Sunday, January 10, 2010

Week 6: Reflections

Here is a very large bug, of undetermined species, found dead on Shamans window sill at our home. Good picture Shaman! This creature, and others, have encouraged us to invest in mosquito nets and other protective measures!

This past week has been in which three days of bus strikes resulted in all classes being canceled and more time for me to spend preparing for three major presentations next week and two the following week. We did a little more just than watch bugs die, however: with our going as a family to see the movie AVATAR, attending the wedding of a son of a teaching colleague here, and our being invited as honored guests to a meeting of the Ys Mens Club (affiliated with the YMCA). A five minute talk at an event on Community Policing and Terrorism landed me yet another picture in the local newspaper.... Now for a change of pace! Below is a entry composed by my wife, Kristine. Enjoy! -- Michael

Reflections from Kristine Sonnleitner:

As promised, I am writing a January letter about the holiday season in India. Despite the title, Christmas in Kerala, we actually ended spending Christmas in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on the other side of the country. We took an overnight train ride to Chennai which we (My daughter Sonrisa and I) dubbed the Super Fast Cockroach Express. It took 14 hours. However, the cockroaches were super fast.

We had a great time in Chennai, visiting places where St Thomas the Apostle hid for four years, the hill on which he was killed while at prayer, and the his tomb at the Santhom Basilica. We actually went for midnight mass on Christmas there, which was held in English (first time since being in India) outdoors in the main plaza. On Christmas Day I had noticed that one of the four star hotels was advertising turkey dinner. Although it was not the typical US fare, it was quite extensive (amazing desserts!) and cost about $10. per person. We ate well! And we did not have to clean up.

When we returned to Pala, we found out that there was an autorickshaw strike the day Sonrisa was scheduled to leave. Since they block the roads, we had to get up at 5am and stick around the airport until late afternoon when the blockade ended. Also, this week, there was a bus stike for three days. When this happens, St Thomas College closes down and Mike has a free day. Not the most efficient way to receive an education. Pala is rather primitive in some ways. Like you never know if there will be butter/ eggs or whatever in the store (yesterday I made a cake with no frosting since butter has not been around for a couple of weeks). Kerala (the name means land of coconuts) is the coconut capital of the world and yet no shredded or flaked coconut in the stores. Coconut milk, oil, powder, but no regular coconut. Food is cheap here, however, and fruit is good and plentiful. Here is something you will not hear in the US: Please honey, stop at the market and pick me up a ( 4oz) bag of milk! The real fun starts when you open the bag.

As some of you know, our son Shaman elected to stay with us until the end of May. He is sitting in on some classes and is teaching himself (via a computer program given to him by one of Mike s former students) how to build, repair and program computer systems. After he completes this course, he will be able to take a test for certification. What is most encouraging about all this is how excited Shaman is about learning, and how his whole attitude on life has improved.

People keep asking me when I am going to wear a sari. Actually,I am not the sari type- I did finally buy some pajama pants to go with the long tunic top that Sonrisa left. But saris have tons of material to step on and my feet are clumsy enough. Shanty (Stany s wife) did dress Sonrisa in a sari.(I think there are some pictures on the blog).They are incredibly beautiful. Before we leave maybe I will get decked out in one, if only for a photo op.

Around the 16th we take off for Cape Comorin, at the tip of India, where three oceans converge and you can see the sun both rise and set over the water ( I plan on sticking my toe in the three oceans.) Then off to Thiruvananthapuram (do not ask me to say it) where Mike will be giving a talk at a university there. Back to Pala for a few days and then to the War Resisters Conference in Ahmadabad. Mike contacted the Gandhi Peace Foundation about staying at its ashram there and found a woman he knew from when he had first visited India forty years ago!

Coming home on the train from Chennai, we knew we were in Kerala when we saw stars. For the Christmas holidays the Keralans hang large, illuminated paper stars of various colors and styles (5, 6, 8, 10,and 12 point stars) outside their homes.It is a festive reminder of the star the wisemen from the East followed and the Infant King that inspired their journey. Blessings and may your way be so guided in 2010!

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