This port of call was my first as an interpreter. For the team members whose mother tongue is Japanese, their main concern was being able to pick up Indian accents. However, I was more concerned about being able to use super polite Japanese correctly. To try to combat this, I took copious notes while the guide was speaking, so I wouldn’t have to spend very much energy remembering the information to spew out and would be able to spend more energy on forming polite, coherent Japanese sentences.
until I got car sick, or rather, bus sick from trying to read my notes while on a road that was more potholes than asphalt, driven by a man who kept attempting to pass cars on a two-lane road despite the traffic. If this isn’t a good time to use the twitter hashtag #fail, I don’t know what is.
Things were soon looking up when we arrived at the pier, where we were scheduled to catch a small boat to take us to a spice farm.
until the boat that was supposed to be there wasn’t and ended up being 30 minutes late. Being a Japanese tour group, this created a huge panic. We gave the participants some free time to mill about, but there was nothing around. To fill their time, they started asking me thousands of questions that I wouldn’t be able to get answered because the guide was busy accompanying the tour leader and travel agent, who were busy yelling. For what purpose, I have no idea. Things in India aren’t as precisely strict as in Japan? Weird. /endrant
After some time, two small riverboats greeted us. Right as we filed the participants onto these small crafts, someone asked us the inevitable. “Are there bathrooms?*” We were informed that they were, as one of the men on board pointed to what I thought was a cupboard. It was only 15 minutes to our destination, but apparently when you gotta go, you gotta go. The participant finally wedged opened the doors to reveal a dark space whose floor looked a little sketchy, hey, it’s a bathroom, right?
Until the creaky floor gave way and the participant fell in. Just kidding.
We finally arrived at Philipkutty’s Farm, a family farm where we were greeted with a refreshing beverage, and an introduction to both the family and the farm. One of 6 farms on a man-made island in the backwaters in Cochin, there are canals that run through the farm that are used to transport the harvest, especially the coconuts.
I apologize that this space isn’t filled with interesting tid bits about various spices. I was so preoccupied with not messing up too badly and trying to keep my terrifying tour leader happy that most of the day was honestly a bit fuzzy. However, I do have one very interesting tid bit about nutmeg. You may know that the spice nutmeg is a ground up seed that’s found inside a fruit that looks like a pear, in a avocado-like formation. Here’s the cool part. Around this large seed is a bright red covering that looks like a someone stretched gum around it. Yup, that made sense to maybe 1 person (that person being me), I tried.
After a couple cooking demonstrations by Ms. Añu, the owner, it was time for dinner. Dish after dish kept coming out of the kitchen, each carefully placed on the banana leaves in front of the participants and adding a new, drool inducing aroma to those that hung from the cooking demonstration. Interpreting in those conditions without drooling? Impossible.
We had a little bit of everything; vegetarian, seafood, and meat dishes. I was a bit surprise that they had a beef dish. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten an Indian dish with beef in it. I also think that this dish was the culprit that set my mouth on fire. I’m not quite sure because I was shoveling food into my mouth while I could. One moment I was innocently shoveling, the next, every bite seemed to add to the fire that was building up in my mouth. Kind of like the chicken dish in Singapore. There’s always that one sneaky dish that has it out to burn your taste buds, but it’s so good.
As dessert started being served, they also started selling spices from the farm, not too far away. With only 2 Indian women to run this stand, and the Japanese tourists all pouncing on the chance for some good quality yet inexpensive spices**, I ran over to help. The women both gave me a look of relief as I joined in and I had a good time kind of chatting with them while selling spices.
Until I went back to my seat to find that my dessert of coconut flan, had been cleared. I still have not forgiven the person who did this.
As the sun had set, they then did some kind of ceremonious thing I would be able to tell you about if I wasn’t still frantically running around making sure people were happy. But I was able to get a picture of it. (The picture at the top of this post is from the same thing.)
Too soon, it was time to go. This quaint cottage, surrounded by a lush spice farm, placed in the middle of the breathtaking backwaters… I felt like I could stay for a while to write or sketch, to watch riverboats float by, to eat. But alas, we had to go to the promised souvenir shop before getting back to the ship.
As we waved to the family, one of the participants remarked, “I’m glad that our tours got pushed back into the afternoon/evening [due to the typhoon]. I mean, look.” We turned to see a small riverboat floating by, the shadow of a young girl looking into the distance, accompanied by an oil lamp. The island that we had just left, also romantically lit with a line of lamps, gave us our last gift from the spice farm- a picturesque send-off.
I remained in this calm state, the scenery of the backwaters after dusk still in my head, which provided a good distraction from the chaos that was the souvenir shop. Back on the ship, leaning on the railing on one of the decks, I reflected back on the day, adamant to make this day dream last as long as I could.
until the boat pulled away from the port, waking up from my frenzied reverie that was Cochin.
*You have no idea how often old people have to use the facilities. In case it’s not obvious, it’s all the time.
**One quick side-note: I really liked that the bags that they used to put the purchased bags of spices in were made out of newspaper. Yay upcycling!