can't change a leopard's spots

A few days ago we got news that a leopard had attacked one or our buffalo calves. It's not the first time this happened (last time the cat feasted on a large buffalo in it's pen and then left once it was satiated). This time, though, the forest patrol came and confirmed our suspicions. Plus, because it's their responsibility to maintain the wild animals of the forest (and the non-working electric fence surrounding it), they offered to replace the buffalo for us.

We'll be taking additional precautions, both for our workers and for the animals by installing an electric fence of our own. Apparently, this sort of thing is on the rise in our area. Who knew?

(Image from http://amoghavarsha.com/)

first day of school

I just can't believe that Noah is already starting school! We were lucky enough to find the Maple Bear Canadian Play School in Calicut. It's fairly small, with only a handful of students - in fact, there are only two other kids that are Noah's age. We liked it immediately, and it was a perfect fit: they were willing to let Noah in on a monthly basis as we figure out how long we will be here.

We were total cheeseballs dropping him off. We got tons of pictures before we left the house, on our way, and just outside the school.

We were total cheeseballs dropping him off. We got tons of pictures before we left the house, on our way, and just outside the school.

They were sweet and let us take a few pictures while we were waiting for him to get settled in. Truth time? It took me more time to feel comfortable than it did him. A few minutes in, and he was waving 'bye' to me.

They were sweet and let us take a few pictures while we were waiting for him to get settled in. Truth time? It took me more time to feel comfortable than it did him. A few minutes in, and he was waving 'bye' to me.

When we picked him up three hours later, he was fast asleep. Turns out he's still my little baby after all :)

When we picked him up three hours later, he was fast asleep. Turns out he's still my little baby after all :)

construction

This past December, Kris and I came to Calicut to work on a building his family owns. Our goal at first was to turn each of the four floors into one or two long term apartments. But after talking to some people and seeing the potential, we've switched gears and are now planning on running it as a guest house.

It turns out we're the perfect partners too. I take care of all the aesthetics while he manages the workers and logistics. His is by far the hardest job.

In the month or so since work started, we've seen some crazy things go down:

  • the guys doing the demo work in the bathroom didn't wear safety goggles while working. Kris bought each one a pair after the first day, thinking that maybe they just didn't own any. But even though they diligently brought them to work each morning and took them home at night, we never saw them put them on.
  • we had some exterior work done and were shocked at how basic the scaffolding was. When it went up, I thought it was incomplete - it was just a bunch of rods tied together with no flat beams to walk on. Turns out that's all they needed, even on the fourth floor!
  • interestingly, they also had safety equipment they refused to wear. For two weeks, we saw them come and go with seemingly brand new harnesses that they never wore. 
  • no one, I repeat, no one had a level. And yet somehow they managed to create some incredible level and straight lines. I'm still not quite sure how
  • one day I walked on on one guy balancing on a ladder while his partner held it upright. No, it wasn't a folding ladder... it was just a basic one with two feet. 

We also realized how much more relaxed the pace is here. We'd schedule work to happen, but then someone would realize (the morning of) that they had a wedding to attend. We saw projects that should have taken one or two days drag on for weeks.

All in all though, we're enjoying it. I can't wait to share before and afters!

 

it's the little things

road

For the past two years, there's been construction on the road and railway station right outside our land in Tamil Nadu. It's meant that every time Kris had to go check on our buffalo and farm, he would have to walk nearly a kilometer to get there. Finally... we have good news: the road is tarred! It may seem like a little thing, but in India, it's not uncommon for a little bit of construction to interfere with day to day life.

ethakka appam

Did you know that there are over 20 banana varieties in Kerala? Some are considered fruits, others vegetables. You eat some right off the tree, and others have to be cooked first. My favorite is called Njalipoovan; a banana so teeny that I can almost make a single bite out of it.

While bananas are used in many wonderful ways, perhaps one of the most famous is Ethakka Appam. It's a sweet, deep fried treat that almost always gets served at tea-time. I asked my mother in law for her recipe:

Ethakka Appam

Ingredients:

2 ripe plantains (ethakka)

1 cup of all purpose flour

1 tbsp of sugar

a pinch of salt

a pinch of turmeric

water

oil to deep fry (she uses coconut oil)

 

Preparation:

  1. Leaving the skin on, cut the plantain in two. Then cut each half into three slices length-wise

  2. In a bowl, mix the flour, turmeric, sugar and salt together
  3. Add water to the dry ingredients until it forms a watery paste (think pancake mix)
  4. Heat the oil until it is hot enough that batter will float to the top. Once the oil is hot, lower the temperature to medium.
  5. One at a time, take the peels off the banana slices and dip them in the batter
  6. Drop the slices in the oil, flipping them over once the bottom side gets golden brown.
  7. Once they are evenly cooked on each side, take them out and place them on a paper towel to absorb some of the excess oil.
  8. Serve warm with a cup of tea.

misogyny

When Kris sent me this article by Sandhya Menon yesterday, I have to admit that I didn't know what to make of it. Certainly, I've experienced my fair share of misogyny while living in Kerala... but it's been mild: men not wanting to shake my hand, or an obgyn addressing my husband about my medical queries. These are moments that can be intensely frustrating for someone used to her own independence, but they are hardly threatening. And then comes this, 'What the Internet Gave the Kerala Man (Apart From Porn)'

I started to wonder how much of this sentiment really exist beneath the polite (if distant) experience I've had relating to men in Kerala. Suddenly, my skinny jeans and light coat of mascara seem so... inappropriate. Over the years, I've turned to my in-laws for guidance as I struggle to tow the line between cultural respect and self expression. They have never once expressed any concern for the way I present myself. And yet, to read some of vitriol that is directed at female celebrities like Ranjini Haridas, our similar wardrobes are deeply offensive to some.

I'm torn, too, because, while I want to maintain a level of cultural awareness (I won't for example wear spaghetti straps or short skirts), I don't believe in demonizing the female body or repressing a woman's right for self actualization. I champion independence for women. And at the same time, India is going through some intense scrutiny right now in it's record of violence towards women. 

What the article open my eyes to (aside from how a woman's appearance can be threatening to some) is how much independence and success for women are frowned upon. I know plenty of successful professional women in Kerala - my own mother in law was a highly acclaimed attorney in her day. I myself am working as a designer, and yet, I can't count the times I've heard people ask me what my husband does. It's never once, in two years (!), been of the slightest interest to anyone that I also might have a career. How sad! I make it a point to both ask this question of women I meet, and volunteer information about my own career status.

By the way, I'm in no way belittling the women who make the amazing choice to stay home and care for their families - it's just that I believe that we should celebrate both efforts!

I've been blessed to have a loving and supportive family, but I felt sad reading this (albeit one woman's) opinion about the undercurrent of tension between the sexes in Kerala. As a state that boasts some the highest education achievements in India, it would be sad to have this be it's legacy.