Day 124, Year 5: Time for a Vacation
Date: Saturday, February 27, 2010
Weather: Hot and Hazy-No Sign of Rain Forever
Location: Bolgatty Hotel Anchorage, Cochin (Kochi), India

Lots of Indians travel their country as tourists. Many come here to Kerala which is known as God’s Own Country. One of the main attractions is the backwaters, and all of the tourist boats come right through our anchorage. The tourist boats come very close and we hear the guide blaring on the loudspeaker about visitors from America. Then everyone on the boat looks at us as we are washing clothes, hanging our underwear on the life lines, cleaning stainless, or whatever we are doing. And I realize that we are the attraction, not the tourist. I’m sure the ladies doing laundry in the backwaters by slapping clothes on rocks feel just like I do when the tourists take photos of me doing my laundry. Interesting!

After our trip to the mountains a couple of weeks ago, I emailed my daughter-in-law Jo who is from the UK asking her how so many young people from there can afford to travel in India. She sent back an explanation and a link to a website that totally astounded me. The website was a Wikipedia site comparing the vacation time required by law organized by country. I quickly scanned down the list and saw that many countries require twenty-some days, some more, some less, but when I got the United States there was nothing but a footnote. Here’s what the footnote says: “US law does not require employers to grant any vacation or holidays and about 25% of all employees receive no vacation time or holidays. (There was reference here to the No-Vacation Nation.) For employees that do receive vacation, 10 working days with 8 national holidays is fairly standard. Members of the US Armed Services earn a total of 30 vacation days a year, not including national holidays.” So the US with 10 days and Canada and Mexico with one to two weeks, makes North American look just like Asia. China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Viet Nam all listed 7 to 10. And India listed 10 days. All European countries all seemed to list four to five weeks. So, not only are Americans far away from European or Asian vacation spots, they wouldn’t have time to go there even if they had the money. Americans work hard, and it is really difficult to find that balance between work and life when the time is just not provided. It is a beautiful world out here and I hope my children will get to see more of it while they are young than Mark and I did. When I left on this circumnavigation, I had only been out of the US two times to visit in Canada. Mark had been to Canada once and Mexico once and had worked in Samoa for two years. But that was it. And speaking of circumnavigations-our friends Jean and Ken on Renaissance 2000 are back in the Caribbean completing their circuit. They were in South Africa the last time we heard from them in late December, but they went speedily north to Martinique. Congratulations to Jean and Ken on their dream fulfilled!

Update on shipments: DHL still says our compressor is enroute from Chennai, the toilet repair kit from West Marine left Paris last night, but no further word on that, and we received a package from our daughter Heather today with important tax info, basil and arugula seeds, and clock replacement parts for our ship’s clock. We’ll have to wait until we return from out little foray north on Monday to check with DHL and FedEx again. But things are looking up.

This morning I read in the Lonely Planet that indeed you can book train tickets ahead of time. I had understood from the Tourist Office here that you cannot, but when I went online I found that India has a most sophisticated reservation system ever. I spent an hour getting us into the system only to find that I could not use a Visa bank card to make the reservations. It had to ba a local bank card. But I could see the train schedules in detail which was wonderful. Wish I’d read the back section of the Lonely Planet before today. So Mark and I went to town to see if we could make reservations at the station. I had been there once before and found it overwhelming–so many people, so many posted schedules, and long lines to stand in to get information. But we kept standing in line and asking questions. At the ticket counter we were told we could not buy tickets until in the morning. But I went to the Tourist Information counter and found out there was a reservation office somewhere outside the station. We kept asking people and finally found the place. The reservation office was very organized and efficient. What we found out was that we could not make a reservation on the 7:30 am train we had planned to take north because it was just a ‘regular’ train (fight for your seat), but we could make a reservation on a 9:20 am train for ACC-air-conditioned chair. Sounded good to us, so we did that. We will get to the festival just after noon, but that will give us a whole afternoon and evening of festivities. We will return on Monday and arrive in Ernakulum at 1:30 in the afternoon. Just going to the train station and figuring things out was an interesting experience. And I’m sure the train ride will be interesting as well. We’re looking forward to the ride and to the festival. I’m not sure we will have internet where we are going, so it will probably be Monday night before we log in again.

After leaving the train station, we walked down Durbur Street toward the waterfront. There was one fabric shop after another, and I just had to duck in and look at the beautiful cotton and silk fabrics. Saris are sold as a long piece of material with a separate piece sold to be made into the blouse and another piece as the scarf. Other combinations are sold to make pants with a long tunic top and a scarf. I love the embroidered materials and if I had the money, I would buy every combination that I love just to look at them. We ended up buying a few pieces. With each purchase, Mark would ask what I was going to do with the fabric. I respond by saying that this one looks like so and so and this one looks perfect for another so and so. By the end of the afternoon, he was asking, “Whose sari now?” If you are old enough, you’ll get the connection.

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