I have a few favorite characters here already, in the foreigners guest house…

Frank. I call him, in my head, Frank the Cosmic Bear. He LOOKS like a bear. A big head on a short thick neck and rolled shoulders. Veritable paws for hands. Small, deep set eyes under a heavy brow and above a big soft nose. He always wears brown. “You making the sun come up?” he asked me the first morning, as I stood with my disgusting cup of Nescafé looking out the window. “I’m waiting for it,” I replied. And I was. I was waiting for the sun to leave California and come to see me, here on the other side of the planet. He nodded. “You’re keeping your world in order. That’s good. You seem familiar.” Frank then shuffled off.

Rev. Smith. Kind of crazy guy that looks and acts like the doomed pastor in Deadwood. He has a slow Texas drawl. At the meetings he gnashes his teeth and wrings clawed hands. I then see him later, still as stone, meditating under a tree.

Minerva. Lady that always wears floor length skirts so I never see her feet. She glides, she sweeps! She also wears a tall velvet hat over a complicated and ever-changing up-do, usually incorporating a black velvet bow. She looks like she should teach at Hogwarts. I’m waiting for her to pull out a wand one of these days.

Barbara from Louisiana. She’s 80 years old, just re-married for the third time, has an accent as thick as molasses and came to India by herself. She looks and sounds like she should be slinging Bibles, but she’s here. At an ashram. In the dirty back waters of India. She has just been diagnosed with advanced osteoporosis and will be going home to a back brace, a walker, and all manner of structures to keep her brittle bones upright – but for now she is slowly, determinedly walking with a cane, and loving every minute.

SHAAA. He calls himself SHAAA. Yep, with A-A-A, capital letters. His name is actually John. He also uses his adopted name as an exclamation, usually followed by, “ROCKIN!” I stood in line behind him to buy postage stamps and his sentences were constantly interrupted by “SHAAA, ROCKIN!” Long white hair and a squishy face, always wears purple. “Most spiritual color, sister, SHAAA!” Tries to give his music CDs to everyone. “Getcha higher than LSD or (SHAAA ROCKIN!) mushrooms…” He is AMAZING.

Droops. Tiny, glum, round lady that looks EXACTLY like Droopy Dawg. Poor thing fell on her first day here, and consequently has a swollen, purple right eye – making the similarities between her and Droopy irrefutable. Her sad little face, chin just clearing her plate of dal at lunchtimes kills me. She’s… so… HAPPY.

Ralph. Like Chief Bromden from one Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A slow face full of gentle confusion and wonder. I kind of want to hold his hand. That’s all. Just stand next to him and hold his hand for a minute.

The Gentle German Lady (or, affectionately in my head, Gentle Germie). Speaks not a word of English. Dark hair in a bowl-cut and huge blue eyes behind thick glasses. Always in a long, lumpy maroon sweater and army pants. I saw her slowly walking around the garden at twilight, stopping and placing a hand to each tree trunk in greeting. Whenever we pass she talks to me softly in German and nods her head.

…those are just a few.

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