About 30 minutes outside of the town I’m currently working in, Calicut, is the quiet small village of Beypore. My students encouraged me to take a field trip after class to see the ships and boatyard there, so I had my driver take me there after class yesterday. According to guide books, the wiry Khalasis have used traditional methods to make urus (huge wooden vessels) from teak for 1500 years. They craft the ships using memorized plans and ancient construction techniques, and, as the pictures show, also make elaborate hand-carved details on many parts of the ships. I asked my students if these ships were used for commerce or recreation, and they thought they used to be used for commerce, but now are used mainly for recreation, which would account for the beautiful carving. They are pushed out to sea here when completed, then sail to the Gulf States for the interior trimmings and the motor, and finally are sold to people around the world for good times. I also asked students about the teak use, since I’d hear it was illegal to cut teak from the forests, but they said this teak was propagated particularly for the urus. They were very impressive to see, for both their size and the craftsmanship, and as we looked around we both remarked that this is probably one of the few places left in the world that uses this type of personal craftsmanship to build ships.
On another field trip today after work we visited the beach where Vasco de Gama came ashore. Yes, I'm talking about THE Vasco de Gama of 7th grade geography book lore. I'm unclear on how long he stayed, but the beach was pretty and much calmer than our local Kovalam beach in Trivandrum. We have one more beach left to see tomorrow, which is our last day here, so it's been a beach-a-day schedule this week… It's rough work, but someone's got to do it.
|Live crab on Vasco de Gama's Beach|
|Lovely Home front on way to beach|