My eyes fluttered open as my brain registers the Muslim call to prayer; I'm wide-awake in an instant. It's five am, still dark but it will be light soon. I pull back the Indian printed sheet and quilt, throw my feet onto the hard tile ground and get up and go to the bathroom before folding myself back into bed. At home 5am means get up, make coffee and start the list of things I want to do; write, run, work, go to yoga, see friends. Here I have little to do besides write and make coffee. Tucked under the covers listening to the Muslim prayer being called from the mosque near the slum I roll over clutch a pillow to my chest and start reflecting on Saturday's hike in Udaipur
Trekking up the mountain to Monsoon palace with a gaggle of teachers from Ascend International School (the school Ann and Kory teach at), I found myself ahead of the pack per usual, utterly lost in my own head. My thoughts rest on how everywhere I look in India people, animals, rain, all things nature mingle; it's messy. Trash lines the city streets, cow dung, dog poop and other animal feces keeps me alert to where I'm stepping. Intimacy between humans and nature is apparent and complicated; the connection doesn't seem to breed conservation or preservation. Along our trek up the mountain cars pass carrying those that would rather see this view from a window. We're honked at excessively and belligerently as exhaust spits out at us from the back of cars. The honking at us, on a mostly quiet road (at least quiet for India) bewilders me and I feel anger swell in head, but I try to remind myself there are many things here I’m simply not going to understand so I had better let it go. Some groups cheer at us as they pass and I find myself agitated at the unwanted attention. “let it go, let it go” I sing in my head.
At the top we snap pictures of the view and disperse around the grounds. I’m alone outside in what feels like the first time while out and about in India. A small group of men spy me taking pictures and one asks me if he can take his picture with me. I’m hesitant of the attention and my insides fill with conflicting thoughts, I don’t want to be rude and I don’t mind being the token white girl but I also don’t want to give the wrong impression which seems easy to do. I reluctantly say yes. The stranger asks if he can put his arm over my shoulder for the picture and I nod ok. After they take the photo I quickly decide it’s time to skedaddle, find my brother-in-law or one of the two other guys in our group and glue myself to them.
With the exception of a few moments of mist the rain mostly holds off for our hike up and down. My body is grateful for the exercise. We all sit for a chai and paneer at the cafe. Getting ready to track back down we stop to regroup. Kory and I watch a monkey as it eyes a row of parked motor bikes when all of a sudden the monkey leaps deliberately onto one of the bikes knocking the row down like a set of dominos. It's apparent this monkey has been waiting for the perfect moment to make this happen. Men shoot towards their bikes and Kory and I erupt into laughter. "Monkey's are assholes,” Ann blurts out. It's true and I'm glad we weren't on the receiving end of that shenanigan.