but experiencing a few technical delays...
We have finally arrived in Trivandrum in the southern Indian state of Kerela, the city we will be calling home until late January. We have moved into our apartment in the girls hostel (dorm) here at the school and Jenn is busy at work transforming what is a fairly sterile dorm space into a cozy little home for us - I'm sure she is up to the challenge. The school is as beautiful as it appeared to be on line but it is a little strange in that no one is here except a couple of bored-looking security guards. The students are off from school this week because today is the big holiday for Kerela called Onam, so we pretty much have the place to ourselves. The Onam holiday has a lot of similarities with our Thanksgiving in that families gather for the special meal though the origin story of this holiday is slightly different (for more on King Mahabali, go to http://www.onamfestival.org/king-mahabali-onam.html) It includes a special meal served on banana leaves that involved a couple of dozen different types of vegetarian foods with a wide range of tastes and flavors. The meal is eaten with fingers without utensils (right hand only) and was quite a spectacle in it's presentation as a whole team of waiters added individual items to our leaves. A very memorable and very filling feast.
We'd love to show some pictures our very memorable trek through Agra and Jaipur, but we are experiencing some technical limitations at the moment. For now, I can only upload photos one at a time and each takes a while. Because the school is on vacation, the person to help us get an internet connection up and running in our apartment is not around. Therefore, we are currently limited to using the computers in the student lounge here in the dorm which don't have the software needed upload batches of photos to the web site (and we have a lot to share - some amazing stuff!). As is standard with school computers, they are locked down pretty tightly so I can't download the needed software (I can't even get to Facebook). So, pictures and stories of our adventure in Rajistan and Agra will need to wait until we are fully online again.
The rest of the week ahed is refreshingly more easy-paced than the last one. Tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, we're going back into town for more Onam festivites. They hang thousands of lights in the trees along the streets and there are numerous cultural performances going on all week. We may take a trip to one of the nearby beaches or a temple or two on Wednesday. On Thursday, the government offices open again after the three day Onam legal holiday, so Jenn and I can register with the Office of Foreign Registration among other administrative chores. On Friday, we're trying to organize a trip about 3 hours north to watch some of the Kerelite snake boat races. I'd post a picture of one of these boats if I could but if you are interested in what a snake boat is, just Google "kerela snake boat race" images and you'll see what we're after.
I'm heading for bed to sleep for a while before our 3:45 am wake up call. Our bedroom is just up the hill from a very loud speaker on the roof of a nearby mosque. The Muslims are currently in the middle of their month long Ramadan observation and for some reason, the first call to prayer was at quarter to four this morning. I'm not sure why it's so early - I thought it was supposed to be at dawn, but we'll be ready with earplugs tonight. We have better get used to it - still two more weeks left to Ramadan...