The cattle were lowing/throwing rocks@the french..

Trip Start Nov 23, 2007
Trip End Jan 23, 2008

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Flag of India  ,
Monday, December 31, 2007

i told one of you (whose name i'll keep for privacy sake) that part of what India sounds like is a heated debate on French talk radio. apparently that's not because French and Hindi both have a very sing-songy tonal quality, but instead, it is because the French are slowly trying to make their colonial claim on India (nobody tell them that they had their chance a few centuries ago). as i've found myself crossing the tourist trail a little more these past 2 weeks, i've realized that you can't throw a rock without hitting a Frenchie (i've also realized that they hate being hit by rocks. oops.). i also think it's the French who have gotten most indian men to lead the life of a chain smoker. don't get me wrong, i love the French...they give us good bread and wine and cheese and art and such heroes as jacques cousteau, jean valjean, and pepe le pew...

but, i digress (pardonnez-moi)...

it does however help lead us into our Chrismas St. FRANCIS.

i decided to spend this holiday season in the quaint coastal town of Cochin, a surprisingly Christmas-crazy little town. i had a hunch as much, as i heard Elvis's "Blue Christmas" hip-thrusting its way out of a window upon my arrival. there was no room in the inn, but i did find a nice guest house underneath a star (that was my second sign to stay(elvis being the first)), multiple stars to be exact. the huge tree in the front yard was bedazzled with them. but, it was on sunday night that i joined hundreds of others in the St. Francis Church. famed as the 1st christian church in india (not just like "first lutheran" or "first united methodist"--but, first, first). but, that is not what attracted me to this place, but instead it was one word that was so delicately placed on a sign outside: "Carols." i'm not a great singer (outside the shower, that is (i do some mean neil diamond, and if you catch me on a good day when the shampoo is suddsing just right...some selections from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack)), but i am a sucker for christmas carols, whether it be chipmunks singing them, cats singing them, me singing them, or tiny Indian children singing them.

i got there plenty early, because if i was going to be singing carols, i wanted to be in the thick of it, not stuck standing in the back with Jean-Pierre and company (again, nothing against the French). it was a good thing, too, because once that organ began to play we were plenty cozy. a strong comforting smell of sandalwood and incense in the air, with a slight smell of mango coming from me (i swear with all the fresh fruit i've been eating, my sweat smells like mango (it's kinda awesome)). even though half of the carols were in Hindi, there was a great familiarity about the whole thing. There was the familiar chills i get from Handel's Messiah to the tickle i get when the children's choir comes out and you see "that" kid. every choir has one. this one made sure that the santa hat he was wearing was sticking straight up, and kept making sure throughout his singing that the tassel topped tower kept its integrity, even through the shimmying of Feliz Navidad, and even through the blank stares of the 3rd verse of Go Tell it on the Mountain (but, really, does anybody know that verse?). no wreaths or poinsettias, but a classic, somewhat anemic 20 foot christmas tree propped up in the corner. there was the familiarity of the collective sigh of the congregation about half way through the sermon saying,"we appreciate your words of wisdom, pastor, but my kid has had too many christmas cookies and it's time to sing Joy to the World."

but, an indian tradition not shared by most churches in the states (that i know), that i fully support, is that shoes are optional, if anything even discouraged. though i was sweating with the best of them, all my little piggies were in their glory doing snow angels on the concrete floor.

two and a half hours later, a little hoarse and smelling a lot more like mango, i floated out of there full of the christmas spirit. as tough as it was to not be at home with the friends and fam., India did a great job hosting Christmas this year. i didn't have milk and cookies to put out, but used the next best thing on hand: 2 mini bananas and a Sprite (i'm sure even santa likes a little variety).

well, that's my 20 rupees worth. join me next week for "adventures of an 11 hour bus ride."

think "peace on earth" a little harder this holiday season, heck, make it a new year's resolution (i dare you.).

i love and miss you all.

bonne annee and namaste.
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