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More Than a Destination

Kerala, India

They were a little shy, but curiosity won them over.

On my most recent trip to India, I visited many places, from the south and north up the coast, to Delhi and Punjab. But my favorite place to visit is the state of Kerala in southern India. From the shores of the Arabian Sea to the green, lush Ghats mountain range, it’s like paradise! Everyone there is welcoming and friendly, and many speak English. From the moment I arrived there, I was asked if I needed anything, how my trip was going, and to let them know if I needed anything. My first day I arrived in Kochi, I took a taxi to my hotel. As I rode to my hotel, many of the sites along the way were familiar and comforting. The driver was an older gentleman that only spoke a little English, but was a pleasure to talk to. As we drove along the road I looked ahead and was surprised to see an elephant (called “Ana” in Malayalam, which is the language in Kerala) in the back of a large truck. The driver slowed down as we came alongside the truck so I could click some pictures. Only in India, more so in Kerala, would you see an elephant in the back of a truck. I arrived at my hotel, which was amazing, and was graciously welcomed. There, along the shores, you will see Chinese fishing nets that are still in use today. There are many historical sites there to visit like Fort Kochi, Cochin Shipyards, and The Hill Palace. Down along the waterfront, you can see how the Chinese fishing nets are used. The Hill Palace has a beautiful garden with many tropical flowers. The next morning, I climbed aboard a bus headed to my next destination, Calicut. Along the way, I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with a gentleman from the area. I mentioned to him that I sing Hindi, and he asked if I could sing for him. I started playing one of my favorite songs from my iPod. The young man across from me started singing, so I sang a duet with him. After another song, the gentleman told the passengers in the back of the bus that I was an American singing Hindi. I turned and looked. Everyone had been listening to me sing. After reaching Calicut, one of my friends picked me up and we visited his family. There I was fed a traditional meal with fish as the main dish with rice and other local favorites. I checked into my hotel where the staff was very helpful. They made sure I had everything I needed. While I was in Kerala, I spoke at schools, talked about learning English and American culture, and I song Hindi and English songs. I spoke at two English training centers, a private school and a government school. I think the school I loved speaking at the most was the government school. All 1,000 students and staff were outside to greet me. It’s an amazing sight to look up and see that many faces looking at you with big smiles on there faces. Many of them had never met a foreigner. After six days, I took a flight to Bangalore, where my friend picked me up. We did sightseeing in and around the city. From there I flew to Delhi and met some more of my friends. I had the chance to meet one friend, and we sang Hindi and English songs together. My other friend was recording and as I started my next Hindi song, he looked at me with amazement. I asked him if everything was ok. He said yes, but that he thought I only knew one Hindi song. I surprised him by knowing many Hindi songs. I spent six days in Delhi seeing many historical sites. The Lotus Temple, the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, and the India Gate to name a few. From Delhi, I took a bus to Chandigarh Punjab where I stayed with a friend and his family for a few days. The highlight of my time in Punjab was in Amritsar. The Golden Temple is a very peaceful and tranquil place to visit.  Definitely one of the places I would highly recommend visiting when you are in India. Although the weather was on the cool side, it was still an enjoyable time in Punjab. From there, I took a sleeper bus back to Delhi, a little tight for accommodations, but a nice restful trip overnight. I met up with a friend and had dinner and sang songs into the night. Then it was a flight back to Kerala. I had been asked to speak at another English training center there. During that time, I was able to stay in the same hotel I had originally stayed at. I had tried to book it, but the app said it was full. I had messaged Salam, the manager, about a room, he said he would make my arrangements. All the staff were very happy to see me again, as I was happy to see them also. There are so many wonderful memories from this trip, that it’s hard to put it all down in words.  I am very fortunate to have wonderful friends that are native to the area and shared their home with me. At one friend's home, all the neighborhood kids came to visit. They taught me how to play carom, a type of board game. They were very good teachers, but I was not a fast learner. I also stayed at a hotel where the staff was very helpful, and I look forward to seeing them all again on my next visit! Flying back to Delhi for my flight home was a little sad. I had visited with friends, made new friends, and grew more personally as an individual. Although all of India is amazing and each area has its own history, Kerala is not just a destination, it’s like home away from home!

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