Journal -- Day 10

December 28th

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A short cruise this morning brings us to the dock and the end of our aquatic experience. Despite a brief and chill sluice of water at dawn, we are all ready to welcome the blasting AC of the bus on our ride into Cochin. After lunch and a fortifying shower, however, this fascinating old city beckons.

This afternoon we explore the area of Ft. Cochin at the tip of the peninsula. This area was home to the Europeans who settled here from 1500 on. The oldest European church in India is here, initially Portuguese, then Dutch, then English, as are many things in this part of town. Vasca de Gama was buried here for 14 years before his body was removed to Lisbon. Around the church are many old homes constructed in a very European style, as well as a few more old churches.

One intriguing remnant of old Cochin is the Chinese fishing nets set up along the shore. These massive counterweight systems were built from a Chinese model sometime before 1600, a sign of the Chinese influence in this area. The large Muslim population is due to Arab traders, another sign of cross-fertilization in this trade center. The fishing nets are no longer in use, partially due to the lack of fish next to the shore. On this day several are obviously broken due to the effects of Sunday's tidal wave. People were killed even here on the western coast due to rogue waves and currents. Rough seas caused the local government to issue an advisory against shipping. Although Cochin has a large port and a thriving fishing community, we see few boats during our stay due to the ban.

This evening we are treated to a demonstration and performance of Kathakali, the Keralan temple dance. This is a much more energetic dance than the delicate Carnactic dances of Tamil Nadu. The focus is on the facial expressions and gestures, enhanced by bright makeup and huge costumes. The explanation is very interesting; the performance itself rather loud and repeititive. The incessant drumming in the small cinder-block room is deafening, not helped by the periodic shrieking of one actor playing a demon. All in all, Steve and I give Kathakali 8 yaks on our native dance meter.

In the evening, I decide to take advantage of our lovely hotel's amenities to charge some batteries and blow-dry my hair after my shower. It is generally not possible to find plugs in bathrooms outside the US, so I'm used to a certain amount of looking under tables to plug in my hairdryer. This hotel stumped me, though. First, the plugs are of a type I've never seen before, not the usual European dual round pin. In fact, none of the adaptors found in either of our kits will even remotely work. Finally I notice that the Cisco wireless hub (wow) is plugged in using some kind of EU-to-weird adaptor. I unplug the router and chortle in glee. My delight is short-lived, however, as it turns out that each of the outlets in the room is slightly different in the distance between the three pins, enough that this adaptor will only fit in one outlet. Given the clear size differences across the four outlets I found, I wonder how anything ever works reliably. It's as though each outlet is lovingly hand-carved by a local artisan. This is why we standardized parts, people! The magical adaptor works, after a fashion. By asking Steve to hold the plug in securely I'm able to dry my hair. A little jiggling and balancing suffices to charge the batteries. I just hope no one wanted that router….

For once, no fireworks at 11pm. Did we miss them?

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