Morning and I need goals. Writing goals. Lists of what is the next step with my book, ideas for things to write, lists and lists and dreaming.
I'm so happy to be here, so happy to be back in Goa, in our little house, with all our little things to do. Light bulbs that need to be changed, all the scrubbing of mold, getting ready for the season. Putting the toys back in their boxes, putting the pictures back on the walls. We will paint the table this year, finally. It's made of some cheap plywood, and the top has been getting worse and worse until it really is time to paint it. We'll probably paint the stools, too. Chairs and stools, getting a re haul. It really is time for new cushions on our low couches, but I don't know yet if I want to spring for it. Perhaps.
All our village neighbors are so happy to see us and we are so happy to see them. Everywhere I go people wave and smile and ask when we arrived and if everyone is well. I love this place.
The kids have their bunk beds, their own beds! All four have been sleeping in a king size bed for many months. They lay like puppies. I know it doesn't hurt them, that they will grow up and remember it fondly, ("remember when we all used to sleep in one bed, and we would wake up to find that YaYa was perpendicular to the rest of us again, and that Solo was turned completely around?") but it is so much more peaceful at bedtime when they are all on their own in their little bunks.
Jaya greeted us late at night when we arrived. She had washed the worst of the mold off of our bed and there were sheets. Nothing could be more welcome after that trip. That trip!
Let's just say that my trepidation was warranted. On the first train, for some strange reason, there was no pantry car, and we were on the train for 31 hours! We brought snacks, but we usually eat the train food, since it is difficult to pack for three days of travel (and carry everything else we have been carrying for the last six months). Sometimes the train food is really good, and there are always the guys coming by with "Veg Cutlets!" "Veg Pakoda!" Omelet!" and "Chai, chai, garam chai!"
On this train, there was none of that. I found myself in a mild state of panic and disbelief, as I realized I needed to feed my family over the next day and a half with fried moong dal and Parle G's. We figured out that we could wait for a longer stop (at a station) and hop off to find out what food was for sale at the canteen there. In this way we ate some Paratha (fried roti), some strange samosas, and some interesting omelets. It was a bit scary, getting off the train at a station in the middle of the plains of central India. Especially because I have a bit of a reputation of getting left behind by moving vehicles. On the train to Nepal there was a moment when my back was to the train and I was buying bananas when the man said, "Your train." And I looked behind and there it was, rolling off. So I ran and grabbed the hands of the people at the door and jumped aboard.
I prefer not to do it. It gives my husband a fright. So this time I kept the train firmly in my range of vision while buying greasy foods. Let's add that to the list of things I am blissed out about right now. Eating real food in a stationary house.
We spent a night and a day on the train and then we needed to spend a night in Mumbai before we caught our next train, the next morning. We were very tired and at first I thought we would just find a little corner of the station and lie down to sleep, but that started to seem like torture. So we headed out of the station with some strong porters and looked for a guesthouse. At the first one, they didn't want us. They said they had no rooms, but it was obvious that they looked at us and didn't want us. It was a fancy* hotel, and to give them credit, I'm not sure that I wanted us, just then, tired, dirty and sweaty, with crying kids and all of our luggage and porters. There aren't discrimination laws in India. Yet.
One man who worked at the hotel, a cleaner or something, kindly took it on himself to find us a place. So we waited. And then we walked to a guesthouse and then we sat in the hallway and waited again. It was so hot and so humid that sweat was pouring down us. And it was so late, and I remember thinking, "This is the nightmare I was afraid of. We're in it now, I'm glad. Soon it will be over." Finally, we got rooms and beds and we slept until morning when we went back to the station and got back on the train.
The next train was a normal one, with food and chai wallas coming by all day long. We felt refreshed from sleep and happy with the knowledge that we would be in our very own beds that night. We talked and laughed and the kids got a little wild, and we tried to calm them down. Solo spent a happy hour galloping all the way down the car and back, pretending to be on a "scootermichael." He flirted with a large group of friendly ex naval officers and their wives, mostly from Punjab, who were happily on their way to a reunion in Goa. They gave him biscuits and tried to talk with him, but he was silent. He was only there for flirting and biscuits.
But have I mentioned that my kids are superheroes? You should see them, when we reach a station and they pick up their bags and head off the train, navigating through the crowded station, sticking like leaches to Chinua through masses of people. They are truly amazing.
The train stopped for around two hours just when we were one stop away from our own. This was an exercise in patience, and I'm not sure I passed. I want to say that among the many paradoxes of people in India is the fact that they are impatient and infinitely patient, in one. They are not of the sort of culture that will stand around in long lines, waiting. If there is something to do to get helped sooner, like crowd to the front to be first, that's what will happen. But if there is nothing for it, if we just have to wait, then there is no one more patient. Among all the people on our train car, especially the big group of naval officers and their wives, there was no fretting, no anxiety, no storming about wondering what the problem was. Singing, eating, talking, laughing, listening to music. Knowing the train would get there eventually.
It's just one of the many lessons I think I can learn here.
*What I mean by "fancy" across the street from a railway station in a dodgy part of Mumbai and what you are thinking of when I say "fancy" may be two very different things.