Let me just say, I’ve been surrendering all day.
I left Varkala later than I anticipated, having taken my time with a fruit breakfast and cappuccino, which I knew I wouldn’t have again soon. I lounged, ate, and played with eight adorably fat puppies that call the coffee shop home. Then I headed to the train station.
Just this one task, going to the tain station, still managed to be a complicated one. None of the rickshaw drivers wanted to give me a fair price. Indeed, I walked a good ten minutes before I found someone who would take me. So there I am, at the train station at 9am, and they tell me the next train to Kollam leaves at 10:30.
It’s only a half-hour train, and I ment to be in Kollam by 10, but instead I waited an hour and half for the train, and missed my ferry. I got to Kollam, arrived at the ferry dock at 11am, and was told the ferry was gone.
My only option? Chase it down with an autorickshaw.
I couldn’t negotiate about price, either. My cards were on the table. I needed to catch that ferry. I made a really devastated face and they dropped the price by 30 rupees, but I paid for my mistake and surrendered to India. We zoomed along, dodging and weaving around busses and bicycles and pedestrians. Finally, we arrived at a stone footbridge over a small river.
My rickshaw driver hopped out, grabbed my pack and trudged across the bridge. A heated discussion about where the ferry would stop for me commenced in Hindi. Several men pointed across the river to a platform, located in the river, and reached by a very narrow stone path.
We walked back across the bridge. The men continued to debate about where I’d get on. The ferry arrived and pulled up to the stone platform. We looked at each other. We began to inch down the narrow stone platform. When he got to a large gap in the path, he grabbed me, shuffled behind me, and indicated that I should leap across it.
Now, everyone on the ferry was watching me. I had accumulated several Indian men friends as well, who were all lined up behind me on the stone path. I felt like some crazy missionary, just then. I wished I was wearing all white linen with a fancy sunhat and large glasses. Instead, I was wearing a flowing skirt and hiking boots, with fake bright green Ray Bans. I looked around once more, smiled at the absurdity of the situation, and leaped across.
That was the easy part, however, because then he had to hand my pack across the gap. I reached for it, momentarily lost my balance, tipped forward and backward a bit, and imagined myself falling into the canal with all my luggage. With a deep breath I regained my balance and walked shakily toward the platform, where I handed my pack off to two Indian fellows and got on the ferry.
“Where did you come from?”
“I saw the Church of Christ and thought you were a missionary.”
“Wow, you really made an entrance.”
People said to me as we filed off the ferry for lunch. Yeah, no problem. “Gora,” the slang Indian word for a white foreigner, popped into my head as the ferry conductor handed me my ticket with a typical Indian head wiggle. His light brown eyes danced with my ridiculousness…or so I thought.
The rest of the ferry ride was nice, and uneventful. It chugged along the Keralan backwaters, a series of canals alongside the Adriatic Sea, for 8 hours. I saw a lot of fabulous birds, and a lot of locals who lived along the canal fishing, swimming, or doing laundry. It was peaceful until a Chinese woman with lime green pants and a leopard backpack stuffed her face with some fried food she’d brought, after plopping down next to me. Then she asked to borrow my Lonely Planet while I was reading it. I let her use it and she immediately started asking me questions like I was some sort of tour guide. I told her I didn’t know, and shot her a convincing we are done, here, look.
When I arrived in Alleppy at 6:30pm, I was forced to surrender for the second time that day. I had no place to stay; I’d planned on going on to Kochi that same day, thinking I would arrive much earlier. Someone offered me their phone and I called a few places – everywhere was full. I was really concerned I’d end up blowing my budget just to stay one night.
I got off the ferry and lean Indian man handed me a business card for his home-stay. Then he said the magic words: 300 rupees. Since I’d promised myself to surrender, I went with him. We walked along the canal for about ten minutes and arrived at his home. He spoke to me and I understood about 20%. I walked inside and he showed me the room, which was perfectly fine.
He went out of the room and got a guestbook, then, to convince me how much people liked his home-stay. He paged through it for several minutes until he found someone from the USA, and showed me a positive review scrawled by a man from Atlanta. Then he pulled out a chair and gave me the book to peruse.
His daughter, who had wiry black chin hairs and wore white pants with pink flowers and a pink top with white flowers, came and started to pet me and stare at me. I dismissed it, and then went outside to take some pictures. She followed me outside and pointed toward the rising moon. I stepped next to her to look at it. She took me in her arms, sideways, and I awkwardly squirmed and tried to accept it at the same time. I thought she was probably a little off in the head.
Later, two lovely Brazilians came back from their day in the backwaters, and we shared stories.
“Did she touch you?” the petit Brazilian woman asked me.
“Yes,” I said, laughing.
“I think maybe she likes women,” she said.
“It’s a good possibility.”
We shared a smoke and watched the boats go by in the canal, talking about India. I had let the country work it’s magic. For all the trials, it had been a good day.