Goodbye, Tamil Nadu (for now): On to Kerala!

Hello all,

The students at ODAM garlanded us as we entered

The students at ODAM garlanded us as we entered

The group has been up to a lot for the past few days. On Monday we wrapped up our stay in Madurai by visiting ODAM, the NGO that we chose to visit for the purposes of this course. An NGO is a Non-Government Organization. NGO’s function essentially as what we would consider to be a charity, or non-profit organization. ODAM works in a variety of different fields, including women’s empowerment, environmental projects, and welfare services. The division of ODAM that we visited is a campus specifically dedicated to educating rural and underprivileged young girls. For parents and friends that recall the students on this course bringing books to be donated, ODAM is the organization those items were offered to. Education is an especially important issue for young women in Indian society. Many impoverished families are unable to afford to send all their children to school, requiring some children to perform tasks that result in additional income for the family. Girls typically bear the brunt of this burden as traditional Indian society values the education of men more than that of women. ODAM functions as an outlet for young girls to receive an education that their families would not typically be able to afford. Our visit to ODAM was especially exciting because it fell on the first day of the Pongal festival. The Pongal festival, as mentioned in previous posts, is a harvest celebration that is extremely important to South Indians. The students and faculty at ODAM extended their utmost hospitality to us, inviting us to participate in the opening ceremony of the Pongal festival, which involves a ceremonial boiling over of a pot filled with rice and milk, followed by dancing, fireworks, and a celebratory meal.

The Pongol pot boils over, symbolizing abundance.

The Pongol pot boils over, symbolizing abundance.

The next day we departed Tamil Nadu by bus as we moved into Kerala. Kerala is Tamil Nadu’s neighboring state, encompassing the opposite side of the peninsula. Kerala is home to an environment, language, and culture that is totally different from that of any of the places we have visited so far. Kerala is a predominantly agricultural state, and the society reflects its people’s relationship with nature. After arriving to Chrissies, a unique, sustainable bed and breakfast located in Thekkady (one that is frequently visited by monkeys and lizards), we visited a local spice garden. Kerala is notorious for their production of spice crops, including black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and many other varieties of vegetation. The spice garden we visited is a completely sustainable and entirely eco-friendly establishment that hosts virtually every variety of indigenous vegetation, in addition to honeybees, goats, rabbits, and cows.

This morning we set out for our long awaited trip to the Periyar Wildlife Conservatory. Another post detailing our experience in the preservation will follow, but just as a teaser, elephants were sighted, and some people were very excited about that.

Best wishes to friends and family,

Jay Rutherford

The famed Baby Bus that drove us around Madurai

The famed Baby Bus that drove us around Madurai

Brian read student papers in Harry Potter voices on the Baby Bus!

Brian read student papers in Harry Potter voices on the Baby Bus!


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