Where are we now?

View Where are we now? in a larger map Jo, Annie, Miles and I are living in Northport, Alabama and working at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. We've been glad to be in one place for a bit after what appeared to be semi-permanently traveling (in actuality for a period of 2.5 years).We started this blog to catalogue some of the adventures when Jo and I were sequentially conducting our dissertation research in India and Brazil. While we've fallen off the blogging bandwagon somewhat during recent trips to Brazil, we're trying to pick it up again now that we're back in India!

Thursday, June 16, 2016


 The above picture kinda tells the tale. I love Gangtok, which is the capital of Sikkim. I've been here for just five days, exploring a potential new research project. The state has recently garnered extensive international attention (including some web articles that drew me here) as it is the first state to be 100% certified organic. But that's another conversation.

Sikkim in in India's Northeast. It used to be it's own kingdom (like Bhutan, it's neighbor) until the 1970s.  It is an incredibly green state, both in terms of policy (i.e. the organic one, but also banning plastic bags in the early 90s, prohibiting the cutting of any tree etc). Gangtok, is the capital, and  sprawls alongside a mountain ridge. As part of the Northeastern Himalaya, a global biodiversity hotspot, there are some pretty incredible trees throughout the city.


 Unfortunately, I'm here during the rainy season, which means the incredible views of the Himalayas are behind the clouds. Even so, watching the clouds part and reveal tiny hillside villages has been pretty magical.

It's also a largely Buddhist state, and as such has some amazing monasteries and places to visit.

  Prayer wheels at Enchey Monastery

In addition to the generally serene ambience of prayer flags billowing in the forest. I thought the spider web coated in mist hanging from the prayer flag was particularly cool. 


Being in Sikkim by myself (Jo and the kids are in Mysore, Karnataka with Auntie Sarah), gave me the opportunity to do a few things I might not normally do with the kiddos in tow. Like checking out the incredible Namgyal Institute of Tibetology.

Housed in a gorgeous traditional Tibetan mansion, the institute has an incredible collection of Tibetan artifacts, including horns made from human thigh bones! No pictures allowed. Sorry.

Giant Stupa

Another thing I might not do, at least in quite the same way, with kids: go spend several hours in a bookstore. Can't remember the last time I did that, but it was a ton of fun. This bookstore was a real treasure, having been open for the last 50 years, and housing a wide range of books on Northeastern India. I started leafing through them, and before I knew it, 3 hours had passed!

One of the cooler spaces in Gangtok is the MG Marg pedestrian mall. Unlike the pedestrian mall in Mussoorie, that let paying cars in, this was truly car/moto free. Given that now is one of the high tourist seasons (which surprises me given the daily rain, but makes sense given the heat in the plains), it was just jam packed with tourists.

Sikkim's food is incredible. Given it's geography-with closely neighboring countries of Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet---the food is a regional melange.

I hope to have the opportunity to come back, and get more of a chance to explore this incredible landscape--and next time, I will surely bring the rest of the family!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Lighthouse Beach

From Allepey, we headed back down south to Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, where Dave had some interviews to do. Turns out that lodging in Trivandrum was pretty underwhelming, and so we opted to stay at aptly named Lighthouse beach, just 15 km down the road. We were so glad we did! It was close enough for Dave to commute in for interviews, and incredibly picturesque. 
 Imagine a luau dance...

The beach was largely black sand, and was the finest sand we'd ever seen.

We stayed in a small hotel that was literally 20 feet from the beach. At night we could hear the waves crashing, and in the morning we could sit on the porch, and watch people fishing from the boulders (no poles, just lines!), the fishing boats plying the coast, and Skype—or at least try to!

Sunset from our balcony

Night time view of beach from the balcony--literally right below us.

For the moment,kids could care less that the Arabian Sea is 10 feet outside our window, and guys are fishing from the cliffs below us. Grandma and Grandpa are reading a book to them via Skype, and that's all that matters.

We all had a ton of fun playing on the beach, and in the waves.

And chasing, lots of chasing.

And splashing with baby bottoms.

And ice cream, there's always got to be ice cream.

We saw some absolutely amazing things on the beach as well. Such as Carla:

"You won't forget me, right?," Carla asked, after requesting her photo taken. "I'll be back tomorrow." Weaving her way up and down the beach, Carla sells mangoes, bananas, pineapples, papayas, and coconuts from a basket on her head. Incredibly deft with a small rusty knife, she can extract an inconceivable amount of fruit from a mango- serve it on a small silver plate- and then open a coconut in the air, throwing it up and miraculously cutting a concentric ring around it without losing a beat. "Remember, I'm the one with the missing tooth," Carla told me as she headed down the beach.

One morning we were eating a phenomenal breakfast at "Beatles" restaurant off the promenade...

 I mean seriously, look at those veggies! You don't find broccoli  much in India, much less for breakfast! And the view, oh the view.

When who would walk by us? But a woman carrying a pot full of swordfish on her head!She drops it off down the way, and then goes back for another, and another. After breakfast, I follow her, and find out that she's carrying the sword fish and squid to a curb side market.

Not surprisingly, the lighthouse was a major tourist attraction, and the kids were super excited to go up it. Countless rounds of spiral staircase later, we finally made it to the top, and the view was simply incredible. One thing that was really neat to see were all of the small fishing boats, and even fishing kayaks up and down the coast. Another really cool thing was a very large mosque that had perhaps the most amazing real estate I can imagine. See if you can find it in the photo.

Annie has gotten very into using the camera on the phone recently. She usually takes a few hundred photos at a time, kinda like her papa! A few usually turn out pretty cool.

We took one weekend day and headed out to a wildlife sanctuary. The entire experience was fairly gimmicky, and given that it took an 1.5 hour rickshaw ride somewhat underwhelming. But the kids did get to see two lions on our “safari” (read riding in a crowded hot bus with 40 other people to see two possibly drugged lions sitting in the road

It was a pretty amazing four days at Lighthouse beach. If this part of the research takes off, and we find ourselves back in Trivandrum, I can guarantee you we'll be making our nest at Lighthouse beach.
Already missing these sunsets.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Allepey: Part 3 (Beaches)

Going to the beach in India never fails to disappoint. 

You can go to a beach and have it be nearly desolate. Just you and the crows. 

We had this experience in Allepey when we hired an auto rickshaw and went 10 km north to "Secret Beach". There are a few places to stay there, and Jo was very clear this was "her type of beach!", so we very well might return if the secret doesn't get out.  

 Well, you, the crows, and some very excited little bunnies. 

And a Momma, grateful for a chance to have a few moments of quiet.

Or, you can go to the beach and have it be a real cultural experience. This is usually the case. After going to "Secret Beach", we headed a few km farther by rickshaw, and stopped at Malari beach. We knew it was going to be busy, as it was a Sunday afternoon, and when we first got there after going to the quiet Secret beach I thought "oh, let's just hop back and the rickshaw and go back". I was so glad we stayed.

As soon as we walked down to the beach (making an obligatory stop at "Uncle John's" Ice Cream truck Photo here, we descended into the swirling pool of colorful humanity that is India on the beach. Women in saris and burqas, men in colorful lungis. Thousands of people, mostly standing and watching the sea. A few dozen playing knee deep in the water. Essentially no one swimming.

Almost immediately, two women grabbed Annie by the hands, and somehow convinced her to go wave jumping with them! This was a total shock to me on numerous levels, in part because she's usually terrified of going in the water even with us.

But she had an absolutely phenomenal time, and so did the women

And it wasn't only Annie and her new friends that had a great time, but the rest of us as well.