I’m Delia Harrington, a fast-talking feminist and world-traveling rabble-rouser. I believe in social change through storytelling, and this is where I share my writing and photography about my travels through a social justice lens.
Everyone has a lot to say about women travelers, especially if they’re solo, especially if they go somewhere in the Global South. And really, everyone has a lot to say about women. Some of the advice is good, like researching backup plans ahead of time so you don’t get stuck staying somewhere that makes you uncomfortable. It’s pretty obvious and rather good advice for everyone, but at least it’s not bad. There’s also a lot fo bad advice out there, ranging from racist to victim-blaming, restrictive to non-sensical. Some people just can’t seem to stop themselves from sharing this advice, even if I don’t ask. Even if they’ve never been where I’m going. All of the advice essentially boils down to one premise: as a woman, you are vulnerable and it is therefore your responsibility to alter your behavior in every way imaginable in order to prevent other people from harming you. If you fail in this, you will be judged for your poor safety efforts and it will be used as an excuse to make blanket statements about what women travelers should or should not do. Its for your own good, honey. Thankfully, there was very little street harassment directed my way on my trip to Kerala, India, contrary to the typical American view of the country. Some of us were discussing possible reasons for this, with the most obvious being that we spent very little time on actual streets. We were generally in our bus, and when we walked we tended to be on the grounds of a hotel or other attraction where the only people we see are staff. ... read more
After I had made all my arrangements to go to Kerala, I found out something fantastic: it has an active communist party (or two)! Does communism find me or am I chasing communism? Either way, I find it fascinating, especially to see how it works in a unicameral parliamentary democracy. Kerala prides itself on being the first place where communism came into power via peaceful elections, a tidbit no one lost any time in telling me. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which leads the Left Democratic Front (which includes the currently-impotent Communist Marxist Party), is still very active, generally winning elections on alternating 5 year terms. The Kerala Land Reform Act (which originated in 1963 with several notable amendments), gave land rights to tenants, ending the feudal system (except for cash crops) and giving thousands a home of their own for the first time. The reform completely altered the state and set it on a trajectory for relatively little economic stratification. Redistribution of wealth (and land in particular) is a hallmark of communism, often lamented by wealthy landowners, and beloved by hardworking farmers freed of their peasant status (unless they’re just random people who you forced to be farmers. That doesn’t go over to well.) People commonly referred to Kerala as a state made entirely of the middle class, and I think the land reforms were a key factor in this. Communism in Kerala hit a turning point in 1967 with the Naxalite uprising, and other ensuing violent acts. Elements within the party wanted a more anarchic stance, and used violence to that end, which drastically changed public opinion. The communists, who at the... read more
Ayurveda is a system of healthcare and healing that is known worldwide, and originates in Kerala, India. It was what I heard most about before arriving. Scholars think Ayurveda has been around since 5,000 BC, and the majority of practitioners worldwide train in Kerala. Ayurveda doctors evaluate patients by using all of their senses, and consider a person holistically: mental and physical health as well as diet. Recommendations for treatment often include dietary changes as well as physical treatments, and it’s common to treat things like weight gain, migraines, and general aches and pains as well as more serious ailments that Western medicine would say requires surgery. The grounds of an Ayurveda spa. Guests are expected to speak softly and respect the treatments that are taking place. Ayurveda practitioners use a variety of herbs and spices in their healing, as well as other natural elements like milk, honey, and oil. Some are mixed in a poultice and rubbed over the body while others are applied and wrapped on parts of the body. Warm oils are a major component of Ayurveda, and it seems most procedures involve covering the person in oil at one point or another. There is also quite a bit of massage in Ayurveda, and, of course, this is the component that carries over to the casual consumer like myself. Unlike western massage, the focus is on rhythmic rubbing, sometimes with two different masseurs at once. Patients are always treated by someone of the same gender, and most procedures involve a high degree of nudity. Genuine Ayurveda can also involve leeches and enemas, although I’m willing to bet few tourists get involved... read more
Munnar was like a breath of fresh, mountain air. High up in the Western Ghats, the cool mountain air of Munnar was a lovely relief after so many sticky days. Without a doubt, Munnar was one of the most beautiful and relaxing parts of our time in Kerala. The hill station of Munnar was nestled up amongst tea plantations that covered the mountain like a blanket. We were pleasantly surprised that the state-run hotel was quite nice, and a few of us got to eat french fries! Most importantly, since we arrived before sunset, everyone had some free time to themselves. This all came at the point in the trip where people usually need a break–from the hectic pace of travel, from the parade of foreign buffets, from the formula of a group trip, and from the inside of our (admittedly swag) bus. Munnar came at the perfect time. I went for a walk in the small, but bustling town with Gaia and Meruschka, eventually coming across about half of our group at one time or another. I enjoyed moving at our own speed and in such small numbers. It always relaxes me to be able to shoot photos without a group either waiting for me or constantly suspicious that I could possibly find a shot they didn’t. The results aren’t exactly stellar, but shooting always helps to clear out the cobwebs, which is exactly what I needed after a long day on the bus. Like everywhere else in Kerala, multiple major religions were present at every turn in Munnar. As we moved farther north, the increasing influence of Arabs... read more
The other day in Pattanam, central Kerala , we had an amazing opportunity to see an archeological site in progress and meet with the site’s director. I’ve seen many artifacts uncovered by archeologists, especially in Egypt, but this was my first chance to visit an active site. The site was first excavated due to some surface findings, with digging starting in 2007. The site now includes 4 acres of land with nearly 45 separate trenches in a heavily populated area. All but one of the trenches have produced artifacts thus far. The effort is lead by P.J. Cherian, the Director of the Kerala Council for Historical Research. The team is made up of 20-25 locals, which a rotating cast of visiting team members, including 12 people coming from Oxford next week and 4 or 6 coming from Australia in the next few weeks. The excavation is mostly funded by the Kerala state government, and won’t be displayed publicly for at least a year. Cherian said one of the biggest obstacles to his line of work in India is a lack of interest and education among the population. In the words of his son, “why do you need the history of 2000 years, isn’t 200 enough?” Of course finances are also an obstacle, and it was clear his focus is on the research (at least for now) more than the eventual display of these artifacts. The artifacts from the site go back as far as the Iron Age (1000 BC), covering 90 generations over 2,000 year period. When speaking about the significance of the site, Cherian said this site yielded... read more
The other morning I woke up early to a crazy noise. After trying to sleep through it for a while, I realized that the monkey-like sounds were actually coming from monkeys, and went to get a couple of pictures. Edgar tells me that these monkeys are more rare than the smaller grey ones that have been all over the town of Thekkady (including reading the newspaper this morning.) Later on at the hotel near the Periyar Tiger Reserve, we got to get up close and personal with some of the smaller, bolder grey monkeys. While they are certainly cute, they are feisty and territorial animals, stealing food and water bottles, chasing people around, and generally causing mayhem. One got into a fellow blogger’s room and made a mess of the place. If you get too close, they bear their teeth aggressively, and it is clear that if they bit you it would hurt like hell. Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I am in Kerala, India on a trip sponsored by Kerala Tourism. The views contained are completely my own. I accept advertisers as long as they are relevant to my subject matter and I experience the product, service, or location myself. For advertising inquiries, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Like this:Like... read more
A houseboat cruise on the Kerala Backwaters sounded like a great way to unwind from long hours in a tour bus. Kerala is a low-lying state in the South of India, on the West coast. A long skinny strip, Kerala seems to be more water than land, including rivers, lakes, and the Arabian Sea. All of these bodies of water are collectively known as the backwaters, a term that apparently has a connotation of beauty and serenity here, unlike in the US. We are never far from water, and have so far gone on an afternoon boat ride on the Kerala backwaters and spent the night on houseboats. For a long time, the quickest way to get around Kerala was by water. However, roads and cars eventually came to God’s Own Country. With the boats no longer being used, that way of life (and all those jobs) were going to go by the wayside. The story is that houseboat cruises on the Kerala backwaters were conceived as a way to maintain jobs and keep those (repurposed) boats in the water. Personally I’m curious how much this has actually benefits individual workers, since it seems like there are just a few companies that now own all the boats and hire a couple of guys to drive the boat, cook the food, and cater to guests. Of course, they do have access to tips, but I would love to learn more about the level of truth to the claim that Kerala backwaters cruises are “like a form of social welfare.” Dina shooting the sunset For our houseboat adventure on the Kerala... read more
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I am in Kerala, India on a trip sponsored by Kerala Tourism. The views contained are completely my own. I accept advertisers as long as they are relevant to my subject matter and I experience the product, service, or location myself. For advertising inquiries, please e-mail email@example.com Like this:Like... read more
I’ll be posting about the Palace itself later, which I loved, but for now here are a few images from the surrounding streets. O Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I am in Kerala, India on a trip sponsored by Kerala Tourism. The views contained are completely my own. I accept advertisers as long as they are relevant to my subject matter and I experience the product, service, or location myself. For advertising inquiries, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Like this:Like... read more
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