Inaugural Train Ride

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 12:05 PM
Doña Paula, Vainguinim Valley, Goa, India

Ooops, I never wanted this to be a weekly update… but that’s my cut-off. You deserve more, and I must not become a lazy beach bum! Must… write… blog! How time flies by when you’re enjoying Paradise!

Only way I can think to summarize this week is to (surprise!) ponder how awesome India is, and then mention some current events.

Did I mention Indian Railways’ Rajdhani Express yet? This 26 hour overnight train from Delhi to Goa was a superb first train experience. It only made 3 stops, shaving-off 12 hours from the journey, and astonishingly, by the end of it, I wasn’t the least bit antsy to go! They stuffed us with food… I’ve never been on a cruise before but this is what I imagine it’s like from all the stories… as soon as I was finishing a meal it was time for another snack, tea time, and then another meal. It was great! At 6AM more tea and snacks were being served, so I got up, to read the 3 flavors of AM newspapers which were ready for us at daybreak (with the transcript of Obama’s Inaugural speech). India is psyched for Obama too… with 4-page features and Headlines like “President of the World”.

A view from the The Rajdhani Express
Watching the world go by from the Rajdhani Express

Speaking of Obama, I finally got to SEE his historic speech last night (it took me a week to download it) and now I’m happy to be fitfully caught-up, and happily moved by our fit leader! It’s incredible how new and different this feels… I was perusing whitehouse.gov and it’s great to have access to and interest in the government. Coming from my life-long background of utter jadedness and disapproval, it’s overwhelming to hear a new voice coming from the oval office, a voice of the people. This new attitude really IS my voice, and all of a sudden my walls are coming down – my reactionary urge to completely opt-out has lessened. Opting-out, in a sense, is what I’m finally doing now out here… just getting away from that poison I’ve been so sensitive to for so long. I’ve been told by many people in India and Nepal that I’m an uncommon American, and I agree. It was especially true, in a different sense, when I was living in Prague… I breathed dissent. From the outset of this trip, though, I’ve had a hope in my heart, and my attitude is fresh and without a grudge… the US is my country and I’m a representative. Now I ask myself, what am I doing to play my part in getting America back on its feet? Representing, of course!

Back to the train, there were 8 bunks to sleep in, and there were 6 of us sharing them, plus one more lady who became part of the crew from the adjacent cabin. There was lively conversation and much sharing between all of us throughout our trip. The mix was great: 3 Indians (including a very friendly and outspoken woman and a member of the Indian Navy), a hilariously talkative and exceedingly sweet German lady, a Spanish/French musician who’s just beginning a world tour with her tiny guitar , and 2 Americans (us). By the end of our trip we were all hugging and those who were staying on the train past Goa helped us to the platform with our luggage and to waive us good-bye. Another particularly memorable highlight was watching the landscape whiz by from the open doors between the train cars. The first time I realized you could do this was 1/2 way through the trip and in the middle of the night… it was mesmerizing to stargaze from the open portal and feel the nighttime heat of the south blasting me in the face. My most disturbing memory from the train originates from the same exact spot, when one of the attendants came to this spot with a box full of trash and plastic bottles, and simply dumped it out the open door! You’d think Indian Railways, the world’s largest employer, and a government-run company at that, would take some more accountability in its relationship with the vast, beautiful land that it serves. The commonplace littering out here is an issue I have ongoing trouble with. Even in major, wealthy areas like beautiful Goa and the exemplary (and relatively clean) Chandigarh, trash bins are super rare.

RajdhaniExp_0848
> > Dump trash here < <
^^ Dump trash here ^^

 

We were Giddy Upon Arrival. It was hot and gorgeous. We had no plan of where to stay or even which direction to head. With my trusty bike compass I steered us West, to the beach. In only 15 minutes we rode right into the sand (and consequently fell), ditched the bikes, and ran to the water, which was clear and warm. The sand was soft and fine, and our first native acquaintance, a pure white beach bull, was handsome and relaxed (until he started following me.) Ah, beach life!

I think current events and Life of a Beach Bum will have to wait until tomorrow!  See you then!

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