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Andrew Forsthoefel, Come To Kerala!

August 29, 2014

Andrew Forsthoefel. Photo by Therese Jornlin, Andrew’s mom. Chadds Ford, PA.

The interns we have had the honor of hosting since setting up shop in Kerala a few years ago have all shared in the responsibility to communicate their experiences in writing on this blog. We are committed to the written word, but not Ludditically opposed to other forms of communication. We have barely put a toe in the water with video, and not even thought about radio as an option, even though we consider Jay Allison an epic hero of good, important communication.

Because of him, we know alot of worthy things that otherwise would have escaped our attention; most recently we learned of and from Andrew Forsthoefel, whose radio story is worth an hour of your time. After which, if you are like us, you will want to know where he is now, and what he is doing. We hope Andrew will see our shout out here and consider our welcome mat in Kerala. Here is his introduction to the podcast when it originally aired nearly 17 months ago: Read more…

eBird Expansion

August 29, 2014

Including historical data since 1810 and extending into checklists from December of last year, eBird’s Observational Dataset just hit a milestone of 500 million records, making eBird the largest repository of biodiversity information that is freely accessible.

Bird of the Day: Eurasian Blackbird (Biligiri Rangana Tiger Reserve, Karnataka)

August 28, 2014

Eurasian Blackbird by Sudhir Shivaram - RAXA Collective

The Sense in Sustainability

August 28, 2014


Today we went to  a 68 acre fish farm in Thrissur called ‘Haya Poya’. They were using a traditional box system (the local name is petty para) to collect fish and manage the water level. We went to learn about implementing aquaculture at Kayal Villa, a newer property.

By using this traditional method, they do not have to introduce new varieties of fish in order to farm. They do this mainly because it is less costly to collect the fish naturally than to artificially introduce fish. Also, since it is all local varieties, it limits the possibility of messing up the natural ecosystem with foreign invasive species.

During our ride home, the agronomist, Mr. Deyal, and I continued the conversation about doing what’s ecologically beneficial is actually easier and more cost-efficient. He said

“Only an ecologically viable system will be economically viable. When we fight against the environment, the environment will go against us and we will have to invest more money to protect against it.”

This reminds me of a conversation I had with an oil driller recently. When I asked him what the most challenging thing about his job was, he said ‘going against nature,’ and then proceeded to tell me how rebellious nature was to the oil drilling process and how costly it is. I found it interesting that although their career choices were the antithesis of each other, the conversations I had with them had parallel messages: going against nature is costly.  Read more…

Goats and Gallinas at Xandari

August 28, 2014

The chicken coop with two visiting turkey neighbors

At Xandari, right by the orchard and the greenhouse, you can find pens with a good thirty-something chickens, two goats, and three turkeys. Providing eggs for the restaurant every day, the chickens — or gallinas, as they’re called in Spanish — leave their pen every day to forage amongst the orchard trees, which are primarily citrus fruits. The turkeys are currently living at Xandari for aesthetic purposes, but the hope is that eventually they could also supply eggs or meat to the kitchen.

A Xandari guest feeding Sparkle some grass

Xandari’s goats, named Sparkle and Twinkle, are mother and daughter, and the plan is Read more…

Bird of the Day: Common Cranes (Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat)

August 27, 2014

South Indian Music at the Kathakali Culture Center

August 27, 2014

I had the pleasure of listening to classical South Indian music the other night with a guest I happened to connect with at the 51 restaurant in Spice Harbour. We went to the oldest remaining theater in Fort Cochin for Kathakali, which is a traditional art form of Kerala that originated in the early 17th century. In this theater, they have famous Kathakali dance as well as classical music, meditation, and yoga. Even though we just went for the music, I got to learn a little bit more about the dance.


The made-up face of the Kathakali dancers is ubiquitous around Kerala. To do the make up takes at least one hour.

In Malayalam, ‘Katha’ means story and ‘Kali’ means play. I didn’t see the traditional Kathakali dance but from what I learned the dance has a storyline that is acted out through mime and drama. The stories are mostly based on Hindu mythology.

The instruments that we listened to were flute, mridangam, and kanjira. Mridangam and kanjira are drums. There was also a drone playing from an electronic shruti box.

The music put me into a dreamy state of mind. As I was listening I found my mind drifting back to all my music theory classes to help me wrap my mind around what I was listening to.  In the beginning they told us the ragas were in 8 count rhythm. Our minds can easily predict phrases that fit within a 4 count rhythm, so I wondered what made an 8 count so different. Then I realized the emphasis was on the 5th and 7th count which was pretty cool and made me understand why the phrasing was so unpredictable. Something about the syncopated rhythm and the ambiance sent me into a theta state of deep relaxation.

I was grateful to spontaneously meet that friend and get to experience that traditional aspect of Kerala culture!



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