The Crows of Kerala
Since my last journal things have settled down a little bit. At last I received my residence permit, which enabled us to take a much needed holiday for Eid al-Adha. Thus most of this piece is about our trip to Kovalam in Kerala, India, although there were some interesting happenings prior to our departure. As I seem to remember mentioning in my diary, Gwailo in Guangzhou XX, the capital of Kerala is Thiruvananthapuram, which is conveniently shortened to Trivandrum, or for anyone conversant with the local Malaylam languages, Tiruvaṉantapuraṁ. It was into this wonderfully named city that we flew but our exploration of its urban area was confined to the arrivals and departures sections at the local airport.
A week or so prior to our leaving there was an enormous rainstorm in Qatar. I suppose it was a series of three enormous rainstorms, which in the desert is quite something. Rain lashed down, lightning ravaged the thick clouds and the winds whirled sufficiently for the meagre contents of our backyard to be tossed around and deposited several metres from where they started out.
Doha is not designed for rain. I had to point out to several people that there is little point building and maintaining storm sewers and proper drainage if it only rains on a few days per year; why bother, it’s easier and cheaper to cope with damage and other effects than it is to build drains. But as a result many roads flooded, much of the staff housing leaked significantly and great ponds formed in the compacted holes in the desert itself. We expected to see a massive blossoming of flowers and plagues of frogs but it seems the desert around us may have been scraped clean of such exoticism.
We barely suffered; a minor leak through the bedroom windows and a little puddle under the front door proved easy to clear up, and the backyard furniture was easily righted. The school seemed to fare pretty well, although the kids became extremely excited; it’s rare to have mass appeals to be allowed outside when water is cascading from the sky.
We learned, whilst we were in India, that it actually rained on the Hajj in Mecca. A waiter mentioned it to us, just after Kovalam suffered a minor downpour. He was bent on blaming it on global warming and, when an Indian waiter points out something like that, you know the message is getting through. We found we could catch up on some recent international events in India; our ten weeks in Doha have been like living in solitary confinement as regards news. There has been no time to read Internet news at school and until a couple of weeks ago no Internet at home. TV news remains a pipedream and I’ve had kids taking the piss out of me on a regular basis for not knowing what’s going on in the world; we knew nothing about the Indonesian volcano erupting for example.
This situation was clearly unacceptable for teachers working in an international school and if you’re delivering IBO courses it is indefensible. We therefore managed to purchase a Vodaphone device that connects to the Internet along the cell phone route; at least we now have some contact with the outside world. I’ve written to the Head of Secondary pointing out that next year, with the proposed commencement of the IBO Diploma programme, such a state of affairs would be clearly unmanageable for new teachers.
We still have only one pair of curtains in the house, so our closed community are regularly exposed to domestic semi-nudity in the Whitworth-Kidd household. It’s not that we don’t try but rising at 05.00hrs is tough enough without trying to remember to put something on. If the state of affairs has not been remedied on our return we’ll be going out to buy and fit our own curtains, thus saving the blushes of all the residents of Umm Salal Villas.
Other than the curtains and phone line debacle we are enormously satisfied with our accommodation. We went out and bought two desks and three bookcases, so as to furnish an office space, remembering at the last minute that chairs might be useful as well. We now have a functional space in which to work on our return.
If the tenses seem a little odd, it’s that I’m writing much of this from the hotel balcony in Kovalam. Andrea is on the beach sunbathing but I’ve completely lost my appetite for such activities. Over the last few days I’ve dropped down for a half hour dip in the sea two or three times daily, but I’ve been spending the break re-editing the second section of my novel and mentally preparing myself for the commencement of the third section.
I’m pleased with the second section; as I see it the thing is complete. Andrea is currently giving it a read through but I need to get back in touch with my editor, to see if he wants to take on this next bit, and at the moment he’s quite tied up. Andrea’s input is useful; she does point out errors, also indicating where she becomes confused but she has been very positive for the most part.