When Michael, Daria, Orlin, and Tammy finally came back I was ecstatic to see them. Come to think about it, I had only known them for a couple of hours yet I was acting like a puppy who’s been waiting all day by the door for his owner to come back. This is one of the funny truths about solo traveling: as shy or introverted as you may be back home, you get to make friends very quickly when you travel alone, sometimes even with people that you probably wouldn't even meet in regular circumstances.
They saw that I was a bit shaken up, so Orlin asked me, “If you wanted to see us so bad, why did you stay here instead of joining us?”
The first reaction, from each of them, was a facial expression of confusion mixed with pity, which I thought to be extremely suitable and proper considering the once-in-a-lifetime performance I had just given. A minute later the lovely Tammy declared that in the morning she would be the one to depart from the group and stay with me in a guest house closer to civilization.
A truly remarkable sacrifice on her part, considering the fact that I was a total stranger and these were her friends from back home. It was a cold night, but I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. These people who didn’t even know me were being super friendly and caring.
Then I realized, 'It’s my second night in India and I’m already - a charity case. Bravo.'
We were all pretty exhausted but somehow found ourselves sitting on the floor of one of the rooms and talking till the small hours. They kept mentioning Shabbat (Saturday) again and again, planning the course of that day.
This fixation they had with Shabbat seemed a little too weird. Again, we were all Jewish, they were Israelis, but seriously, we were in small rural town in the north of India, who cared about Shabbat? I hardly knew what time it was. So I had to ask:
“What’s the deal with Shabbat?”
They paused for a second and gave me a solemn look.
“Really? You didn’t get that we're all religious?” Daria answered with a slightly sarcastic tone.
“Ohhhhh…” was the only response I had while I started doing the math in my head.
“But your clothes…” I was still not persuaded, “They're just regular clothes. Tammy wears short pants and you don’t wear a kippah.” I pointed at Michael.
“Not all religious people dress the same, you know...” he said.
So I kept asking questions and they kept shattering every little prejudice I had about religious people. It was fascinating and enlightening, and when I thought about it later on, it was one of the many gifts that this trip had given me: the gift of meeting people that are different from me and learning new things. (My natural tendency is sarcasm, but there is not a drop of sarcasm there! Sorry).
At some point we figured that it was probably a good idea to get some sleep before the sun came out. Me and Orlin said our goodnights, went to our room, and went to sleep. I don’t remember exactly what time it was when I woke slightly and noticed a huge cockroach walking on the wall next to the bed's headboard. It was so big that I managed to spot it in the dark. I immediately jumped out of the bed and turned the light on.
“What’s wrong? Shut the light.” Orlin said, half asleep.
“There’s a huge cockroach above your head.”
Her jump was the closest thing I have ever seen to a flying human being.
“So what do we do?” I asked.
“Can you kill it?”
“No! Can you?”
“So we'll just look at it?" “I guess.”
Ten minutes later, I told Orlin, “All this staring made me tired and I can’t sleep standing.”
She gave me that look of ‘I’m tired and you’re - not - funny’.
“Maybe we should try to sweep it to the door with a broom”. I tried to be more helpful.
“Good idea.” she said.
We took a few steps to get the broom that was leaning against the wall when Orlin saw another gigantic insect. This time it was a silverfish, but not like the small ones you see back home; it was enormous. I walked back carefully, looked down, and saw a freakishly big spider next to my bare feet. Then it hit us, they were all over the place: the floor, the walls, the ceiling. We were surrounded. It was like watching a presentation of prehistoric insects — when they were as big as horses.
So, tired and defeated, we decided that the best thing we could do was to go back to bed, hide under the covers, and pray that nothing would sting us (or swallow us whole) while we slept. If we could ever get some sleep.
On that night I sure hoped that if there is a god he could hear our prayers, or at least that he could appreciate the fact that I’m hanging out with religious people. It’s gotta count for something. Like good health insurance.