pictures will come.

PS. I've decided to start spreading the rumour around that I am engaged to a woman in Sweden, then maybe I will be left alone. Thanks for the golden ring, mom.

Almost at Varkala

Written on December 20th

Slept decidedly poorly and feel as nasty as your typical backpacker. First one dodgy bus from Madurai and then another. The first one was packed with men, second one from other location N something to Trivandrum was a lot more unpleasant though. Despite it being 4 a.m. the Bollywood movies were cranking it and sleeping was virtually impossible. Besides it was a local bus meaning there was little to no space for both my legs and rucksack. To top things up, I somehow ended up on the only seat without a window meaning I froze half to death even with my woollen shawl on. Also, all the pollution that I must have been exposed to left a thick oily feeling on my skin and already unclean hair. I feel grimy but at the same time oddly happy, like when you've just come back from an awesome music festival and people can't understand why you're so happy after a week of horrible sleeping in mud, no food or just plain bad food and ridiculously somewhat dnagerous adventures while in a slightly confused state.

That same overjoyment that fills you as you try to depict the awesomeness of a seemingly horrible experience to your mother fills me now as I lean back into the tacky blue leather seat of my train compartment, calmly sipping my sweet indian coffee, half-consciously wanting to brush my teeth as I realise I've missed doing so for the past two days in a row.

I hope I'm on the right train. At least trains only go in two different directions.

Looking back at Trichy

Written on December 18 - 19th

"Mind the cow dung!" Carolin shouted at me as we left the car for a moment to check the central bus stand. Oh yes, cow dung, I remind myself that the cows are actually everywhere in the city. Poor holy cows. I observe the pathetic emancipated creatures from a rickshaw. They stand in the middle of the street, not so much as flinching as the thousands of vehicles scream past, their eyes staring dully out into empty space. Nobody looks after them, nobody seems to even care. The cows stand seemingly abandoned in the middle of a crowd, in the middle of the heavily trafficated roads, on the central bus stand of Trichy.

I remind myself of this as we leave the car in central Trichy, avoid the cow dung and enter the station. Some men are squatting in a circle on the platform, eating chapatis and bananas. The cow is further away on the platform, a seemingly misplaced random object in the throng of people. Loud music blasts in the distance to the bright flaring signs announcing the somewhat hidden bars of the city.

No, we can't book a bus from Trichy for a journey between Dindigul and Trivandrum. In fact, there are probably not even buses from Dindigul to Trivandrum. Try Maduari. I could have figured as much but it was worth a try. We leave the station. I glance back at the random cow standing on the middle of the platform. Poor holy cow. I step over a puddle of what looks like blood and go back to the car. Next night, Nino, Jana and myself decide to go to the cinema to watch a Bollywood movie. On our way to the bus we, not very surprisingly by now, walk past a cow digging through the garbage which is covering most of the street. This cow might now follow the wretched destiny posed on many of India's holy cows. When in the good old days it was a good thing that the cows walked loosely on the streets eating all the garbage that used to be all organic material, it is now an ever growing threat to these creatures.

A lot of the garbage nowadays happens to be plastic material, especially plastic bags. And plastic bags don't decompose too well. So when the cow eats the plastic bag the plastic very easily gets stuck somewhere in the animal's digestive system which leads to a horrible, horrible death. Nino took photos of the cow munching away at the mountain of plastic bags.

At 10 p.m. we enter the cinema, quickly realising that we're the only women in the audience. This isn't your regular Bollywood movie. This is a Bollywood movie for men. Violence, cigarettes, gangs, alcohol and everything which is tacitly forbidden in Indian culture. And inbetween all the fighting the guys suddenly break into song and your typical Bollywood dancing. Awesome. We leave in the intermission though, to the smirking of all the men in the audience (they must have thought we were uncomfortable) but we left mostly because it was nearly midnight and we still had to get home before too late. Macho guys singing and dancing in shrill voices rock.

We leave Trichy the following day. Nino and I take the bus to Dindigul after settling our costs with the Kudumbam guesthouse. Many buses seem to be equipped with television sets that blast Bollywood movie after Bollywood movie throughout the journey. Nino gets off half an hour before Dindigul, somewhere closer to Sevapur. At Dindigul I am sent around in various different directions before somebody manages to direct me correctly to the Nilakkottai bus. Indians are somehow incapable to admit when they don't know something or when they aren't really certain. They'll just rather say anything off the top of their heads instead of saying "I don't know".

The road is bumpy and the Bollywood movies are nonsensical and loud. When I get off at Nilakkottai the little lady sitting beside me wants to help me find my way. I tell her that I just need a rickshaw and that I have the address to where I am going written on a note. Somehow she interprets this as, "please help me, I'm a little girl and I'll cry if I can't find my way". This quickly gathers a small crowd, everyone passing my note around, trying to figure out where I am going. And of course, when they don't know the suggestions start flying. Some young guys shout that I have to run and take the bus that's just about to round the corner. I refuse to take a bus that I don't know where it's going. Also nobody told me to take a bus. They specifically told me RICKSHAW.

All the fuss is eventually solved by a proper looking jewellry salesman with good english. Against my wishes he phones CIRHEP, speaks to Mohan (the coordinator. I pick up the words, "foreign girl"), hails a rickshaw, makes the driver speak to Mohan and then proudly watches me disappear in the rickshaw. Of course, I could have hailed my own vehicle 30 minutes ago... Safe and sound at CIRHEP! They have a wireless connection all over the area! Drool.

 The trainees for Framtidsjorden, Eric and Ylva take me around the area the following day. The day is awesomely started by observing the making of a biodynamic compost. I acknowledge the importance that agriculture has taken in my life. I like that the past three - four months of my life have in some way offered several times every week, signs or reminders about agriculture or other elements regarding the cultivation of the soil and the sustainable management of our earth. But by conscious or unconscious decision, the pattern that has emerged seems to point in only one direction. Do a biodynamic training, is there any knowledge in the world that is more important than learning how to live in balance with your surroundings, how to respect, nurture and cultivate the earth as our home. How to be self-sufficient and how to use the wisdom of nature in a way that doesn't damage the earth but rather, enhances it.

When I worked at Nibble, the biodynamic shop on the seminar an elderly man taught me a good way of explaining the difference between organic and biodynamic farming after having observed my feeble attempt at explaining it to a customer that had never heard of either ways of farming before.

With organic farming the farmer strives to mimick nature.
With biodynamic farming, the farmer enhances nature.

CIRHEP is mainly a training center, meaning that when they aren't hosting training seminars the grounds are virtually empty, save for Eric and Ylva. After having spent nearly a month's time being constantly surrounded by people in different contexts and countries, the serenity and the loud silence in nature was thus warmly welcomed. The mosquitos however, were of less likeability. They completely feasted on me. Hordes of them seem to thrive in this area, and while in my room at CIRHEP, I had to take cover at all times underneath the safety of my mosquito net. A must-bring to India: A GOOD MOSQUITO NET. Bring one or die a horrible itchy death.

Now I'm in Madurai after having been spoiled rotten by CIRHEP. Mohan insisted somebody accompany me to Madurai despite my attempts at trying to convince him otherwise. (I guess he wasn't too impressed about my arrival causing a near mob uprisal at Nilakkottai). So poor (I call him Dave, me being a stinking colonialistic westerner, that's what his name sounded like in my ears and thus that became the only name I could hold in my mind) had to take me all the way to Madurai, search hopelessly for a bus to Trivandrum, worry about the fact that the only bus would leave at midnight and then being half-heartedly convinced by me that I can survive a semi-sleeper bus journey for 6 hours.

I got a "lady's" seat in the very front, no.1.

So now I am waiting for midnight to the sound of the swishing of the fans in the ceiling. The mosquitos were driving me off the bat so I had a momentary spaz and covered myself in mosquito repellant. My clothes are gross anyway. I hope the bus isn't too full, that I won't have to use the bathroom, that I won't get hungry and that tomorrow is sunny.


Going to the Loo

So, if you're not familiar with Indian toilets, here's a picture of the nice and clean bathrooms of CIRHEP. You simply remove your trousers, squat over the hole (NOT SITTING) do your business, wash, then wash your hands, pour some water into the hole, and voila. Indian loo.

More interesting stuff on CIRHEP later, now I must run to take photos of the newly finished biodynamic compost heap that was finished today! Visit cirhep.org in the meantime!


Rainy India

Written on December 16th, 2009

Fingers and toes are covered and orange with henna. It's raining outside in Kudumam organic farm and I can feel the humidity down to my bones and in the sheets of my bed. Little tamil boy with a bicycle walks past the tractor outside my window. We're listening to blues off Carolin's cellphone, she's on her bed reading her downloaded emails, I'm on my bed trying to write even though it's rather dark due to an electricity blackout. The electricity is bound to come back soon, in the meanwhile the one window I managed to pry open will have to be enough light for now.

I look forward to my travels. Nino has gotten it confirmed that she needs to go to Sri Lanka to extend her VISA and I will accompany her in January. That's quite exciting! Another country!

Soon I'll hopefully be off to Kerala. I've finally admitted to myself that I might need to take it a bit slower, just a tad, as I went over my working hours the last few months, realising I've been working nearly every weekend since 360, save for a week in Amsterdam and at least one week in Switzerland. I actually do need to have just one day as a breather, just one weekend maybe. Otherwise things are rather stable as a matter of fact. I know where I am going and what I need to do and today it makes me happy (as opposed to tired and overwhelmed). I'm going to have fruit everyday in Varkala, and coffee and sun and swimming and reading and writing that damned application and starting my India folder and internet and massages.

The rain drizzles down outside, the humidity creeping in everywhere. I have seen a lot of parts of this country that I think youth when going to India normally do not see. I value and cherish these experiences like a precious gem in my memory.

Using the toilets is becoming easier.


Written on December 14th, 2009

We went to Vinobajipuram and then a bit further to the Girls' Droup-out School. It was hysterical. These girl's were quite the handful, and extremely, extremely excited to see us, three "white" people. We somehow ended up having to entertain them all day and I realise that my patience wth children can be very short at times. 57 screaming Indian girls that all want to tell you what to do. I can't stand being told what to do.

Things are progressing in quite the rapid speed now, going to different places, accepting the no toilet, the bugs and the no english and accepting that one must place oneself in the utter vulnerable position of standing in front of a crowd and facing the utter, gritty, unclean unknown.

Indian problematic is on my mind. Rice subsidies leads to a one-sided agricultural cultivation (a monoculture?) and a one-sided diet which leads to a decrease in public health and weakened families and eventually death, which makes children drop out of school to work at home and not receiving the proper education needed in their lives which leads to a constant degeneration of the public level of education, which makes the possibility of instigating a renewal in the society significantly smaller because people are uneducated and only listen to old traditions and have an archaic perspective on the world, egality and equality not even reaching the top-ten important thing in people's lives. There are so many different components in Indian society that I don't even know where a change should be initiated, in which end of this ever-spinning spiral does one start?

I am sick of Indian food.

The Path towards India

Written on December 11th, 2009

We all (Carolin, Anatoli, Nino and myself) went to visit Raman, the BD farmer's house yesterday. It was a lovely rural Indian village that greeted us. The children flocked around us, staring at us with their inquisitive eyes. Each wanted to know my age, my name, my country, all the names of each of my family members, etc. And each wanted us to repeat theirs respectively. We had a lovely supper on banana leafs under the curious stare of the dozens of children that eventually crowded into the house and began a series of performances of songs and poems in both english and tamil. We sang some swedish songs.

I find it is still a bit difficult to somehow stand with both feet in this country and live here fully. I guess it is a matter of accepting that this is also my life, as I feel I have said many times. I travel, I wear many different "hats". I see new things and really, every day is a challenge to be observed and to learn from. Live fully everyday.

When did I decide to come here?
Was it when I signed the trainee contract?
Was it when I started YIP?
Was it when Carolin came to Umeå Waldorfskola to talk about India?
How long has this journey been written into my history and how long have I been following this path, making decisions and having experiences that have helped me along the way?
Did I not always know that I would be in India one day?

This is where I am now. And this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

First day of illness

Written on December 9th, 2009

Arrived safe and sound at ISS, just in time to experience my first time ill in India. It's incredibly gross to sick up indian food. The smell of it will haunt you for hours. The nice woman in the kitchen, Mary, took care of me very well thought. She brought me lemon juice, came to check on me and eventually convinced me to eat some rice. With that I got a glass of pure cow's milk, though I didn't understand what it was at first. Though basic enough to take care of the illness in my stomach it severely upset my lactose intolerant digestive system. (At this point I was ill enough to waive that vegan thing).

I'm on the rooftop now, breaking "taboo" as I decided to take the opportunity to sunbathe and maybe forget my nausea. I rolled my trousers up to my knees, got my sleeves showing off my shoulders. This sun is just much too lovely, and how I have missed it in the Swedish darkness.

I am still a bit homesick for Järna, and my life, but I realise that I haven't "left" my life, this is also a part of it. Bleh. Still sick, moving off the roof to lie in bed. Feeling a bit frustrated and bored. Now and again I feel I catch picturesque glimpses of India that make me wish I would carry my camera around at all times. Sometimes it's even just a sentence thought, A feeling. I must practise writing them down. The palmtrees sound like a thunderstorm in the wind. The fluorescent lights buzz monotunously, insects bumping in to them. I feel like I have a fever, but my forehead isn't even sweaty, rather the opposite, dry, almost as if doused with chalk.

The beds are too hard, after a day of sleeping my back aches along with kidneys and neck, and I can't sleep on my stomach or I'll sick up again. I took some medicine. Can't exactly remember what it's form but I think to digestive related problems. The flurorescent lights make the soundtrack of this day as I watch one lonely black ant make its way across the carpets, its legs occasionally sticking to the fibres. I should like to sit outside and also, take the opportunity to fetch the laundry drying on the roof, but the mere idea of having to walk seems daunting.

I wonder if it's a peacock or a sloth making those eerie high-pitched sounds in the distance. I cannot muster the strength to do anything, the buzzing of the light is beginning to bother me.

Musings on the Indian Express

My back is sticking to the seat with sweat and my bum is incredibly sore. Now and again vendors scream in through the barred windows, selling crisps, red bananas, chai, sweets, samosa and other fried "delights". I look out between the bars of my compartment window and revel in the beauty of Mother India.

Similarly to when I was in Brazil I realise that it's the colours of and in a country that I miss in Europe. The women's bright saris are like candy in my eyes and I want pictures of all of them, loving that when they walk in groups they look like colourful marbles rolling down a path made of bubblegum wrappings.

Man, my bum aches.

Scrawny dogs dart among the tracks of the railyway. On the stations the vendors all rush to us at the sight of Carolin's long blonde hair and my comparatively fair skin. I catch sight of a skinny monkey in a leash, sitting like a misplaced puppy in the throng of brightly clad people. The air is full of scents, of hot food, of fried oil, of urine and other human remnants, of spices faintly recognisable to my nose, the jasmine perfume of the women and the general sweat of us all. And let's not forget the humidity of the red earth.

The sky is never clear, for the moisture and the pollution. The train is rocking to heavily now for me to write. Landscapes of virile green flash before us to the deafening sounds of the railway, children shrieking, people talking.

Snug as a Bug

Written on December 6th, 2009

I am in a tiny compartment in first, first class on the train. We only (Carolin + me) got one sleeping rack for the two of us and what with the train being really full and all the only other rack that was available was this one for a thousand rupees. I am a bit homesick for Ytterjärna. I am loving India so far, even though it's not been very long (though of course, it feels MUCH longer already). This rack is tiny, I'm going to fall off and break my neck, not to mention the fact that half the space is taken up by Carolin's rucksack. Jack Johnson lulls me to sleep as I wonder where I will be waking up tomorrow, and in what state I'll be in... (no pun intended, hahaha, sleeeep...)

Hot, boiling India

Written on December 4th, 2009

I had anticipated a much bigger shock at first. Of course I became quite stranded on the airport at first, not sure whether Carolin would be there or if should make my own way, which was probably the idea if only my cellphone hadn't decided to not function in India. After an accidental phonecall to Sweden via payphone, pondering whether I shouldn't just check into a hotell and find a sim-card the next day I managed to get a hold of Carolin. During my 4 hours of waiting a young indian girl held me company, telling me I had looked sad. (STRESSED more like). She can't have been older than 16 and proudly told me that she was about to get married. Her entire family came to sit with me, asking me questions as to where I was from and if I was married or not.

I finally got into a prepaid taxi to Coloba, hotel Moti. The cabride was amazing. Actually amazing is maybe not the right word. The driver stopped randomly a few times to ask for directions at which I was left alone in the car at which point several child beggars approached my open window, asking me for chocolate or other treats, and if I had had any I would have given it to them, but I didn't even have anything to fill my own rumbling stomach, or anything less than 1000 rupees in my pocket. Sigh.

The driver brought me all the way to the hotel in the red, gleaming, pollution sunset. And that's where I am now after a day of eating out, shopping for various must-haves-in-India and looking at random buildings. I look forward to Tamil Nadu on Sunday, although Mumbai has been enjoyable in it's own hectic, loud way so far. Hurray for FabIndia and my three sets of Indian clothing

Goodbye Europe, Starbucks my secret friend and hello Mother India

Written on December 2nd, 2009

I haven't given christmas as much as the slightest thought this year, not really. Here I am, on my way to India, leaving Dornach and Sweden for a comfortable amount of time. Not too long. Not too short. I've been looking forward to this, a lot. Unconsciously I've been ticking off the days till my departure, every hour, almost to the minute.

It's been a funny last day in Europe. I woke up a little confused and still exhausted by Katha banging on the door, telling us to wake up. Twice. Then I got up, even more tired, and sadly acknowledging my urgent need of a shower. Got dressed and went out into Katha's kitchen to put on some music and do the dishes with Firas. We danced in the kitchen and cleaned it rather thoroughly, danced some more, made about 8 pots of coffee and had fried eggs on newly baked bread from around the corner. (Note, I had honey on my bread, not eggs!)

And now I am suddenly at the airport, having what must be my last soylatte for a while. Damn Starbucks and their delicious lattes... So I'm sitting here with my rupees in my pocket, my Indian (rather INDISKA) gear on, waiting for the nervousness to hit me. Part of me is already on the other side of the globe, part of me wants to leave this place, preferably yesterday.