I was unable to blog while on the road. Internet access was rare and, when it was available, I was focusing on matters at hand. Now that we´re back, I figured I´d grab the opportunity to write some thoughts aimed at our band of travelers for whom I am so grateful.
First, my hope for you is that the best of Kerala´s landscape – rainforests brimming with life (including flying cockroaches!), mountain ranges furrowed by tea plantations, endlessly meandering backwaters, the expansive and inviting Arabian Sea – has been successfully seared into your memories. We´ve amassed thousands of photos to help friends and family understand what our eyes took in. For you, my hope is that they will remind you not only of what Kerala looks like, but how it felt to be embraced by such abundance.
My hope is also that the hospitality and warmth showered upon us over the past two weeks will stay in your hearts as the weeks turn into months: the friendly smiles and exchanges (sometimes in Malayalam!) with strangers in passing; the abundant meals lovingly prepared for us by old friends; the animated conversations with countless new facebook friends (about culture, politics, religion, music, art, work, weddings, and everything under the sun); the love, laughter, songs, and artwork that flowed during our orphanage visits; the multitudes of prayers that – we were assured – were offered up on our behalf as we traveled. (The following photo is of our group with social workers from Amrita University and a few of the orphans who did art with us. The orphanage is part of a school sponsored by their guru-chancellor, Amma.)
As you know, the trip to Kerala was, for Nick and me, experienced on a personal level. We were not simply your travel guides who arranged the program and travel logistics. Reunions with old friends were often emotional, visits to remote religious sites tended to be deeply meaningful, and mundane details – like cold showers, pali lizards on the walls, and eating with our hands – felt like “home” to us in many ways. I´ve mentioned that I am grateful for you, each of you, as fellow travelers. But it is in this context – of reuniting with dear friends, reconnecting with rich religious sites, and re-entering the mundane familiar – that makes me most grateful for all of you. I want to thank you for your willingness to jump in to our world with gusto, to make new friends, to eat unabashedly with your hands.
Most of all I want to thank you for the warmth and appreciation you showered in abundance upon the people in Kerala who we hold most near and dear. Whether it was with Prabha and Rajan in Kochi, Sr. Florence and the other Sisters in Bharananganam, Fr. Abraham and his wife in Kottayam, Jyothi and her daughter in Kottayam and Kumily, Sujatha in Kollam (not to mention the college students and orphanage kids associated with many of these people) the warmth and enthusiasm you consistently doled out to all of these and more was so precious to us. I have no doubt that your genuine interest in and care for these people was treasured and will remain with them for a long time to come. You have received much during this trip – and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all you´ve given in return.
High five (watch the elbow!),