Greetings from the Sanctuary,
Ours days here have been filled with amazing adventures. After a long and bumpy ride from Mysore, where you heard from us last, we arrived at this most magnificent botanical gardens. After lugging our gear up the many steps to the amazing structures of tropical woods, tiles, and glass, we were rewarded with an incredible meal of the local vegetables, sauces, and double boiled rice. The food here has been very popular amongst the students.
We've been engaged in bird watching, the local martial arts practice, & chopping vegetables before breakfast. After which we had gone on tours of the gardens where we explored the differences of the ornamental plants they cultivate here versus the native flora that they propagate from the surrounding rain forest. Sandi explained the evolution of plant life on earth with examples of the most basic varieties of mosses through those with vascular systems, and finally the more evolved flowering and fruiting species. We also toured the local tea plantations, the banana crops, and the many other agricultural goods in production here intended for export. The local farmers of Kerala are selling their produce and purchasing their food from elsewhere. Our students were also engaged in picking the coffee beans that are ready for this year's harvest. I think they really enjoyed this as they picked so many beans!
The next day we did an extended hike into the rainforest. We had a guide from the forest department in addition to our hosts from the Sanctuary, as westerners are not allowed in the forest here without accompaniment. This was an amazing half-day journey into the wild where some heard elephants, we all saw their fresh tracks and of course their cantaloupe size dung piles. As we trekked through forest streams some of the students got little leeches biting at their ankles. Those did not compare at all to the massive leech that attached itself to the back of my thigh as I lingered in the river during our mid-day swim. I grabbed it instantly and turned it clockwise to pop it off and it swam away. It bled for an hour.
Yesterday we followed our new British friend Tom on a river walk in search of the famed King Fisher, an amazing blue river hunting type bird here. Through the mud and bamboo, around the locals' fish traps, and up to our bellies in the leech infested waters we spied on a lone King Fisher through the binoculars as we passed them back in the line. Gabe slipped on some rocks and soaked himself but save the back of dry items he carried.
Later we visited Kanavu a local tribal school were they performed the most amazing group and individual dances to the music played by the local children on a variety of drums, and by "Baby" on the harmonium, with the girls and boys singing along and alternately getting up to perform their dances. We also shared some music in that Tristan performed his solo guitar piece (that has evolved quite nicely from place to place), rounds of an old Oak Grove standard, one of my originals, and a very rare solo vocal performance by Myung Hee of a Korean folksong. Later we all joined in the dancing, following the steps of our hosts a best we could. Of course Marcy caught their attention as she picked up the steps and danced in unison with the advanced students there. They fed us dinner, we made a contribution, and then we were taken back here to the Sanctuary.
The night before last we heard the elephants across the river. Amazing excitement gripped as we realized what we were hearing. Vipers, monitor lizards, lemurs, monkeys, large snakes, and so much more grace this incredible place.
We've engaged in amazing discussions, sung songs in the water tower, met incredible people dedicated to sustainability, and gazed at the stars. Tonight we depart on the midnight train to Chennai. There is another school group coming here today from The School in Chennai as we are preparing to depart. We are looking forward to visiting
The students are in good health finally. We celebrated Richard's birthday with a cake and some "birthday bumps" which I learned about the hard way at Rishi Valley, where the crowd throws the lucky birthday person in the air for the number of years.
We're hoping all is well with you all as we start to head east again. You'll hear from us when we get settled in Chennai. And we are all looking forward to getting home later this week.
With love from Kerala,
Greetings from Chennai,
We arrived yesterday afternoon on the midnight sleeper train from Tellicherry. VJ from The School (KFI) picked us up and dropped us off at the Palm Grove Hotel. The students reported being very pleased with the rooms.
Today we spent at the School (KFI), spoke and performed at assembly, played soccer, learned Indian games, talked with their 11th grade about our common challenges with Dr. Gautama, heard from a very old and famous activist that went to jail with Gandhi, and walked the grounds of the Theosophical Society.
Late tonight a small group wil hit the beach in search of Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings that need to be directed to the ocean. They move in the direction of the city lights unfortunately. Tomorrow we have arranged to go to Mahabalipuram, an old town area near the beach with temples as well as arts and crafts and the like. Friday we will do some last minute shopping and get ready to leave.
Some of the students seem a bit fatigued at this point. They are doing well though as a whole. Vijaykumar said some really nice things to them as a group as he bid us farewell. I felt good about that. They really have been open to the students here, open to sharing their talents, been looking inward, and willing to go into things. I have been impressed more than a few times!
You may hear from me Friday or so I suspect.
Bye bye from Chennai,
And we've landed safely in Singapore! Marke Lee stopped by our hotel last night and chatted with us as we ordered dinner. He said that all the school heads he had talked to had given him a positive report about our group. He is in Chennai for the annual trustee's meeting of the Krishnamurti Foundation India. As he had met with our group at Oak Grove in preparation for this trip, I felt it was very nice of him to take time out to see us as our adventure comes to a close.
After a fun day of tourist shopping at Mahalibaripuram (spelling???), and a morning of assembly, soccer(football), working in the classrooms with the youngest children at The School....we finally got all our gear together and made it to the airport, and across the Indian Ocean to Singapore. What a change....consumer capitalism is amazing at this airport. We have a 3 hour 40 minute layover here.
While they are dragging a bit....some trying to stay awake in order to adjust to Ojai time...the students are in high spirits. Some have said they wanted to stay, they are concerned about adjusting to a regular schedule, that they are going to make the most of their final semester of high school, that they are looking forward to the possibilities....
The most important thing I am noticing in this group at the moment is that after this long they are not sick of each other. At dinner they agreed with this observation with some amazement. I think that says a lot about their characters as individuals. Kelly, Laura, and I are very proud of them. You should be too!
When I get home I'll send some initial photos....India Night is scheduled for Feburary 23. We'll be presenting a slideshow and discussing the trip.