The sun is rising over Kottayam and I'm sitting on a rooftop terrace looking out into the gray.
Hindu temples are singing songs of morning worship, punctuated by the sounds of crows singing in the coconut trees.
We arrived yesterday at lunchtime and were introduced to our second host families over Chinese-Indian cuisine.
It was perhaps the best meal we've had so far on the trip.
For the next five days, I'll be living with a Hindu couple, A.P.M. (Gobu) and Sheela Gopalakrishnan, who own several bakeries and a hotel: Besthotel and BestBakery.
They're an older couple with grown daughters, one of whom lives in Katy, Texas, where she works as an engineer.
On this second leg of the journey, Rotary Group Exchange member Janine Campbell and I are paired in one host family's home. The other Rotary team members are residing in individual homes.
We spent much of last week on tour in Kollam, sleeping about four hours each night. By the end of each evening, I was so tired and sweaty, all I wanted to do was shower in the cold water and sleep.
I attempted one night last week to read before bed, and woke up the next morning with the book still in my hand and the lights still on.
Yesterday, when we arrived at Gobu and Sheela's home, we put our bags down long enough to pass out until 6 p.m.
I felt terrible we fell asleep because I want to spend time with our host family. But my body was finished. I needed to rest.
If I hadn't been woken up for a chai time (tea time) I likely would have slept all evening.
The culture in Kottayam is slightly more Western than in Trivandrum and Kollam. The people speak and understand English more clearly, and Christianity is prevalent, though many Hindus are here as well. There are also many groups of Protestants, which is rare in India. Many of the Rotarians I met at last night's Rotary meeting were Christian, and even Hindus, like Gobu, may not be so invested in their Hindu religious assignments.
"I am Hindu because my family is Hindu," he said, after I noticed an elephant god trinket behind the steering wheel in his car. "I don't pay too much attention to it."
Other differences I've noticed is that it's also much more common for people to use silverware when dining, the buildings have air conditioning, and there was a hot water showering option last night, which I hadn't seen since we departed Trivandrum.
One of the more humorous cultural differences I've noticed is listening to the men of Rotary talk about the pride they have in their vehicles. Cars of prestige in southern India range from Suzuki, Ford, Honda and Hyundai, and the occasional Mercedes and BMW.
Many of the Rotarians are successful professionals, earning top salaries in their area. So, it's interesting to see them driving cars (especially when they employ drivers) that are considered middle range vehicles for the United States.
Today I'll be interviewing the Patriarch of the Keralite Orthodox church, and was informed I needed to be respectful because he is making a special exception to meet with me.
I'm interested to see how His Holiness interprets the local divisions of Christianity here, since it seems to be a different theological classification process than I've studied in the United States.
I'm also interested to see how varied the faith traditions are considering Kerala is supposed to be one of the original missionary locations of St. Thomas in the first century, who was responsible for bringing the message of Christ to India sometime around 52 A.D.
The United States, by comparison, can't hold a candle to that kind of history.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Until Tomorrow, Victoria.
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