Land of spices. Part two

Floating houses

Read Land of spices. Part 1 here

One of Kerala’s most valuable assets is the inland water system: 45 rivers and 1,500 miles of interconnected lakes, lagoons and channels that are called backwater. While the direct translation of the word means still water (first associations being mostly negative e.g. cloud of mosquitos above the dirty water), actually it’s completely opposite. Backwater is an unique salt and fresh water way system that was historically created for spices and rice transportation from one village to another and is still being used an alternative water path; all of which has been surrounded by hundreds of different shades of green (no exaggeration here!!!).

kerala floating houses

Once the only mean to use this water path was special wooden boats known as local kettuvallom. When roads were build and an alternative transportation system developed, boats gave up the important role to cars. As of today, boats are used only to carry sand necessary for construction or in places cars can’t reach.

Perhaps boats would have fallen into a complete oblivion if some local tourism legend Babu Verghese would not have been struck by a genius idea: turn a random boat into a floating hotel. Traditional sails and oars were substituted with a Yamaha engine and bamboo roof. Floating house project debuted in 1993. Now, everyone who is hard working enough, have build one by himself. It’s now estimated there is around 200 floating hotels – one and two bedroom luxury accommodations – in the waters of Kerala.

People stand in long ques to have a ride with one! Sometimes the motion in the water is so intense that it gets pretty frightening; traffic lights would save the day and my nerves, too…

The surrounding scenery is so comprehensively beautiful that even the biggest cynic would become at least a bit mushy. Some mother washer her child by the shore of the canal, the boy gives me a shy look. I notice the coconuts drying in the sun next to him.. LIFE here is so transparent.. Probably because all villages are clustered around the water.

In some narrow channel our boat was slowly trying to maneuver through the water hyacinth carpet, a moment later flowers retract leaving no trace. Hyacinths are subtle: extremely magnificent on the one hand, but a sign of contamination on the other. Rice fields are generously scattered with minerals in many places, surrounding houses drain their sewerage directly in water, tourist boats have diesel engines and majority them don’t have chemical toilers. The volume of fish has considerably diminished. Moreover, the clean water in Kerala domestic channel system is significantly shrinking, leaving the government with only two options: either to open the floodgates and let ocean salt water into the system so that it could heal everything or watch pollution spreading.

Three years ago the State of Kerala issued an order to control and manage the pollution of inland water system. In reality, it’s extremely complicated task due to small official human resources and there’s too little funding to increase the capacity as well. If a couple of years You could safely swim in Vembanad lake, now it is something only a mad man would do…


Land of spices. Part one

Don’t know how long I sit like this next to the Vembanad lake, because the sense of time is completely gone. Motion has slowed down, my life has sort of froze. In front of me there’s a majestic Chinese architecture installation damaged by the tooth of time. Bleached white wooden constructions have warped and turned rusty brown. Legend says it was brought here in the fourteenth century by the famous Mongolian royal court itself. Local fishermen use this bizarre construction even today. In the morning You can watch different size fish being pulled out as yet another catch.

wembenand lake photo

Lake wind slowly blows flowers closer to the shore. They float like tiny island, gradually forming an unite, lush green and bright purple carpet. It moves rhythmically, as if breathing. Kerala people natural sense of colors may be envied by any designer – their dark, muscular silhouettes are covered in white, sand, cinnamon, pepper, cardamon and saffron-colored clothing. In contrary to celebrations like wedding or funeral, they neither have a stylish haircut nor wear gold and diamond jewelry.

Fishing boats arrive in the harbor, halfway loaded with shrimps and clams. Minutes later they are being sorted and boiled; for export. Surrounding palms are full of crows; sitting in their nests and screeching like they’ve lost their mind. Especially when seeing the fishermen catch.

You’ve guessed it correctly, I’ve fulfilled one of my childhoods dreams – to once again visit my country and see Kerala my own eyes. It’s already the third morning here; without any rush I’m enjoying the beautiful landscape and still can’t get enough of it. The only thing that sometimes bothers me is how my kids are doing back in the US…

Locals say that Kerala is another India; one of it’s most colorful states. 30 million people live here, more than 90% of them have an education. On one side there’s evergreen mountains, on the other side – everblue (Arabian) sea. Geography and history is what makes Kerala unique. There’s always been what the rest of the world has been craving for – spices. Kerala accounts for 90% of world’s spices output; it’s their gold. First it was discovered by Arabs; followed by Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Portuguese, French, Danes and finally Brits. And all of them have left footprints. Kerala is somewhat like a curry – mix of many ingredients like cultures, traditions, religions and habits; flavor is so strong that you simply get dazzled by it.


Arabs once helped Kerala to set up spices, coffee and tea plantations up in the mountains. And later, in exchange for gold and silver, brought spices to Venice which was the spice market monopoly for many years. Then this golden path was noticed by Portuguese which began to fight for the influence. City of Cochin and its port is still a great mix of Portuguese, Arabic, Dutch and British styles.

Kerala is truly God’s land! I will continue to search new acknowledgments not only in architecture and nature, but also in people. To be continued…

Bad luck turned inside out

Guys get some snacks! I am going to tell you about one adventure I had while attending the OHM Meeting in Phoenix 2016. Teaser alert – it involves my car, a nice big dent and paintless dent repair job! While now I can look back at it with a smile on my face, feelings during the ordeal were quite opposite.

I had decided to visit some family in Arizona, so decided to take a road trip with my car to the OHM Meeting in Phoenix 2016. I arrived in Phoenix the day before the meeting was to start, and since the weather was really hot, I decided to kill the time walking around and doing some shopping in one of the malls. Once done with the shopping and ready to go to my nice chilled hotel room, I find my car in the parking lot and with it – a nice, clearly noticeable dent on my cars front passenger door! Have a look for yourself!

dented passenger door

To say the least I was in shock. Of course my first thing to do is to call my husband. He was calm about it, and told that the only thing that needs to be done at the moment is to talk to our insurance agent, and that he would do it. A couple of minutes later he called back to say that the insurer was notified, and I could actually leave the accident spot, and the car would be taken care of once I return home. This last bit didn’t thrill either of us, and he suggested I talk to someone at the hotel’s reception maybe there is a shop that could repair my car while I attend the meeting.

Once at the hotel’s reception a really nice lady, to my greatest surprise, was actually able to help! She knew a very special company that repaired those sorts of dents, and other type of car damages like bumper dings and hail damage, with some new technique that took a fraction of the time and cost way less than regular repair jobs involving paintwork. She gave me the number and I called right away.

The company was Dent Removal Phoenix, and the technique they work with is paintless dent repair, and it actually is the preferred method to remove the type of dent my car had gotten. The owner of the company came over to the hotel to have a look at my car, and looking at it he explained that the paintless dent removal uses special tools to press out the dent from the back of the panel, then a special adhesive tool is used to pull the remaining ding out. Finally with yet another special tool the edges of the damaged area are tapped, and this leads to a perfect result that leaves no indication of the dent. Looking at my damage, he told me that the paintless dent removal job would take around 6 hours, and he would prefer to do it at his shop to stay out of the heat. We agreed he would pick the car up the next day and have it repaired while I was at the OHM Meeting. Things couldn’t not have worked out in a better way.

The next day, when I got to see my newly repaired car, I could not believe my eyes. There was completely no mark from the dent, the paintwork was perfectly intact! Here is the after pic!

door after paintless dent repair

So the thing I learnt, and want all of you to take a note of? If ever your car suffers from a dent, a ding, gets a damaged bumper, or is hit with hail damage, look for the closest repair shop offering paintless dent repair, and in case you are in Phoenix, definitely go for Dent Removal Phoenix, llc!

kerala bridal outfit

Kerala Bride. What makes her special?

Meet the Kerala Bride

As you know, India like USA is land of many cultures and traditions, each of both has their own unique features. This time I want to speak with you about one particular tradition – weddings; not only the ceremonies and locations are very different, but also wedding outfits. And here I am not only speaking about the outfit of groom or bride, but guests, too. For instance, I bet You would not be able to distinct a Bengali bride from Tamil bride, even knowing that outfit belongs to an India culture. Every Indian bride wants to showcase her culture, clothing and jewelry. As I don’t have enough time to cover all bridal apparel, we’ll take a look at one particular – Kerala bride outfit and compare it to others.

Cassava, Kerala wedding attire and jewelry

Typically wedding dress distincts one Kerala bride from another. Some brides choose to have a red or yellow dress, but the most popular color is the white. White silk saree with golden edges are the most wanted attire among all Kerala women.

kerala jewelry

Jewelry for brides is usually crafted from gold and diamonds. Interestingly, the gold is more favorable than diamonds or any other gemstones. Kerala bride is poured off with gold to show the family wealth. The more the gold, the richer and powerful the women and her family. Jewelry set typically consists of many necklaces in different lengths, the shortest being closer to neck and the longest reaching her waist. They are supplemented with a modern design earrings and bracelets around the wrists.

The hairstyle and makeup

Usually brides hairstyle is a simple tail, in some occasions a plait. To make the look more complete and more appealing, hairdressers can add an artificial or genuine flower.

2 haircuts

Kerala women mostly choose a light, minimalistic makeup; heavy and vibrant look is not favorable. Each lady comes up with her unique style, there is no boundaries, but usually the end result is very natural and low profile. Favorite colors are pink, gold and light brown. All emphasis is on the dress and jewelry.

bride makeup

Little makeup and as much gold and gemstones makes it an interesting paradox. This feature makes them among the most interesting brides around the world – they have a special signature style and looks. Kerala bride with her refreshing look seems to contrast with the surroundings. But it’s the whole point to make the fiancee stand out, right?


What is Hinduism?

My colleagues and acquaintances often ask me what exactly is Hinduism and, honestly, I’m tired of explaining it over and over again. So I’ve decided to write a short post on it in my blog ! Please, never ever again ask me this question, instead – find a couple of minutes and read this post!

To begin with, Hinduism is among the oldest religions on Earth, the holy scripts date back to 1400 to 1500 years before Christ. It’s also one of the most complex religions as it has millions of gods in it. Hinduism does not have a single faith, instead, there’s hundreds of them, including different sects. Although it’s the third largest religion in the world, it mainly exists only in Nepal and India.

The main stories of Hinduism are the Vedas, Upanishad), Mhabharata and Ramayana. These stories contain hymns, philosophy, various magic spells and rituals, as well as poems and legends to which Hindi base their faith. There are also other stories used in Hinduism, such as, Brahmas, Sutras and Aranyakas.

Hinduism recognizes about 330 million gods, the most significant being Brahma. Brahma faith essence lays in the enhancement of every part of reality and existence throughout the great universe. Brahma is something unknown, unfamiliar and impersonal; it exists in three different forms: Brahma the Creator, Vishu the Guardian and Shiva the Destroyer.

It really hard to briefly summarize the Hindu theology as there are dozens of Hindu schools each of them containing different elements of the theological system. Hinduism can be:

  • monistic – only one thing exists, the school of Sankara
  • pantheistic – there is only one divine being; so God is the universe; Brahmanism
  • panentheistic – the world is part of God; Ramanujam School
  • theistic – only one God, distinct from the Creation; Bhakti Hinduism

Vedas are much more than just theological books. They contain a rich, colorful teo-mythology. It’s a religious kind of mythology that deliberately and intentionally twist myths, theology and history with the intention to find the roots of religion. It is so deeply rooted in Indian culture and history that the rejection of Vedas is seen as an act of treason towards India and its people. Therefore, Hinduism rejects any other belief system if it does not include Indian culture to all its extent. If the religion adapts Indian culture then it can be accepted as Hindu religion, even if in terms of theology it is theistic, nihilistic, or atheistic.

Hinduism considers the humanity as a deity. Since Brahma is essentially everything, Hinduism asserts that every single being or object is a deity. Atman (individual soul as a divine manifestation of the spirit in man) is together with Brahma or not. Everything outside of Brahma is considered to be an illusion. The spiritual goal of every Hindu follower is to become such as Brahma, meaning to stop existing in our own illusory, individual form. This freedom is named after the word Moshka. Hindi believe that as long as Moksha is not reached, the person has to work with himself to reach the ultimate truth. Rebirth of the human soul depends on karma and the principle of natural balance prevaletion. Everything done in the past affects the future, it represents what will happen in the future.

My bucket list: places that I want to visit

Sensoji Temple in Japan

Legend says that two brothers fished out of the Sumida River Khannon – Buddhist goddess of fortune and success. This temple was build in that place to honor the goddess. Information I found on the website of Japan Tourist Bureau suggests this temple has around 30 million visitors a year.

sensoji temple at night

Basilica of the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico

It is believed that in 1531 in Tepeyac Hill (which is located to the northwest of the existing Mexico City location) Virgin Mary appeared to a poor peasant named Juan Diego. Believers claim that after this meet the peasant’s cloak had Virgin Mary’s face imprint on it. As of today, this cloak hangs over the altar of the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe basilica. In spite of several controversial opinions Pope John Paul II in 2002 declared Juan Diego a saint.

Basilica of the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe

Vatican in Italy

The Vatican is the official residence of the leader of the Catholic Church. This country is not only the home of Pope but also is the home country of architectural wonders like the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica that is named after the very first Pope whose tomb is under the building’s altar. UNESCO World Heritage Center has called this the most significant sacred building on the planet. Every day approximately 10,000 people visit this place, but the Vatican as a whole has more than 18 million visitors a year.


Imam Reza shrine in Iran

Iran’s holiest city name translates as place of place of martyrdom as it was dubbed by the eighth Shiite imam Reza who is a direct descendant of Mohammed. Imam tombs is the most important Shiite holy site in Iran which is annually visited by 20,000,000 people.

Imam Reza shrine

Notre Dame de Paris in France

This house of God was dedicated to the Virgin Mary by the bishop of Paris in the 12th century. Gothic monument played a significant role in various important historical events taken place in France, for instance, the church was plundered during the French Revolution, Napoleon proclaimed himself an emperor in it and many others. Today it functions as the Roman Catholic cathedral each year welcoming more than 13 million visitors.

notre dame de paris

Aparecida do Norte in Brazil

City of Aparecida in Brazil is the largest Christian holy place in South America that annually attracts close to 8 million tourists. There’s a large shrine in the center of it that is built around 18th century after fisherman had pulled out a headless Virgin Mary statue. In 1955 locals build one more basilica that can host up to 45,000 Christians meaning it’s the second largest in the world.

Aparecida do Norte

Imam Husayn Shrine in Iraq

For Shiite Muslims the crypt of Muhammad’s grandson is the most important object outside Mecca and Medina. Special ritual that commemorates the saint’s death called Arbaeen attracts millions of pilgrims year to year. Previous year more than 7 million Muslims performed Karbala annual ritual in front of the crypt.

Imam Husayn Shrine

Varanasi in India

Varanasi is located on the banks of river Ganges, and is considered the home town of the Hindu deity Shiva. Every year millions of people come here to allow the holy river to wash away their sins, or to drown in it. For Hindu people going to Varanasi means liberation from the cycle of rebirth.