The Trouble With Tropical Paradises

Troubles in India

Roving Correspondent Paul Terhorst, still on the road in India, checks in this morning:

“We’re in the famous Keralan backwaters in south India,” Paul reports, “so serene and beautiful, a jungle hideaway. The main channel in these waters runs north and south for 100 kilometers or so, an inland waterway with fresh water. To the right and left, here and around, up and down, small canals pierce through the jungle to villages and, eventually, to larger canals.

“People get around the backwaters on canoes and boats; from our guest house there’s a ferry canoe that takes passengers to the other side of the main canal. Young boys from the village take the school boat instead of the school bus.

“Jose and I hired a canoe and a paddler to take us around. We saw maybe a dozen villages, small children racing outside to watch two Westerners glide by. The little ones waved wildly and jumped up and down, barely able to contain their enthusiasm. The older ones sheepishly ask for money, though rarely in English.

“We saw bamboo foot bridges that hung so low over the water we had to lie flat in the canoe to get under. We saw fishermen returning with their catches of the day. In the sky and perched in the jungle, we saw sea eagles, turquoise kingfishers, tropical woodpeckers, and herons.

“One village had a 600-year-old Catholic church–built, that is, before the Portuguese colonists arrived. Some sect of early Christians, perhaps from Syria, must have wandered over this way and made converts.

“It was festival time at the church–even Christians have festivals in India–and on the grounds the church fathers had tied banana plants to pillars. Large bunches of green bananas hung down, as if the plants were still alive. The grotto dated from 1953. With its brightly painted simulated rocks, it reminded me of a grotto Disney might make.

“The main sanctuary looked more like a carnival wagon than a church, painted with vivid colors, bold geometric designs, and whimsical figures. The wooden roof had been carefully painted with Biblical scenes, especially beautiful. Inside that church, I got a feeling of peace, joy, love, and caring rather than awe.

“Could Vicki and I live here in these backwaters? Absolutely, for part of the year. We’d enjoy jungle walks, boat trips, train trips, and rides in rickshaws. We’d eat the delicious seafood as a diet staple–the fresh red snapper or pomfret only US$2 to US$4 a kilo at market, depending on the season. The good life.

“But here’s the thing about the good life in a tropical paradise: After a few months or maybe a few years, depending on where you’re coming from, boredom can set in. Especially in the villages and small towns here, there’s little to do and few people who speak good English…few people to play with. There are few of the things we retirees favor–few libraries, bridge clubs, tennis courts, or golf clubs. No theater, shows, nightlife…

“I’d have to bring plenty of books, and arrange to go to Kochi every month or so to find more. I’d have to have a project–maybe to write a book, for example, or to practice photography or to learn to cook fish.

“I’d have to get a boat and learn how to run it…

“I’ll talk to Vicki about it. She’s in an ashram near Mumbai right now and knows nothing about this. You heard it first.

“I’m sure that when we talk about it, she’ll want to come down and take a look for herself. If you’re looking for a tropical paradise to spend part of the year, you should do the same.

“Next up: the big city, Kochi, just a few kilometers away.”

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Paul Terhorst is traveling off the beaten path in India, investigating not the tourist opportunities in this country…but the retirement options. Would it make sense right now to think about retiring to India, of all places? Paul will continue his reporting to that end in these dispatches.

Meantime, Paul is also a regular columnist in our Overseas Retirement Letter. Paul knows more about the ins and outs and the pluses and minuses of overseas retirement than anyone else you’ll likely meet. He’s been an expat retiree for more than 25 years, retiring at the ripe age of 35 and traveling the world in search of the good life ever since.

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