Saturday, November 5, 2011

Goa...maybe not the place to goa anymore?

First, I want to say I got through the 2nd year anniversary of Kent’s death in Goa. Most of the day I didn’t even know it was the 31st, not because I was high on anything, but because nothing worked and I had no idea what day it was. I did have a few really sad, lonely, “I want to go home” moments the last few days of October, and I did spend some time just remembering us together. One thing I am grateful for is that Kent and I knew what we had, we knew it was special and a miracle for two people like us to have found each other, and we knew that we had to do our best to keep it special. Even in the face of horrible circumstances, I believe we managed to keep the love; and that in itself is something to cherish. I am doing my best to accept that I am now on my own again. It is not always easy, but at least on this trip I am convincing myself that I can do it without hiding out in my house, becoming a recluse, and spending the rest of my life rejecting life.  I have to embrace life on the road, because there is nowhere to hide out, really. I still have no idea what I want to do when this trip is over, but I did decide I don’t want to apply for the writing program at Stanford. Whenever I am at a loss on what to do with my life, I always go back to school, and this time I don’t want to do that. I want to do something different.
So, Goa. I have such mixed feelings about Goa, so I will give you my impressions as they come. I arrived, as I said before, in the middle of the Indian equivalent of Easter Break in Cancun. It was sheer madness in Calungute, but I got into the flow of it and decided to stay for a bit to see how things went. Once I got my money/card situation straightened out, I decided to move to a cheaper place. The internet here is impossible, so everything has to be done directly. I had originally planned to stay at this place I found near Vagator mainly because I loved the name, “Bean me up”. It was a vegetarian place, and the owner was very nice. But, it was very isolated and the room was really basic. I would have to have a scooter, and at that time, there was no fuel in Goa. To be honest, I chickened out, and decided I needed something more accessible and with more perks. Luckily, the waiter at the hotel directed me to a place in Candolim – five minute walk from a very nice beach. I now have a clean, safe, pretty nice apartment with hot water and air conditioning for a very reasonable rate.  There’s a pool I can actually swim in, and the beach nearby. I can walk to shops, taxis, buses, and other places.  I am comfortable here.
I saw my first elephant in India the other day on the ride to Vagator, and I’ve seen a couple since then. It is quite a sight to see elephants walking along the road. They do charge you to take pictures, and you can also ride them. I haven’t done that yet, but I will at some point. 
The scooter adventure: The first few days I was here, there was no way I would try to ride a scooter or motorcycle in the traffic. It was tot tally insane. I would vote Indian drivers as the worst drivers in the world. There are no lanes, no rules, no courtesies, no caution, no sense, and basically, it is a death race. You have bikes, scooters, motorcycles, cars, tour buses, old Goa buses, cows, elephants, and masses of people walking in the road to negotiate. Then you have to consider the roads, which are not roads, filled with huge potholes, mud, rocks, bumps, no curbs, drop offs, narrow roads with two way traffic, and mad drivers passing each other on blind curves. It took me days to finally talk myself into at least trying to ride a scooter here, so I rented a scooter from the guy at the hotel; and our communication got mixed up so he brought the scooter a day early and I was at the beach. I ended up paying for two days, and only riding for one. The next morning I got up early, went out, put on a helmet, put the key in, and took off on my scooter to go to the Wednesday Anjuna Flea Market, which is a big market they have on the beach in Anjuna. The traffic had improved a bit, or I was just telling myself that; but I made it there (about 7 kilometers).  I got there pretty early, so most of the stuff was still setting up; and although I saw some beautiful crafts and woven items, I didn’t want to buy stuff to carry around. It was interesting to see the local and ex-pats, some of whom looked like they had lived there for years. Another note about Goa, and I’m not sure how much of this is me and how much is Goa, but although most of the people are friendly, the ex-pats and tourists here are not very approachable. I’ve tried to connect with some of the people, and they are very guarded. More about that later. I ended up at the café over the beach. Anjuna Beach is really beautiful with a long white stretch of sand and sea. There were just a few people walking the beach, and it was very peaceful. For some reason, although I had planned to stay the day at the Flea Market because they were supposed to have music later, I felt like I had to leave. I’m becoming very respectful of these feelings I have, and have learned to trust myself, so I headed back to Candolim. I had a time getting my scooter out of a tight spot because some idiot parked right behind me, and so I had to muscle the bike around in the dirt. I ended up wrenching my shoulder painfully, but I made it and had a nice ride back to the hotel. When I turned in my road, the taxi driver I’d made friends with started yelling at me and when I finally figured out what he was saying, it turned out I had taken the wrong bike…another guest’s bike…and they had been waiting for hours…and had threatened to call the police! The hotel had called the guy I rented my bike from, so he was there and he talked the guy out of calling the police. When I pulled into the hotel, there were a bunch of Indian men all yelling. It was so comical, but I knew it could get serious, so I smiled and explained that the key worked in the bike; and the night before when he gave me the bike, I was very tired and didn’t really notice which bike it was, and we were all talking and I was smiling, and the guy was young and upset, but finally I gave him the extra bottle of fuel I had bought and he said okay, and I said, “I’m so so sorry”….and everyone stopped yelling and was laughing, and I was laughing…it was really very funny that I took the wrong bike…and of course, I got a break either because I was a woman, or a foreigner, or old, or because I was smiling the whole time. Funny that every time I come to this part of the world, I get into some kind of trouble! And, of course the whole neighborhood knew the whole story, and I had to take the teasing of everyone in good stride and not be proud or embarrassed, which actually I never was, because it was just such a Laurel and Hardy event. Kent would have loved it, another original Rena moment which tickled him so much).
I few notes on the people in Goa, and then I need to get on with another day. I’m not sure what I will do today, but I may go to the wild life place, or I may just lay by the pool. There are hardly any Americans here that I have seen, but there are a few young Aussies. I imagine the best time of Goa for western travelers has past. I met a few English pensioners, coming here to drink cheap booze and stretch out their monthly checks. I met a Welsh lady who had been here over ten years, but was planning to sell her apartment and leave because she said it was dead and boring. The new tourists here are the Russians. The attitude about them is that they are loud and obnoxious, kind of like the old “ugly Americans”. I asked a Goan hippie where all the “real” people were, and he said they all went to Bangkok when the Russians came. I have a history of getting to places after they are hip; like I got to the Haight right before they buried it, and I got to Amsterdam in the middle of the end of an era in 1971, I got to Bali too soon in 1973, and I got to Maui way after it’s high time in 1987…so I’m kind of used to coming to places that used to be (or will be) and seeing the aftermath. It’s interesting to see the people who are left behind, and the ones who hang on to a place for whatever reason. I feel as if my own personal time with places is different than the hipsters who make places “happening”. I feel as if my own personal time on Maui, my era, has past; but I’m not sure if I’ll be ready to move on…and at this point, I haven’t seen any place I would move on to. I’ve seen places I’d visit again, but nowhere have I felt I’d want to live. More shall be revealed I’m sure.
Future plans:  I am working with a travel agent here to book a week tour to Kerala. (That is done, and I leave on Tuesday for 4 nights/5 days). Tours are nice because you have everything arranged for you, and doing it all on your own gets old, especially when the internet is so unreliable. I have changed my plans, I think, for the rest of this trip and decided I will go to Kerala, then maybe to Jaipur to a retreat, then to Chennai. My Indian visa expires December 16th, but my flight to Bangkok is not until December 26th. Now, I don’t want to spend Christmas in India and I don’t want to go to Bangkok. So, I think I’ll try and change my flight to early December from Chennai and fly direct to Chaing Mai. I know there is a large ex-pat/recovery community there, and maybe I can hang out for the holidays. I do not want to go to Calcutta. I just do not want to do another big Indian city, even to go to the convention there. So, I plan (which could all change) to go to Kerala for a week, then Jaipur-Mysore-Bangalore maybe, then Chennai, then Chaing Mai. I am still at a loss of where to have my mail forwarded, because I haven’t found anywhere I want to stay long enough to wait for the mail to get to me. It is really bad, because I have run out of my medications, and have important mail that I can’t access. Half my mail is waiting in the hotel in Istanbul, and the other half being stored at the Mail Services place. So, if anyone out there is going through Istanbul and ending up anywhere on my path, let me know if you can pick up my mail and deliver it to me! I may try and book a hotel in Chennai in advance, and have stuff sent there or to the American Embassy if I can. Except for the credit card security holds every few weeks, the mail forwarding has been the worst glitch of my trip.
The last thing I will say is that Goa is a lovely place that does have some kind of faded magic. I can certainly see the shadow of what it must have been like, and how special it was to the people who came here forty or fifty years ago. Now, it is a favorite place for Indians from Mumbai and other cities to come and party and get drunk and drive scooters and lay on the beach. They have some great food places, like Britto’s (spelling?) in Baca where I had more very good giant prawns, and the whole place is very lively; but underneath and in most of the hotels and restaurants there is a sad, worn, “not even trying anymore” feeling. Part of me feels like I would come back here just to check it out, and learn more about it. It is very cheap to live here, and once you got around and got use to it, you could live pretty well. I imagine if I rented an apartment or place here, I could stay here easily for a few months. Another part of me says, no way, this is not the place for me. So, as I said in the beginning, I have very mixed feelings about Goa.
After reading this, it sounded so serious, that I wanted to add a note that I really am enjoying myself. I get along pretty well here, and have made some friends and talked to lots of people. I have found probably the only place with a cappichino machine in Goa, and found a wonderful lady who is helping me with my travels; and most of my day is spent doing new things, and going new places. I am very excited to be doing what I am doing, and although some things are harder than I expect, most of it is pretty manageable for me.  Goa is very beautiful, and does remind me so much of Hawaii; and I get a big kick out of India; the culture and the people.  I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’ve always gotten along well in these exotic locations.  Having said all that, I’m not sure that I’ll stay the full two months in India unless I found a nice retreat. Otherwise, I may leave earlier and spend longer someplace else. Love to all my friends and family, and my apologies for the crappy internet contact lately. It seems to be ongoing….

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