So, I am in India right now.
I am participating in a study abroad program with the University of Iowa on issues of eco-sensitive low income housing in Kerala, India. The class will explore trends in eco-sensitive housing, the importance of low income housing, and political and socio-economic circumstances that have either brought the current state of a housing deficit and provided solutions to it.
I am looking forward to the class because it also touches on many other issues: poverty and informality, education, women’s issues, urban form and design, and just the aspect of being in India, a vibrant culture with so much life seeping into all parts of the country, from the landscapes to the cities to each poster and flyer peppered along all the walls.
I can’t believe I’m in India. It’s one of those places I imagined going, but I never thought I would actually be here. It’s humid, and I have to be extremely cautious of the water I drink here – bottled only, even for brushing your teeth. At least the currency translation rates are good here, roughly 50 rupees for one U.S. dollar, so it’s 15 rupees a bottle, or less than 25 cents.
Most of the students in class decided to red line the night, arriving at 3:30 am to India and staying up. We decided to check out a zoo near the hotel we are staying at, being able to check out the local architecture, street-scape, people, and foliage. For 10 rupees, i got to see many exotic birds and animals from the African safari. Amazing.
I also had my first Indian rickshaw ride. Must say, it is quite the death-defying experience.
Afterwards, the class had lunch at a local chain restaurant where I had samplers of various dishes of North India, since I will be eating more of South Indian cuisine anyways. It’s a bit hard to not be able to eat everything as I wanted to try the mangos and onions, however it is advised to not eat anything uncooked unless it’s from a place approved by the professor.
After taking the opportunity to explore the area immediate from the hotel after lunch, we all rickshawed our way to the marketplace and downtown Trivandrum. This is one of the greatest moments of that day. I love experiencing marketplaces, the thriving nature of organic collection and interaction. The professor, Dr. Jerry Anthony, said that this marketplace is over 300 years old.
The marketplace is truly picturesque. You can see stacked produce, baskets of flowers and spices, toys and appliances hung from doors, food vendors, antique and souvenir shops, flowing fabrics and brass works: the place was truly bustling and alive. Even the lack of traffic considerations added to the sense of liveliness of the city. The streets were a living, breathing organism, pushing people through its circulation and glowing with its lights and commerce.
I believe I can watch the marketplace for hours, seeing it morph and evolve throughout the day, with hundreds upon thousands of people performing their purpose in the cityscape.