I am traveling so much, learning so much and I am so tired. I have not had time/energy to organize pictures, words or thoughts. Tonight I am in the airport in Cochi, Kerala waiting for a late plane to Bangalore. Let me show you in pictures how my last few days have been.
A little over a year ago, I learned about the Archana Women’s Center in Ettumanoor, Kerala. They had a big Women’s Day Celebration featuring the training programs in masonry and carpentry that they have done for women. I hoped to visit the Centre while here but it did not look like it would happen until I met Renu Varughese at the Fulbright Conference in Jaipur a couple of weeks ago. Renu is from Kerala and when I told her about Archana, she offered to go there, see if it was real and ask if they would meet with me. She met Miss Thresiamma Mathew, Director of the Centre, and arranged for a driver, Mr. Binu John of Hebron Travel, to pick me up at the airport and take me to a nearby hotel. (Just for some geographical context, it is about 1000 miles form Bombay to Kerala, like traveling from Boston to Atlanta). On Tuesday, I took a tuktuk from the hotel to the Centre and had a wonderful day with Miss Mathew and the women of Archana.
Here are some pics and people I met.
Miss Mathew and the Archana Women’s Centre staff.
A focus group with masons Binababu, Ponnaamma and Ancyshaji. They are out of work for a number of reasons related to health and the depressed construction economy in Kerala.
The concrete block workshop at the Centre.
The woodworking workshop in another village.
Carpenter Omenah has studied interior design and has been making kitchen cabinets, wardrobes and doors for a nearby home.
Off to the backwaters to see the Yaradhaka’s house that she, Valasala and Umadagal are building. We took long wooden canoes to Yaradhaka’s home where she lives with her husband and to children.
Umadgal was not there that day. Valasala went back with us and we went to the home she built and lives in with her family.
Some backwater scenes:
These men are loading paddy rice that has just been harvested. From boats to lorry.
This man is “herding” his ducks back to their home after they feasted on the paddy rice.
This woman is eating a coconut.
On Wednesday, Miss Mathew arranged for me to go to Thrissur- a 4 hour ride north with Binu- to see the Jeevapoorna Women’s Mason’s Charitable Society. This is a brick and tile workshop owned and run by women. They also run a canteen on the property which is the neighborhood’s favorite lunch place.
Annie Joseph and the mason’s of the Jeevapoorna Women’s Mason’s Society.
The women make concrete bricks and specialty tiles.
Binu was my driver and translator. If you know anyone traveling to Kerala, he can be reached through his website. Excellent service and we had a comfortable 8 hours riding around Kerala together in his van over two days.
Today I am in Bangalore with my great uncle Fred’s letters that he wrote to my great-grandparents between 1911 and 1917. He was stationed here in the British Army for a decade or more before World War I and killed in Mesopotamia/Iraq 99 years ago last month. I have an address from his fiancee and am going there to see what I can see. Nothing that Uncle Fred saw but at least the streets he walked on. To my cousins and children, I will post something on Facebook. My connections with my cousins a reason that I love Facebook.
To all my friends and family in the US, India and elsewhere, if you are still reading this and want to say hi in the comments, I would love to hear from you. I will be home three weeks from tomorrow. It has been an amazing, fascinating and enlightening trip. And I miss you all.
Love and peace.