...there was a group of friends traveling in India together. Chinua, who at that point was my superstar boyfriend, and I were a part of this traveling group of friends, a spiritual group of friends who were very Jesus oriented. At one point there had been six girls and two guys, but unfortunately, one of the guys went home, and then we started to look like a strange sort of harem. At least, that's how it seemed to me at the time, and it was driving me crazy. But, I digress.
We decided to take a boat from Calcutta (Kolkata, now) to the Andaman Islands for a rainbow gathering. It was a four-day ride on a ship, with nothing but water to be seen. One thing to be said for the lack of infrastructure in India; it's the only place that I can think of that would let forty people set up hammocks on the deck of the ship to sleep in. We rolled along on the sea, sleeping under the stars, swaying gently in our hammocks. Or, at least, some of us did. My hammock, which was sold to me as the strongest fabric around, broke the first night, while I was in it. I fell with a thud to the ship deck about three feet beneath me, caught my breath, and then slept where I had fallen, for the next few nights.
During the day I sat and talked with fellow travelers, or daydreamed while listening to the Buena Vista Social Club, and at night we played music or dreamed some more. It thrilled all the travel-loving bits of me, all the way to the core. I watched dolphins and sea-turtles, made friends with an Italian man who spoke no English, an Israeli man who looked like a Viking, and a very tall, large German man who danced with twinkly toes. Chinua said he looked like the largest pixie he'd ever seen.
We finally docked at Port Blair, where Christy was horrified to find that, although there had been signs posted by the trash cans that said not to dump trash overboard, that was precisely the way it was dealt with in the harbor. As if the water in the ocean and the water in the harbor weren't the same water. Actually, we were all horrified, but Christy tried valiantly to get the crew on the ship to understand the danger to sea life. "The sea turtles! Please tell everyone about the sea turtles." To Californians, littering is a grave sin. But littering in the ocean? Incomprehensible.
After spending a while in Port Blair eating "Prawns Masala" and "Peas Pulao," as well as eating at the strangest obstacle course of a restaurant that I have ever been to ("I'll have this, please." "Sorry Madam, we don't serve that before 2:00." "Oh, okay, well, I'll have that." "I'm sorry, we don't serve that after 11:00." "This?" "Not on Saturdays." "This?" "Not during a full moon...") and having some adventures with a seamstress named Julie (Christy's "tank top" turned out looking exactly like my "skirt": a large, boxy cylinder with square arm cut-outs, the same in width from the shoulders to just above the knees. It looked like she had cut two rectangles, sewed them together, then cut a square for where the head should go, and two squares for where the arms should go, then sewed it all together with some bright green thread. As a matter of fact, uh huh, yes... this is exactly what she did) we headed off on another boat for Little Andaman.
Little Andaman is a strange place to visit. Mostly because they seem to discourage tourists by not allowing anyone to come to their guesthouses except government officials. And because there is only one real restaurant, a place called the "Little Little," which is actually the home of an entrepreneurial Indian family who put a sign outside the door of their tiny home that read "The Little Little". It's that easy, in India. At the Little Little you may sit and drink tea for an hour before the cook (who has been sitting and drinking tea, or maybe Horlicks, with you) asks you what you would like to eat. After a few minutes of lively debate about what the best thing to eat is, he'll grab his basket and go to market. If you're really lucky, like Leilah and I were one night, he'll bring you along. It's a four-hour experience, just to eat dinner.
Anyways. We were not planning to stay in a guesthouse (except a couple of the girls, who had been inflicted with some sort of spotty skin disease that caused them to have to air dry under Indian fans after bathing every day) because we were planning to take our hammocks (I bought a new one) to the beach and sleep there.
The beach we first arrived at was beautiful. Little did I know that this would be the night. There were massive trees everywhere, and we slept beneath them I think, since we weren't settling there for good. Night came and everyone went to the fire to eat. Chinua and I weren't hungry and we wanted to swim. The water was so clear that you could see the bottom in the moonlight, and warm. We swam for a while, happy as clams because the beach was so beautiful, the moon made the night as bright as day, and we loved each other so much. We got out and lay back in the sand for a while, side by side, looking at the sky, and then I remarked, "Just look at that ring around the moon!" Suddenly Chinua popped up and grabbed my hand with sandy fingers. "Rae!" Since we had been traveling for six months or so he had no way of buying me the ring he wanted me to have. It was one thing that kept him from asking me to marry him. But now there was this amazing halo, a ring, right there around the moon.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"Okay," I said. (I've never lived it down.)
Then we threw sand and ran around on the deserted beach and it was perfect. And that is how Chinua became my superstar fiancé.