Aviram says, “Sometimes you just love a child so much, you just want to hug them so hard, it could be like abuse, you know?” He says of his little naked Schaleb.
Kanga and I pulled weeds by one of the dormitories yesterday afternoon. We saw one giant multi-colored spider chilling in a large web in the dorm window. Then we saw two large Praying Mantis, one green and one brown.
“They’re carnivorous,” I explained to Raj and Kanga. “They eat anything small enough to catch…flies, small insects…and sometimes the female eats the male after mating.”
We all watch it rock back and forth, extend its long, spiky prayer legs.Raj stands about 5’1. He wears wire-frame glasses and always has a big grin on his face, his hair curls and the tips are dyed brilliant red.
Grabbing handfuls of grass so that termites can’t jump from it to the hut, I ask:
“Have you seen many snakes here, Raj?”
“Yes I have seen many. One time, when I first came, we were all sitting in the main hut eating breakfast. Then a big snake just dropped from above,” he giggles.
“A snake dropped from the ceiling? How big was it?”
He gestures at maybe four or five feet.
“Oh it quickly went away.”
Raj has a tendency to rush to the climax of the story and then abandon the ending.
“But only one person has ever been bitten by a snake here, Aviram. And it wasn’t a poisonous snake,” Raj says.
After second work I decided to bike into Kirapalium (spelled like it sounds) to return a pair of pants I bought and then discovered a tear at the seam the next day. I decided to use Sara’s bike, since she’s also short and left to get her visa renewed.
I have no idea how Sara was successfully riding this bike. Another mountain bike, the seat was all the way down and impossible to pedal decently. I asked Swami to help me raise it. The bolt was impossibly rusted and Swami gave up and called a different volunteer. Finally, it he loosened the seat and pulled it up. I was on my way!
Shortly thereafter I realized the seat itself was broken. The clamps that hold the bars under the seat were giving way and the seat kept bending backwards. So either I pedaled sitting way up on the front of the seat causing serious crotch pain, or I pedaled hanging off the back of the seat.
I chose the front of the seat method and biked like that some distance. Luckily, I spied a bike shop after I crossed the highway to Kirapalium. By “bike shop,” I mean shack with 5 rusty bikes outside it. I stopped and a very lean Indian man produced a basket full of tools and went to work on my ride.
“Broken,” he said, holding the clamps. “Go to Koot Rd.”
“I can’t go to Koot Road, I’m riding this bicycle,” I said.
He disappeared and 5 minutes later reappeared with an old seat from his scrap yard. He replaced my clamps with rusty clamps off an old seat.
“Done,” he said.
10 rupees later I was pedaling again. When I got into town I bought a coconut for 12 rupees and chugged it down. Then I bought another one.
While we did grass trimming along the path by the long-term volunteer’s huts, Raj told me Indian stories about bear and man.
“The story is about a woman who works on a farm. Her husband is away and she works alone out in the field. Then the bear comes. You know, when men are around, maybe the bears don’t bother them. They don’t care about the men. But they like the women…they are interested in the women. The bear and the woman are pulling each other back and forth around a tree, she’s very brave.”
“Wait. What happened? How did the bear and woman get around a tree?”
“They’re pulling each other. Woman on one side, bear on the other side.”
He demonstrates by grabbing my hands in his hands, and pulling back and forth.
“But how’s the bear holding the woman’s hands? How did it grab her hands with its paws and claws and around the tree?”
“I don’t know,” Raj says. “It’s an Indian story. Written in a book. All Rajasthanis know this story. They all say their women are very brave because of this.”