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Travel Nightmares: Mistaken For A Deity


This summer, we're collecting your travel nightmares, looking for vacations and journeys gone very, very wrong. This week, we have a story from a listener Efrain Villa. He's from Albuquerque, and his tale begins in Nagaland, a tribal area in northeast India.

EFRAIN VILLA: The landscape is amazing. It's like being in "Avatar." I mean, like, you've got mountains and jungles and animals you've only seen on television. Sometimes you've never even see them on television. I mean, just creatures of all sort everywhere.

And then amazing food - sometimes you are eating your food while it's still alive. As a New Mexican, I love my green chili. And there are these tiny little beetles. You pluck the head off, pop them in your mouth, and they taste exactly like green chili.

And then the people, man - tattooed on their faces. And they have these really cool, like, nose plug things, and, you know, the guys are dressed in loin cloths. And I think to them, Westerners probably look amazing because not that many people travel through this area.


VILLA: So at the time, I had been travelling for two years. I had lost a ton of weight, gotten even darker than I already am, had stopped shaving, had stopped cutting my hair. And so I had a big fluffy beard atop this really emaciated body, so I kind of looked like an Osama bin Laden Pez dispenser, if you can imagine that.

You know, I started hitchhiking through this area and eventually was picked up by this man who told me about this really incredible place. He said it was the most pious, the most religious town in the entire region. And so this area has been heavily religiously colonized by Christian missionaries.

And so I arrive at this village, and I put on my backpack. I start walking toward the square. There's this little center square. And normally, when you arrive at a new village, the first people to see you are the children and the animals, and, you know, it's the same reaction. They stare, and then they scamper.

And I was expecting that same thing to happen in this village, except it didn't. When I arrived, there were children playing in the square. They looked up, and they saw me. And immediately they all fell to their knees and clasped hands together, right? And so I'm thinking, well, this is new.

And I got closer, and one of the children, you know, on his knees - he was looking at this little piece of paper. And he would look at me, and he would look back down at this little pamphlet. And I got close enough to see what was on the pamphlet, and I saw it was an image of Jesus. And that's when it hit me (laughter). They think I'm Jesus.


VILLA: And so I decide to have a little bit of fun, right? So I put one ankle in front of the other. I splayed my arms out nice and wide. I hung my head, let my hair drape over my shoulder to get the full effect. And it had the desired effect. I heard the gasp - right? - of the children.

And next thing I know, I'm on the ground writhing in pain because this little kid who had come up to me - he just came up to me, looked up and down and then punched me where it really, really hurts.


VILLA: And this lady comes running at me, and she tells me in English, that was my son. My son angry. My son loved his grandmother. And I'm still thinking, I don't understand, but then she goes on. My son loved his grandmother, and when she died, we told him that Jesus took her away. And so, like, I guess the moral of the story is if you're going to impersonate Jesus, then you better be willing to pay the price.


VILLA: That's a travel nightmare from Efrain Villa, who's a writer and marketing consultant in Albuquerque and not not Jesus, I guess. Please send us your stories. Go to WEEKEND EDITION SATURDAY at npr.org, click on contact, put Travel Nightmare at the top of your message. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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