Our cottage, home for a few days
Our final stop was Keraleeyam, an ayurvedic spa. We had our own cottage, which was just lovely. There was, unfortunately, a houseboat repair business (we think that’s what it was) next door, which meant hammering during the day. Oh well. Still, it was a step up from anywhere else we’d stayed, and it was right on the canal. I’ve been missing my big fluffy mattress from home and unfortunately didn’t get the fix here I was hoping for (India’s version tends to be flatter and not springy). Well, my mattress was damaged in a flood at my storage unit, so technically I don’t have a mattress or a home; so I should say I miss the mattress in my parents’ second bedroom. Oy vey.
Elissa and I each met with the spa’s ayurvedic doctor and were prescribed one “treatment” per day.
Elissa’s treatment was first, an ayurvedic massage at 5pm, and mine followed at 6:30. I loved it. It was in a little cabin with bamboo shades, so I could hear everything outside and see through small open spots, but no one could see inside. Well, I hope not, since the first thing I was asked to do was take off all my clothes. I did so without hesitation, much to my surprise. I lay down on a massage table, and two women proceeded with the massage. It wasn’t a massage as Westerners think of it; it was more of a slathering of a lot of oil all over my body in long, synchronized strokes. The sun set during the treatment, which I was unaware of until the electricity went out. The two women left me in there alone for a few minutes, and it was magnificent. The birds and bugs were playing a symphony, and I had a moment of feeling present and so grateful that I could experience something like this. It was one of those “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be” moments.
Hammock = heaven
The view from our cottage at Keraleeyam
A short while later we were given juice to drink from the ayurvedic doctor. I had no idea what it was, but I drank it anyway. It’s so strange: My judgments and boundaries are so different in India than they are at home. Drink strange juice? Sure, no problem! Take off all my clothes and hop up on a massage table that may not be too sanitary? Bring it on! I won’t give any further examples since I know that my Mom and my volunteer program officer are reading this, but there are several. Elissa experienced the same thing, this suspension of good judgment. Maybe it’s because so few rules are followed in India? No, that doesn’t quite explain it.
Gotta think about that one.
Unfortunately, not too long after the massage my tummy problems started. Well, really I should say re-started. I hadn’t been feeling well before I left for Kerala, but this was b-a-d. If I had to be sick while away from home, though, this was the place to do it. I couldn’t possibly leave the room for more ayurvedic treatments (wah!). So I slept and read a lot.
Elissa went on a guided canoe ride in the canals. She described what she saw just opposite our cottage as “slums.” I wonder what the people living there think of the tourists staying at the fancy spa (which isn't even that fancy by my standards) across the canal.
Their circumstances and lives don’t make my struggles any less real, but it does put them into perspective. Oh, woe is me that I can’t figure out what to do next with my life. Hello -- I'm among the most privileged people on the planet to have the education, money, and circumstances to even have the OPTION of choosing what to do, versus having it chosen for me and doing what I can to survive. And yet… a few minutes later, we were in the dining room, our waiter Abu bringing doctor-ordered steamed vegetables, toast, and tomato soup. What IS that? How can I separate my life from theirs so easily? The older I get and the more I see of the world, the harder and harder it’s becoming to do that. I’m not sure how yet, but I think this whole experience (i.e. India, not just Kerala) may inform that livelihood I haven’t figured out yet.
Thankfully I recovered by the time we were due to leave.
I flew to Bangalore with Elissa, and we headed out shopping (natch) during my layover. Elissa was flying back to the States the following day and I was due back in Bhubaneswar, so it was time to say goodbye. We really had a great time traveling together, and as Elissa pointed out, that’s doesn't happen with everyone. I rekindled an old friendship, got to spend time with a friend, wasn’t the only white face for miles, got a bit of a break from negotiating everything on my own, and saw a spectacularly beautiful part of India. Not too shabby.
The open-air bathroom