It’s all in the sign

Felicitous new year

The signage in South India is fascinating.

Restaurants have “homely” food and you can get a haircut in a “saloon.”

Our haircuts and our hair coloring make us stand out like a beam in a lighthouse.

No one, I mean no one, has white hair like we do.

The women and the men dye their hair black black black and they can’t understand why somebody would want to show off their white locks.

The language here, Malayalum, is insurmountable.

I usually try to learn a few words in the language of the country where I’m going to travel.

For example, we listened to Turkish tapes before our trip to Istanbul.

We couldn’t remember one word once we had landed.

Malayalum sounds like you’re trying to make pretzels with your lips.

So we just speak English and use sign language while we are in India.

We’ve managed to learn the words of much of the food, however.

In addition to homemade breads we get lots of curry here: fish curry, chicken curry, and lamb curry.

And it is highly spiced.

My refuge is bananas.

The local variety is a small, very sweet, yellow banana, which has sated my appetite on more than one occasion.

We drink lots of bottled water, which is plentiful, and have discovered toddy, a fermented coconut drink very much like kombucha.

Our hosts have found a delightful lodging with hot water (mostly) and western-style bathrooms.

Still, we occasionally run into a local bathroom while trekking across country.

Local toilets are called squats.

I leave the rest to your imagination.

The best sign I’ve seen so far is for a restroom that reads:





Sign at a national park

1 January 2019




About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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