A Home Away From Home


We are staying in Fort Cochin in the state of Kerala. The people here have opened their arms and showered us with kindness.

Beautful FortCochin

We found a home stay in a quiet location off the main drag. During our search for a place Jill stumbles across Hana’s Haven and looks at the room. It’s very clean, big and cheap, but that wasn’t the reason we chose this place. It was the buzz from smiles, laughter and welcoming arms. The family consists of Herman (dad), Norma (mum), Alton (25yr old son), Amanda (22yr old daughter) and Maria (the maid).

In the afternoon we spend a few hours with the Norman in the common area upstairs chatting. We discuss religion, schooling, life and death. He is a firm believer in helping and giving to others.

Common Area

Jill spends Wednesday afternoon in the lounge room/sitting area of our families house chatting away and trying flour battered green chili’s (capsicum) with red chilli sauce. Herman informs me that the fish I saw him buy from the mobile fish man in the morning, 8 big, good quality fish, cost 120 rupees ($2.40). I mention I want to do a cooking class, so he offers me to cook with the maid, Maria, tomorrow after she has finished working for him. With some help, tomorrow morning I will be buying some fish from and then in the afternoon cook a delicious meal.

Then the afternoon gets better, Herman’s sister Avril invites us for dinner. Jill’s smile grows beyond her face and says yes. So while I write this blog I am eagerly awaiting leaving time… Only 10 minutes to go. I have my Sunday best on, which is white pants and a pink top and lipstick. And Matt is wearing a collared shirt. After telling Norman that in Australia we usually take something with us to a friends house for dinner he suggests ice cream.

We arrive at Greg and Avril’s house at 9pm (Indians eat dinner late) with our home stay family. Greg gives us a tour of their immaculate home. It is two storey with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms downstairs. Upstairs is an open room he tells us full of ‘stuff’. He proudly shows us his ducks, rooster, mango and coconut trees. The house is somewhat similar to ours but smaller bathrooms, and bedrooms are located in the same area. I thought mum was a clean freak, but they put you to shame. To their advantage they have a maid whom cooks and cleans for them.

Unsure of eating etiquette we nervously await some cues on what to do. In their household it’s exactly the same as home. Free game over the food and lots of chatting. Our Indian friends ate with their hands while we had a spoon. We still require practice in mastering the art. We had a mutton tripe curry, beef curry, prawn curry, eggplant and prawn curry, Dahl, rice, porotta (like nan breads) and some rice cake bread. It was all very delicious. The food is spicier and less creamier than the north.


Avril sadly says goodbye and gives her Skype details and asks to keep in touch. She also insists when we return we must come and stay with her.


Thursday morning Jill hears the fish man yelling, so jumps out of bed to meet Herman. But he’s still in bed. We miss the fish man but Herman said plenty more will come by. After some tea he decides we should head to the fish market instead. We discreetly watch from a distance as Herman barters a local price with the fish monger. He returns with 1kg of prawns and 1kg of fish for 300 rupees ($6).

During the day we trot off to the supermarket and local veggie market to buy the ingredients. No issues. Fresh produce cost 57 rupees ($1.20).

Local produce

In the afternoon we meet Maria and start our cooking lesson. We make fish curry, prawn curry and another prawn curry with beans. We observe some very interesting and different cooking utensils such as a coconut grinder.

Coconut grinder

Marinating Fish

Maria is extremely proficient at scaling fish and removing the guts taking her less than 10 minutes to do 8 fish! Maria loves to cook and her favourite dish to make is fish curry. We learn good tips like after boiling rice is strained put it back on the heat for 10 seconds to remove any excess water.

After our food is cooked we share it with Alton and Amanda upstairs. Matt and I have smiles as we contently devour the food. Both of our favourites are the prawn curry. It is so rich and tasty. If any one wants the recipes shoot us an email and we will send through. There was so much food that we will be eating it for lunch tomorrow too.

Jill and Maria peeling prawns

Our yummy feast


Our original plan was to only stay two nights in Fort Cochin but it has extended to five nights because of the friendliness and love we have been receiving from the Nevis Family. Thank you very much for having us. And for everyone else we highly recommend coming here as this has been one of our highlights of India.

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15 Responses to A Home Away From Home

  1. Amanda says:

    Hey its me amanda…had an amazing time with u guys!!
    pllllzzzzzzz do visit us again was a pleasure having u both with us at our home :):)
    do keep in touch and happy holidays 😀

  2. Helen says:

    hey jill
    was maria on her knees or did you find somebody smaller than us. will be expecting lots of currys when matt gets home,
    love dad mum xxx
    PS after the b….. dogs i dont wont gran kids any more

    • MattJill says:

      Hey Bob & Helen, yes Maria is quite short. The kitchen benches are the perfect height for her though, would be perfect for me on my knees. Haha it sounds like you trust my cooking more than Jill’s? Miss you guys. I’m glad the dogs are doing a good job of making the house not feel too empty. Love Matt

  3. Marita says:

    How precious for you to find this “home away from home”. I was blown away by that family’s generosity and open heartedness …………….pretty inspiring stuff, and really touched my heart. Yeah, great opportunity to learn to make a good fish curry. Hervey Bay has the best prawns ,scallops in the world (and great fish) so I’m looking forward to you guys visiting and showing me some secrets on a great fish curry. Love, the other mum

    • MattJill says:

      Hey Mum, yes we are loving the genuine welcoming nature of the people here. And it’s so beautiful too. Will happily teach you our new recipes. We plan on picking up a few more as we go too. Xox Matt

  4. Clare says:

    It’s so nice to know there is some kind people out there who genuinely want to be helpful and generous. I’m loving reading your blog guys!! Makes me happy hearing of your adventures, in particularly how it’s been the people who have made your trip so amazing. Xx

    • MattJill says:

      Hey Clare, yea we started off focussing on the sites, etc. but soon realised that our best experiences are when we connect with people. Hope u and Mark are good. Xox Matty

  5. Robert says:

    Wow what an exceptional experience and beautifully described. I presume you guys will put it altogether in a book eventually.
    Blessings Robert

    • MattJill says:

      Hi Robert, yes we’ve had that idea from a few people. It’s also a great way to record our travels as we often forget details and most travel photos get stored away never to be seen again. Take care. Matt

  6. Doris says:

    Love all the photos and descriptions about daily events. Its great that are are meeting really decent people too. Hana’s Havan does really look like a home away from home. its wonderful to see you both so carefree and relaxed on your travels.

    • MattJill says:

      Hi Aunty D
      There is no other way to travel in India except being relaxed, open and care free. Being like this we are open to the playfulness and it’s own “flow”. It is very different to Australia. What we have learnt here will be carried through our lives. Love Jill

  7. Carol says:

    Hi Matt and Jill.
    Love reading about your experiences and the photos. After all this I’m thinking its going to be hard for you to come back here to a normal life. Maybe it won’t be normal. Just continue having a fabulous time. Lots of love Carol xxxxx

  8. Amanda says:

    wohaa i just saw the comment u guys put on tripadvisor 🙂 it was so sweet of ur
    thanks to that comment we got a better review 🙂 🙂
    love from all of us ❤

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