First, I want to express my sadness on the death of my cousin, Dwayne Magers. The day before we left for Kerala I called my parents and learned of the car accident that claimed his life earlier that week. Needless to say, I was shocked and saddened. My heart goes out to his wife, Dawn, and kids (Troy, Chad, & Emma) and I think about and pray for them often. It is when something like this happens that we are confronted with our own mortality. How ironic that people were worried for our safety here and the reality is it that accidents and tragedy can happen here, there, or anywhere.
Also, an explanation regarding a comment from a previous post about the penguins in the background of the Handing Gardens pictures. They are actually garbage cans. It is India's attempt to keep the country clean, we have also seen kangaroo and panda bear trash cans.
Well, after a whirlwind tour of Kerala (the southwestern Indian state that Jeneson’s family is from) and a 31 hour train ride, it is good to be back ‘home.’ We stayed with one of Jeneson’s aunts (Shantamama) on his Mom’s side and her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. We visited several relatives on both sides. The hospitality here is amazing, despite the fact that they have not seen Jeneson in more than 30 years, it was like he was never gone. I will certainly not lose any weight while I am here as they show their love with food. I did not dare put more than a small spoonful of anything on my plate because I knew that regardless of how much I served myself, they would most certainly serve me at least one spoonful of every dish (and there were usually 5-6 dishes). If we visited someplace and it was not during a mealtime we were at least served chai (tea) and some sort of snack.
We also got to see some of the sites of Kerala, which they call ‘God’s own country’. It is warm, beautiful, lush and green there with coconut trees, banana plants, pineapple bushes, papaya trees, and a dozen other delicious fruits that I had never before seen or heard of. We even took a houseboat tour for 5 hours in the backwaters. The beaches were clean and the sand nice and soft. Josiah had a blast running in the ocean and getting wet and Lydia even got to dip her toes in the Indian Ocean.
Don’t get me wrong, unfortunately the trip was not all good food and chai, it certainly had its challenges. Despite all the good memories, we said more than once that this trip to Kerala was not one of the smartest decisions we have made. I think it all was a little much for the kids. If it were just Jeneson and I we would have been just fine. One big challenge was the accommodations. The four of us slept on a twin sized bed and the mosquitoes were more prevalent. Shantamama’s grandson, Chackochi is only 6 months older than Josiah and initially we thought ‘great, somebody for Josiah to play with.’ Unfortunately, he is not around other kids much, is aggressive and not really disciplined. Needless to say, we were grateful when he did not go sightseeing with us. Because it was such a whirlwind trip, we spent a lot of time in the truck. Poor Josiah, we always seemed to be telling him ‘no’ and ‘don’t touch’ when we stopped at all the houses. Poor Lydia got so used to sleeping in my arms in a moving vehicle that she now has to readjust to sleeping in a stationary suitcase/bed.
It is amazing how just 48 hours can give you such a different perspective things. Several times during the trip I was on the verge of tears or tearing my hair out from frustration. Looking back, overall I am glad that Jeneson had this opportunity to visit his relatives. His Malayalam (his native language) has improved considerably and it is fun to hear him talk with his parents and sister and all the stories he can now take in and understand better. We will have to get together with our friends Joe & Anne (our only friends who speak Malayalam) regularly once we get back in the States so he can keep it fresh in his mind. We have some great pictures that I am going to have to work on posting in the near future. I now have 2 new goals for this trip. I want to work with Minie on a family tree; a challenge when Dad is the youngest of 10 siblings and Mom is in the middle of 8 siblings. I also want to get some copies of family pictures for us to take back to the States. I think this is a long enough posting for now. I will have more in the near future.