Day 21 – August 11, 2012: The Day After… (Allepey – The Ashram)

7:30 AM

Not exactly an early start for our standards but considering the night of heavy reading that preceded it, today’s beginning was one of the most difficult. My lacerated and contused right buttocks throbbed, my head spun, and the showerhead could only muster out a few drops. Even a classic continental breakfast as we floated delicately on the water couldn’t help me on this day. Not good.

9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

One of the coolest events of the trip also happened to be one of the longest. Fortunate enough to be in Allepey on the only day of the year for Snake Boat races, we took a larger vessel out to the rare location…hours before they began. Though we saw a limited number of races – and didn’t have a connection to any team – it was an once-in-a-lifetime (well, for us) experience. Each Snake Boat holds a team of 64 oarsmen and represents an Indian village. Residents from all of the villages fill the stands and waters to cheer on their fellow villagers. They must row in perfect unison to achieve their top speed and defeat the other teams to move on. It was clear that the fans took these races seriously as they screamed and chanted, jeering the opposing boats while encouraging their own.

8:00 PM

After a long day on the water we loaded back into the bus for our four-hour bus ride to Amma’s Ashram. Amma is a woman who is one of, if not the, largest spiritual leaders in all of India. She leads an organization focused on selfless service, one we are set to learn more about tomorrow. As for tonight, we were just happy to enjoy American food at the Ashram – we ordered everything from pizza to french fries to grilled cheeses – and all of it was good. Now, I’m not sure if that was because of the quality of the food or just the fact that our taste buds hadn’t registered those flavors for three weeks, but it was good nonetheless.

Fewer positives could be taken from our rooms. When we first entered them, there was nothing – literally, an empty room – save for a bathroom, sink, and a fan. Even with our luggage, blow up mattresses, thin sheets and faux pillows thrown in there, the rooms were how you might imagine a somewhat high-end jail cell to look like. As you can probably guess, some of our group had trouble falling asleep. Given our previous experiences with hotels however, to say that this arrangement has been our worst thus far is not something to complain about.

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