When you’re designing products for a different place, you have to understand that place - socially, economically, culturally. We got some sense of the society in getting to know the students, and we spent a bunch of time talking about the economy in the area and visiting industries. So, of course, we also got to see some of Kerala’s culture. We saw that at the wedding, in visiting family’s homes, and in talking to students, but on a less sophisticated level, we also got the “tourist culture”: the temples, houseboats, and kalaripayattu.
Kerala has a higher percentage of Christians than the rest of India, and SAINTGITS (Saint Antonius …) has a student body that is 80 percent Christian. So, in hanging out with the students in the city on Sunday, we visited a church. Save the extra flowers, they really aren’t very different from here! And the women / men stand on different sides, but I have been assured that they stand apart as equals.
We visited a temple. The Sri Ganapathi Temple in Kottarakkara is a popular destination for a pilgrimage, they told us. We all tried some appam, a ricy-fried treat that is a popular offering at this temple (and a yummy snack).
Before going to the temple, we went to a museum next to it - it was a history museum with a lot of old artifacts from the region:
And after the temple: party bus ride again!
On one of our last knights, we got to see a very interesting presentation. Kalaripayattu is the material art form of Kerala. I’ve seen Karate - but that’s nothing compared to this! I made, of course, the mistake of sitting in the front row, thinking I could take better pictures. When they began swinging around with metal whips at VERY high velocities, I realized what a bad idea that was (they even had two other guys guarding the audience!!!). They did everything from flips and splits to sword fights and stick turning (again, at really high speeds!). I think this is something you have to see to understand what I’m talking about, so here is a video from youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfc9D1T1JwQWatch like every 4 minutes or so, then you’ll see the gist of what I mean! We also filmed ours but I don’t have that movie yet.
The engineering students had an eight-day industry visit, so we weren’t supposed to see the students for the last two days of our trip:( [we actually got to see the four girls again, as I wrote in my last post!]. Instead, Kerala is famous for its backwaters, so we got to go on a houseboat! It was amazingly relaxing and beautiful! I love boating, but especially after such a busy week, it was a really good way to unwind and think about everything we’d done. I even read a book - I don’t think I’ve finished a book that wasn’t assigned for … a pretty long time!
We docked twice. Once, Chris, Isha, Robbie and I walked out to see what was there. Isha and Robbie got ahead of Chris and me, so we lost them when the road got busy and there was an intersection. We just went one way, and it was really nice - until, at some point, Chris and I noticed that the sky was definitely in the “I am going to rain” mood and it was getting really windy. We walked back, and not a minute later it began dripping. Thirty seconds later, it was raining out of buckets. This would have been fine, except that I had my camera with me. We began sprinting back to the boat. Halfway there, two really nice girls with two umbrellas gave us one, walked us to the boat, and then walked back - it was really kind of them!!! The second time, it was almost dark but Vinay, Chris and I decided to brave the mud again. We went by a really cute church (there was an adorable dog in front of it) and then we walked over a really long bridge. By the time we turned around, it was dark. Walking through the roads was one of my favorite experiences though - you see a lot just by looking into the houses and stores. We were completely soaked, but it was really fun!!!! It was nice to talk to Vinay and Chris too - Vinay gave me a lot of interesting insight into the society.
My favorite part about Caltech is the Houses! The easiest way to describe them is as Hogwarts houses: each has their own personality and group of people and the first thing you do at Caltech is go through a “sorting” process. The people are what makes the Houses at Caltech so great. As a frosh, it’s amazing to be able to come in and immediately have a group of 100+ people to support you. Because the Houses have students from every grade, you make friends with upperclassmen and can ask for help on tons of things like:
It’s crazy to think that it has been four years now since I was applying to college. I remember it vividly. This week we’re spending some time reflecting on our personal admissions processes, and how we ended up at Caltech. There’s one question though that I wanted to spin out into a separate post: “what advice would you give to the admitted class of 2025?” And I think the best way to do this is to tell a more detailed story than I did in my other post.
These past six months have been a whirlwind- from having to move out of Caltech housing in March within a week’s notice due to COVID-19, to starting the first term of my junior year, I’ve definitely experienced a lot of change. When I went home in March, it was to a completely new state-my family moved from Chino, CA to New Jersey in January (great timing, huh?). While I missed seeing my friends from home, it was fun to have the chance to explore a completely new place. The pandemic obviously limited what I could see and do, but I got to experience walks through nature and along rivers normally foreign to a SoCal native and had some time to focus on bioinformatics research for the lab I work with on campus.