These past two months have been relatively busy at my host organization here in Kerala. The Profugo staff has been working very hard in the design of a household survey questionnaire that will assess the needs, interests and current situation of the community of Prasanthagiri.
A very important aspect of the research design has been the contextualization of the survey questions. All the staff in Kerala (including my site mate Rebecca and I) have sat down and reviewed every question to ensure that the questions are culturally appropriate and the options apply to the local context. The results from this research will help Profugo in their short and long-term program planning.
Given that I don’t speak the local language (Malayalam) I had a very small role in the data collection process. I visited about 10 families with the research team where I mainly observed. I was given the task of keeping track of time, which made me feel like a part of the team 🙂
All families were very welcoming and my research team did a fantastic job in making them comfortable in the process. We are not in the process of analyzing the data. Below you can see some photos of the area in which Profugo focuses its work. I did not take photos of the homes to keep the confidentiality of research participants but I tried to take photos of the beautiful greenery that surrounds the Profugo Center of Development.
Day one of field research, photos from the Prashanthagiri area.
II. My first Diwali
Diwali was celebrated on November 10th this year. Rebecca and I took our first trip out of Kerala and we travelled north – to Mumbai – to spend the Diwali holidays with friends. We met the AIF fellows in Mumbai and I could see one of my closest friends who is from Mumbai, her name is Bhakti.
I met Bhakti during my undergraduate studies at Ohio University. Both of us were student leaders. At the time she was working with the Indian Students Association and I was the president for the International Students Union. Bhaktis family has a very special place in my heart because they have given me a home here in India. Every time I have visited this country I have had the opportunity to visit them and feel like home. As much as I love travelling and experiencing new places, I also love the comfort of home, emotional support when home sick strikes, and of course the company and laughter of being with those you love. Every time I see Bhakti in India it feels a little surreal because we are meeting in such a distant place but I have to give her a lot of credit given that she has made a huge difference in my ability to adapt here. Just knowing that I have a place to call home and that I can always find refuge there gives me hope and strength.
Diwali in Mumbai was loud, fun and filled with new experiences. I got the chance of doing my first rangoli and I saw firecrackers for hours and hours. I also did some shopping and saw all the Diwali madness at the malls. It felt good to be in the city after a long time in a rural area. I also got a chance to eat my favorite Indian food, Pav Bhaji! Bhakti makes sure that every time I visit Mumbai I have some good Pav Bhaji, I think this has now become a tradition for Bhakti and I.
Some street art in Mumbai
III. An engagement in Vellaricundu
On November 30th Rebecca and I had the honor of attending the engagement ceremony of one of our co-workers in the town of Vellaricundu in Kasargod district, Kerala. We reached the town after a 5-hour bus ride. Rebecca and I have become experts at using the local buses, we take one to go to work every day, we have made trips to near by towns to explore our surroundings and we have even made it all the way to Calicut for our registration with the Foreigners Registration Office (FRRO).
Part of Vellaricundu
After the engagement ceremony we joined the happy couple for some fantastic chicken biryani and we stayed for a night at our friends place. Visiting Vellarikundu made me appreciate this fellowshipfor the opportunity to see a different side of Kerala. This state is famous for its beautiful landscape and it’s a very popular tourist destination. I have not yet been able to see Kochi and I have not been on a houseboat either but I have enjoyed the best hospitality that the families in Kerela have to offer.
I have to conclude this post – in the spirit of Thanksgiving which just passed – saying how grateful I am for all the families who have let us into their homes like if we were one of their own … despite language barriers or cultural differences. We have experienced the every day lives of families in this part of Kerala and just seeing how every day people manage their lives makes this experience more valuable. I am looking forward to seeing what the touristy sector has to offer here, but I would not trade it for the caring companion of the families we have met.