New Year's Bash on the Keralan Backwaters
New Year's Eve - when the whole world gets smashed, clothes come off, fireworks blast through the air, and everyone celebrates. It doesn't matter what religion you are, how much you look like a flapping monkey when you dance, or whether you're a pyromaniac or not...New Year's Eve is celebrated worldwide, in every village and city.
2008 was an awesome year for me - from January to August, I strengthened the relations that I had built in my Bedouin community in Jordan, and in July, I finished my Peace Corps service with a bang: Camp GLOW.
Then it was straight from Amman to Delhi, the start of a fascinating whirlwind of 3 months through northwestern India. I trained my tastebuds to embrace the fiery spices of Indian cuisine, learned to walk the streets without getting hit by any rickshaws, and argued my way through markets, bargaining for every last rupee. November was spent hiking through the Nepal Himalayas, completing the Annapurna Circuit and Base Camp and vowing to return for Everest Base Camp by 2010.
It was back to India, spending some time in Darjeeling and Sikkim before heading south to Kolkata's chaos and then on down to Goa, a blissful respite from all of northern India's entropy. I curved further south to Gokarna, where life doesn't get any more relaxing. No joke: I woke up to a coconut falling on my thatched roof. And fell back asleep before rolling out onto the sand.
New Year's Eve, I was in Kerala. This area is known as God's country, and I was in the city of Alleppey, the Venice of India. Wonderful backwater passages, tiny canoes with three generations of one Indian family squatting in parallel rows, and delicious thali meals served on fresh banana leaves. This was heaven, and I treated myself to a last dinner of 2008 of idli and coconut chutney, compliments of a potbellied chef standing in front of his 4-wheeled cart at the intersection of backroads. Yummy.
And so I found myself on Dec 31, 2008, at 9 pm, my stomach supremely satisfied with my dinner and my party hormones failing to kick in. I watched The Pirates of the Caribbean: Part 3 (in English!) with the hostel owner's family, then went to bed at 11 pm. I had no desire to walk to the beach and be surrounded by drunk Indian men who introduced themselves as, "I have a Master's from IIT and I am a technical engineer in Bangalore. I make 6 figures and I think you are beautiful. Do you want to get jiggy with me or can I buy you a drink?"
By 11:15, I was asleep. I woke up at midnight when the fireworks erupted, signalling the New Year. I poked my sleepy eyes out my window, realized that it faced the neighbor's window just 5 feet away, and crawled back under the mosquito net. And that's how 2009 started. What a bang!