26 January, 2009

I Squat Therefore I Bend

After 24-ish hours of travel, starting in Ukraine (and in Detroit for Shira), the two of us finally made it to Arambol, Goa, a small beach town, about 10-hours from Mumbai (by bus, or 1 hour by flight).

On the afternoon of our fourth day, we’re starting to synch to life on the other side of the planet. Our stomachs are still far from settled, but that’s ok, for public restrooms are very easy to come by here…most of them squatters!

A huge portion of commerce in this town, mainly open air restaurants, guesthouses, and shops dealing Gandhi t-shirts, Vishnu blankets, and ornate cloth pants comes from the tourists. A question we keep asking ourselves is, What was this place like before it was saturated by tourism? What did the beggars do with their time when there was no one to beg for money? Was there this much garbage strewn about..?

Though we’ve only been here a few days, we’ve already learned how to walk right past local woman and their adorable children as they put their fingers to their mouths asking without words, please give me something so that I can feed my skinny belly. We’ve heard that it’s best not to give money to those who ask, and that it’s more beneficial to donate to a local non-profit working on issues of hunger and poverty…Still uncomfortable though.

Now that I’ve painted that somewhat bleak looking picture, I want to express how happy Shira and I are to be here, together. Because even though there are the issues I mentioned above to think about, the more prevailing feeling between us has been one of joy, and laughter, and bewilderment that we are here, in India, a place we’ve mythologized and thought about and talked about so much for so long.

The first few days were tough as we didn’t know anyone, or have our bearings, but yesterday, we had an undisputable breakthrough. Here’s a breakdown of the day.

9:00 a.m. Wake up and pack for a 10:30 a.m. checkout from our 600 rupee (12 dollar) hostel.

10:30 a.m. Sit down for breakfast and at a restaurant 50-yards from our hostel, 200 yards from the Arabian Sea, ½ mile from “town.” There are no walls, and the floor is sand. We order a sliced banana, wrapped in a pancake, covered in nutella, a masala omlette, Indian hash browns (essentially home fries, sautéed with onions, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, and a light sweet and sour sauce, aka, the best variation on breakfast potatoes I’ve ever had), a bottle of water and black coffee with milk (may not have been pasteurized).

11:00 a.m. Finish up breakfast, pop our daily malaria pill and get ready to head into town to buy bus tickets to our next destination.

11:01 a.m. Find bathroom

11:30 a.m. Walk into town, which is essentially one road, situated not far from the beach, where locals sell wares and food from their inviting shack-stores.

11:45 a.m. Get to a travel agency ran by two Goan twins. Here we buy two bus tickets, set to depart at 7 p.m., that will head into the majestic ruins of Hampi, about 15-hours away. My stomach continues to reek subtle havoc.

11:50 a.m. Start talking to a young North American couple who met a year and a half ago in Canada, and moved to India together a year ago. They tell us where we should go in Hampi, why India has been so amazing for them, and then they invite us to drink tea at a nearby restaurant (which was really just a few tables set up in front of their modest, one-room home).

Noon. Drink tea with our new friends as a few more of their friends join us. My stomach whispers (Zak, do you really want to be on a bus all night with me doing this to you?)

1:00 p.m. We decide Hampi isn’t the best move for us at this point, and essentially tear up our tickets (no day-of travel refunds)

1:30 p.m. Go with our new people to a rooftop terrace café, to hang out some more.

4:00 p.m. Leave our friends to head back to our bags which have been sitting in storage at our hostel.

4:15 p.m. Stop on the way home to sit on a bench near a little shrine, in-front of a calf and his daddy, tied to a tree.

4:17 p.m. Watch the bull and calf owner walk from his house across the street to retrieve his little friends. He’s wearing a cloth, and nothing else.

5:30 p.m. Grab our bags from our first hostel and set out to find a different cheaper hostel.

5:32 p.m. Climb on the back of a local guy named Reggie’s motorcycle. He takes us to the top of his family’s house where he rents us a room for 300 rupees (Shira bargained down from 350)!

6:00 p.m. Walk from our new home to the beach where we swim in the warm waters of the Arabian sea as the sun falls.

8:00 p.m. Sleepy


Blogger Ben said...

Sounds truly, truly phenomenal.

How're those malaria pills on your sleep cycles?

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have things settled down, down there? maybe a more bland diet my friend...
those potatoes made me queasy and I only read about them

be safe, be well
love to Shira

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shira and Zak, Sounds unbelievably awesome. Your accounts are so vivid . . . they make me feel like I am there. Take care of your stomaches . . . and I don't think I have to tell you to savor every moment.

Love you,
aunt brenda Ruff! Ruff!

10:35 PM  
Blogger Fallon said...

Sounds incredible thus far.. Keep up the good negotiating Heis!

Be nice to your tummys!

1:20 AM  

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