“So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.”

Mark Twain
 
For those of us lucky enough to study abroad at some point in our lives, I think it is safe to say that few of us regret the experience. Usually it teaches you something of who you are and who you would like to become. It also lets you be independent and responsible for yourself in a whole new way. For me, I have been fortunate enough to go on three trips in my lifetime where I have studied and learned a great deal about myself. The first, was when I was 16, I got to travel through Europe (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Belgium and Berlin). That was my first exposure to being outside of the U.S. (aside from Canada, which isn’t a big deal for us because it’s so close here in Michigan). And I loved every moment of it!
 
We saw all of the special places that every tourist wishes to see, the London Bridge, The Tower of London, Big Ben, etc. etc. One of my clearest memories is actually of being at the top of the Eiffel Tower and feeling it’s steel beneath my finger tips. I always make it a habit to touch things, for some reason, it helps me to remember.
 
Then came my geology trip to California, Utah and Nevada during my freshman year of college. That trip forever altered my passion in life up to that point. While standing at a look out point along the Pacific Highway on our way to northern California, I saw a beach covered in Sea Lions. It was gorgeous to see them basking and sleeping, but I saw something else too. Tons and tons of trash littering the beach where they slept. It made me so mad that when I got home from that trip I changed my major and switched colleges to go into environmental studies. (I was going to school to either be a funeral director or a pathologists assistant big switch eh?).
 
But it was my most recent, and probably last big trip that forever changed me. My trip to southern India in 2007, just a few short years after the terrible Tsunami. The picture above is a shot I took of the first HUGE palm tree I saw from below. Here are a few of my other favorite pics.

The Western Ghats Mountain Chain on the left side of southern India in
the state of Kerala.
 
 
Fisherman Heading Out for the Day -Tamil Nadu east side of southern India.
 
The Temple at Tangur, Tamil Nadu.
 
This trip was a three week excursion and study abroad class during which we visited several different Indian ecosystems (The class is the Ecology of the Indian Tropics). We saw so many animal and plant species that literally, I have a huge field notebook full of information. We got to see how the people actually lived day to day, and how the Tsunami had impacted the landscape. But most of all, I feel like my prejudices about the Indian people melted away as I got to know the culture more and more. Whenever I am particularly sad, or I wish that I could show Jack something, it is often my photos of India that I think about. I wish I could show him the place that effected me so deeply. Now not that it was all roses and lollipops, while we were there Saddam Hussein was executed and we had to pretend to be Canadian for a while because a lot of people were upset by that. Additionally, my weak American stomach could simply not handle strong Indian spices. I lost a ton of weight and wound up bringing back an intestinal parasite too. Good times those intestinal parasites.
 
I suppose my reason for sharing these trips with you today are 1.) it’s damn cold out and I wanted to remember some place warm for a bit and 2.) it’s nice to sometimes think about happier times, so that I can remember that I am not simply defined by my loss of our son, but that there was more to me at one time.
 
One final parting picture I had to share was that of my favorite place. It was an english resort in Kerala by the town of Dindigal. It overlooked a lake that was the most breath-taking place I have ever seen, and I often dream of it still. The picture doesn’t do it justice at all.
 
 
 
Thanks for reading yet again and for traveling with me down memory lane.
 
~EH
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