"Oh, heart problem. After you leaving here change, head and heart change."
Last week started with that. The naturally curious kids asked many questions, including "are you married?". It was nice to be able to convey what happened, receive a genuine response and then not have to make the other person feel better about it. That was his response to my being here because of Meghan.
Why do some people so easily get it and not feel like they have to make excuses for terrible things that happen? They're surprisingly direct and understanding. They're empathetic and don't bother with sugar-coating. Sugar-coating makes things worse, as if the other person is dismissing what you're saying or trying to avoid any difficult feelings or conversation.
So, that's how it all began and it didn't necessarily make me feel like life here was going to get easier for me. Between the 10 hour days at the school, constant electrical issues and a general feeling of discomfort and isolation, I was worn out. Also the school runs 6
days a week and if possible, 7. It's also insanely hot, which is physically draining, and being India, none of these 'schedules' are set in stone. You honestly have no idea what you're going to be doing day to day.
For instance, yesterday, I was planning on being at the school at 11 (we needed to start early to get in extra long class time!? On Sunday!? Day 7!?) to teach classes all day. But, after being there for half an hour the power went out and stayed off for another 30 minutes so I decided to get food in town. I found a place that makes half decent veggie burgers that cost the same as any Indian food in town. After my meal I set to wander town and immediately ran into the school director and some out-of-town visitors. They were about to go into the desert to see an abandoned village and the dunes. They invited me along. Hmm, fight with the electricity and ineffectively teach for 8 hours or see things you probably won't ever have the chance to again? I chose teaching.
No, I didn't.
The first stop was a secret desert lake. It was pretty spectacular. It's surrounded by a roughly ten foot circular berm. Which does a fantastic job of hiding the place. The shore is littered with all sorts of fossils and the water was like glass, completely still and reflecting everything around it. Beyond the dirt berm is surprisingly lush farmland that grows millet for roughly half a mile in every direction. Definitely a peaceful way to start the tour.
After the lake we went to the highest point in Jaisalmer district, which has a hindu temple on top. Near the temple is an entrance to a cave with a tunnel that goes all the way back to the city(35 km of tunnel) that the priests used to use and could apparently ride a horse inside. The entrance we saw was maybe two feet high. Maybe. Legends
are fun though right?
From the temple we went to the dunes. I've seen dunes before, both beach and desert, but these are really impressive. They rise almost out of nowhere. We were in the seemingly endless craggy desert, full of huge sandstones, random bushes, dirt and then all of a sudden you're standing on top of a windswept dune staring at infinite sand (which is still oddly the same color as the rest of Jaisalmer). The wind lines are so perfect, almost like millions of snake-like wood carvings.
In the distance, I saw a caravan of camels, whose tracks look strangely like a horsehoe crab minus the tail pressed into the sand. The colors perfectly complement each other, puffy white clouds, super rich baby blue sky, dusty green trees and cactii (officially the first time I've been able to write that word into a sentence), and expansive rusty colored sand. If they were clothes, it'd be a pretty solid outfit.
Speaking of clothes, I've been wearing the same ones the entire time I've been here. One pair of pants because shorts are inappropriate for teachers and jeans sound like a pretty awful burden, and two long sleeve shirts, again with the short being sort of inappropriate and the less tattoos I show the easier it is on me. So, I probably smell bad and I'm constantly wet. I've never sweat so much in my life. I drink an astronomical amount of water everyday (close to 7 liters) and I'm constantly sweating. It's so strange. I wonder if the Indian people are equally as affected, they don't seem like it?
Back to the desert. From the dunes we drove to the place I spent my first night for some tea and to drop off supplies. I got to see another sunset in the desert and again with the crazy star show all in less than half an hour.
Now, double-back to the conversation at the beginning of the week. Before I came I didn't really know what to expect in terms of healing or learning but I definitely didn't expect sage advice from the mouths of children. Having an existential conversation with an 11 year old will quickly alter your way of thinking and since the first day I think I
stopped missing the forest for the trees kind of thing. Yes, this place is filthy and hot and smelly and frustrating but when a kid grasps what you're going through and the journey you're on with a limited knowledge of your language, it definitely makes you slow down
and consider what is really happening.
He's right though, I will be changed, I'm already changed and I have a lot to learn still. I have to remain willing to see beyond the striking contrast to what I'm accustomed to
and really understand or seek out how that can apply to what I'm going through. I do have a heart problem. I have the problem. It's not up to someone else to fix it, it won't magically get fixed or filled up with time. I have to work at it. I have to be here, be present and be open to helping people here and learn from them. I have to let my head and my heart change, not hold on to the grief I've experienced, not be defined by it, but be defined by the lives I've been lucky enough to experience (Meghan's) and what great lessons I've learned from them.