It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood...

"It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood, / A beautiful day for a neighbor, / Would you be mine?/ Could you be mine?"

~Mr. Rogers

This morning, I entered the cafe where I used to sit every afternoon last time I was here to use the internet. I don't know why I hadn't come here earlier, I pass it almost every day since it is so close. I came in and ordered a coffee and asked for the wifi password. The manager came to take some ID (they are pretty secure around here), and he asked me if I was here 4 or 5 years ago! I said, "Yeah, wow! Good memory!"  He said, "I thought it was you, and I saw the name on your ID and I knew it!"  I was pretty amazed. Although I guess it makes sense to remember a white chick coming in and using the internet for an hour every day - that sticks out around here. It was really cool to have someone remember me from that long ago.

 

I can't place why, but it feels like a second home to me here.  There is an odd peace? balance? that I feel when I am here: I feel a belonging. I don't know why - I stick out pretty decently. But when I walk around, I don't get many soliciations from vendors anymore, they let me be on my way. I don't know if it is that they recognize me, or if it is because I look like I am on a mission, but it feels good. And having someone recognize me, even at a random little coffee shop, made it feel even more like MY neighborhood.

 

Mat left on Sunday night after a whirlwind week and a half.  We went sight-seeing and did some tourist things, and also stayed in some days.  Those days, Mat said he felt really good and relaxed about, and I got to practice all day and relax, too. The area where I live has pockets of quiet(er) areas, but it is in a VERY busy, congested, chaotic area. When we would venture out, Mat would tell me later that he got touched and grabbed a LOT by people begging in the streets, or people trying to sell him things. I was surprised, because as a female I think people are much more careful about touching women. But I imagine if I was touched by strangers every time I left my place, I would be a lot more on edge. In one bizarre interaction, some guy even tried to tell Mat that he had shampoo by his ears, and I think he was trying to get him to let him clean them, and he grabbed Mat's ear and wouldn't let go! Mat was pretty aggravated and flustered. Between the occurance and Mat's reaction, I was on edge, too. 

Mat and I on the train to a concert. We got pretty good at taking trains!

We needed to escape the city, so we decided to go to Goa - a prime vacation spot further south along the coast. It was a very quick trip because I didn't want to miss a concert, so we stayed in Goa for about a day and a half. While we were there, we layed out on the beach and got massages! We stayed in a intimate, simple resort called Dreamcatcher, which was a collection of eco-huts that bordered a river that led to the ocean. The ocean beach was about a two- minute walk, and the beach was perfect. I am really glad we were able to find this place and make this happen.  It was great to escape the city for a bit.

Mat and me in Goa. Muuuuuch better.

This week has been solitary and peaceful.  Since Monday, I've been practicing and writing and soaking in being on my own, and I've let socializing stay at a minimum. It has been a long time since I have been truly on my own, and it feels liberating. I was really eager to control Mat's experience here (I wanted him to ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT JUST LIKE ME), but I discovered eventually that I needed to probably let it go. People are different, and feel things around them differently. It's okay if my favorite place is not also Mat's favorite place. I knew he had traveled far, and I wanted to show him the best things about my favorite place. This only worked about fifty percent of the time (sometimes waiter forget about the rice you ordered, sometimes strangers touch you, sometimes you can't even flag down a waiter, sometimes people are really trying hard to sell you something you have no interest in, sometimes waiters don't write down your order and get it wrong, sometimes people stare at you openly and for a really long time when you have a different skin color.... and on and on).  That part that I found maddening was that none of this had happened to me before Mat arrived! I had great experiences most of the time, and yet when he was around, things seemed to be wrong/not going well/irritating over and over again. Eventually, (with Mat's help - he's amazing) I let it go, and things went fairly smoothly after that. 

Me in a bunker on Elephanta Island.

A month felt like a very long time to be away from him, so having him here was a huge relief. After not seeing each other for a month and then being together constantly for a week and a half, I think we were both ready to have our own time and space.  I love that he gets that, and me, and vice versa. We don't have to explain much when it comes to the time we need to ourselves, and I am super thankful to be with someone so understanding and on the same wavelength. 

 

 

Mat and me walking through Oval Maidan. One of my favoreite views in Mumbai.

I don't have anything planned this weekend, besides making a valiant effort to get out and explore on my own and to try to get a lesson in.  I think about coming back to the U.S. in another two weeks and I get sad! I do miss things about home (INTERNET. I MISS RELIABLE INTERNET.) and of course my people (I'm talking to YOU, high school students! I MISS YOUR GOOFY FACES!!!).  But I have wanted to come back here for what seemed like so, so long, with the very core of my being, and it seems impossible to have to leave it again. I suppose the best I can do is to walk around my neighborhood, and soak up every sight, smell, and sound that I can.