Class of ’67 Reunion in Kodai: March 2015 — see the intrepid attendees
Wednesday March 18: After a lot of cheerleading, planning, and organizing, the first part of the Class, consisting of Ken Pease, his wife, Anna, and Dave Cox arrived in Madurai on the evening of March 17, checking in to the wonderful, colonial style Gateway Hotel, located on a hill overlooking Madurai within a large garden area, and having not only a swimming pool, but also some very spectacular resident birds. Next, Sara Simons checked in, followed by David and Leslie Bosch in the early hours of March 18. Loey came down from Kodai, arriving just after noon and the group went for a meal of Indian thali, after which Loey took the ladies to see the fabric stores located just below the temple.
Meanwhile, the men found a “wine shop” where there was of course no wine, but they managed to purchase five or six cases of Kingfisher Premium Beer, an invaluable substance that was not available for purchase in Kodai. We sent most of it up to Kodai with Loey’s trusty driver so that it could be enjoyed by the group for the following days and nights, retaining just enough for our remaining night in Madurai, plus enough for the ladies who were staying two more nights there. These vital logistical calculations on consumption were taken up by Dave Cox with due seriousness.
By the time the men had returned to the hotel and were sitting around the pool, Phil Turner had checked in and joined the group, and eventually the ladies returned from the shopping foray and joined them for a beer around the pool. This was followed by dinner at the Gateway buffet, with a champagne toast for the beginning of the Reunion, and we all toddled off to bed.
Thursday, 19 March: We rose reasonably early to eat a nice buffet breakfast. At this point Ken, Anna, Dave Cox, and David and Leslie started up for the ghat road in the Toyota Inova van that Ken, Anna and Dave Cox had for their extended trip, while Phil stayed with Loey and Sarah to wait for Laura Servid and Margie Graham to arrive next day. The two Davids particularly wanted a chance to do some birding and to do some hiking around Kodai rather than hanging around Madurai. They wanted to go via the Thandagudi ghat, which promised much better bird-watching but takes a bit longer as you have to go to Dindigul and then up. Despite many attempts at giving clear directions to the driver, we ended up on the old ghat road, but did manage to go off to a portion of the Thandagudi ghat just beyond Oothu, and then recommenced our drive to Kodai, stopping only at Silver Cascade for a brief look.
After checking in to the Villa Retreat boutique hotel overlooking Coaker’s Walk, we were surprised by the arrival of Tim Heineman with our fellow old motorcycle fiend and friend Mario Bellido, who had been visiting Kodai for a week and was leaving later that evening. We took the opportunity to go together to the Carlton Hotel to have a beer overlooking the lake.
Returning to Villa Retreat, we found that Bruce Peck (Class of ’68 and a Wyadra fellow like Ken and Dave Cox) had come over and we all sat overlooking Coaker’s and shared a number more bottles of our precious beer before we had dinner at our hotel and retired.
Meanwhile, back in Madurai, Sara and Loey spent the morning at an Ayurvedic hospital where Sara had a massage and Loey met with a doctor – charge was $1.40 for the visit – in contemplation of spending some time there next year detoxing through a program called ‘panchkarma’. In the afternoon Phil, Sara, and Loey wandered around the Meenakshi temple and followed that up with a ‘cheapest and best’ meal of dosai and lassi.
For more information on ‘panchkarma’ contact David and Leslie Bosch as they spent several weeks detoxing at an Ayurvedic center in Goa. This writeup is not the place to describe what all is involved – BUT of course it is very healthy. Right, David?
Friday March 19: We had eggs and pancakes at the hotel- Dave Cox ordered three pancakes plus eggs and found that each pancake was roughly double the size expected-and then we walked up Coaker’s Walk to meet Bruce Peck, who had agreed to lead us on a birding walk. The morning was exceptionally clear so the Eucy trees that have grown at the top Mount Perumal were very visible.
Bruce took us past Shelton to Bombay Shola where we saw a number of birds,including a spectacular Paradise Flycatcher, and also a pair of Giant Malabar Squirrels. We also walked down to the lake and around to Bryant Park, now teeming with small stalls selling souvenirs to tourists, and then back to our hotel.
Arriving back at the hotel, we found Tim Heineman and George Penner (Class of ?’69) waiting for us, and George invited the group up to his place for bagels and coffee. We enjoyed his traditional old Kodai house, hospitality, great coffee and bagels and cream cheese. George showed us his bagel and biscouti business, and his wife Vera showed us her process of using local Indian housepaints to create unique paintings. And a few people started drinking beers…
At this point, Bruce Peck invited us over for evening drinks at his place, Prospect, just above Coaker’s Walk. We took some wine and beer and joined Bruce and his wife Ann, both of whom are artists that spend half the year in Kodai (winters) and the rest in Vermont. Bruce showed us his etchings (www.brucepecketchings.com) and Ann Peck her paintings on silk, both very talented. Ann has a charity (www.help-kids-india.org) that helps replace wood stoves that can endanger children in particular with the indoor smoke with a new design that is simple, cheap, and provides a flue to remove the smoke. Loey’s husband, Gary, worked with this charity for a number of years and installed stoves in villages around Kodai before he died. Lynn Krause’s son also worked on this project with Ann — small world! We enjoyed their great hospitality, then returned for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant before retiring.
Back in Madurai, Laura and Margie arrived early in the morning. That was actually something of a miracle because their Lufthansa flight from Seattle had been cancelled due to a pilots strike. After some serious scurrying and a gift of airline miles from Margie’s husband, they were able to fly to India on Emirates — BUSINESS CLASS. After a day of swimming, shopping, and sightseeing the Madurai crowd returned to the local dosai shop and spent at least $10 on a lavish meal for 5 followed by a raucous tuk tuk race back to the hotel.
Saturday, March 21: After breakfast the group divided up, with the two David’s going with Bruce hiking to Pambar Falls and Pambar Shola to look for birds, while Ken, Anna, and Sarah used the car to look around Kodai, visit the golf course and other sights. Dave Cox photographed an endangered Nilgiri Pigeon in the Shola, and a Giant Flying Squirrel caused mutual surprise when it soared down and landed with a crash on a tree almost next to us, then realized our presence and skittered off. The views from above and at Pambar Falls are still unspoiled and spectacular.
By noon Loey, Sarah, Phil, Margie and Laura had come up the ghat and checked into either the Retreat or were staying with Loey at beautiful Shelton, one of the first houses to be built in Kodai. The entire group of 11 (9 classmates and 2 spouses) got together for lunch at the —- Indian Restaurant, then in the evening we were invited to George and Vera Penner’s for a great home-cooked meal, with plenty of salubrious wine, beer, and good company.
Sunday April 22: Loey managed to get our permission to go to Berijam Lake from the Municipal Authorities, so we climbed into our own bus and headed up past Clanculan and the Observatory toward Berijam, with a couple of stops en route for the scenery.
When we reached the Lake, we carried our picnic lunch past the vehicle boundary to a nearby spot and enjoyed the area, although we noticed that other bus-loads of Indian tourists seemed to have been granted permission to visit, as well.
After returning from Berijam, we met for afternoon activities outside Shelton with games, group photo, talk, a thrilling croquet match for which Ken devised the seemingly ad hoc rules, and dinner around the campfire before we crashed.
Monday March 23: We said farewell to Ken, Anna and Dave Cox who were heading for Bombay and the last part of their India trip as they left right after breakfast. Then the remaining group headed for the Kodai Alumni Office, where Yvonne Dovlo had organized visitor’s badges and a bus to take us first to the Ganga compound where the grade 2 – 8 classes and dorms are located.
We then had a tour of our old campus, which now houses only girls, and has classrooms, music rooms, gym, etc. for grades 9 – 12 only. We visited the Chapel, where we had spent so many hours, and looked at the new organ – basically the only change. The old gym has been expanded and has a concrete floor rather than wood. Kennedy Court has a roof covering the whole area now. The library also has been expanded with a second story, and computers, of course. But Mr. Fisher’s Halls of Learning still looked the same, and the Quad, although the bathroom has been somewhat modernized. The Flag Green is the same, but the Dining Hall has a second story: It is all cafeteria style, and I must say the food is much better than before. We had lunch there after our tour, and Principal Corey Stixrud joined us for lunch, and then later answered questions privately outside overlooking Kennedy Court.
At tea time Sara, Tim, Loey, Margie, Laura, David and Phil gave a presentation in the gym to the Senior Class, numbering about 85, regarding what we had learned at Kodai and advice for them as they proceeded to college and careers. Phil had a video presentation of some news footage he had shot that provided some fascinating images, and may have convinced one student to study journalism. The seniors seemed interested in our reflections and advice – or we just enjoyed hearing ourselves talk. We decided to have dinner together at Villa Retreat, so we had more time to talk.
Tuesday March 24: After breakfast, Loey, Sarah and David addressed the Marketing Class, which was mainly juniors with a couple of seniors as well, to give some advice about further studies and careers.
We had an informal lunch at Shelton before David and Leslie Bosch and Tim Heineman left for Madurai. It was sad to part, and we felt we still had not had enough time to talk among ourselves, but perhaps we had! Later in the day Bruce and Ann Peck hosted a tea with George and Vera Penner and Bill Penner who was visiting from Canada. On the short walk back to Shelton in the dark Laura, Margie, and Loey encountered a very, very large bison. Luckily the eyes gave him away and there was time to make a dash for the Central compound gate. A 100 rupee splurge bought a taxi ride the remainder of the short ride to the house as there were more bison wandering the road.
Wednesday, March 25: The last day, with only Phil, Sara, Laura, Margie and Loey left in Kodai, was spent wandering old routes around Kodai and hanging out at Shelton – eating all the leftovers and enjoying the sunny, warm day in the hills before traveling down to the heat of the plains.
We have all agreed that a reunion in the U.S. in 2017 is a must so we are hoping this lengthy presentation inspires all of you to plan on joining that event. It was so great to see everyone who attended and find out what course our lives have taken.