Lauren Anderson: I am a third year student at CCSU. I have very eclectic tastes and so my major, rightfully, is anthropology. My minor is psychology. I don’t often have time to enjoy new and interesting experiences as I keep a busy and unrelenting schedule of classes, work, and study. This was one of the main reasons that I was drawn to this winter course…though this is second to the fact that this whole experience has been and is eye-opening, life-changing and extraordinary. I have been drinking in every moment.

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The morning was filled with anticipation. I found myself scrambling to get everything together for the day’s activity even though I had already done so twice theMy first rickshaw ride night before. Although I did have some vague image of the day in my had I basically had no idea what to expect. In the small courtyard in front of our hotel then, like ducklings, we trailed off to meet our rickshaws. At the end of the path stood a handful of men and these small resilient carts. We all piled in and began our trip across the way. The excursion was an experience I won’t soon forget. Blurs of colors whirred by. People were washing into the streets like they were impervious to automobiles. Posters and markings littered every wall, post, and even sidewalk. Palm trees protruded from the background at every angle. The streets were so busy and everything so fast that it was almost overwhelming. It was a sensory overload. Every few moments a horn would blare. More often than not this was followed by what – in the eyes of the wandering traveller – seemed to be a near death experience, as up ahead some bike, or car, or even a bus would be careening towards us. It is a perpetual game of chicken. Nestled along the edges of the roads were buildings, shops, huts, and grand dwellings all jumbled together. There is a lack of exact and obvious neighborhoods, collections of rubbish, and roaming dogs all around. When finally there was calm, golden water hugging the dirt road, we came to a stop. We were about to go on our boat tour of Vellayani lake.

Boat trip on Vellayani KayalThe entire experience seemed surreal. I still expect to wake up from the dream. We began with an extremely informative and interesting lecture about the lake and the people who depend on it. It is the most important source of fresh water in Kerala, and it is an increasingly imperative issue to ensure its protection and preservation, although this is proving to be an arduous task to address. The trip was led by a group of men and boys on their impressive handcrafted boats. They resembled large canoes and were maneuvered by the use of long stalks of bamboo. The sun glistened down onto us as we peacefully glided across the water and water lilies and lotus leaves sailed by. In our boat we were lucky to have our questions entertained by Biju Kumar, our expert lecturer for the day. He pointed out the things that surrounded the lake as we passed, the pump houses, the old summer palace that is now used for the  university campus,  the native and invasive species of plants and the different birds.

When there was more water than the ideal soaking into the boat, we drew up close to the shore and the young boy that accompanied us helped bail out the The group at Vellayani Lakewater.  At the shore, we were able to get a closer view of the sweet peas, banana trees, and sawgrass that were growing there. Once we finished our breathtaking trip we swept up to shore at the family house of our two captains. The structure was small but carefully constructed. The walls were of cement and woven palm branches. The roof of thatch tarps were incorporated also. The floor was packed dirt but everything clean. There was a thin wire leading into the house for their electricity. Our patient hosts greeted us with a breakfast of fresh bananas, cracker like biscuits, hot tea, home raised eggs, and mouth-watering coconut chutney. As we sat around and ate, we discussed what it was like for this family in the lake area. They were born and raised there, three generations at least. They calmly and willingly received our questions and we got a small taste of their life. Once we finished there, we trekked back to meet up with our drivers and their resilient rickshaws. The entire experience was amazing and unforgettable. I could go on about it all and this was just our first scheduled activity!

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