Monday, September 11, 2006

First week in Sathyamangalam

The following message was added in early 2008: I have been meditating on whether to remove old postings. My perspective in some entries is that of "other" in the countries I was visiting. My orientation and voice have shifted a great deal. For the time being I have decided to leave all postings in the blog. Some of the postings in question have received praise over time, and some, although humbling now, do show what was real to me then. Please forgive any cultural insensitivities and United States Americanisms you may find. I am open to your feedback on this: send to lizabehrendt at yahoo dotcom. Thank you.

Liza at Bhavani Reservoir I’ve been in India for a week, and it already seems natural to be here. I am comfortable and healthy in my new home in Sathyamangalam, a small town at the crossroads between Mysore, Coimbatore, Bangalore, and parts east in this southern state of Tamil Nadu. Home is a two-bedroom apartment in a four-story building with roof access that looks out over the town, much greenery, mountains and sky.

The neighbours have taken me under their wing, particularly a family of two daughters, mother, father and uncle. They keep me busy eating the many courses of food they bring daily. I am asked several times a day what I have eaten. So far this is endearing and interesting, as even the woman who cleans the floors asks me this. I’m told it’s a normal topic of conversation.

One day Ramya and Yemini, the neighbour girls, age 18 and 13 respectively, and their uncle and I went to an area that usually only villagers can go to, a nature and wildlife preserve. The uncle is the chief, hence entry. We rode comfortably for an hour or two up smooth mountain roads, expertly driven in a nice Jeep by a young man, and landed atop a flat area where doctors from nearby Coimbatore were giving free eye exams and glasses, a program of Lions Club International.

Several villagers that I saw would clearly have benefited by the free surgery they were offered, however, few would accept it. They were worried about the time it would take and missing work, but even more, they worried about organ trafficking. Perhaps they would come back with no eyes.

I have come to appreciate the constant honking of horns you hear from dawn on into the night. In the USA, horn honking to me sounds like more of reaction to a situation, something that says “F--- You.” Here it is a warning saying “watch out, don’t let me kill you.” I’m not of the illusion that value placed on life is higher here, I’m simply more tolerant of horn honking. It’s kind of sweet.

I'm making lots of pictures with crayons from home and paper bought locally for about 7 cents per sheet. The images are starting to get funky, a flow and influence of what's around me.