I.One minute I'm casually taking photos from the cliff side cafe where I stopped for coffee, the next minute I'm being propositioned to have my head eaten by a cannibal. Or at least that's what I thought was happening.
I noticed him first thing when I sat down for my coffee. Could have been the fact he looked a little like he just crawled out of a cave. Could have been the fact he kept blowing a whistle every time he needed something from the waiter. Who knows. By the time I stood up to take pictures and leave, he was blowing the whistle at me. I walked over to him, and he motioned for me to sit down. He tried to feed me a bite of his fruit salad and showed me his skull necklace. He then proceeded to run his finger across his throat and bite his arm. Then pointed at my head. I don't understand, I said. He made the motions again. About that time I was starting to get the feeling he was trying to tell me he was a cannibal and was perhaps asking if I'd like to give him my head.
At that point, he reached over and snatched the sunglasses off my head and grabbed my phone from my hand. He put the sunglasses on and poked at my phone taking a string of rather odd pictures of him smiling obliviously and me grabbing at my things. Once he got a few pictures, he gladly handed them back, but not without signing the eerie cannibal message to me again. I smiled and slowly backed away from him. I really wanted to ask him a few things--like: Are you a cannibal? Does your necklace represent how many folks you've eaten? Why are you eating fruit salad? Are you from Papua New Guinea, by chance?-- but I got the feeling he didn't speak so I made my quick escape.
Walking back down to the hidden little beach cove pressed against the cliff, I was left with the lingering feeling that maybe this was the start of a string of very strange stories I would be encountering. I am reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, after all. And if you've ever read Murakami, you already know where I'm going.
II.To say I finally got to fulfill my lifelong dream of dancing barefoot at a beach side dive bar (twirly skirt and all) to two Irish ladies singing Nancy Sinatra would be an understatement.
Let me start over. I was walking by the bar headed home when I swear I heard Whiskey in the Jar. I did hear Whiskey in the Jar. Two Irish ladies were singing it traditional style. I wandered in to listen to them for a bit when I heard a voice.
"Hey, I know you."
"I was just in here two days ago," I said.
Next thing I know, my new buddy Lloyd, a 20-something long term traveler from somewhere south England, shoved a beer at my face and started introducing me to everyone around us.
"You're a scientist too!" Exclaimed the Swedish scientist.
"No, I'm a writer," I said wondering how he could have possible gotten scientist out of writer.
"A science fiction writer," he shouted more enthusiastically.
"That's right," said Lloyd. "And she's really into Star Trek."
"I've never seen Star Trek," I said.
"Spock is her absolute favorite," Lloyd continued.
Then Mick, a retiree from Cambridge joined us.
"Mick, meet Sarah," Lloyd said. "She a science fiction writer from Texas."
"I am not from Texas," I interjected.
"A real hardcore Trekie. Loves Spock."
"Nice to meet you," said Mick.
"How long are you here?" I asked.
"Only 4 months this year," he said. "I typically stay 6 months, but this place can make you a little kooky after a while." He shook his head. "This is my 16th year coming here."
I nearly choked.
When it came up that I was headed to Thailand to teach English, the Swedish scientist told me he had once taught English in Japan for a couple years. "Loved it," he said. "Had to have some papers forged in Canada to get the job though."
It was then Lloyd pulled me off the barstool and out onto the floor where I kicked off my flip flops and twirled about wildly. The world a flip book around me.
Back at the bar, I noticed Lloyd had the word PlayStation tattooed in big black letters down his inner arm.
"Why do you have PlayStation tattooed down your arm?" I asked.
"Himalayan spiritual pilgrimage," he mumbled then fell off his barstool.
It was getting late. I finished the last sip of my beer, gathered my things, and waved goodbye to all the characters I'd met that night. I walked slow back to my guesthouse along the edge of the water trying to come to terms with the fact this strange group of people will forever remember me as the science fiction writer from Texas who's really into Star Trek, especially Spock.
III.I started dreaming in Russian. No, that's not entirely true. I wasn't asleep. I was half awake and hearing two folks talking loudly in Russian outside my door. It's an odd thing to wake up to really, especially while in India.
Later that night I was leaving my house to go on my nightly beach walk when I heard the most blissful thing in the world coming from the little beach shack at the end of my walkway. Cat Stevens. Well, not Cat Stevens, but it was a Cat Stevens song. I was lured in, and like a magic spell had been put on me, I couldn't leave.
Over the course of the next week, I kept finding this guy. And I would always stop and listen and stay because I couldn't not stop and listen and stay. I eventually decided I needed to talk to him because I was starting to feel a bit like a stalker (an accidental stalker, but still). Not too many days later, I am agreeing to be his student so he can practice teaching music in English. Last month, back at Amritapuri, I read a book that took place in Russia that was partly about a Russian musician. This month, I meet a Russian musician. These things happen.
Again, at that little seaside dive bar, between the chaos of Russian conversations, making plans to meet for the music/English lesson, and trying not to lose track of my flip flops that I had carelessly tossed somewhere, I was suddenly struck with how strange and impermanent everything about my life is these days--how so very different my life is here in Arambol to what it was back at the ashram in Kerala and how so very different it will be once I move northward to Rishikesh.
When I left for this trip, I had no expectations for India. I assumed I'd be getting a lot of writing done and doing lots of yoga, but other than that, I left a blank slate for the Universe to fill in. And it has filled it in with the most unexpected and surreal things. It's like bits and pieces of my subconscious are manifesting--kind of like in Contact when Ellie Arroway takes that wormhole to meet the aliens and everything is shadowed by the images in her subconscious. Or like a Murakami book, where you're led down odd, twisting, surreal paths and plots that go nowhere. The point isn't where you're being led--it's getting sucked into the magic of that moment in time, one moment falling away to the next, impermanent and fleeting. Letting go of expectation and attachment to such isolated magical, fleeting moments, helps drive the magic.
Have you ever just let go expectation and let magic take over? What did you learn? Where did it lead you?