Life in the mountains of the western Ghats—the Nilgiri mountain range—brings such joy! Fresh air, low population density, high vegetable production, an easy climate with beautiful surroundings. The people are good and gentle, for the most part.

Now some of you who are Indian, and are wondering what the point of my blog is—I’ll tell you. I write mostly about the cultural differences between where I grew up and where I live now. It’s like night and day. Apples and oranges. India is, by comparison, a different planet that many people in the west cannot even conceive of in their wildest dreams. And they are happy to know about India, because it is a beautiful and exotic, enchanting and sometimes disparaging place—a place where many opposites reside next to each other, sometimes peacefully.

Another purpose for this blog is to keep my family and friends informed. This is such a special life, with experiences so precious. Life is so precious, and I wish to share it this way. Of course, my friends and family members also live special lives—they are families with children, and are working 40 hour work weeks. Really, for me, there’s something enviable about living in my home village, and I’ve often fantasized about returning back to my home town, yet I know that this is where my God wants me to be. My husband says that he “barely tolerates India,” and would much rather live in Europe. I know that he loves to live in these mountains, and that’s good enough to stay here.

And so here we are, my husband and I—renovating a beautiful old home “with beautiful bones,” as my mother wrote to me. We are on day 45—and we are taking a short break for a week. And it is a good thing, because since mid-September I have been at the house site from morning to evening, like a daytime job. And it has been a long time since I have worked those kind of hours—instead of setting my own schedule—and I admire people who do this every week. 

Do you know what it is like being the “new kid” in school? I was reminded of this when I went off to university—a small four-year school in North Carolina—I entered mid-semester, in January. Everyone already knew everyone, their traits, what made everyone “tick” so to speak. At that time, my small university had a tiny population—under 300 people. I was new to the south—to southern hospitality, with a sprinkling of international students and Americans from other regions. I went from table to table shaking hands with people, and introducing myself.  But it is a little different when one goes to a very small Indian village—there are social norms and customs that are characteristically unique to each village—that have been established and maintained for hundreds of years. Well, I’m the only white person probably to ever live in this village, and I feel honored and shy. My husband is probably one of the very few from Kerala to live in this village. And so we are very careful with our words and actions. We don’t assume anything. We are the strangers—the guests—and we are allowed to live in the center of this village with the Baruga people.

Recently we went to a young boy’s home, a boy who was to be married. In most Indian traditions, guests are offered tea and biscuits, and usually something to eat. This is, of course, after we take our shoes off at the front door and walk barefooted through the house. Everything is spotless and sparse. The Baruga people are fantastic about space economy. They live in small spaces with sleeping lofts—kitchens are tidy, with a smokeless wood stove, pots are scrubbed sparkling shiny clean after each use. They are probably the most hospitable and organized people I’ve ever met. They bring warm water for you to wash your right hand before using it to eat (remember? No utensils here.) A towel, and then the food appears. Simple and tasty rice, with a vegetable curry. But what nearly knocked me out of my chair was the honor that they give to their senior members. People come up to seniors for blessings, bowing down at their feet. They say a prayer while placing their hands on their heads. It’s very touching to watch.

Back at our house site, I etched out a garden plot from the mounds of extra soil from digging the well and the septic tank. It is tiered, a meter and half wide by two meters. I planted my baby kale, broccoli, and turnips (I know that turnips aren’t supposed to be transplanted-but I ask my spiritual helper to take care of this, to please make it right.) And I think of my friend Kristy and Karen, who gave these seeds to me—two awesome California girls. Yes, sometimes I feel wistful about living so far away. I could be collecting mushrooms and stomping around in the hills of Northern California with Kristy, or visiting Karen and others. But my life is here with my husband. I have a greater purpose here.

An hour later, the butterflies came.

I hurry out of the house, making sure to lock the new dead-bolt on the front doors. The door is a tight fit, and I have to use my knee to push the left side to match the new brass bolt that comes from the right door. Meanwhile, hundreds of butterflies are flitting by. Nobody else is in the road, or seems to be paying attention to this performance, this great act of nature. I silently walk down the road towards the other junction where we are renting a home. My camera captures a few of these elusive creatures. I can’t snap the pictures fast enough, so I stop and feel into this rare honor—simply being with them, walking with them. I am surrounded by fluttering ice-blue and black butterflies. And I feel thankful for being alive right here and now, in this place. It doesn’t matter where I live—I am provided with everything that I need for my life wherever I am. And this I wish for you, as well, that you feel your purpose and your connection to nature, friends, and family. All the best!