The train to Jaisalmer started out just like the beginning of Darjeeling Limited. My friend brian and I literally had to run with my bags and hop onto a moving train. The ticket was confusing so I had to guess as to where my seat was. I passed a four bed cabin that was blowing AC out of the open door, hoping that any combination of the letters and numbers on my ticket matched a bed in there, but to no avail. I found bed number 12 which I thought was on my ticket and tried to settle in to that space. The car ran two beds high along one wall the length of the car with rows of two running perpendicular along the other wall. All in all it slept probably 30 people in this section. Not uncomfortable looking but I definitely felt a bit exposed because I couldn't find curtains for the bunks. Oh well. I hadn't eaten in probably 6 hours and was pretty hungry and hoped they would be bringing magical Indian food down the aisles or taking orders or something. Instead, there were a few guys with kettles walking up and down the aisle yelling "domaaatozoooop". I had to ask after the fourth time...tomato soup. Eh. Also kind of scary. You never know how old it is etc etc.
The ticket checker came and told me I was in the wrong car. It was my lucky day, sort of, I was in fact in the AC blower. It was So, so cold in there, quieter and more isolated even though I had to share with 3 others. I had the top left bunk which included access to an outlet and control of a vent.
The only let downs were the lack of buffet cart still(i was getting more and more hungry as time went on) and the bed was hard as rock. Plywood is more comfortable, at least there's some give. You have to change position every twenty minutes or so because something is constantly falling asleep. Sleep was fitful but I had 18 hours to get enough of it. Man, it was seriously a long train.
I had to jump out of the train at 4 in the morning to grab some quick snacks and jump back on before the train left. You don't have much time at all in the stations. The "coach" sections of the train are pure pandemonium. Before the train is mostly stopped people are trying to cram into every open door. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is shoving. People climb on top of the train, people hang out the windows. Its crazy. I've never seen anything like it. There's people everywhere. Back on the train I basically slept until we got to jaisalmer.
Jaisalmer is by far the craziest place I've been. Everything from the sand to the roads to the camels to the buildings is the same shade of pinkish rust. It really does feel like the last stop on the train, the end of the line, whatever that entails. It's not scary, but it is a bit unsettling to be mobbed by 20 or so men right outside the station, asking to take you to their brother's hotel, that is far better than the other taxi drivers offering the same thing. It's also hot. It's well over 100 with a touch of humidity to ensure your complete lack of comfort at all times.
The town centers around a massive fort in the center. The city sort of spirals its way down to sea(or sand?) level from the hill that the fort is perched on. The maze(I know, boring metaphor but apt) of hand-built stone walkways are remarkable on their own. Everything is made of stone. Huge stone. And there's all manner of distinct people milling around, dodging the cows eating out of the gutter or whatever it is they do.
It took me about an hour to make it to the school I am to be working at for the next few months. The school is amazing. It's immaculate. The three story building has marble floors throughout and old rugs everywhere. On the walls are old folk instruments, pictures and pottery. The walls are brightly painted. While we (about 10 kids and a music teacher that doubles as the rickshaw driver named Rasul) wait for the school director, Sarwar, to get there, they all treat me to an impromptu concert which all of you at some point should experience.
Everyone trades instruments constantly and sings. They mostly use the tabla (drum), harmonium (accordion like floor mini piano), finger cymbals and castanets. They all know every part of these really intricate songs and it's pretty intense trance-inducing music (don't tell the hippies about this place, they ruin everything.) All of this is incredibly exciting but the whole experience lacks someone to share it with.
I am very aware of how alone I am here. Almost every here experience reiterates my sense of isolation. I miss Meghan a lot and I wish she were here to share this with me. Taking her memory to these far off places isn't enough. I find that she's the only one I want to talk to about everything I'm experiencing and how far off and strange it all is. I'd love to see her reaction to the camels and cows and goats and pigs roaming free in the city.
She wouldn't be able to control herself at the sight of the school rickshaw packed to the brim with the kids from the music school, all completely content in everything they're doing. I think that is one of the first lessons I'm to learn on this portion of the trip. To be content and not always looking for something bigger and better.
There's a line in one of my favorite songs Brian and I were blasting in the back of his car in Delhi the other night, that really stuck a nerve. "if I've come with all I have I've come with all I need." How many of us live like that? I'm don't, yet. I try to, with packing light, but blinking flashing light up gadgets are definitely a weakness and I tend to overdo it. I need to get away from wanting more. I need to be content with what I have and be content with giving what I can offer.
The kids here constantly want to include me and make me feel like a part of them, there is a constant stream of black chai and instruments being forced into my hands. I know they don't have much, but they'd give beyond what they can just to make me feel comfortable and happy. Meghan is much the same. She always wanted to make people feel taken care of and comfortable. In Korea she would make me food or refill my bus card before it had a chance to run out. She wanted her loved ones to feel loved, taken care of and content.
Had I not come here, I wouldn't have had that conversation about the song or noticed how giving these children are and then related it to Meg. Meghan is slowly, piece by piece putting my heart back together with these tinny realizations of who she is and what she meant to myself and others. In my one backpack, I have more than I need to live and feel content. Get rid of what you don't need and give what you can, the benefits you reap far outweigh the junk you're keeping.