Ft. Kochi is a coast town, a fishing village. Not really a beach town, the locals do bathe in the sea, but we tourists are advised its too polluted to swim – so do we eat the fish or not? I don’t but Mallory has been craving fish and orders it, only to wonder half way through dinner, IF we’re not supposed to swim in it…..
I have no cash, need to change money and don’t do ATM. (I know I’m alone in this weird aversion to ATM use). Finding myself alone, since Mallory was up early, out exploring, I ask directions to the nearest bank, advised to take a tut tut (term for auto rickshaw). At the corner I meet Gerald Ignatius, my tut tut driver, and we head off to the bank, which is, of course, closed. It’s either a holiday or strike, I get both explanations from different people. As I’ve mentioned before, people are helpful in India, so we are directed to a money changing place – also closed. Now Gerald confers with another random man who directs us to a house where Gerald leaves me in tut tut and goes inside to confer. I’m directed inside to what I immediately know to be a Muslim house and told to sit down in enclosed porch while the young (maybe 30) veiled woman makes a call, asks Gerald how much I want to change and I tell him it depends on the rate. The rate is good and so I change $100 (should of changed 200, because,I never again get this rate).
We leave after pleasantries and I KNOW I’ve just changed black market money – so exciting. In the end, it probably wasn’t black market just someone willing to break the day strike.
As we are returning to the hotel, I am given a brief lesson in the culture of Ft Kochi. Many Catholic, as Gerald is, big Muslim population as well as Hindu and Jewish, all living easily together it seems. We have an easy day of snooping around this small town on a really hot day and are very happy to return to hotel swimming pool as the sun reaches it’s full power. It has been in the low, mid, and high 90’s everyday of this trip, and has become regular practice to take several showers a day, complaining bitterly as we peel off soaked clothes.
We have arranged (on the advice of friends Pam & Sol) a back water kayaking trip for Thursday morning. We will rise at 4:30 am, drive 1 1/2 hours to arrive at start point by 6:30, 4 hour adventure, return 1 1/2 hour drive. Since Mallory is the younger, more adventurous of the two of us, I am surprised at her question ” are you sure?”. I assure her I am.
Tuesday evening we go to a classical Indian music performance. I am informed they are NOT drums, they are tabla. The young man playing the tabla is utterly amazing, I don’t even notice the singer, but Mallory does!
The bad news is I am now certain I have developed a UTI infection. Thank goodness for cipro prescription I have with me, which I start right away. It is a BAD night, and in the morning we are off on another adventure- looking for an Ayurvedic Doctor with a new tut tut driver. Our new Muslim driver patiently takes us from location to location looking for places Mallory has found on the Internet. (I should explain that this is fun for Mallory – anything alternative, anything Ayurvedic, any mysterious new tincture to heal – she’s all over it). After many disappointing stops ( all doctors seem to be in a meeting some where) and our driver begging us to trust him, he takes us to his wife’s Ayurvedic doctor, for whom we only only wait 10 minutes. He talks to and treats a woman ahead of me – there is no private room – we all sit together, everyone knows everyone else’s business (if you speak the particular language being used, in our case, only the driver and doctor know everyone’s business). Many questions, told to finish the prescription I’ve started, and he gives me additional tonic and pills to be taken 30 minutes before meals 3 X a day, plus DRINK more water! 160 rupees or $2.35 and we’re finished- really?
I only mention that our driver is Muslim because he explains to us that the children, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu and Jewish all go to school together, that there is no issue of anti religions here in Ft Kochi. EVERY driver we have had in southern India – everyone – has asked where we are from, upon hearing US, they ALL exclaim ‘ Obama!’ with a big smile. We smile back, nod and say “Yes, Obama”. Our president is loved in southern India..
Oh yes, we cancelled the kayaking trip. I was concerned with the UTI complication and Mallory was relieved not to get up at 4:30 and drive more (so she graciously says)….