Where Green Rice Patties Paint the Landscape


Overall, we were adjusting, and enjoying, our time in this strange land. Cows did wander the streets freely. Verdant green rice patties which painted the landscape were contrasted by the colorful saris worn by shy, exotic women.

The older half of our kids were having fun with all their new ‘friends’, but the younger half weren’t quite so enthusiastic about them, considering they were accosted each time they made an appearance, with ‘kisses’ (pinches) on the cheeks and unaccustomed invasions of personal space.

The boys loved to run to the kitchen to get baal (warm water buffalo milk with sugar) from the cook, Padmini. Kyah and Parker were attending some classes at the school, just for the experience, and we were all outfitted with uniforms.

The Indian people were reserved but amiable, and admired Greg for his friendly, impartial treatment of all classes (the caste system is still a part of everyday Indian life.) The men liked him as a friend so much that they often wanted to hold his hand (although forbidden between men and women, it was a common form of affection or friendship between people of the same sex).

A favorite past time was our evening walks into the small, local village of Thottanaval where we interacted with the villagers. They were fascinated by my camera and loved for me to take their photos and show them their image on the digital display.

Evening meals were taken on the roof of the student housing, where volunteers and staff gathered to discuss the day’s ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. They were uneventful enough, unless our repast was interrupted by a ‘snake hunt’ that came as a result of a screaming child. (Cobras were common on campus, and quickly dispatched to avoid possible difficulties).

As the spicy food become more unpalatable to my picky palate (and less nutritious, mostly white rice), my waistline began to expand and the heat grew more sweltering everyday, I spent more and more time in the comfort of my air-conditioned ‘cave’ (as my husband nicknamed it), longing for the ‘comforts of home’. My body was craving a big, juicy steak, or fat hamburger.

Where ‘home’ was, I didn’t know. We were nomads.


Rachel Denning
Rachel Denning is an unassuming mother of five who never really did any international traveling until she had four children. After a second honeymoon to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, she and her husband decided to sell most of their belongings and move their family abroad.

Driving from the United States to Panama, they settled in Costa Rica for a year, until the U.S. financial market crash in 2008, when they lost their location independent income. Returning to the United States to look for work, they knew they'd be back 'out' again, having been officially bitten by the travel bug!

Despite adjustments to living a simpler life (or perhaps because of it), they were able to save enough money to move to the Dominican Republic in 2009. After six months they came back to the States once more, where they were offered employment working with a non-profit organization in India.

They spent five months living in Tamil Nadu, then returned to the States once more (to Alaska) so they could have baby number five - Atlas.

From there, they set out in April of 2011 to drive, in a veggie powered truck, from Alaska to Argentina, visiting every continental country in North and South America.

Travel is a part of their life now, and they can't imagine doing anything else. Rachel photographs and writes about their incredible family travel adventures on their website, and they also have resources that encourage others to live a deliberate life.
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