I told them about how Ali’s bag flew off the tuk-tuk and right next to a puddle, seconds before we reached Babylon. I told them about the Cherry Blossom table, the “if you forget it, it’s ours” rule, the swing, the mosquitoes that were immune to the spray repellents, Ricky and the rest of the lizards. I even told them about the thief, the monkey who ran off with orange juice. Agra and the immaculate Taj Mahal, and trying to keep an eye on 15 people without losing my hat. Food I tried to like, food that didn’t try to like me back. Sharing hummus and pasta. Feeding monkeys strawberry candy, monkey love bites, monkeys stealing peanuts. Eagles soaring above Jaipur. Trying to find our way back to Babylon in the dark from Galta Ji, being followed by bulls, climbing a wall, slipping in cow shit. Camels, eggs and omelets. Planning a last minute trip to Udaipur, watching a very pink sunset. Bargaining in French, trying to explain to people that Lebanon was not next to the UK. Late nights on the roof. More pasta. Visiting villages and temples, orange dots and pictures of kids. Chai, delicious “milk tea”. Sleeping in the desert under the stars and visiting ghost towns in Jeeps. Camel bells and dog barks in the night. Visiting the Bishnoi village, spotting antilopes. Packing for Nepal, catching and missing trains. Stunning Kathmandu and sitting next to a Buddhist monk on the plane. And more.
And I told them about the people.
Kira who would have been the perfect Aryan last century and who could effortlessly carry me. Marwan who looked like the lovechild of an Indian and a panda and who had a contagious laugh. Saaedah with her surprise loud, very loud “Salaaaaaaaaaaaaam!”s. Sherif who says “by z lake” and who’s the most photogenic person I have ever seen. May, Rahma, Amira and Rana who stole the show at the Global Village and woke everyone up with their screams in the desert. Caroline who’s so punctual and organized, Soyo who was calm and yet greeted everyone with a smile, Chi who always looked happy and Alexandra who kept everything in check. Justin who we forgot at a bus stop on our way back from Agra and who chased the bus for a minute before we stopped.
Generous Meead who understood Hindi and attracted Indians and who always found ingenious creative ways to flip us off . Talal’s loud laugh and his Indian accent which was the only thing that made me laugh when I was sick. Indian Ali who’s has been gifted with good hair and insane dance moves and who should have been a Bollywood star (give it a shot!). Lebanese Ali who turned into an Indian version of himself by the end of our 37 days in India. Batoul who cooked really well but burnt rice, who could convince anyone she was half Punjabi. Russki Julia who could beat anyone in a staring contest and made strangers smile for her camera. Marcus who walked around very quietly even when he tried to be loud. Nick, aka dirty Nicki, aka Nicki the housewife, who burped, excused himself and always cooked enough pasta to feed all of Babylon. Evvie who kept on practicing Riptide until she nailed it and ended up playing it at Diggi palace. Anne who had her own tuk-tuk driver and worked with kids at slums and who made sure I always practiced my French. Monica so teeny and tiny she reminded me of my sister, or an Egyptian version of her. Giacomo, the Babylonian fugitive, who taught us about pizza, pasta and cappuccino rules and who never turned down an adventure. Lia, who was a mom to Salavat, Ember and Son, made funny burp sounds and who never turned down any kind of plans, specially when they involved beer and something crazy.
Was I supposed to keep it short?
Chances are that I’m not the same person I was when I left Beirut over five weeks ago. The places I have been to and the people I have met have helped grow up. India taught me how to care for others and that life always finds a way. Nepal taught me not take anything for granted since things don’t always go as planned and to make the most of everything, even though when “everything” doesn’t go as planned. And the people I have met taught me it’s about who you’re with, not where you are and that homes are not just houses and families are not just blood.
I have a lot more to say but I’ll leave you with this for now.
Make sure that you’re alive, and that you’re not just living, waiting for something to happen. Routine is safe but get out of your comfort zone every once in a while, seek novelty. Visit new places and talk to strangers. Try spicy foods and kiss elephants. Make friends wherever you go and leave traces of yourself wherever you go as well. Do not say no to adventures and write everything down so you remember every single detail, from the crust on the side of village kids’ eyes to the orange curls on monkeys’ tails.
You’re alive if you have stories to tell. And, ladies and gents, I have books in me.