As time-consuming and rather wearisome a task as it has become to update my blog regularly (as you may have noticed), I am determined not to let it die off, because I like it and I like writing. So I am going to prune my tour details as much as is reasonable and plow through it. Hopefully by the end of next week I will be all caught up. The essential problem has been that there can be very long stretches of inactivity, where there's very little that is new enough to be blog-worthy, but there can be even longer stretches, like in the past two months, where is simply so much to write about that I am completely overwhelmed and backlogged. Now, for example, I have to cover, in addition to the rest of the trip, a thrilling new festival and our bombastic District Conference performance. And the North tour is rapidly approaching.
On a non-tour-related note, I would like to recommend a book to anybody who may have an interest in learning about modern India but wouldn't like a textbook , or, sometimes even worse, a textbook masquerading as a novel. The book is The White Tiger by one Aravind Adiga, a Mumbai native who was educated in the United States and London. It is a very sharp satire that tracks the ruthless rise to power of a very poor, low-caste villager. It is an outstanding book. It will not take you long to read. The pages practically flip themselves and it's a pretty short novel anyways. It resonated very clearly with me - it is, perhaps, the first piece of literature about India that tells the story of India as I have seen it. There were so many little pieces and details that I can see clearly out of my daily life. India is a deeply misunderstood society, and it is misunderstood in a lot of different ways ways. If you happen to be interested in a very entertaining and brief crash course in the real India, this book is the best thing I can recommend.
Thank you for indulging my sales pitch of the day. Now to more tour.
When we last left me and my fellow travelers, we had just proceeded on a drive up into Munnar. Munnar is not a large city, but rather a series of communities built around a flourishing tea industry high up in the mountains. Now these are spectacular mountains, but they aren't exactly the Alps or the Himalayas. Look at the picture. That's them.
Beautiful, eh? Admittedly, it isn't the untamed, rocky, snowy beauty of some of the aforementioned mountain chains, but they are still gorgeous. If you look at the ground immediately in front of them, you can see neatly arranged clumps of some sort of crop. The said crop is tea. Munnar is full of tea plantations, and a large part of the mountainside is occupied with these crops. Normally I would not approve of farming and industry spoiling natural beauty, but as you can see, this doesn't spoil it at all. Munnar is gorgeous.
In Munnar, we toured a tea factory and saw a video on the history of the region. This is a place where somehow the humans and the mountains have interacted very well, and the mountain ecosystems have remained safe and beautiful. There are parts of India that are very polluted (most populated areas), but it also should be noted that the government has set aside a ridiculous amount of land for preservation. Then we explored a pleasant town in the hills and we found BEEF. Turns out the cow-slaying taboos don't apply to bulls. This is certainly still frowned upon in a lot of places, but clearly it was ok here. I cannot express to you how thrilling this was. Then we visited a dam and a beautiful, crystal clear mountain lake. We walked around there for a while, visited a roadside market, and took a boat ride. I cannot express to you how nice Munnar felt to me. It was just so cool, so fertile, so beautiful, so natural. This was one of my favorite sites on the trip.
I think I'll stop there for today, but like I said, I'm going to try and plow through this trip pretty fast in the next week or so. I'll probably make a lot of posts, and then make it like two parts trip, one part something else. Just bear with me.
Look how much fun we're having and how proud we are that one of us is from Brazil.