Coming home, I'm beginning to realise, is more or less the worst part of going away. It's not that your parents are any less tolerant, or that your room is any smaller, or that your town is any more boring, it just feels like it
You know that things are bad when you're missing the cold showers you took over a drain in the floor, or the cockroach you nicknamed Fred. In my defence, Fred was comparatively small for a roach, (or so The Roach Slayer said), so it was a little easier to overcome the urge to shriek, "It's chasing me! Away foul demon! Away!" Fred was the first cockroach I met in India; I found him one day when I was showering. This was back when The Roach Slayer was still struggling with her inevitable roach-slaying destiny.
Ro: *emits high pitched shrieking noises*
The Roach Slayer: *poking her head around the bathroom door* I'm trying to plan lessons in here! Go and practise for karaoke night somewhere else!
Ro: There's a huge black thing
in that corner and it wants to eat my face and then suck my soul out of the holes that used to be nostrils so that it can leave me a lifeless husk, doomed to wander alone -
The Roach Slayer: You weren't kidding when you said you read a lot of fantasy, huh?
Ro: Shut up. And also please kill it.
The Roach Slayer: *picking Fred up* But he's so small! Roaches actually clean up dirt, you know. They're like little recycling units on legs.
Ro: Oh my God
, you're insane.
The Roach Slayer: *haughtily* I will take him away to my side of the room, but I won't kill him.
Ro: Thank you
. I will humour your insanity and promise to stay by your side in hospital if you get malaria. Or a brain tumour.
The Roach Slayer: *sarcastically* What would I do without you.
The Roach Slayer found herself saying that in that exact tone of voice quite a lot, come to think of it. She eventually overcame her attitude of goodwill towards cockroaches when she realised how many brothers and sisters Fred had, but we always kept Fred because she decided that we needed at least one little recycling unit on legs around the place. Since she was happily wandering into the bathroom and whacking all the other roaches very dead with her flip flop whenever I shrieked, I didn't object.
I'm missing the kids too, but I'd more or less expected that. We got a little routine going where I'd play with the babies, (the two year olds who were too young to follow the class), and try to teach them how to grip a pencil for an hour or two, before joining the other kids later on. My babies were frustrating, exasperating and often a little smelly, but tended to give you the warm fuzzies when they looked up at you for approval after drawing a circle, or writing the letter 'a' for the first time. Most of the kids' parents never made much of an attempt to learn sign language; they're often ignored at home, so it was nice to see them lighting up under all the new attention.
I thought that it was bad enough that I was missing the auto-rickshaws, but the situation became grave when I realised that I was also missing the sleeper trains.
Sleeper trains do not appear half bad at first glance. When we went away on weekends, we travelled by one of the cheapest classes, so I was impressed by the comfy blue benches which could be artfully swung out and hooked up to make batches of six bunk beds, with more slung across the other side of the carriage. There were probably about twenty at least, in each coach, and people were nice about moving out of our seats when we presented our tickets, and didn't stare at us too much. The view from the windows of the trains is usually breathtaking.
Once, when we pulled to a stop on the side of a hill near a big group of men herding an even bigger group of goats and donkeys, The Roach Slayer started baaing, (as you do). We all joined in until the carriage echoed with the cacophony of our mingled attempts at baaing.
The other passengers stared in bemusement. Some took pictures. The men outside scratched their heads and murmured to each other and laughed nervously and avoided eye contact. Finally the youngest of the group, a teenage boy, picked up a kid goat and walked over to our window. He let us exclaim over the kid and pet it, and looked generally very pleased with himself. We took pictures and he puffed up a bit more and then wandered back to his group.
So yes. Sleeper trains in general can be pretty cool.
But there is a catch. The toilets are holes in the floor of the train opening onto the tracks below. You have two footrests to squat on, a handle to steady yourself with, and a sign, asking you not to go when the train is stationary. At first the novelty of it is fun, but then you realise that you have to aim
, while squatting
, on a moving train
So I was surprised to find myself missing all this when I got back to my nice clean western toilets and comfy bed and quiet suburb utterly lacking any trace of cow poo and dead rats on the streets.
I'm still not sure why I want to go back to the cow poo and dead rats and chai and goats and sleeper trains and cockroaches and babies, but I really kinda do.
I'm even missing being attacked by monkeys - an event which traumatised Relle the Aussie and required rabies shots. It happened at the top of a small mountain in Mysore which we'd just climbed. Two kids selling postcards to the other tourists who'd just arrived, (after cheating and getting a bus
to the summit), came to our rescue and helped us to chase the evil monkeys away. We started chatting to them, feeling like we ought to buy some of their postcards, what with their saving our lives and all.
Kid 1: *excitedly* We can do the name of any capital city. Say a country.
Kid 1: Paris!
That Scottish Boy: Germany.
Kid 2: Berlin!
Bobbi: How about Spain?
Kid 1: Madrid!
The Roach Slayer: Australia?
Kid 2: Canberra!
All: *generally impressed*
Ro: How about Uzbekistan?
Kid 1: Um, Kiev?
Ro: *triumphantly* No! That's Ukraine. Uzbekistan's is Tashkent.
Kids 1 & 2: *wander off looking dejected*
All: *stare at Ro as if she's just killed a puppy*
Lizzie: *muttering incredulously* I can't believe you just tried to one-up the kids who saved us from the evil monkeys.
RO: *struggles between shame and the urge to point out that she didn't try, she succeeded
in one-upping the kids who saved us from the evil monkeys*
I'm a horrible crappy person sometimes, so the fact that everyone over there knew this and put up with me with no more than the occasional eye-roll makes me miss them a little too.
So yes, lots of unexpected missing-things going on. This may have a little to do with the fact that I haven't been able to enjoy my cow-poo-free town, or appreciate my western toilet properly yet, due to being stuck in bed with the flu. I started panicking on the plane home when we were landing. I knew that I had a temperature and that something had clearly curled up and died in my throat, but I also knew that if my parents found out, there would be Words. Words like "We told you so!", and "If you've gone and gotten malaria we will kill
You guys, I did something pretty stupid. I pulled out my little packet of energy pills, and took some. The fact that I can't remember how many is probably a good indicator of my mental state at the time. I was, so my parents say, glassy eyed and wearing a slightly disturbing maniacal grin when I got out of the gate. I bounced around the house, literally off the walls at a few points, before collapsing and sleeping for 13 hours. When I woke up, (feeling much better), my parents were busily phoning doctors and hovering over me and compulsively checking my temperature.
It took a whole day
to calm them down and convince them that I wasn't dying. (After which I began hearing the inevitable "We told you so!")
So, I'm still mostly stuck in the house, and haven't been able to enjoy fast food and second hand bookshops and the summmer sales yet. So when I go ahead and say home sucks
, it's not that home actually does suck that much, (probably), it's just that not being at home sucked a little less.
To balance out the self-pity a little: pictures! From The Roach Slayer's digital camera of awesome again.
The goat at the window of the sleeper train to Mysore, with Lizzie's head in the way.
Women making flower trains in Devaraja market in Mysore! These are then worn in the hair, and they smell gorgeous
. When I bought some, one of the women made me turned around while she tried to pin it in my hair. After five minutes of puffing, she called another woman over and they both tried to pin it in my hair, cackling to each other in Kannada (the local language) every time I went "Ow!". They eventually succeeded, and I only lost a few clumps of hair in the process.
Deveraja market again. It really was an amazing place.
The henna I had done just before I left. One of the girls at the deaf school, who needed money for kidney medicine, did it for me. She's incredibly talented, and hopes to open up a beauty salon with her sisters after leaving school.
I'm going to go and gorge on books and TV. Why don't you guys tell me what I've missed? Rec new books! In some cases, let me know when you're going to be around to meet up! I need something to do around here!
And out of curiosity and a desperate urge to discuss it, have any of you read The House of Many Ways