Sunday, January 09, 2005

kochi on...

hello sweeties,
i am finally feeling the urge to write a stream of something like consciousness travel journal to ya. i spent the entire day today being intentionally lost. for those of you who know me well, you can nod your head with understanding. basically, i needed to take a long walk & think.
this trip has been full-on. there is hardly a moment when my senses are not being fully engaged. & this sunday morning i woke up to the sound of catholic mass from the basilica directly across the street from my guesthouse. i had slept in (yes, sleeping til 8am is now considered sleeping in!) because james left this morning at 4am for the airport & so i collapsed back into a sound sleep after wishing him a safe & peaceful journey home. it felt odd not waking him up for a change...& i will miss him being here a lot. but i somehow managed to motivate & wander over to witness the strange sight of women in saris making the sign of the cross & then over to the chinese fishing nets to see the fisherman pulling up the ancient nets using a rock & pulley method that seemed religious in it's own way. i had brekky with the locals (all men & all staring) & nothing starts off my morning quite like the warmth of my highly sweetened & rather caffeinated morning chai coupled with something savoury & greasy. the parotha & channa i mean, not the men!
i had a long sit at a very mellow art cafe to try & figure out my next move but of course by the time i was ready to roll the train station reservations booth was closing & everything seems booked anyhoo so now i'm contemplating flying to mumbai & then praying that i get a seat on a train to a'bad from there by the 14th. this of course means that i will skip seeing any more of the south so i'm a bit torn.
but perhaps it is time for this part of my journey to end.
my long meandering walk took me through the christian area full of decorative star lamps & apartments with names like "pious place" & then on to the moslem area full of green & white minarets & the smell of roasted cashewnuts & sandalwood oil. i never made it to the jewish quarter today because i got waylaid at a couple of art galleries & hung out with some very interesting local artists/photographers/political activists. the save periyar river movement is a big cause here & so a lot of the art & writing around town is about that. i bought a couple of small pieces of art there & a book written by a tibetan refugee & mentioned to them how the shop reminded me of resistencia bookshop in austin, tejas. it felt like home.
this internet cafe is feeling like home now. i feel like everytime i get on a computer it takes far longer than i intended to write even a short bit. i wanted to tell y'all about james' first night in madras when we wandered into a charities first anniversary celebration & got to hand out school uniforms, or the sound of hundreds of chisels striking against rock at all of the stone carvers' shops in mahabalipuram, or perhaps the feel of the wind dreading my hair as we zoomed past ancient temples on a shiny new motorbike, or the serendipity that was running into my friend simon cooper & his partner marian at the top of a rock temple in trichy after more than ten years, or the sight of thousands of hindu pilgrims dressed all in black or orange or white streaming out of the temple in madurai that looked like a giant pastry made of gods & goddesses. of the day or two spent in shock in a hotel room with cnn/bbc when we finally got the news of the tsunami (two days later!) of trying to get a hold of hannah & mansoor & seeing them waltz right up to us at a cafe after just spending the night in the the same hotel (& next door in fact) of finally getting sand stuck in between my toes again & the amazing trainride game of knockout whist we played with some cute indian kiddos & the smile of the tibetan boy that greeted me every morning with a "hello goodbye!' or the gorgeous house by the sea that we stayed at that came complete with a trip to the funkiest magic show ever to ladies waiting rooms at train stations that were actually speakeasies to mosquito attacks from hell to water lilies guiding our canoe to sunsets that looked like actual postcards to a mountain busride that left me slightly nauseus & exhilirated at the same time to the sight of wild boar & sambar & otters at periyar lake to cheeky monkeys in treetops to long lazy walks through spice infused streets in kumily to even longer busrides to here. now. where emotions are high & time is suddenly run out. & that is all just the last few weeks. my time with my family was an amazing & intense time that i will share with y'all later.
'k, hope this note finds you well. i am off ta bed now.
keep sending me news of your lives. i love reading it!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Urgent Relief Needed for Tamil Nadu Tsunami and Earthquake Victims

dear friends & family,
thank you for all your letters of concern & outpourings of love. i am truly grateful that i have all of you in my life & cannot even begin to express how much it means to me to start this new year by simply being able to thank each one of you for being there. james & i are in varkala, kerala at the moment & totally safe & sound. our hotel is atop a cliff face overlooking the beach & it is almost (almost!) as if the tsunami didn't hit here. but it did. & people were affected. & we are still working out what we can do to help while at the same time working out how to go on with our trip. there was a surreal quality to our new year's eve. i'm not sure quite how to describe how i'm feeling exactly except to say that i am overcome with both sadness & joy at the same time. my whole day yesterday was spent in the waves. i couldn't get out of the water. struck by awe & wonder. in a strange way i think i have been making my peace with the ocean. tomorrow we are heading to kollam which was hit harder by the tsunami & i've contacted the organization i've working with in gujarat to see if they can use my help while i'm in the south...we'll see. otherwise, james & i are attempting to help with money & clothing donations & also by simply being tourists in a tourist economy. i've pasted a letter from lakshmi that lists ways that you can help if you're able.
i am wishing you all a safe & happy new year that will hopefully be filled with much more joy than sorrow.
i'm really really sorry that i haven't been blogging or even sending out many updates but this trip has overwhelmed me a bit & i hope that at some point i'll be able to send out something poetic. i keep saying it will be soon & then it's later already.

----Original Message Follows----
From: "Lakshmi V."
To: ish
Subject: For ish kundawala, Urgent Message

Please forward this urgent appeal to all your friends and relatives.

Urgent Relief Needed for Tamil Nadu
Tsunami and Earthquake Victims



Dear friends and devotees,

Jaya Sri Rama. Please accept my humble pranams.

We are all very saddened about the terrible devastation that has fallen on our brothers and sisters in South India and other parts of the world.

In response to the recent tsunami, the Bhaktivedanta Ashram is arranging a team of volunteers in Tamil Nadu to begin relief work to help the victims. Relief activities are expected to begin on Thursday, December 30th. Within several days an additional team of volunteers from our Orissa ashram will join them to provide further relief supplies including basic necessities for children and their families. Due to the long term effects of this disaster, the Bhaktivedanta Ashram plans to open a permanent relief center in Chennai so that relief activities can continue even after the immediate media attention dies down. With our past experience of the Orissa cyclone in 1999 we know that such disasters lead to long term difficulties for the victims that continue even after the relief organizations leave. With that in mind we are planning to maintain our relief center in Tamil Nadu permanently so that we can continue caring for those in need, especially the children who are affected by this disaster.

Reports indicate that the death toll in India has reached over 12,500 so far, with children accounting for up to a third of all the dead. Health reports state that the spread of disease could kill as many people in the coming weeks.

In such a situation with millions of displaced people suffering in need of food and clothing it seems an impossible task, but we should not let this discourage us. Let every one of us help in whatever little way we can.

We humbly request all those with sufficient means to donate towards the tsunami relief work in Tamil Nadu. To donate by credit card you may visit our website and enter your donation through our secure server:

Donations may also by sent by check made payable to "Bhaktivedanta International Charities" with the words 'Tamil Nadu Relief' in the memo field:

Bhaktivedanta International Charities
P.O.Box 34153
Los Angeles, CA 90034
United States of America

I would like to again thank all of our friends and donors who have contributed towards our projects in the past and request everyone to offer whatever service they can, regardless of how small, to help this urgent cause.

Yours in service,

Jahnava Nitai Das,
Bhaktivedanta Ashram &
Bhaktivedanta International Charities

How you can help:

The following are among the aid agencies accepting contributions for those affected by the earthquake and tsunamis in Asia. Contact the individual group for information on how to send donations.

American Jewish World Service

45 West 36th Street

New York, NY 10018-7904


American Red Cross

International Response Fund

PO Box 37243

Washington, DC 20013



151 Ellis Street NE

Atlanta, GA 30303


Catholic Relief Services

PO Box 17090

Baltimore, MD 21203-7090


Direct Relief International

27 South La Patera Lane

Santa Barbara, CA 93117


Doctors Without Borders

PO Box 2247

New York, NY 10116-2247


The First Church of Christ, Scientist

Tsunami Relief

175 Huntington Avenue

Boston, MA 02115


International Orthodox Christian Charities

PO Box 630225

Baltimore, MD 21263-0225


International Medical Corps

11500 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 506

Los Angeles, CA 90064


Oxfam America

26 West Street

Boston, MA 02111-1206


Mercy Corps

PO Box 2669

Portland, OR 97208


Operation USA

8320 Melrose Avenue, Ste. 200

Los Angles, CA 90069


Source: Associated Press