Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ah, Look at All the Lonely People

Sometimes I think something in the back of my mind but can’t fully bring it into consciousness. Then someone else says something near enough to what I am thinking that I feel like a curtain has been pulled back and I want to jump up and shout “That’s IT!” Sometimes that happens. Like today.

Yesterday I walked around Arambol, up and down the beach, looking at the travelers, trying to figure out what this scene is actually about. I noticed how after you have been here for awhile you start to recognize the same people, start to see their game. It’s kind of like living in a big party full of cool people that you don’t know (one that lasts for six months) and you have to figure out how to fit in. I thought about how my old broken heart would have felt that this was a paradise, a dream party. All these fabulously freaky people roaming around practicing exotic skills while mixing spirituality and hedonism. Just my cup of tea. I thought about how it would have been so exciting at first, how it would have piqued some hope for fulfillment, for love, that I was always looking for but never quite finding. I could almost feel that old familiar feeling, without feeling the desperation that used to accompany it.

I spent yesterday wrestling with it without having any words to bring it to the surface.

Today, my friend Rachel up and described the whole scene in a few sentences. How so many people place their hopes in this place as a kind of paradise, only to find the reality of really strong cliques, feelings of inadequacy, and constant loneliness. How it’s kinda like high school. That’s IT! I almost wanted to shout. It’s the same carrot-on-a-stick. The promise of fulfillment that rings so hollow when the party is over and you are left with nothing but the rags of your hopes, the ache of how things just didn’t turn out like you dreamed. How at the end of the day you were still left alone with yourself, with your loneliness that just keeps getting underlined.

I thought about how there are so many people here, the “in-people,” who know how to talk and act and look and perform to impress everyone they meet. How lonely they must be, to have to find their acceptance in being so perfectly cool. What happens inside when they fail, or when they meet someone better than they are? Perfection is a harsh taskmaster.

I thought about the fringe-cool-people, the people who want to be the in-people, but just don’t have the looks or the skills or the connections. How their hearts are so laden with feelings of inadequacy and rejection. How they try to find ways to compensate, to cope with their loneliness.

I thought about Jesus, and how he never picked the cool people to hang around with. How he picked the fishermen.  The fishermen here in Arambol are not travelers on vacation who are living in a party. They are poor and dirty and smelly and their life is boring. They have pockets full of fish guts and sand. They don’t wear cool clothes, they don’t know how to juggle, or philosophize, or firedance---they probably don’t even know how to swim very well. They are not the people you want to be associated with if you have a reputation to build.

But that is one of the beautiful things about Jesus, he never cares about how well crafted your image is, he only looks at your heart.

And then if you let Him, He mends the places that are broken; even the ones that are broken beyond recognition, because He’s the only one who remembers what your heart is supposed to look like. That’s the only thing that will satisfy any of us, really.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Goa Trivia

  • Ants can find any food you drop before you finish eating or cooking, and then carry it up a wall
  • Papayas grow like weeds and smell like vomit
  • Entire families can easily fit on mopeds
  • No one has bug screens on windows and yet there are thousands of bugs out
  • Cockroaches have a shrill squeak in the middle of the night
  • Fishermen catch giant sting rays and then hit them on the heads with sticks
  • Horns are for honking all the time
  • Gypsys wear bright colors and recycle plastic and trash into all kinds of things to sell
  • Coconut tree climbers climb trees by tying their feet together
  • Wake up and smell the burning plastic and melting blue tarps
  • Tobacco and formaldehyde in your toothpaste…mmm
  • Everything is no problem…as in “Oh no, I lost my baggage!” “That is no problem madam.”
  • Construction workers don’t own any tools and ask you for hammers or wrenches
  • Pigs with big udders can run like the wind
  • Marble floors and concrete walls painted in bright colors can collect mold very quickly
  • Electrical outlets in the shower are a bad idea that someone forgot to tell Indian electricians
  • News travels faster in a village than gossip on facebook
  • Monsoons can really put a damper on things
  • Sleeping on wet mattresses is a kind of torture
  • Washing clothes in a bucket makes you really not want to wash clothes
  • Delhi Belly can really cramp your style
  • Rupees are often counterfeit and Indians won’t take them if they have even the tiniest rip on the edge
  • You can cook literally hundreds of things using only onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and 200 spices
  • Electricity is something that comes and goes, and comes and goes
  • A vendors’ best selling tactic is yelling at you. The louder the better.
  • Cows have the right of way
  • Gunpowder is an ingredient in some recipes (optional, I hope?)
  • Standing in line is something that has not been invented. Just rush it.
  • Toilet paper is a commodity, but you can’t flush it
  • Traffic lights do not exist; traffic lanes and laws are a suggestion not a requirement
  • If you are a vendor’s first customer of the day, you can really bargain with them since it is bad luck for them if you don’t buy anything. Don’t worry---they mark everything up 500%
  • Shaking your head back and forth does not mean no
  • Cricket is like weird baseball and Indians are fanatics about it
  • Fireworks are for any occasion, really
  • You can blast any cheesy music on repeat all day if you own a set of bad speakers
  • Wells are where old men take baths, in front of our house
  • The breadman rides his bicycle with a bread basket by twice a day honking a bozo the clown horn. Buns cost 2.5 rupees each, but he will try to get you to buy them for 4.
  • Take off your shoes when you go into any store or stall, and don’t worry if a guy is welding over the entrance, just try to dodge the falling sparks and don’t look at the light
  • Ants and other bugs float. Rocks don’t.
  • Spiders come in all sizes, including the size of your hand
  • Earth-moving equipment = guys with buckets on their heads
  • It is good to name your taxi, laundrymat, breakfast cereals, and children after your favorite god

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Monsoon Goodness

    Today the monsoon rains came back. They had meditation on the roof, in the sunshine, and I missed it because of dealing with kids who weren’t cooperating. After the meditation time, I came up to have lunch with everyone, and then the rains came. A few people from outside the community had come to the meditation---a girl from Germany, one from India, and one from Japan. Once the rain started, it was dumping buckets and there was no leaving the shelter of the roof without getting drenched. Saraya and Kenya decided that being drenched was good, and danced in the rain for hours with Daisy, the girl from India. Everyone found someone to chat with. We were all trapped there, and I spent all afternoon talking with the photographer girl from Japan. She said she has been to India many times, searching for spirituality, photographing travelers. This time in India, she keeps meeting people who follow Jesus and it has really been affecting her. She said she went to Catholic school in Japan and knew some Bible stories, but had no idea what Christianity was all about at its core. I tried my best to distill it for her. Then she said to me, “So, Jesus came as the sacrifice to pay for everyone, and all you have to do is believe. This is what it means. I have never understood this until now.”  She had tears in her eyes when she left.
    Yes, that is the good news; that God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life, and that God came into the world not to condemn the world but to save it. It is good news in India and in Japan and in Jerusalem and San Francisco. I am glad I could be here, blessed that I got to be the one to tell her that. Me, the one who never knows how to start conversations with strangers. I feel happy and humbled.