India – Going to the Movies in Cochin

As one of our rest day tactics, we occasionally go to the cinema and watch a movie. In Cochin, India we were told that the mall there is the biggest mall in Asia, so we thought we’d go check it out.

The cinema experience in India has a few subtle differences from the Canadian version we are used to. For example, ticket prices depend on where you want to sit, like stadium seating. Also, you have to pass through a metal detector and bag check to get into the cinema.

The Theater

Inside the mall it’s pretty cool, and inside the theater it’s a downright cold 8 degrees. This seems even colder since it’s 42 degrees outside; please note that your glasses may fog up. Blankets are not issued with the 3D glasses. Some folks (Vero) may resort to putting their feet in a re-usable shopping bag and then a small backpack to keep their toes warm.

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The theater had some cushy seats which reclined quite a ways, a pleasant surprise I discovered 5/6 of the way through the movie. My bad.

The Movie

Like many cinematic presentations, there’s a seemingly endless string of advertisements. Just before the feature presentation, the national anthem plays and everyone stands at attention. Many people sing along.

The film is shown in HD, 3D, HSPDA, NDA, etc. but the glasses provided have flat, scratched lenses made of plastic wrap. This detracts from the image quality a little bit. The glasses are also unlikely to stay on your face without constant supervision.

Ready to watch
Fortunately the glasses don’t fog up, they’re already frozen.

Part way through the film you will be surprised by an intermission. A ten minute break to get up, stretch, go to the lobby for popcorn, sing the national anthem again if you like. Fortunately for us, the plot of Cars 3 in 3D is easy to follow even with a break in the middle. We haven’t even seen Cars 2.

Regardless of the quirks and differences, a movie is definitely a winner to get everyone sitting quietly for a couple of hours. Throw in some mall wandering and you’ve got yourself a nice quiet day.

 

Family Travel – Three Ways to Reduce Stress

Family travel is wonderful, but it’s not always fresh mangoes and coconuts. Things can get hairy, the family gets tired, hungry, sick, generally cranky. There can certainly be stress, and sometimes it can feel like it’s more stressful than the life you left behind.

The following is my take on three ways to reduce travelling stress. These are not rocket science, but they’re still not easy to follow. I’ll be the first to admit that we fail at these as often as we succeed.

Eat well, and often

This doesn’t mean to eat big piles of fancy cheese or dine only in 5 star restaurants. We’re budget travelers, and vegan on top of that. What I mean is skip the easy option of bags of chips and other junk for the train and bus rides.

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Make the extra effort to get raw fruit and vegetables, good stuff. We bought a fifty-cent vegetable peeler so we can take advantage of the 783 000 fruit carts in the streets of the countries we visit. The whole family is perfectly happy to sit on a bench and peel some carrots, carry a bag of cucumbers onto the train, or peel and eat apples at the beach.

Sea cucumbers
Peeling cukes at the beach.

We’ve found that eating well translates to behaving well, and Mama and Papa can relax that nobody will get scurvy. Eat often because we’re a family that gets cranky when we’re hungry, and a cranky family is a stressed out family.

Don’t schedule too tightly

In project management there is a thing called float. It’s kind of a buffer in your schedule that you can use in case of an emergency or unexpected delay. Schedule yourself one day per week of float, if you can. We often stop moving for a day or two when we’re feeling stretched too thin.

It’s certainly harder to do on shorter trips, or in a country like India where transportation is often booked solid a week or more in advance. Sometimes you book yourself an extra day and don’t need it, but there’s always things to see. We enjoy spending a day at the park or the library even when we’re at our best.

No stress here!
Taking a break at the Children’s park in Ernakulam, India

Float comes in handy when the family spends an entire day taking turns sitting on the toilet. It’s also very useful when everyone is burnt out and at each other’s throats, and you have to go to the park or sit by the water and eat ice cream.

Get some exercise

Everyone knows that kids need regular exercise. Did you know that parents do also? This one’s probably the hardest one to practice regularly. It’s hard enough to get motivated to go to the gym or go for a run when you’re at home. Some people stay in hotels with gyms or pools, that helps. That’s not really in our budget, so we have to find alternatives.

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Motivating yourself to get up hours before the rest of your family to go for a run in an unfamiliar place is tough. Especially when you might end up running alongside a garbage canal, or being chased by a pack of street dogs. My wife resorted to running up and down the hotel stairs for 45 minutes in Bangalore. I read Living with a Seal by Jesse Itzler so now I try to do 100 push-ups per day as well as running as often as I can.

Beautiful run
Sometimes you even get to run together!

It’s hard, but totally worth it for stress reduction (and fitness in general, of course). Strolling through a bazaar saying “No thank you” 17 000 times is easier. Sitting on a train for 6 hours with two little kids is easier. Standing in line at customs juggling passports and colouring books is easier.

This one is my favourite tips to practice. My alarm is set for tomorrow, and I’m off to do some push-ups.

 

Check out the links below to get some other family travel bloggers’ take on how to reduce stress on family trips:

Travel with Jess

Magnets from Everywhere

Lots of Planets Have a North

Going Where the Wind Blows

Adventures in Family Travel

Meldrums on the Move

Border Free Adventures

Worldschooler Exchange

 

Indian Wedding – An Unexpected Delight

While we were in Hampi, our hotel filled up all of a sudden. We were the only guests in the place and then all of a sudden every room was full. People were accidentally walking into our room, because they thought they had the whole hotel. The staff explained that it was the wedding party for a marriage taking place the next day.

The Padma Guesthouse overlooks the main temple in Hampi, the Virupaksha Temple. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been in use since the 7th century, and apparently hosts weddings!

The next morning the whole gang appeared in beautiful sarees and their best shirts and headed down to the temple. Several young women surrounded Vero and the kids and insisted our whole family join them! We had already planned to visit the temple that day, so this was icing on the cake.

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Our wonderful guide / interpreter for the day was a lovely young Indian woman named Gowri. She showed us around the temple, explained things to us, and had the Little Guy blessed by an elephant!

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The Wedding

The wedding took place in the main temple building, with the happy (terrified looking) couple under a canopy of flowers. The guests were sitting on the floor with the women mainly on the left and the men mainly on the right. None of them could really see much, because there was a photographer and videographer standing in the front.

I caught a glimpse!
If you crane your neck, you can see a little.

Five musicians played trumpets, drums, shakers (very loudly) in the near background, so I strongly doubt anyone could hear very well either.

The ceremony was a beautiful sequence of rituals and traditions that were totally incomprehensible to us. I asked some other guests about some of the rituals and they said “Nah, they don’t mean anything. They’re just traditions.”

They’ve got to come from somewhere though. You don’t tie people’s hands together around a coconut and pour in water, then milk, then something else, for nothing. Handfuls of rice on each other’s heads, wedding rings in a bowl of milk, then fished out, then back in. Toe painting, chanting, singing, flowers, coloured powders, amazing!

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After about a half an hour of incomprehensible (to us) steps, we threw rice at the happy couple and they were married!

Congratulations!
Congratulations!

Once the wedding was finished, Gowri and the family insisted we join them for lunch. We were happy to agree, and sat down on a blanket spread on the floor in another temple building.

Wedding Lunch
Waiting for the feast.

While we were waiting for the food to be ready I asked Gowri “Are you related to the bride or the groom?”
“The groom is my brother” she replied.
“What!? You spend your brother’s wedding shepherding around some foreigners you just met?”
“Oh no, it’s okay, I have been to many weddings.” she said with a laugh.

Lunch was delicious, with different members of the family walking down the lines of guests dishing different things. The kids especially loved the sweet laddu.
After lunch we took some more pictures and then headed back to our hotel for a rest. Just watching that wedding was exhausting.
Another amazing experience in incredible India.

Elephant Blessings

The temple has a resident elephant named Lakshmi who will bless for a fee. You give her (paper) money and she bonks you on the head with her trunk. If you give her coins, she takes them and that’s it, sucker.

We had already met her one morning as she was taking her morning bath.

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