Judi Stewart and Guy Cowley

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Flat in Ernakulum
We didn’t need any sort of discussion when we saw Marine Plaza. By this stage we seen about four properties in Ernakulum and this was so much better than anything we had seen in India, in fact it was somewhere we desired to live. Not perfect, as the dream had been a little house with a mango tree in the garden, but in some respects more amazing then our dream.
It is a three bedroom flat, each bedroom with a balcony looking out across the river. There are three bathrooms, two ensuite, and another balcony out from the living area. The view directly ahead looks at the best part of Bolgaty Island, with glimpses of the old Portuguese palace (now a hotel) and each day at 6.00 p.m. a glorious sunset. To the right you are reminded this is not just a tropical paradise and you see the bridge to Bolgaty Island with its continuous stream of traffic.  To the left you look up into the harbor with views of cranes, container ships and quite frequently cruise ships. The activity in the harbor and river is constant.
The scene is typically India and so are the living conditions. For all the beauty and the joys there is a downside that is pretty much the pits. In everything it is a land of contrasts. At the back of the apartments there is a neat lawn with a pool. The entrance into the block is very large, as are the corridors and staircase (there are also 5 lifts). There are extras such as a gym, welcome lounge, room for the drivers and conference area. On the other hand on entering the site you are greeted with two rusty drums and a huge dip in the road that becomes a lake when it rains – a rather large lake in November as it rained every night. At one point we nearly had to paddle to exist by foot!!! The well stocked gym has just three pieces of equipment that actually work.   
In our flat the air conditioning for the lounge is sitting on the floor disconnected and there are wires hanging from some of the walls.  We haven’t tested them to see if they are live!!! The first night in residence we discovered there was no lock at all on the French doors coming in from the balcony to our bedroom!! The air conditioning didn’t work and the fan was intermittent. One does not necessary expect a ‘good’ view from the back of the flat, which is the kitchen, but the flat roof outside the kitchen window (roof of the apartment below) is covered with rubbish.
We do have some very special neighbours. We are on the second floor at one end of the apartments, so we get the benefits of a corner view. Next door is a building site, which brings its own entertainment (Guy wants to leave them with a few tips on building in the 21st century), plus living area for some of the workers. The living area is on the bank of the river and it is just a few metal poles, with a tarpaulin thrown over the top. Cooking was done over a fire, there is one electric light bulb, and all hygiene needs (shower, laundry, dishes) were dealt with under a tap in the building site. Their lives were like clockwork, as each morning when we woke it was always teeth cleaning time.  The length of time they spent on this was impressive!!!  Sadly, our boys have left. They use to come and go via a plank in a gap in the wall but just before Christmas the building structure, such as it was, was pulled down and gap in the wall bricked-up.  There do seem to be some people still living on the building site as the ‘hygiene tap’ is still being put to good use.  

We also have to take ‘hygiene’ seriously.  We had learnt when living in Brazil you cannot afford to leave one smear of jam anywhere, otherwise the cockroaches would invade. We’ve had to move along the cockroach army several times.  Some of this leads to funny moments and we both still get the giggles when using the local broom, as it can only be described as a witches broom stick.  One of the ‘hygiene’ down sides has also been the number of times we need to wash our feet.  Inside the flat is shoe free but within an hour or two after the ‘last wash’ ones feet are black. You have to premeditate needing hot water as each bathroom as has small electric heater but that is luxury as the kitchen has no hot water.  It’s a matter of transporting it via bucket from the bathroom – as long as you have remembered to turn on the electric heater and given it time to warm up, of course!!

Overall we have loved the flat and thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed lifestyle it offered. Opening our eyes each morning was a real treat and we could fill a wall with photographs of sunsets!!