We hit the beach this weekend, for a couple days of rest out of the busy city. We went to a beach town called Mammalapuram a few hours south, on the southeast coast of India, on the Bay of Bengal. This part of the coast was heavily affected by the 2004 Tsunami, but we did not see too much evidence of that in the small pocket where we spent our time. Our hotel was full of Europeans, which meant we were constantly bombarded with strange white people- sounds odd, but when you go three weeks without other "white" people, it is quite shocking to see. At the hospital, and on the medical school campus where we live, we know all the other Americans, Europeans, Australians, etc, and there are really only a few. Also, many of the British and Australian students are of Indian descent, or even grew up here, so that makes the numbers even lower. (we love those people because they can typically communicate better with locals, even if they only speak Hindi -they speak Tamil in Vellore, not Hindi- and they do great things like teach us how to use the local bus system, bargain with rickshaws, explain what we just ordered off the menu, etc)
Speaking of menus, I have determined that I really like Naan, veggie masala, parotta, dosas, and yes, Indian banana flavored corn flakes. There is actually a photo with me and my cereal boxes, as they are stacked higher the me in my room!
So, the sight of the Europeans was odd at first, but then it was just like any European beach, with men in speedos, even the oldest women in little bikinis, somehow miraculously looking better than most younger americans, and every child under 6, boy or girl, were just plain naked. I tried to make out the languages and came up with French, Dutch, British English, German, Italian, and either Swedish or Norwegian I think. And this is a hotel with maybe 50 rooms. They actually had a fenced in nice swimming pool- likely brand new post-tsunami- so we were actually able to wear bikinis by the pool, something you basically cannot do in India, women really cant wear swimsuits period unless they are at a very European resort. We can't even wear sleeveless shirts, and our ankles must be covered at all times as well- hence my new wardrobe of the long tunic with long pants outfits I have bought here- the pants, shirt, and a matching scarf, can be bought for @ $1.25 US! Amazing!