1. Because the South is so humid and hot, the girls put loads of oil in their hair to keep their long black locks tamed. The oil makes their hair sit there, with no volume, and never move. Every girl's hair was long (almost down to their bottom), drenched with oil, perfectly held together with a wooden clip, and adorned with a flower. It was as if their hair were straight out of a magazine. It was always so beautiful, and would sometimes involve complicated braids and other intricate styles. To keep everything in place, the wooden clips the girls use are sold everywhere on the streets and come in a variety of designs. Attached to the wooden clips are fresh Jasmine flowers. People could tell that Archna, the Indian girl I traveled through the South with, was a tourist because of the simplicity of her hair. She told me one day, “I look northern.”
|A southern woman's hair is quite a sight.|
|Trying to fit in with other Kerala women: wearing Jasmine flowers in my hair.|
2. India is known throughout the world for keeping the gold market in business. Everyone in India wears gold it seems. And not just all of India. I've heard it said that 90% of the gold bought in India is bought in the south. And I can believe that. Every woman is loaded down with gold. Whether they are just running errands or going for a morning walk, an Indian woman in the South is usually wearing at least five pieces of gold that might include two elaborate earrings, one necklace (either extremely heavy and large, or a simple chain), one bangle bracelet, and one ring. My friends told me that people in the South save their hard-earned money to buy gold. It's not only wealthy people wearing it: no matter the class, women have it. At weddings here, a bride is covered in so much gold that you can barely see her
3. The men can usually be found wearing a type of sarong, which is either a white dhoti or a colorful lungi. Honestly, I sometimes feel uncomfortable with how short their “skirts” can get. But this is normal, and nobody else thinks that is weird. For the final party, two Operation Smile people bought dhotis and wore them. They said they were complicated to tie, like a sari.
|Two mission participants sporting their dhotis!|
4. Just as southern food in the USA is delicious, southern food in India is fabulous. Loaded with curry, the food is light and not as heavy as northern Indian food. In other words, when you're finished eating, you do not feel as if you have a brick in your stomach. Especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, there is a lot of seafood. Southerners also have their own kind of bread, called parootha. If you know what naan is, this bread is like naan but not so thick and heavy. The breakfasts especially hit the spot. Three main breakfast items are verda (sort of like a donut without the icing), idly (steamed rice cakes), and dosa (thin crispy bread). All of these are eaten after you dip them into curries. In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, I saw far more fruit stands that I am used to. I guess that is obviously because the south is more tropical than the north.
|Alleppey snack sand with lots of banana chips.|
|Verda and idly|
Sending smiles and southern lovefrom India,