I will never stop marveling at the remarkable capacity of airplanes to transport one all the way across the world in a matter of hours. I completed the 10,000 mile journey to India over the course of three separate flights – starting in New York and traveling first to Frankfurt, then to Singapore, and finally to Bangalore. It is odd to travel so far through the dimensions of both space and time. The highways here are the busiest I have yet experienced, teeming with cars, scooters, autorickshaws, pedestrians, dogs, and cows. The journey from Bangalore to Prashanthagiri is about six hours in total. We had to drive quite quickly close to the end, as the wildlife sanctuary that straddles the border between the states of Kerala and Karnataka has a gate that closes at 6pm and if one does not make this crossing in time, the gate does not reopen until 6am the following morning. After stopping twice for tea and masala dosa (and siting two elephants!), we arrived at the home of Ms. Rosa, my gracious host.
Ms. Rosa is extremely gracious and welcoming and it has been a privilege to stay with her. I am grateful to have such a lovely place to call home for now. Since we arrived after dark, my first glimpse of Prashanthagiri in the daylight was the following morning and I was quite struck by its tremendous beauty and the lush greenery everywhere. There is a stunning view of the forest right outside Ms. Rosa’s front door and a roaring waterfall right down the road. My second impression of my new home was of the openness and kindness of the people, particularly the children. Although most people do not speak English and my Malayalam skills are not nearly as up to par as I’d like, we have found ways to communicate and connect using the limited verbal and non-verbal tools that we have. When Ms. Rosa’s family visited from Kalpetta (about 50 km away), I was able to speak to her granddaughter quite a bit, who is studying to become a physical therapist (or physiotherapist, as it’s known in India) and has two years left of schooling. We spoke a great deal about the challenges of language learning. I participated in evening prayers with the family and joined them for each meal. At an Onam (harvest festival) celebration this past Saturday (September 14th) at the Profugo Center of Development, I was openly invited to participate in games, distribute prizes, and eat and serve a beautiful lunch. It was a lovely festival and a great way to get introduced to the community.
Being here on my own and lacking a solid understanding of the language has been a humbling experience, as has living in a remote setting without many modern conveniences. It is also a very interesting experience to be viewed as exotic – I don’t believe I have ever before posed for so many selfies! I am developing a deep respect for the people of Wayanad, many of whom have been here for their entire lives and have formed a beautiful and tight-knit community. It is my hope to be able to help where needed and to further enrich and support the generous and amazing people of this gorgeous and vibrant place. I greatly look forward to this fantastic privilege and the incredible journey of the year ahead.