Feeling a little deja vu as I begin to recall the past week with the power out again. This time is night and it’s been out for hours. I see it as the perfect opportunity to try out my new candle houses fresh out of the kiln yesterday to light the kitchen. With the help of Sheeja I learn to cook dosha by candle light. Dosha is a thin pancake made from a pureed rice batter. This same batter is also used to cook idilli and velapum and they all have the same purpose....to soak up curries, chutneys, sambars and whatever else you desire. They are also sometimes sprinkled with sugar in the morning and eaten with tiny sweet bananas along with chai.
I thought I would take this time to describe what a typical evening for me is like here. Most often greeted with sweet smiling faces both young and old and handed my house key that I leave at my neighbor Sheeja’s incase I am late to return home and she can start dinner prep without me. Then it is to the kitchen for cold lime or mango juice with ice. Unpack my bags including lunch tiffin (metal tins clasped together to hold the assorted delights for my midday meal). Then it is time for shower/bucket bath. The water in the house is gravity fed so every few days I turn on the pump to fill the large black plastic water tank on the roof from the well. Morning showers are cool but evening showers are hot, hot, as the water has been heated by the sun. I sometimes wish I could switch the temperatures of morning and eve but the feeling of washing in water warmed by the sun is wonderful even if the air is also a humid 33 degrees. After washing I dress in a traditional Kerala woman's work dress called a maxi. I wrote about it earlier as I didn't realize when I first got them that you were to only wear them around the house and not out in public as I did:) So now im in my brightly coloured floor length maxi and delicious smells are coming from the kitchen....mostly cooking onions with garlic, green chillis and coconut oil. These seems to be a theme in the beginning of much of the meals I am eating. Often Sheeja's children (4 girls age 7-18) and other neighbouring ladies with their little boys come to hang in the kitchen during cooking. It's a time I look forward to greatly as it's wonderful to connect over the food and also get help with my Malayalam dictionary that grows daily. It's a time for acting out stories from our day and answering questions about what things are like in Canada vs. India. After eating I am left alone to reflect on the day and connect with friends and family via the wonderful world wide web I am blessed with in this home. No matter what time I crawl into bed I always do a pretty close inspection of the bed as the insects I have experienced are much larger then ones I'm used to. I wont lie....I get pretty freaked out by some of the spiders and cockroaches I've had to deal with:)
The week flew by once again and it has been a transition of preparing to get things back to Canada. Two kiln loads were fired over 4 days and it looks like one more load will be done this upcoming Monday for pots that didn't get as hot as we'd like to give them more strength. I kind of lost my cool at the end of the week when I picked up a candle house and it broke in my hand and smashed on the ground. I got upset with those around me for not being more clear about the firing process and was feeling super frustrated. I took some deep breaths and realized I was frustrated at myself for not understanding the language and the process more and it wasn't any ones fault. I keep saying this is a learning process and an experiment but when something happened I didn't like the outcome of I lost sight of that experimentation attitude. What is learning but making mistakes and moving in new directions because of them? I am humbled and reopening to this more positive way of going through this experience.
At risk of going on and on I must touch on one more topic this week. I visited the hamlet of Aruvacode that lies just on the edge of Nilambur. I had the great honour of spending several days here last year connecting with a local potter and his family while attempting to throw some pots on their stick powered wheel. The tradition of potters in this village dates back centuries to when royalty in northern India valued their potters skill so much they brought them with them when they migrated down here in the deep south. These people are called Kumbham. Instantly when I step food in this place I want to remove my flip flops and walk barefoot as many of the people here do to stay connected to their roots...to mother earth. I have come to connect with clay workers I met last time and to meet new ones. Living in a world of plastic, paper and styrofoam has been hard on their craft along with a lack of education in how to connect to a market that appreciates their fine work. Traditionally the potters are men and the women do the finishing and design work. The Kumbham women I have met are so dedicated to their craft and interest in making new designs. There are other steady jobs they could take provided by the government but instead the few that are left would rather stick it out with their passion that is creating in clay. We come from completely different worlds but we have a lot in common.....we are both strong motivated women that love to work in clay. I visited their work site and was able to purchase many of their pieces to bring home and see tons of examples of pieces that could be special ordered in the future. I felt a connection as soon as I met these ladies last year and it has only grown deeper this time round. I don't want to be some foreigner coming in to 'help' them but instead I want a mutually beneficial situation of learning and growing. I have had many insightful conversations on what kind of a role we could play for each other and the past few nights my head has begun to spin in the possibilities that lay ahead for us both.
The closing to this week was gathering packaging materials and starting the packing process. This coming week will be several days of packing pots and figuring out where we can store it all in Kochi as plans to travel there on Thursday are in the works. Another great week complete with highs and lows I wouldn't trade for anything. much love. t
About This Journey
Combining my love of travel with my love of creating in clay comes this newest adventure. After spending 10 days in Nilambur last year during a 3 month exploration of India....I am returning to spend 9 weeks. Talented and generous clay artist - Sherif Nilambur invited me to share his studio space so here I am to take him up on his offer. The plan is loose in terms of what is being made and what will come of it but hearts are open so we can't go wrong.