There’s a Bollywood version of a dramatic tele-novela or “soap opera” playing on the TV at my feet. I was told it smells like shit in India, but Delhi smells a bit more like a sweaty, musky, man hiding his raw odor with insence and maybe some car exhaust. The 14.5 hour flight here was incredible, I may in fact have gained 5 pounds from the constant Indian meal carts making sure we had enough chickpeas and rice. I am most definitely not hungry for dinner. Ave wants to go walk the streets of Delhi and explore. I am a woman, in fact, I’m not a horrible looking woman and I have boobs, these facts are difficult to disguise with the limited clothing items I brought along. We just walked three blocks from the hotel owners office to the hotel. It is currently 12:30am here or 12:30pm for me. As we walked the dusty path I only saw three women, they were prostitutes. Now you see my reason for not wanting to explore. I have only been here for a matter of hours, but India is truly another world. I met a man named Pardum on the flight who is a safety specialist at Ford automotives in Detroit, he was returning to his home in Delhi and gave Avery and I a plethora of helpful advice, aside from the expected “Don’t drink the water.” he also informed us of sights to see and festivals not to miss. When we stepped into the very moist 90 degree night from the airport, a small Nepalese man in his mid 20′s held a sign high above his head that read “Jessica Lealmaan – New York.” I figured he meant me and so he grabbed our luggage and shoved us all into a miniature car. Although there are visual line dividers in the road, no one seems to notice them while driving. Tuck-tucks, or so we called them in Guatemala, swerve in and out of lanes, our driver yaps on his cell-phone that seems to be glues to his ear while turning down a three-lane, one-way street going towards the traffic, not with. People stare at me because I am white and Ave because he is black. We had said we would pretend marriage to stop the men from their remarks, but I blew it twice already by saying we live on other sides of the country. I’d be a horrible wife. There are lipstick stains all over our white sheets from the previous guest and the bed is possibly harder than the floor. Everyone I have met so far has been incredibly friendly.
I asked Pardum, the man on the flight what he thought Indians felt toward Americans, he said they love Americans because they are rich. After he said that, my mind wandered to my student loans, and then my broken car which I can’t afford to fix and the voice recorder I didn’t have the money to buy for this trip. I’m not rich. He was wrong. I tipped the nice man who brought our bags up a dollar and saw his eyes light up after he bowed with his hands together in appreciation. First realization – wealth is very relative. I then thought of what I do have, and realized the insane amount of wealth in comparison. I sat with Ave as he smoked cloves on a thin balcony over-looking the back streets of Delhi. I took pictures of the men walking below and contemplated cutting off all my hair and becoming one so I too could walk the back streets of Delhi at night. The dog that walked past us on the way in is now laying on the side of the dirt walkway, and Ave and I questioned if he is still alive. His quiet carcass suddenly twitches and once again we can breathe in the humid air knowing he’s alive. Tomorrow we make the trek to Rishikesh, taking planes, cabs and possibly a tuck-tuck. Supposedly all the roads to Rishikesh are closed as thousands of spiritual devotees wearing only orange walk barefoot from Rishikesh to Delhi carrying two pounds of holy water to a sacred temple. I must photograph this if possible. Although I’m nervous, being in a new place with so very different customs, my excitement for the same reasons overpowers my fears. This is only the first four hours of my trip and I already I feel so much has happened. I even got giddy over the mini, ayurvedic soaps in our bathroom. I can’t even begin to imagine what wonders will come as the sun rises.
Yesterday was probably the most intense day of my life so far. It is hot here, so hot your toes burn from the rubber soles of your sandals, the natives seem unaffected by the scorching blaze. 1 million people are dressed in orange running with 2 buckets of holy water from Rishikesh to Delhi for Shiva day but this day lasts a week. I asked if some of these people will die from the heat on this trek, and was told no. I would die. Last night I truly thought I was about to die. As I laid on the hard tile floor of our room, the earth spun around me. I had covered my body in water, hoping it would speed up the fans cooling ability, and smugly remembering one handy lesson I learned in health class. It didn’t work. I thought it was 11:00 at night, but as Ave was completely conked out, I checked his Ipod and gasped when I realized it was only 6:00. From my floor position, I could see what I thought was either a mouse or a cobra jumping and lunging beneath our bed. For hours, screaming playing children sang in Hindi right outside our window, echoing around the almost empty room. For a little while they stopped and I could just hear the cow outside and the cobra-mouse under the bed, but then the screaming re-established its echo. This all went on until 2am. I’ve never experienced a true panic attack before yesterday. How exciting. When reality sank its teeth into my searing skin, the walls pulsed as my heart sped and dehydration screamed “What the hell have I gotten myself into?!” Like the moment after you take that tab of acid, there’s no looking back now, I’m about to experience one heck of a trip! I tried to focus on my breathing, to remind myself all this soon shall pass, and soon the walls will calm down, and eventually it will be morning, eventually the kids will stop screaming, and one day I will see snow again and dream of this sort of heat. Soon after my attempt at being spiritual, I fell asleep. This intense night was only the culmination of a thousand crazy days put in one. We hadn’t slept more than an hour while we were in Delhi. We woke up at 5am and spent a few hours hiking up and down the backstreets outside out hotel. We saw many cows, raw sewage cascading next to little toes on dusty roads, and then there were the marigolds and the spiky fruit and juice shops.
I felt as though I had been transported into a national geographic documentary on the slums of Asia. I had expected this and honestly the culture shock had not sank in quite yet. Once it was time, we met the nice hotel owner back at his office, and listened to him speak about the many magical wonders available to us in India and the cheap health-care and community oriented neighbors. After a long time of not drinking the tea set in front of us (bad water perhaps?) he finally called us a taxi, and after adding us as friends on facebook we were off to the airport yet again. The plane was very late, and once we boarded the small jet, we sat for what seems like forever cooking in the heat of an aluminum oven waiting for takeoff. When we arrived in Dehradun, on our way to the outside madness of competitive taxi drivers, a small businessman from Bombay invited us to ride to Rishikesh with him in an air conditioned 1965 classic Benz taxi. He was our savior. The drive lasted around 45 minutes, baby monkeys scrambled in the bushes, the orange Shiva men sat in lines of three and four on small mopeds built for one, and our new pal talked nonstop about everything one could think of to talk about in the world. He was on his way to meet his son for his 25th birthday and invited us to drink a bottle of Jack Daniels with him in his hotel, we had other plans. He said “dude” more than I do and would occasionally throw in “chill” and “awesome.” He really was awesome. The taxi driver let us off at the sign for Ramanas garden, and we spent the next 45 minutes lugging our bags through the alleys trying to actually find the place. Eventually we came across an American woman heading into town. We asked her the way, but instead received a warning message about the woman who runs the place. “Don’t live there.” she said, “Only volunteer, but if you live there she will drive you crazy and you will leave.” Ok, I considered she might just be a nut or the insane energy in India had already fried her brain, so we went in and were put into our room deep within the orphanage atop a hill with a small fan and two hard beds. The room itself was 10 degrees hotter than the heat outside.
A pale bony Frenchman with an orange dot on his forehead brought us into his joint bathroom and explained the 101 rules that must be followed in order to stay alive.. because he would kill us, he didn’t say the last part, but I felt it. We had come at a bad time, The Indian press had just gone on a slandering rampage of the orphanage saying that the kids are slaves to the Americans and that it should be shut down. Completely untrue accusations, but nevertheless the staff was not at its happiest upon our arrival. So we took the crazy ladies advice and decided to live elsewhere for a week and scope things out in terms of living situations. A very friendly Australian volunteer named Jane led us around the village to find our new home in a bright pink complex down the road next to a burnt down house that is now a unofficial garbage dump. Here we have our own bathroom and a bigger fan for the stiff price of $2 a night. I guess our move, and according to Ave, my big mouth, made everyone angry, and when we finally met the woman we now feared, she was not very happy with us. I have later realized that first impressions mean nothing in India, nothing is as it seems, and no one is always one way. But at first, we were very frightened by this woman who didn’t greet us with a big “Welcome to the slums, thanks for volunteering!” sign. Then we met the children. Absolutely beautiful, amazingly kind children, and I remembered my reason for being here, to help them, not get stuck suffering in drama. So that’s when we went to our new home, and the panic set in, and back to the beginning of the story. I hear your first day here is the hardest, I’m feeling positive about the next.
6:00 AM. I am writing in the dark because we haven’t had power in our room since yesterday morning. This means no fan, more unbearable heat and more reasons for mosquitoes to land on my previously polka dotted legs in my sleep. The monsoons started this morning. The bright pink house we are staying in has turned a deep magenta and the streets are now a mixture of sewage and rainwater.They say your first day in India is the hardest, and whoever “they” are was very right. After our super intense arrival into the other world, yesterday was more than a million times better. We woke up early again (around 4:00 A.M) still not used to the time difference, and then ate papaya, mangoes, and chai with the two other volunteers at Ramana’s. All of the drama that seemed so dire only the day before suddenly melted away as we settled into our new home. Jane, a 20 something year old Aussie here at the orphanage for 4 months, invited us into the village of LaxmanJhula to explore. This was very necessary because Ave had only brought hightop sneakers and I had one outfit choice, the one on my back. Because of the holiday (Shiva day), the children are off from school for the next 3 days due to the threat of the dangerous orange men running rampant everywhere there are roads, making it nearly impossible to travel anywhere at all. Two days ago three of the kids were riding in a tuc tuc to a school nearby and were attacked by the orange runners and their tuc tuc was flipped over in a raging battle almost crushing them inside. They are fine now, but no one is leaving the area until the orange Shiva men vacate first. Ave bought film and a necklace for one of his lady friends in the village and I got green balloon pants my mother would love and two hippie dippy krishna-esque shirts for 6 dollars. We returned home in time for the library shift with the youngest of the youngsters, which really meant Run Around And Throw Stuffed Animals At The Volunteers Time. I want them all. Its getting a bit ridiculous, what, I’ve been here 3 days and already I want to become the next Angelina of India and bring all 65 of the orphans home with me. I played dominoes for an hour or so with a rotating group of 10 year old boys.
All of them claimed to have never played this game before and made me explain in detail all of the rules and then within a minute everyone had won except for me. I realize now, after 25 games like this, they must do this a lot. Smart kids. The littlest ones challenged us to arm wrestling competitions and thumb wars, ans also seemed to beat us every time. A 12 year old boy named Oinak leaned up against my back drawing in a notebook while the others jumped over and around him. I asked him what he was doing and he showed me his journal. He had created an entire book of simple math questions with pictures and stickers, as an interactive learning tool for the younger grades he said. I asked him if he liked to draw after seeing his impeccable penmanship. He ripped out a piece of paper immediately and wrote “My name is Oinak” in 7 different equally beautiful handwriting techniques. I’m so amazed. After this I went home and felt sick of heatstroke for the rest of the night. Damn, why can’t my body be as tough as my mind, not as stubborn? After the dinner I could not eat, we all sat together in a screened in bamboo room thick with incense on the roof for Satsang. The kids sang us the most wonderful welcome song in the world and then sang 5 other very very long traditional songs and “Kumbaya” as well as “You Are My Sun (sign?- not shine)”. I tried to imagine kids that age in the states meditating and singing together with the amount of respect and love for one another these children radiated but just wasn’t able to picture it. I found a tarantula the size of two hands with fingers spread out in the bathroom and then had one of the local boys remove it before it killed me, because, of course it would. My new friend Jane gave me an “I <3 Edward” t-shirt before I went to bed along with electrolytes to help my nausea. I love Jane, she is just as big of a dork as I am. I love India. I asked Oinak if he liked living In India and if he would ever consider moving elsewhere. He said no, he did not like India, and then stared at me with one of those intense bollywood stares meant to ward of monkeys or ex-lovers. Then, after 10 long seconds he broke out laughing and told me ” I do not like India, no, I love it!!” These kids need their own show.
Today was the first day of school since the orange cloaked Shiva men forced our village into a holiday. We are teaching kindergarten, pre-school, 1st and 2nd grade English, and spent the past 4 hours singing “Head, shoulders, knees and toes,” and acting out monkey sounds while pantomiming elephants roaring and babies crying. Everyone is tired. This morning the whole orphanage woke up at 5am to meditate and chant in a dimly lit screen bamboo patio overlooking the Himalayan Mountains during the solar eclipse. We must have all had our eyes shut when it happened because no one can recall darkness actually falling. In the Delhi Times my eclipse horoscope told me I was to have serious health problems during the solar phenomenon. Thank god the Times here cannot be trusted with everything, I’m really really trying to not get this stomach illness everyone who comes to India including myself will eventually get. We moved into a new room today on the grounds of the orphanage. This room is circular, with windows on all angles overlooking corn fields and bamboo trees. There are many more bugs here but the view is unbeatably better than our previous garbage dump. We were planning on moving tomorrow but when we came back from our peaceful meditation we found the front of our house including our screen door to be smeared all over with shit. Families of flies were having their hayday swarming all over the feces that someone had gone through the trouble to pick up with bare hands and spread so artistically all around the pink adobe of our entrance. How welcoming. So we moved again. I feel much better about this new house. We are closer to the children and I think the thin metal stairs coming up to our hogan haven are super neat and rustic. I tried street food today for the first time, a thin rolled up crepe fried till a crispy brown with cream in the center, I’m feeling daring, I think I might go try the ice cream now.
The walls were cold like all hospital walls. Hallways tall and skinny extending in every direction, left, right, up, down, diagonal. Men wearing face masks pushing carts of toxic containers, serious faces, very serious, sick bodies, waiting bodies lying on the ground in the packed skinny hallways. We are now in the third world. I took Avery to Dehradun, the only actual town slightly near to us with a medical institute. For the past 2 days through random shouts of pain while teaching, he has suffered an ear-ache that resembles “A knife digging into his brain.” It was time for a checkup. We got lost 3 times inside the cold walls filled with hot humid air. In the back corner of the massive institution we found our doctor. He poked and prodded without remorse inside Avery’s ear while explaining to me the issue, drawing with his free hand an ear canal with Ganges water trapped behind wax. Suddenly he pulled out the long stick that looked as though it had drilled into Ave’s brain and showed us proudly a gigantic glob of earwax. “See” he explained. He then showed me everything Avery must do and told me to be back tomorrow morning for a serious ear cleaning. I think he may have forgotten that it was Avery, not I with the issue. We took a taxi back to Rishikesh after waiting outside under a balcony protected from the fierce monsoon. The drive was peace compared to the hectic hospital. Eucalyptus trees fragrancing the musky old cab with a sweeter aroma. I had never seen a teak tree until I came to India. Thin windy branches reaching, spiraling, and stretching above the dense forest of other lesser woods. The road to Rishikesh was a teak paradise. Tired of mush, upon arrival back home, we left again. Crossing the swaying foot bridge above the Ganga River with stampeding bulls and speeding mopeds. We found ourselves the only cafe playing Bob Marley and sat down aside other like minded travelers. While drinking mango lassi’s topped with fresh ice-cream we smoked cigarettes wrapped in thin leaves and lounged for the first time since we got here. The restaurant overlooked the beautiful muddy river now lit up with the tiny lights of many neighboring towns. It was truly magical. We sat on a bamboo floor covered in silk pillows in an open tree-house building above the bustling street. Dreadlocked sadhus smoked strange pipes, and our Nepalese waiter was gigglier than I am, with a permanent grin and a t-shirt that read “Why drink and drive, when you can smoke and fly?” I am taking him home with me, I have decided. On our way back to our new home we were celebrities, left and right camera phones and SLRs snapped away at the odd tourists, I honestly liked it, I felt so much better taking pictures of these people if they were going to do the same to me. I must look like a scary hideous beast in all of these photos but they seem to not care. We took our last photo 25 times with 7 old men wearing white turbans, I then stepped on a cockroach, saw 5 frogs and one mouse and went to bed. For the first time I actually used my top sheet. Please god let that mean it will be cooler today.
Dreadlocked sadhus smoked strange pipes, and our Nepalese waiter was gigglier than I am, with a permanent grin and a t-shirt that read “Why drink and drive, when you can smoke and fly?” I am taking him home with me, I have decided. On our way back to our new home we were celebrities, left and right camera phones and SLRs snapped away at the odd tourists, I honestly liked it, I felt so much better taking pictures of these people if they were going to do the same to me. I must look like a scary hideous beast in all of these photos but they seem to not care. We took our last photo 25 times with 7 old men wearing white turbans, I then stepped on a cockroach, saw 5 frogs and one mouse and went to bed. For the first time I actually used my top sheet. Please god let that mean it will be cooler today.
The bony little French guard has snapped. White chalky paint smeared across his high forehead, exaggerating the wrinkles above his nose, a large stamp of black replacing his normal smudge of bright orange. He used to remind me of an emaciated mouse, but his new garb has really brought to life his inner jungle man. Everyone is on edge. The rumors running in the papers by the Indian press have gone from “Ridiculously wrong-who would actually believe that bull crap in a million years” to “Ridiculously wrong-people are sheep and now the Indian government wants to shut down the whole orphanage. These horrible rumors, calling the organic farm and school “A slave labor camp,” which I know are wrong because I am here, were supposedly started by angry neighbors wanting more land and according to some-millionaire perverts who want to turn the orphanage into a boys school. Newly deemed “Jungle man from the darkest depths of the world” explains the significance of his white makeup to me. As caretaker and guard of the site, it is up to him to defend us against the evil doers. He is dressed in the manner of a tribesman from a group of cannibals that live high in the Himalayan mountains and survive by eating the flesh of the dead out of cemeteries thus giving them magical powers and dark ways. He tells me when the police come, which according to him, they will any day now, they will see one of these feared cannibals and we will all be safe from their bad intentions. All we can do is hope he is as frightening to the cops as he is to- well, I’m not quite sure yet what he is in fact frightening to, so I just hope his plan works. It seems to me I may just be destined to live a life riddled with scenes from an overly dramatic cinema. From Hollywood to Bollywood, Entourage premiere to real life Indian press scandal, this dramatic novela seems to follow along, holding my hand while we skip alongside the stories laughing at the irony that unfolds. Aside from this running script of screaming reporters, cannibalistic French anorexics and an orphanage run by a woman who speaks deeper with her golden labs than her volunteers, my English classes are going fantastically. In fact, the two homeroom teachers have asked if I would teach more and help them incorporate the English games I made up into their other subjects as well. After school, which goes until around 5:00pm including time to help with HW and study for tomorrows tests, Ive been able to sneak into town a few more times to drink banana milkshakes and photograph wandering sadhu’s. Last time, a magical shaman man found me, I’ve decided this happening was divine, and explained a few of the secrets of the universe, gave me a small bluish crystal and told me to return tomorrow at 6:00pm for a palm reading. In my mind I’m already there drinking up his magical knowledge. I think these sort of magical things happen more often here.
In fact, the two homeroom teachers have asked if I would teach more and help them incorporate the English games I made up into their other subjects as well. After school, which goes until around 5:00pm including time to help with HW and study for tomorrows tests, Ive been able to sneak into town a few more times to drink banana milkshakes and photograph wandering sadhu’s. Last time, a magical shaman man found me, I’ve decided this happening was divine, and explained a few of the secrets of the universe, gave me a small bluish crystal and told me to return tomorrow at 6:00pm for a palm reading. In my mind I’m already there drinking up his magical knowledge. I think these sort of magical things happen more often here.
We lose days like buttons, pencils.
There is still that part of me that misses the simple conveniences of a life in modernity. Hugging tight to day dreams of chilled drinks with large floating ice cubes, showers not served in a bucket, plush beds that actually like you instead of punish you for sleeping, and of course, precious air conditioning that cuts the moist damper of humidity as well as the angry heat. This part, however still present in trying times, dissolves as more buttons disappear, more time lost here, and more smiling grins grace my dreams while I have become completely enamored with love for these amazing children.
It’s raining, again. I am soaking wet, again. I am waiting for barnacles to cling to my toes and seaweed to wrap my legs into one long shimmering fin. I am becoming a mermaid.
The children cannot sit still today. The rain bouncing up and down in their heads, shaking creeping bed bugs from sleepy eyes. The sandman has turned to mud. It’s early, even for me. The teacher did not show again today. This is not an unusual occurrence, in fact happening more than not. Suddenly my non existent teaching skills are put to the test as I become Ms. Jessica, the 2nd grade home room teacher. I imagine my orange skirt has turned cloudy as we delve into science class, my earrings now beakers, I am Mrs. Frizzle. No one wants to sit today, this is not a day for that. It is a day to jump in puddles, sing louder than the torpedoing drops, yell at the rain, show the monsoon we are bigger, we shall overcome you, you won’t make us stay inside… but unable, we sit, and I teach, and everyone is silently angry at the grave injustice the educational system is thrusting upon them in this moment of potential glory. Times tables.
The teacher is not the only one absent today. The usual line of chapas(hindi for sandals)normally reaching past the cement floor to a dirt patch on the side of the building, now barely makes it past the big wooden door. Stomach ulcers, bloating to the degree of suspected pregnancy, diarrhea, boils, infected wounds, something seems to have crept up and taken half the school. The other volunteers have caught a bug or two as well. I feel slighted, I am doomed.
My journal no longer shuts snug as a pile of 15 or more perfectly colored notes that read “I love you Jessica” sit stacked like a chimney in the middle of my notebook. I miss them already. Every ache, laugh, tear, and bad dream a shared experience. Such innocence and blissfulness through such intense struggle and hardship. My 11 year old “husband” (according to him) Oinak, has fainted 10 times this year from exhaustion he says. The cutest old yogi man in a 5 year old’s body named Raju is the survivor of attempted murder by his stepmother while his twin sister is unable to say the same. Parun, the most angelic soul in the whole wide world, is a 12 year old still in preschool because he was beaten so badly as a child that the loss of blood has permanently affected his brain function. Pinky, my BFF, who will only wear pink saris, a precocious 8 year old who speaks perfect English but can’t seem to focus for a second on HW, can only see from one eye while the other just sits immobile in its socket due to the impact of someone hitting her in her head with a rock when she was a baby. Kids without parents, kids with parents who can’t afford them or don’t want them. This place, these people, are true examples of survival. They don’t complain about the card they were handed, they play this game full out with all of their might. Determination with true happiness, never questioning the bad just living the good. I will never complain about having nothing to wear ever again. Trivial pursuit is an Americans way of life, not the name of a board game.
I haven’t really slept in a week, well during the night when most people sleep at least. I didn’t know jet lag could last this long, but I still feel India hasn’t taken its grip from my mind yet. I’ve been a bad blogger lately. Somehow during my last two weeks in India, I got so busy that even my love for the Internet couldn’t bring me closer to the computer. Instead, I wrote everything down in my journal, hoping to transfer my pages to the web when I returned. The green notebook was filled to the brim with adventure. From those precious last moments with my favorite children to meeting Israeli travelers and eating Shabbat dinner in a pitch black room with 50 Jews. And the time I got swine flu and couldn’t move for two days while the glass encasement to my brain lay broken inside my head and all I could feel was sharp splinters running through my body, that was when I thought I would die, I figured this would happen in India. When I got close with monkeys, found a leprosy colony next door, received wedding proposals from 16-year-old boys, and almost went on antibiotics for amoebas. But, I guess bad things happen to teach you a lesson sometimes, and because India seems to be stuck in a permanent time of mercury in retrograde, and karma this karma that, my karma led my bag with all of my gifts I bought for friends and my journal with all of my writing from my entire trip to be left outside the New Delhi airport for hours in a monsoon and then sit in a plane for 17 hours sopping wet. Everything was ruined including my journal. Every page now looks like a watered down version of a cloudy gray sky.
Only one page remained, the one I wrote in black ink not green. It was something I wrote while completely delusional with illness and thoughts of death. It goes:
The river is chocolate milk. Frothy, churning sweet nectar with a thick white bubbling topcoat. The butterflies are yellow, the brightest yellow since the sun, and yellow is everywhere, in the children’s hair, bouncing atop our eyelashes skimming along the thin skin forming atop the chocolate milk river. Basil wraps our toes in little green blankets as we climb down to our spot, the little plot of beachfront territory we have claimed to be the magical land for kids like us. All 65 of us, and we are in charge.
We form safety lines on the shifting shale walkway and pass buckets from head to head containing this week’s laundry. It takes serious skill to balance a crayola box worth of colors atop a little head while swimming in a milkshake and jumping over loose ground. We are all superheroes and this Hershey’s flow our great battleground. We all wash clothes like superheroes too, full of strength, wringing out drenched bed sheets, slapping wet saris against hot stones. Some of the super boys have found a log/boat/water catapult/tug of war stick. I sit and watch for hours as a group of them, skinny bones and raggedy undies pile onto the porous wood and then sail off into the Indian mystic without ever needing to actually leave the gold-flecked shore of our Ganges beach.Once every superhero was super clean we said goodbye to our magical log and the Indian mystic and flew up the mountain atop a carpet of yellow butterflies without any chocolate stains on our newly clean skirts or crushed basil stuck between our toes.Life is sweet here but for some reason the smells are not. We get back to reality and I immediately go to my shower and spend an hour standing in a dark bathroom with a small blue bucket trying to remove the stench of the chocolate river. Suddenly the butterflies in my mind lose their neon power, my superpowers start to feel a bit week from the sun, and I remember the chocolate milk river was actually raw sewage runoff from the nearby town, and the plant that smelled like basil had thorns and there weren’t enough yellow butterflies to keep me from falling, so I guess even super kids cant make it through too much shit.