Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Palolem, Gokarna and Sold

To get to Palolem which is 60 km south is very easy, all you have to do is change 5 buses and travel for 5 hours :S I missed one of the bus stops and ended up in the middle of the city instead of the bus stop. I had no idea how far the bus station is, and the rickshaw driver took me there for 80 rps. I knew that 80 is too much, but anyway ... when we got there, it was way to quickly and for sure not 5 kms that he said it was. I told him that it's not worth 80, but he said that it's the standard price, and ok, fine, I didn't want to argue ... but ! next time I will! Not really argue, but just give him 20 or 30 and walk. I wonder what he's gonna do! I'm reading a book now about how to be assertive, I think I should practice it more! I don't have a problem saying what I want, but I have a problem when I receive "no" as an answer ... then what? In the book it says that you give a reason and repeat your request in a loop until the successful result. Assertive people who read my blog, can you give me some tips please? :)
D: 80 rps
Y: It wasn’t 5kms, it should be less
D: 80 rps is a standard rate
Y: I don’t think the drive costs more than 30
D: No, it’s 80 rps
Y: ??? (fill in here)
Holy continued, and one guy got into the bus all covered in colors head to toe. He stood right beside the door, and all the people who came in and out had to brush against him, thus covering themselves in colors. I was so surprised that nobody said anything, and nobody asked him to move to a less vulnerable location.
Palolem is technically still in Goa, in the south, but due to lack on Russians and Trance music, I decided to include it into a different section :)
It is a very beautiful crescent beach with a little island on the side and a bunch of coconut palm trees. The palm trees really make a gorgeous view, but this is a coconut season and there were a few times when they fell down in my sight. From that moment on, when I was walking anywhere between them, I would always walk with my head up trying to escape being right under them. Some guys were making fun of me, said that its gods will if anything will happen. I said that I trust my eyes and judgment more.
A lot of the hotels on the beach are huts which are made out of bamboo trees. These huts will not survive the monsoon season, they will either completely broken apart, or get rotten, so each season the workers disassemble and reassemble the huts, which takes 4 days/hut. Thus in the low season, the beach is completely empty, not only of people, but of buildings as well.
On my last night in Anjuna I went to sleep at 4am and couldn't wait until getting to bed in Palolem. I talked a little bit to and Indian guy who works at the hotel about what to do what to see, then I headed early to bed, desperate for some sleep. On my way up to the hut (which is built on wooden columns), 2 Indian guys in the adjacent hut asked me: "What's your name", I said "Yana", they said "nice name", and off I went to sleep. Suddenly a knock on the door "Yana, open up". I barely open my eyes, not knowing what's happening, and thinking that it's the worker of the hotel asking me to fill out the registration form, which I said I will, but didn't. I said that I'm sleeping and I'll do it in the morning. More banging "Yana, open the door, I'm not a liar, I'm not a cheater, open the door" (what?????). This is not about the form I'm starting to think. I look at the watch, it's 3:30am. "Yana, open the door!" I'm lying there, and my heart is beating fast, I'm not fully awake, my head is spinning, I don't know what to do. "Bang, bang, bang". In Anjuna Sheriff told me a few ghost stories, and one of them involved hard banging on the door. I was pretty scared falling asleep that night, but now I wished that it was a ghost. I decided that it's not a good idea to lie in the bed, just in case he'll manage to open the door somehow. He then moved onto the window, trying to get it to open. I quietly got up, and very slowly (because the hut was shaking with every move) got out of the bed, put my cloths and sat waiting. "Yana, open the door, open the door!". There were cracks everywhere around the window and the door, and he was flashing his flashlight/phone. I thought to go and sit behind the door, so if he'll flash in, he won't see me. I made myself relax, take deep breaths, focus on something and quiet my mind. I was thinking of what I can do if he'll open the door. Next to me the door is shaking, and so am I, all my body is trembling while I’m trying to relax. You can't do smart decisions in fear, you can't apply all your power for your protection, the brain shuts down and you freeze. I looked at one spot on the wall in front of me and was just trying to think of it and trying to think what I'll do. I decided that if the door will be opened, I'll kick him in the stomach with a side kick so he'll fly down the 8 stairs to the ground below and hopefully hit something with his head when he'll land. I tried to practice this move in my mind while my feet were shaking so hard on the floor, I was scared he would hear them tapping against the floor. He started swearing, loudly burped (drunk?) and finally he left, but I was sitting next to the door for an hour, looking out on the street from the 2 cms of space between the door and the door frame. My heart was stopping with every noise that was made. At first I loved the waves, then I started hating them because they were loud and I couldn't hear anything when they crashed. Then I saw one guy walking around with a black hood and a stick, and the hut started to shake from my shaking. I observed the door, it was a dead bolt, and the bar went into the lock only about half a cm, that half a cm was all that held the door in place. Also you could reach from the outside inside the crack and slide the lock open. After about an hour, I thought to lie down. I didn't sleep, I was almost meditating, thinking that probably he would come back again. He did. I heard some door opening and jumped from the bed to the door to look outside hopefully to see him. For a split second, I saw someone in the red shirt walking up the stairs. I sat beside the door, and this time held the lock in place. Thankfully after 3 bangs he gave up and left. I was lying till 7 unable to sleep, listening to all the noises, and jumping to the door with every one of them. At 7, people were waking up, and there was too much jumping, and I thought that now I'm relatively safe, I fell asleep till 9. When I got up, packed everything and opened the door, the person who works at the hotel, whom I was talking to yesterday, was sitting on the stairs of the adjacent hut. I looked around and at him. Right away he asked, did you have a good night sleep, what's wrong. I said that "no, I didn't". And he was trying to ask way too many questions about my night. Then I said that someone drunk was trying to get into my hut at night, and besides him and the 2 other Indian guys, nobody else knows my name. At that point he started yelling at me, saying that what am I the only single girl who he ever saw in his life, and what am I crazy, he has a hotel reputation to protect. Then he started yelling at the 2 guys saying that he'll call the police. The door was open, and I saw a red shirt on the bed. He told him to show him his shirt, and he gave him a blue shirt that was hanging on the door, but I pointed out to the shirt that was on the bed. He just looked dumbly at me, and said huh? Other people have joined in, nobody heard anything, and there was no point figuring things out. I looked for another hotel, moved out, and went into the shops to see if they sell pepper spray. Nobody even heard of a pepper spray, when I tried to explain what it is, one guy said that I shouldn't worry, Palolem is very safe, and that guy was probably drunk. Oh, ok, he was only drunk... I can relax now!
I have a new arranged marriage theory. I think that if arranged marriage wouldn't exist, nobody will be married in India, who would marry these Idiots!!!????
The whole day, I had a headache, was dizzy and very foggy. I didn't talk to anybody, was just reading a book and walking on the beach. Palolem is full of elder British folks doing nothing but drinking and working on their tan. It's so strange how different people go to different places. Goa was full of Russians, Palolem was full of British, Swiss and Swedish.
I was sitting in the restaurant by myself, when one of the British folks approached me and asked me that if I'm bored, I could go and sit with them. After some debating, I thought that I can't be paranoid about everybody, and British are not Indian, and I should be ok. I went to sit with them, and one of them was a promoter for a silent noise disco. These are discos that happen in Goa, and especially in Palolem because music is not allowed after 11pm. Somebody came up with an idea to distribute wireless headphones to everybody with 2 or 3 DJs playing different styles, and you can change the channels on the headphones, so everybody is dancing to their own choice of music, but outside, everything is quiet. Sounds cool, but the problem was that there were no people at all. It was Tuesday, and it was empty :( The real clubs go on Thursdays and Saturdays.
At night, I came into the hut, and there was a cockroach sitting on my mosquito net. I don't like cockroaches, and was just standing there looking at it, wondering if it will run away. I had an idea to kill it, but I'll have to get it off the net first. Kinda disgusting and scary. Then I thought, what's more scary, having a guy trying to break into the room at night, or killing a cockroach. I decided that killing a cockroach was a piece of cake, took a shoe, threw it off the net and smashed it. I was proud of myself, and I wasn't even too too scared when another cockroach fell on my head when I actually went to sleep ... had to kill it too :) They're like suicidal or something :)
Falling asleep was a little bit of a challenge because I was still very sensitive to sudden noises, and with neighbors walking around, opening and closing doors, I had to do some convincing to myself to fall asleep.
In the morning Steve (British guy) took a scooter and we went to another beach, which I didn't really like. It's big and wide, but with no people. I don't think I like "no people" kind of places, especially when there isn't much to do. I told him the story about my night, and we were talking about our lives, travel, passions and dreams. He doesn't have a lot of money, he works as teacher's assistant, he's tired of England and wants to move somewhere else. He thinks about Hawaii. He wants to work in a hotel for a few hours a day, and then stay and eat there for free. I think he told me about a site called helpx. I haven't looked it up, but if someone wants to travel for cheap, might be a good idea to check it out. I don't want to work while travelling, this is not what travelling is all about for me. He asked me why I travel alone, and I said that I like my freedom and the ability to make my own decisions about schedules/places/sleeping times ... He asked me what will happen if I'll meet this perfect guy, would I be willing to travel with him (At this point, I'm sensing a lot of hinting). I said that it's not even an option for me. I've decided to travel on my own and that's it. We ate at a restaurant, and there were some books in there. I wanted to take a one, it sounded very interesting. "Start up nation. The story of Israel's economic miracle". I was debating how I should ask to take it ... I didn't really have many choices, I didn't have a book with me to exchange, and I didn't want to buy it, or borrow it, I wouldn't finish it in time. Steve told me, just ask them if you could take it ... hm ... ok. I took the book, went to front, and asked: "Can I take this book?". Sure, yes you can! :))) I think I should've paid more attention in university, when we learned the kiss rule: "Keep it simple stupid" :)
We then drove to a fort, which is very very beautiful, not really the fort itself, but the view from the fort. I discovered that most views from the forts are beautiful ... makes sense, because they're always built on strategic locations which allow for seeing great distances.
When we got back to the guest house, Steve asked me that he knows that I'm not looking for anything, but he wonders if he'll hang out a few days together, do I think that I could be interested in pursuing things further. I knew it !!! I said that no, that I told him about my last 2 weeks and I don't want to have any contact with men for a while. He tried to convince me that it could be a happy ending to all my troubles, but I still said no. What's up with guys? I mean, ok they like me, but do they consider if I like them back? How can you convince someone to like you? Besides, a teacher’s assistant ... is that even a profession?? Shouldn't you woo a girl with your wittiness, sense of humor, generosity, interesting/unusual conversation, surprise me with something that will throw me off balance or make me think, why are you unique, make be interested in you? All the qualities that he was lacking. Only because I'm a girl and he's a guy, it's a good enough case for getting together?? Stop being delusional !!!
While I was walking on the beach I noticed that most workers in the previous hotel that I've stayed in, wear red T-shirts. Aha, so it wasn’t my imagination after all!
One waiter in the new hotel started to talk to me. He asked me where I'm from. I told him to guess. He said Sweden! What??? Ok, I know that most tourists in Palolem are from Sweden, but do I look Swedish to you, or you just don't know the names of any other countries? I said no that I'm from Ukraine. He said that it can't be because my English is good. I said it's because I live in Canada now.
- So I was right!
- Huh? Didn't you say that I'm from Sweden?
- But you're not from Ukraine
- Buuuut ... yes I am!
Then he told me that thinking is bad for your brain that it makes you lazy. He also said that there is a big problem with government, and there are no jobs. People study, have graduate degrees but have to work as autorickshaw drivers because there are no professional jobs. I mean, look at me, I have hotel management degree, and I work as a waiter!
- How long did you study for degree?
- 3 months

Overall impression of India so far: very oppressed, naive, stupid, close minded, unhappy people. Too many rules on what you can't eat, drink, dress, work, talk about anything you like/to anybody you want ... has a huge toll on people!

Next I went to Gokarna. There isn't much explanation in Lonely Planet about this place, and it makes very hard to travel to. There are no maps, no directions, no nothing. I arrived, first thing that I found to be very strange is that a rickshaw driver asked me where I'm going, I said the name of the hotel, and he just told me that I can walk there, and gave me the directions! What just happened??? Next in the hotel, I asked about the room, the lady said it's 300, but ok, I give you 250! What just happened???
I went for a walk, all the streets are empty, shops are empty. Where am I? I have no idea where to go, what to do. Finally I met some backpacker, and asked him what's up. He said that it's siesta, and things will start opening up around 6 (that's how hot it is!), but meanwhile I can go to the beach, ghat, temples. Explained me the way to everything, and I wasn't lost anymore :) While I was walking around, it seemed that every house is a temple and everybody is very spiritual. Around 5 people started to get out of their caves, and here most of the men wear skirts. It's a piece of cloths wrapped around, so it's long till the ground, or they bend it in half and tuck into the top (that's how hot it is!) :)
Everywhere there are rituals going on, people take baths in the Ghat, or rather pour the water from a container on them, wash their legs and feet before entering the temples, go in bare-chested (only men)...
In the evening went to a "restaurant", it's really a 1 table establishment. But the owner was so nice, I just had to go in. He said, small restaurant, small menu. They only served Chicken rice, Chicken Chilly, and Chicken Sukka. I just had to have chicken sukka :))) (In Russian suka is a whore). It was really really good, chicken cooked in shredded coconut with onion, tomatoes, herbs, spices. The owner was smiley all throughout, told me stories, gave me to try chicken chilly, "Here, here, you try". Afterwards I wanted to go to some temple, and he explained me the way, and then stopped someone on the street, and asked him to take me there... What just happened???
This is the friendliest place I've ever been to in India. People are nice, smiley, much less pushy and give more or less fair prices.
At night it was so hot, I had to get up a few times, take a cold shower, and go to bed wet. Woke up at 7:30am (on my own) hot, hot, hot !! Took a autorickshaw (also called tuk tuk) to a beach. There aren't too many people anymore, it's the end of season. Sometimes things feel very deserted. Checked into a hotel, had breakfast, walked around the beach, and by 10am already felt like I did everything.
Saw a girl sitting on her own, and asked her if she wants to walk to the paradise beach. I'm not making that mistake again of trekking on my own... at least not in India. The trek was very beautiful, along an edge on the cliff. Needed to do some mild rock climbing which is always awesome :) On the way 3 Indian guys appeared after us. Here we go again. I already know how that's gonna go. We stopped to let them through, they went, then a minute later, they stopped as though taking a rest, we passed through, they started walking, we stopped, they passed through. Tessy finally understood why I wouldn't walk on my own. She said, but that's not normal. Once is ok, but not 4 times !! Newby ... what can I say? :)
She's here volunteering with mentally challenged kids. She said that these kids are very neglected by their parents, because the parents believe that if something's wrong with the child, it means s/he did something terribly wrong in past life. I have a more valid reason. People here have a lot of children to secure the parents future. Kids go to work, send all money home, and when parents turn old, they take care of them. So what's the benefit from a mentally sick child?
The organization takes trips to nearby villages, and is looking for these children, and tries to take them away. Usually most parents without hesitation give them away. One family had 2 kids like that, they gave 1, but kept the other despite a promise for much better conditions. Some time later, the father came, and was complaining about pain in his toe asking to heal it, and btw, here is the 2nd child. When the parents give the kids away, they never visit them again.
Paradise beach, wasn't really a paradise, just a bunch of hippies living there. There used to be hotels and restaurants there, but the government came and destroyed the whole thing. I've heard that people did too much drugs there, and 1 guy committed suicide. Or that it's government property, and hotels/restaurants were built illegally. Both are not very good reasons for me to completely destroy the whole place. What about taxes? It will benefit both the locals and the government. And about the drugs story, if the police destroyed every place where there are too many drugs, then half the India will be in ruins.
Tessy was reading a book about child sex trade in Nepal, and just finished reading it, it reads very fast, it's double spaced, and I was reading it until 2am. It's called "Sold", and I wrote out the pieces about village life in Nepal (which is I assume the same as in India) for you guys to read. It's a true story about a 13 year old girl named Likshmi. She has a mother (Ama) and a step father, and she lived 2 day walk up and down the hills to the nearest bus station. Her step father after losing in cards (yet again) all the money that his wife made, sold Likshmi to be a sex slave in India. Likshmi and her mother thought that she will go to the city to be a maid for a rich family.


- A son will always be a son. But a girl is like a goat. Good as long as she gives you milk and butter. But not worth crying over when it's time to make a stew.
- In the cold months, the women climb high up the mountain's spine to scavenge for firewood. They take food from their bowls, feed it to their children, and silence their own churning stomachs. This is the season when the women bury the children who die of fever.
In the dry months, the women collect basketfuls of dung and pat them into cakes to harden in the sun, making precious fuel for the dinner fire. They tie rags around their children’s eyes to shield them from the dust blowing up from the empty riverbed. This is the season when they bury the children who die from the coughing disease.
In the rainy months, they patch the crumbling mud walls of their huts and keep the fire going so that yesterday's gruel can be stretched to make tomorrow's dinner. They watch the river turn into a thundering beast. They pick leeches from the children's feet and give them tea to ward off the loose-bowel disease. This is the season when they bury the children who cannot be carried to the doctor on the other side of that river.
- (Likshmy got her period) Before today, Ama says, you could run as free as a leaf in the wind. Now she says, you must carry yourself with modesty, bow your head in the presence of men, and cover yourself with your shawl. Never look a man in the eye. Never allow yourself to be alone with a man who is not family. And never look at growing pumpkins or cucumbers when you are bleeding. Otherwise they will rot. Once you are married, you must eat your meal only after your husband has had his fill. Then you may have what remains. If he burps at the end of the meal, it is a sign that you have pleased him. If he turns to you in the night, you must give yourself to him, in the hopes that you will bear him a son. If you have a son, feed him at your breast until he is four. If you have a daughter, feed her at your breast for just a season, so that your blood will start again and you can try once more to bear a son. If your husband asks you to wash his feet, you must do as he says, then put a bit of the water in your mouth. I ask Ama. "Why must women suffer so?". "This has always been our fate. Simply to endure is to triumph."
- The leaves on my cucumbers are edged in brown, and Ama and I must each make twenty trips down the mountain to the village spring, waiting our turn to bring water up to the rice paddy. My stepfather dozes in the shade, wearing nothing but a loincloth, too hot even to climb the hill to his card game. The baby's eyes are cakes with dirt. He cries without fury. He cries without tears.
- That night, after my stepfather leaves for the tea shop and the baby falls asleep, Ama reaches behind a big urn for a smaller one. She feels around behind that urn for an even smaller one, reaches inside, and pulls out a handful of maize. " I set this aside in the dry months for a night like tonight". She pours the kernels into the skillet and we watch as they burst into flowers. We sit together savoring our secret treat and dreaming of the days after the monsoon. "The first thing we'll do is patch the roof". "No, child. First, we'll offer thanks to the goddess. Then we'll mend the roof". "With the money from this year's crop, we may have enough to make you a new dress". "Maybe there will be enough to buy sugar for sweet cakes" I say. "Maybe we can buy extra seed this year and plant the empty field behind the hut". We sit there in the flickering light of a shallow saucer of oil already rich with harvest money. We don't say what we both know. That first thing we must do is pay the landlord. And Gita's uncle, who sold us last seasons' seed. And the headman's wife who would not trade cooking oil for work. Any my teacher who gave me her own pencil when she saw I had none. And the owner of the tea shop, who, my stepfather says cheats at cards. Instead we linger over a luxury that costs nothing: Imagining what may be.
- The rain is so fierce, so relentless, so merciless, it finds every crack in our rood. Ama and I pack the walls with scraps of cloth, but each day they melt a little more. When there is a rare moment of sun, the women gather on the slope, shake their heads and say this is the worst monsoon in years. After several more days, when there is no sun at all, the village headmen gather in the tea shop and ask the holy man to say a special prayer to make it stop. I try to remember the days when the heat was so fierce that we prayed for this rain. When the night rain soaks the ground past the soaking point, when the earthen walls around the paddy melt away, when the rice plants are sucked out of the earth one by one and washed down the slope, there should be a sound announcing that something is terribly wrong. Instead there is a ghostly hush that tells us we have lost everything.
- City rules: In the city, says Ama, the people clean the floors with one rag and the dishes with another. Take care not to mix them up, or you will risk a beating; Get up early in the morning before anyone else in the house and be the last one to bed at night. Never sit down in the presence of your mistress or her husband or even in front of the children. And never eat your meal until they have gone to bed; Say your prayers every day and wash your skirt and blouse once a month. And perhaps at festival time next year, your mistress will let you come back to visit.
- The stepfather just sold the girl to be a sex slave for $16. He put things in the basket. A carton of cigarettes, a bag of sweets, chewing gum, a bottle of rice wine and a new hat. While he was busy haggling over a watch that has caught his eye, I placed a sweater for Ama and a coat for the baby. I add one more thing for Ama, a costly treat that only the headman's wife can afford, a bottle of Coca-Cola, the sweet drink that people say is like having tiny fireworks in your mouth.
- We have passed through seven villages, each one invisible to the other because of the mountain between them, but each one the same, with women pounding laundry on rocks at the village fountains and men sitting cross-legged in the tea shops. "Is it true that all the roofs are covered in gold in the city?". "Where did you hear that?" she says. "In school". I want her to know that I am not a backward girl. I am educated.
- 30 ruppees - that's the price for one sex act
- 40 ruppees - a price for coca cola
- The teacher gave us difficult problems, asking us to figure out how many baskets of rice a family would have to sell to buy a new water buffalo. Or how many lengths of fabric a mother would need to make a vest and pants for her husband and still have enough for a dress for her baby.
- Monica is going home in a month or so. But still, she could run away before paying off her debt. They say Monica has a child at home. If she runs off, Mumtaz will take the child, cut off a hand, a foot and sell it to a beggar woman. Softhearted people will give an extra rupee or two if you have a sick baby.
- Monica paid for school fees and medicine for her daughter, and for her father’s operations and for her sister's spectacles. When she came back, her father beat her with a cane and told her not to come back and disgrace them. They told her daughter that Monica is dead.

I don't know where to go to next from Gokarna. I was reading and reading the book and have no idea whether to go to Murudeshwar, Udupi or Mangalore. I was debating it for a few days now. No proper description in LP makes it difficult to decide. In Murudeshwar it's the largest idol in the world. It's Shiva on the beach, 15 meters high. Udupi had some temple, and Mangalore I don't know what it has. I bought a ticket to Mangalore. On the train met some girls who do student exchange in Mangalore, said that there is nothing to do in there, told me all about Udupi, gave me a hotel name and I got off in there. We saw the statue in the fog from the train. I'll post some pix from the internet.
It's hard for me to remember all these names. I feel like I'm in a first grade again, learning how to read. Ma-ma, pa-pa, Ud-ha-ga-man-da-lam, Thi-ru-va-na-ntha-pu-ram. People ask me where I'm going ... uummmm ... Thimururuderu, Thikumeshmaru, Thishlamaladala??? Wait, let me get the book! :)

https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/PalolemAndGokarna

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Goa

Who knew that Goa is a state? I always thought it was a city! I missed the train stop and ended up in central Goa, when I was supposed to be at the north. Panjim was my place for a few days, and I was actually happy that I ended up there because I needed a few days to get better, and didn't want to get anybody sick. All my body hurt, my head was exploding, and I was sniffing and sneezing every minute.
Panjim is a very cute town, all with colorful houses, small streets, surprisingly clean with a very nice promenade and a view of a river. Goa was once a Portuguese colony, and you could really feel its presence. A lot of older Indians are actually dressed properly and are much better behaved than the younger generation.
Being still very annoyed by the Indian culture and the fact that I was extremely sick didn't help the locals who tried to speak to me, I was barking at them like crazy.
- Madam taxi?
- Why do you ask me for taxi, why won’t you ask him or him or her? So what that I'm a tourist? Leave me alone!!!
...
Looking at a guidebook, picking a place to go to
- Madam, need help?
- No
- Where do you go?
- I don't know yet
- Need help?
- No -> By this point I'm already barking, and behaving very rude, not even looking at him.
A few more attempts without any valid answers, I closed the book and started to walk. Next thing I see, he's driving on the bike near me, overtakes me, parks, walks towards me.
- Madam, can I walk with you?
- NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR !!!!!!
I know, I know ... I shouldn't behave that way. It's not them, it's me. But seriously, I couldn't handle speaking to anybody anymore. Maybe that's why meditation and yoga is so popular in India, you won't be able to survive with so much stress!!
I couldn't walk very far. Walked a little bit, sat somewhere for an hour to gather up my strength, and again and again in a loop. Panjim isn't very big, and I managed to see everything in this one broken up day.
Next day I decided to watch a Bollywood movie. I already bought a ticket when I remembered that I still sneeze every minute, and hoped that nobody would kick me out from there. I like going to movies in different countries, especially 3rd world countries. The theaters are very modern, clean, air conditioned, and for a few hours one can forget where he is. I had to go through metal detector, bag check and had to deposit my camera. Most of the movies that are sold on the streets were recorded in a movie theatre, with camera shaking, somebody getting up and blocking half on the screen, or even the camera man would be laughing.
After a few commercials, there was an Indian flag with a message, please stand up for the national anthem. I thought it was also a part of the commercial, but after everybody got up, I thought just in case I'll watch this commercial standing up :))
If anybody wants to see what India is all about, and can't get a full impression from my blogs, please do watch a Bollywood movie. You'll see India in all it's colours with garbage on streets, people yelling at each other, nonexistent women rights, packed buses, eating with hands, lying, all packed in 2 entertaining hours ... well, more like 3.5 hours, so pack up popcorn and nachos :) Weird that mostly they speak in Hindi, but for some reason, which I cannot explain, they sometimes say whole sentences in English, and would switch back to Hindi, both in movies and in real life! What's up with that?? Also miraculously, nobody kicked me out of the theater because the minute I got in I stopped sneezing and sniffing. Clean air is good for something after all :)
After the movie, one guy on the bike was waiting for me on the street.
Hey, I saw you watching a movie by yourself. I'm by myself too.
So????
Lets go for coffee!
After a lot of no's and telling him head on that I didn't have any good experiences with Indian men so far, he tried to convince me that he's not like everybody else, that he works with tourists and knows how to deal with him. Well, just to prove him wrong and because I had nothing better to do, I agreed to spend 10 minutes with him for a coffee. While we were walking there, I got hungry and decided to go for a dinner instead. He got me laughing with his knowledge of Russian, saying phrases like: potom? potom sup s kotom. (later? later a soup with a cat) meaning ... it's not going to happen :) The conversation went fine, not anything intelligent, but the thing that pissed me off though, was that he was constantly on the phone ... as the rest of Indians are. I told him that it's very rude to be on the phone while you're having dinner with somebody, he apologized, but the frequency didn't decrease at all.
After dinner I said that I'm going back to the hotel, and he tried to convince me again that I should stay, and that he wants to see me again, and that I'll break his heart if I'll go, and that he wants to know more of me. I told him that he proved my theory right, and that if he wanted to get to know me more, he should've spent less time on his phone!
Back at the hotel I asked the owner what's wrong with Indian men, and he said that because they've watched Hollywood movies and some been to Goa and seen girls naked (i.e. sun tanning topless), that they think that we're easy and want to give it a chance.
Went to get a watermelon juice. There are a lot of freshly squeezed juices in here, but just in case I made sure that it will have no water and no sugar. The girl at the counter first cleaned all the table, then assorted dishes, then rung a bell, and yelled watermelon juice. Couldn't she yell before cleaning all the stuff??? Guess what? I forgot to mention "no salt"!! Who in their right mind puts salt in a watermelon juice??!!!
Then it took me a whole day to get a phone. I needed to get passport pictures, ask for a local reference, find the phone, fill out an application, make a photocopy of my passport and visa and wait a whole day for an activation. I took the money out and put it on the table. The girl approached, and instead of leaning 10 cms to get the money, stood there with her hand out for me to give it to her! I'm still surprised, every single time! Just to give you an idea of phone prices in here. The sim card and new activation costs $1, and a brand new Panasonic phone costs $20.
While in Toronto, I don't think I put 2 and 2 together. With the Indian employee who couldn't deliver anything, then my agency that screwed something up every single month, was from India, all the guys that I met here who say one thing and mean another, the customer service that I'm getting.... I don't understand the desire of Canadian companies to do any business with India. They might save money in the short term, but will get long term headache with missed deadlines and coding not according to specifications. I heard that there are troubles already and companies want to switch back. I hope everybody will realize it sooner than later!
Before moving to the beach, I decided to see Old Goa. It was a very interesting little town with a bunch of churches, churches and more churches. It was very strange to see Indian people, all dressed with traditional dress going to churches and crossing themselves on entry. Here in Goa they don't believe in talking elephants anymore, now they believe in talking snakes.
Came to northern Goa and stayed with a friend of a friend Oleg. Oleg broke his collarbone twice. First time on a bike accident, second time by not being careful with the arm. He decided to stay in Goa until it heals and the day that I met him, was the day that the doctor said that everything is good. He stayed by himself in a very nice villa in a gated community. After a month of guest houses I wanted to stay there forever. With marble floors, beautiful bathroom, dishwasher, laundry machine, hot water and good pressure I was in paradise. This paradise didn't last long, since he showed me to my bedroom but suggested that I can stay in his bedroom as well. No thanks! I understood that I have to be veeery careful. In the evening we met Vadim and his wife Veronica. I got to know Vadim when I was in Bermuda, and it was great to see him again. After travelling around the world, he decided to settle in Goa, as do a lot of other people. Goa is full of expacts! And after being here for 2 weeks, I understand why.
We got into some deep conversations with Oleg. He asked me if people in Canada think about the meaning of life, and why were they born to this world. I said that I don't remember having these kinds of conversations with anybody really. He asked me why I think I was born into this world. I said that I don't know, my parents had some fun, and here I am :) But what is the meaning of life? To be happy, to have choices and freedom, and to live life as I want to live it. But what about after life? I don't believe in after life, I believe in physical world, and that's why I want to live life to the fullest without having any regrets in the future. He said that he thought about it a lot, and when he found the answer, he became enlightened, without any phsycodelic(?) drugs (which supposed to open the mind), he just came with an answer which people strive to figure out for many many years. And it is: mind is separate from body. When body dies, the mind continues to exist. Ok ... interesting. What I was thinking is not about eternal existence, but why Canadians don't think about it much. My idea is that life in Russia is hard. There aren't many choices, the country is corrupt, people are killed for money, they're usually cold, rude and unhappy. When you live like that without many choices, of course you're gonna think why you were born to this world. People in Canada are relatively happy, so why clog the brain with this gar... philosophy. What are your opinions? Why were you born?
I went with Oleg to the beach, a nice supermarket with foreign products that I haven't seen in a month like mustard, mayo, sour cream :) I was super excited, we bought a bunch of stuff and did some house cooking :) Went to a few restaurants, juice shops, and every time I wanted to pay for myself, but was given no permission. As you know, nothing comes for free, and after 3 days at the villa he very aggressively showed me his intentions! He is very racist and for all 3 days I've heard nothing but allegations against Indian people that they're nothing but animals, his favourite animal of comparison was a dog. That night, no common sense worked with him, and only when I told him that he's no better than an Indian, I could get out into my bedroom. I locked the door, and left first thing in the morning. There you go, Indians might be like dogs, but at least they only bark.
Needless to say I was in a bad mood for the whole day, but I thought to myself that I'm in Goa, on the beach, why be in a bad mood, and got myself out of it quickly. At first I was disappointed in Goa and couldn't understand why everybody comes here, and that's all you hear about, Goa, Goa. The sand is brownish/black, and it's all wet, the water is brown (not because of dirt, but because of sand), but I've been here for 2 weeks now, and I find it hard to leave. Our beach plays trance music every day until 2am. Sometimes it's nice and fun, but sometimes, I just want to hear the sound of the waves. I went to the market, and I realized that I was still fuming. Of course all the things I was looking at were at ridiculous prices. You come into the shop, the price is 350, the minute you head out, it drops to 200. I didn't want to buy most things anyway, was just looking, but I got really frustrated at a few and told them that I will not buy anything from them because I don't deal with liars. Of course all the things that I did buy, I had to bargain for anyway. I was fuming at everybody. Every interaction I had with locals, I felt like killing them. I realized that I have to calm my nerves immediately, and locked myself up for 2 days in the garden of the guest house while writing the Mumbai blog. I didn't talk to anyone, just concentrated on writing, and the only time I got out was for dinner.
On the beach there are a lot of people trying to sell everything, massage, jewelry, sunglasses, magnets, fruits, ice cream. I mean A LOT !!! And they don't care if you're sleeping, reading, talking ... "Madam, you want something, look, very cheap!" .. I continue talking. They stand there for 1 more minute. "Just look, no buy" ... ignore! I feel bad ignoring people, it's not their fault really. That they try to cheat you, yes, it's their fault. I've seen a few times when tourists were throwing the products in the sand, or yelling at them to go away. But they would just come, talk to you, get no answer, then sit beside you, open their box of stuff, start laying it out on the beds, or putting bracelets on the legs (with no permission)! I learned shake my head in a "no" movement and continued doing what I was doing.
I'll try out an experiment. Tell me what you think. Pretend that you're reading my blog on the beach ...
I'm thinking that it's not that bad that they sell the stuff. Let’s say you want something to eat, and a lady would walk by with fruits every hour, you would be running after her *hello, how are you today? do you want a bracelet? Necklace?* and just waiting until she's gonna appear again, but with them coming every 2 minutes, it could get really annoying. They need to make money, and there are 1.2 billion *sunglasses, sunglasses* people in India.
Goa is full of Russians, I haven't seen that many Russians outside Russian nightclubs in Toronto anywhere else! The locals sometimes speak better Russian than English, and most restaurants have full menus in Russian language. I don't like Russians though, they're rude, aggressive and swear a lot, so I'm trying to stay away from them.
I've also heard theories that people don't come here for the beach, they come here for the drugs. It's not *magnets, beautiful!!* legal in here just like everywhere else, but it doesn't stop anybody. Anywhere you sit, there is a smell of hashish, and most of the people are stoned on it, or on some other drugs that I've never even heard of. There are clubs 24/7 going on ever *come see my shop* ywhere. It's very strange to see at 2pm people with red eyes, eyes that just look at one spot and size of half of their face, wobbling from side to side, doing some weird moves to trance music.
While I was in the guest house, there was a guy ... very very strange guy. He was full of tattoos, and you could see that he was on drugs and alcohol, and that's he's definitely from the hood. At times he was walking around cheerfully, other times he would be almost screaming and swearing after every 2nd word ... probably telling what happened to him on the way to the guest house. Or he would talk and talk, people won't be able to put a word in between. *mangoes, coconuts, pineapples* I was thinking about what he's doing here, guys like that usually have spare change only for coke. *ice cream, chocolate, vanilla, almond* After 2 days of watching him, he put something on his computer, and at the same time I got tired of staring at my screen all day long, shut it down and got up. He asked him if the noise bothers me and that's why I'm going. I'm thinking to myself ... there I go, I actually have to make a conversation to him. Well what do you know? His nick name is Sheriff, I guess it comes from very strong political views that he has, along with other theories about how to whip the world back into shape. He's very knowledgeable in current events, politics, history, geography. He has more manners and respect than anybody I met in a long time, and is very generous with money. *madam, you want something* Gives them to poor, always leaves tips, bringing presents and cooks to guest house staff and after we've met he started making omelets, teas, and buying candies for me as well :) He runs his own flower shop and landscaping business, and every year takes 4 months off in the slow season to travel around the world. India got to him so much that he can’t wait to go home, and out of 4 months, spent 2 in this guest house, cause he couldn't handle it anymore. He's very intelligent, funny, and has lots and lots of common sense and a handle of life. We ended up talking for 4 hours straight. He told me that he's very happy to meet me because I don't suck like the rest of people around here :) I told him the same thing :) One of his opinions stayed in my head. *coconuts, coconuts, I give good price* He said that he understands why Muslims strap the bombs to themselves and commit suicide. He said after being to these countries and seeing the oppression, you don't have any freedom at all, you can't have drugs, you can't drink, you can't talk to women or even see them, it's very understandable that they will kill other people to go to heaven and have their 40 virgins. Although he said "I hooked up with a virgin once, and it's was the worse s*x of my life, if I got to heaven, give me 3 whores and a bottle of rum!" :)
One evening we both craved something sweet, *drums, how much you give?* all stores were closed and we went to a restaurant for a dessert. It was way over priced, but we are both sugar addicts, and ordered it anyway. I don't really know how to describe the taste, but for sure there was more taste of a stale fridge than anything else they put in there. I went to the counter and politely said that this dessert is not very fresh and if it's possible to exchange it for something different. They started proving me that it was only made yesterday and everybody loves it. After trying to persuade them a little bit, they told me that if I don't like it then I should get the f*ck out! I came back to the table and sheriff was laughing, I said thanks for your backup. He told me, what did you expect, you're in India! This is not US. Oh, something's wrong with the dessert, no problem, have it free, would you like to have something different instead? Oh, and here are some coupons for the future! Here it's: you don't like the overpriced stale fridge tasting dessert??? Why not??!! We paid the bill, said thank you very much and that for sure we'll be back tomorrow! I even went as far as writing to the lonely planet about my experience and asking them to remove that restaurant from the list of recommended restaurants.
Next days' restaurant experience was not any better. We came in and there *necklace, very very beautiful* was a dog barking. Sheriff asked if the dog will be barking all the time. This time we were told to get the f*ck out not by the owner but by some hippies who were sitting there, and said that we should have respect for this dog, because it's owners dog! I thought cows were holy in India, not dogs :S Sheriff got a little bit upset at the fact that his hand didn't completely heal from the last time he punched someone out.
I really wanted to rent a scooter for a few days now. Every time I saw a scooter in Toronto, my heart pinched, I miss driving it :(( The problem was that on the beach a lot of people were somehow injured from driving a scooter. And I'm not talking about minor scratches. After looking at all that, *ice cream, lemon, strawberry* I was pretty scared, specially considering that I didn't drive in over 2 years. After some debating, I decided to hire it. I'll just drive very slow and only during day light. Bermudian experience has helped because the driving is the same as here, on the left side of the road. I rented it from some guy for 3 days. Just paid him in advance and left no name, no number. That's how business done in India, I pay $12 and have myself a free scooter! :)) When I got on it, after a minute it was like I never got off of it. I drove to see all the adjacent beaches. Some people got lost, I don't really understand why. You just stop at every fork and ask for directions. I never got lost. Driving is so much fun, it's like a video game! *sunglasses, lighters, miss, sunglasses?* Mostly it's 1 lane which sometimes becomes 3 lanes, there are no sidewalks, so you have to watch for people, pot holes, cows, dogs, vehicles taking over from both sides. They just love blind turns take overs! Maybe because usually they have a whole temple in their car, they think they're safe?? Sometimes there is no asphalt, and you go on some sandy very rocky road, but it manages it with no problems. On some potholes, I had no idea how to drive, if slow, then you feel every bump, if fast, then the scooter might somehow fly over it. I tried both theories, but decided to stick with slow approach. Once got stuck in the sand, but some guys helped me out. One turn was particularly tricky, it was sharp left *watermelon, coconuts!* (meaning the scooter is leaning), and very uphill (accelerating), with 2 huge potholes on the side with maybe half a meter of space between them. If I didn't go slow and with caution, it was an accident waiting to happen. It was challenging to drive, constantly looking for signs, traffic and other dangers and sightseeing at the same time. But when I was at some beaches relaxing, I couldn't wait to get back on the scooter :)) 3 days when I got back, I just completely crashed. I thought why? I wasn't doing much, just driving around ... yep, that was it! The driving took so much concentration, that I was out every day!
First day I went to see the southern beaches. There was some old fort ... very very dirty fort *madam, see my shop, looking is free*, but the view from it was amazing on all the never ending beaches. Next beach was very nice, clean, white sand, very wide and long (it's actually all one beach, just different names), but there are almost no people on it, I felt kinda bored. Next beach was full of Indian tourists. It's strange, they don't really mix with the travelers, they pick their own beaches, and usually the most ugly ones. Travelers are usually seen in couples or in small groups, whereas Indians are usually in groups of 20, all jumping in the waves and taking gazillion of pictures... usually men, women hang somewhere nearby.
Next day went to visit Vadim and Veronica in their house. The complex is very nice, resembling a Caribbean resort, and with soft music and incent burning, it feels like a 5 star one :) We went yet to another beach, and the next day I drove all the way north (well, at much north as lonely planet shows :) ). That beach was very nice. It's called Arambol, or Hermal (for some reason towns here have dual names - Arambol/Hermal, *madam, how are you? why are you not talking, you don't know English?* Panjim/Panaji, Mapsa/Mapusa, Mumbai/Bombay... no wonder mail never gets anywhere).
Arambol is long, wide, white sand, with the right amount of people, a small fresh lake, and some tree. Why is the tree in the guide book? Hiked up to that tree. It's some strange place around a tree with a bunch of stoned mainly Russian hippy people. It's very quiet in there, with occasional instrument playing and singing. Then it would get very quiet, and one person would shout "boom!!!", then someone else "boom! boom! boom!" What's boom? I planned to stay there for 5 minutes, but ended up staying for 2 hours. 2 hours later, I still didn't get into the hippy life style. Love all, share and get high attitude. Everything goes round the circle. Someone will buy fruits, cut them up and pass round the circle, cookies, a joint...
On Anjuna beach there are a few men giving massages. They want rps300 for about 15 minutes! Crazy prices! They tried to get me to do it, but I said I *Drums, what's your final price? A little more final price* wouldn't pay more than a 100, and they wouldn't give in! They would rather stand around do nothing than make 100 rupes. Another reason why I wasn't too keen on it maybe was because I didn't want them to touch me, and if I will pay 300 ruppes, I'd rather pay a 70 year old, toothless hallucinating dude! And so I did! At that tree! The massage was very good, relaxing, I could feel that he knows what he's doing, he even cracked my back and neck!
Anjuna beach is famous for its trance parties, but the first week when I was there, it was as quiet as it could get. Apparently there are elections and everybody has to abide by the rules, no alcohol, no music after 10pm, and even 3 days before elections nobody was allowed to sell any alcohol. I don't understand why, because there is no point to these elections anyway. All the parties buy the votes, give families 10,000 rupes to vote for them (it's illegal of course), or I read in the newspaper that they arrested someone with 17,000 litters of alcohol *Privet, kak dela?* - clearly meant to buy votes. So you'd rather accept the money, swallow your pride and vote. Everywhere there are ads on how to elect government. "Our party will not sell jobs!!"
After elections were over, the parties started. Sheriff and me went to my first trance party (first and last!). I don't like trance parties, I don't like trance music, I don't like trance people! Everybody dances by themselves, nobody's socializing, nobody's talking, it's stupid music with high people. I danced for a bit, looked around, and was surrounded by 8 Indian guys showing off their best moves. Sheriff didn't leave my side not for a minute.
After elections were over, trance was playing almost 24/7 ... EVERYWHERE!! *Massage? I give good massage, you look stressed, here, give me your hand* I woke up with trance banging in my head, which wasn't too bad because my room was dark, and I couldn't tell when it's morning, but with trance music starting at 10, it was my cue to get out of bed :) That place almost gave me a heart attack. It's a coconut season now, and the palm trees are everywhere. All the chairs/couches are away from the coconuts, but the METAL roof is not. And in the middle of the night, there were at least 3 occasions where it's like a bomb exploding, OMG, jumping off the bed and all covered in white powder from the ceiling, oh, it's just a coconut, can go back to sleep, just have to wait for my heart to stop racing!
Restaurants in Goa are great! Until Goa I've pretty much just eaten Indian food (which is fantastic), but here there are so many tourists with a huge variety of international restaurants.  *ice cream, ice cream* My favourite is from Tibet. My food budget went up from $2 to $4, but omg, it's soooo good!!! We started bringing our own vodka to restaurants, of course pouring it under the table, but I don't think they would've stopped us even if they saw us. At one dinner it was the 3 of us, we ordered fresh oj, glass of wine, 5 amazing main courses and 3 desserts, for a grand total of $14, we couldn't get out of the table without unbuttoning the pants, the walk back to the guest house was not easy at all :)) Oh, and I forgot to mention that Goa is mainly Christian (due to Portuguese), and beef is in the menu! Beef never tasted so good! :))
I was excited for the start of the holy festival. It's a festival of unknown dates, where people throw colors at each other. I thought it would be just as fun as black & white festival in Colombia, but all my waiting went in vein. I should've thought about it though. Holy is a Hindu festival, of course it will not be celebrated much in Goa. The extent to which it went was some locals stopped cars/scooters/people on the road, put some *madam, you want something? look, I give you good price* color on faces and demanded money for it. That was so much fun!! :S
One day I wanted to walk to Vagator beach. There is a little hill separating Anjuna and Vagator. While on Anjuna beach, I noticed way too many rocks on its northern end. I don't remember it being that way ... what's gong on? Then I reached a place where there is a wall of sand about 70cms high. The storm of a last few days washed all the beach away :(( I asked a few locals what's the best way to get over the hill, they told me it's impossible (the usual answer), and that it's dangerous because I could slip and fall. I thought the only danger on the way will be to bump into people like them. I started walking, the walk was easy, relaxing and beautiful, *Madam, where are you from? Russia? Germany? Italy?* I stopped to take many pictures and on one of the stops, I looked back and there were 2 Indian guys about 100 meters away. Oh shit! I put the camera into the bag and started walking very very fast. The problem was that I got into a very bushy area with lots of cactuses that slowed me down. There was a fork in the path, I went to the one that lead to the water, found some large rocks and decided to hide with a hope that they will choose a different path. That wasn't the case, as when I turned around, they were right there "waiting" for me. A stolen camera now became the least of my concerns. They were standing around as in looking at the views. I got up and started walking. I think I invented a new sport called not speed walking but rather speed cactus avoiding-rock jumping. They were right beside me, sometimes in front of me, sometimes behind me, sometimes one in the front another in the back. I stopped then and let the one in the back walk in front of me. After 5 minutes of that one of them asked me "Where are you from?" - "Canada" - "Will you have sex with me?" - "What????? Are you crazy???????" - "Why crazy?" - "Because I'm married!" - "Where is your husband?" - "He's sick in Anjuna" ... Screw honesty!! Lie through your teeth!!! Thank god I was walking fast and in less than a minute after our exchange I already saw people on the beach. I'm hitch-hiking back, that sounds much safer! I sat on a sun bed near 2 girls. After a while one of their friends came and they started talking. They asked him where is he staying, and he said Anjuna. I jumped off the bed "Anjuna??!!! How are you going there? Can I come with you??" and so it was. I made friends with the 2 girls and with John who after 1 hour of sunset quiet meditation gave me a lift back to Anjuna. He said that he's meditating *Madam, hello, hello, hello* every day for 2 hours. 1 hour during sunrise, and 1 hour during sunset. It's ok during holidays, but how to manage it back at home? I asked him for the reasons of meditating, and he said that you control the mind that way, and detach yourself from material possessions/foods/desires. I don't get it ... isn't it good to have desires? Aren't desires what drive the world forward? Of course crazy obsessions should be avoided (maybe), but why is it so bad to want to drive a BMW, live in a mansion and have a millioner husband? I mean, is that too much to ask for?? :))
Here are a few more episodes of Indian culture:
- Everything that they drink, they don't touch the cup/bottle with their lips, in case they'll share it with somebody, and quite often they spill it all over themselves.
- I think I got the answer to men wearing saris and asking for money. These men are considered to be holy because they know duality, they're both man and woman in one, but they're also considered to be bad luck and have a bad spell, so people give them money just to get rid of them ... they're actually scared of them.
- Everybody looks like a kid until they're 20, and then they get old very very fast. I met a few women, I thought they're 60, and they were only 40! No wonder everybody gives me maximum 24. A few people even gave me 18!
- Everybody has a friend somewhere (abroad I mean). I have a very good friend in Australia and Canada, and US ... No they don't !!! In Udaipur it was a very good example of it. There was a guy, a very good friend of Alex. He said that they go way back when, and he knows her for 3 years already. I thought to myself ... there goes my friend theory. Until I asked Alex, and she said, yeah, I've been to Udaipur 3 years ago, he's a friend of a guest house owner, and we just chatted one evening. They also love to take pictures with foreigners, and my theory is to tell their friends at home ... see, I have Canadian friend! Or worst yet, she's my girlfriend!
- For some reason they can't remember orders. I was with a girl, and she was talking to a waiter for a good minute asking for a diet coke, which they didn't have, and she tried to figure out what diet drinks they have. I didn't order any drink. They brought it, and served it to me. On another occasion, Sherrif and me went to a restaurant. He ordered steak with 2 sides, he wanted mashed potatoes and fries. They said no, we can only do fries and veggies. But it comes with any 2 sides, so I want mashed potatoes. - Impossible! (everything's impossible) ... a few minutes later they finally agreed. When the steak came, it was just with fries. Jeez !!! AND mashed potatoes !!! Where is their head at? Maybe the restaurants should give food to workers to keep the hamster alive!
- I was at skype talking to mom and watching pictures on facebook. There is a divider between each computer. The guy beside me, starts calling me, madam, madam, can you go 2 pictures back. Where was that taken? ... Why is he looking at my monitor? 2 minutes later. Madam madam, are these pictures taken professionally? - Dude !!!! Can't you see I'm on the phone???!!!!
- Most Indian never seen women in bikinis, let alone topless, and they come to Goa just to witness such a pornography! Herds of them would be walking along the beach and eyeing every inch of your body, from head to toe. This is so gross, you cannot imagine. Some of the more advanced ones pretend to take pictures of their friends with girls in bikinis in the background. Or they would walk along the beach with their phone or iPad in front of them as though talking on it. I lost my patience every time ... and that's a lot of times !! –Thanks for taking a picture of me!! – Another one, another one!!! Bastard!

I just reread the blog, it sounds very negative. It wasn't all too bad, I actually couldn't believe that when I checked out, I paid for 14 nights. The beach got quite annoying, but if I stayed on the 3rd row of beds, I could avoid most of the hassle, at least from the staring locals :)

pix at: https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/Goa#

 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Mumbai


Mumbai ... very strange city! The contrast between new and old is amazing! There would be one of the most expensive hotels in all of India, and a building next to it would be almost falling down. It's really very expansive with at least double prices on everything, and funny enough there was one hostel in all of Mumbai which is not really a hostel but Salvation Army :) With 16 beds in a room and 1 washroom, it didn't really feel like a hostel but rather like a homeless shelter! There were no clubs nearby and almost everybody was asleep by 10pm, but you couldn't sleep past 7am :)
Mumbai is famous for its Bollywood movies and they love to hire foreigners. Next day most of the hostel was hired to do a movie. It was one of the most famous actors, I have no idea who he is, but he's compared to an equivalent of Bred Pitt, and one of the most famous directors. It was so disorganized, go out, no walk back in, ok now get out, walk back in. Now cheer, no cheer on "action". You don't need shoes ... why don't you have shoes?? With such organization with the best of the best, I'm wondering, how does the rest of India work?!? It was funny, we arrived as a bunch of backpackers, and were transformed to princes and princesses :) The hair and makeup was interesting. They were so gentle that I was surprised when it was completed! I didn't feel anything at all! :) But overall, it was very boring, just sitting around doing nothing. I did a little bit of extra work in Toronto, so I kinda knew it would be that way. The only reason I went was to see a Bollywood movie and hopefully some dancing ... but there was no dancing, it was a fighting scene :(
LP: Studios sometimes want Westerners as extras to add a whiff of international flair (or provocative dress, which locals often won't wear) to a film. It's become so common, in fact, that 100,000 junior actors nearly went on strike to protest losing jobs to foreigners, who work for less.
Next day went to an agency to see how much a slum tour is, while sitting there 2 more guys came in and the agent was talking to me then to them then to me that after 10 minutes I finally told everybody to get quiet and that they could talk to the agent once I'm done with all of my questions. I don't think "customer service" is a known phrase in this part of the world.
When I got out of the agency, one of the guys came out as well (Indian), and asked me if I'll take the slum tour, I said no, it's too expensive and that I'm going to the Elephanta island instead. There are caves in there, the only kinds in the world. It took 200 years to carve, but were greatly destroyed by Portuguese. He said that it's his day off and if I don't mind we could go there together. I said that I don't mind, but I need to have breakfast first. We went to have breakfast, I ordered a yummy banana pancake with fresh squeezed grape juice and he insisted paying for it, because it's his country and he's my host. He asked me what I think about India, I told him everything that I think, and especially that women are considered to be 2nd class citizens. We had a long talk about that, and he tried to convince me that it's not true. Open your eyes! There are so many Indians that have some very delusional views about their country. They just deny everything! Then we went to the boat, and before I knew it he already bought 2 tickets and I thought to myself oh oh. During the boat trip he already started giving me signs which I was hoping he wouldn't. Such as "you know, I had a poster in my room which said that men respect women only because of romance, and other funny things like that" :SSSSS haha ... no comment. Only about half an hour has passed since we've met, and he started with these comments. And didn't he just mention that men and women are equal?? Now we're' going together to this island, and I need to get rid of him ... somehow. And again, according to the Indian tradition he started bullshitting like everybody else. There are so many parties in Goa going until 6am; There are no parties, everything closes at 10pm. He's been to this island before and that the train will take us to the other side, first of all, there is nothing to do on the other side, and I don't think a 10cent ticket will take you there. Sure enough 500 meters later, the train has stopped. Then he said that he came to the caves and turned back because there is no point of going there. There is nothing else to do on this island, and the only reason people come here is to go to the caves. Clearly a liar !! Then he said that he's hungry and needs to eat, I don't understand why he didn't eat during breakfast, but I told him that he can order something and I'll wait for him. We sat at the table, and there you go, we get served 2 orders of rice and chicken and coke. Thanks for asking!!!! I already got so tired of this behavior. I said that I don't drink coke and sent it back. I just had a huge breakfast 1 hour ago, what was in his mind when he ordered this dish??!! I just ate the chicken, and left the whole plate pretty much as full as it was in the beginning. Btw, he's a doctor, studying to be a cancer surgeon. Then he wanted to show me on the map where he lives, saying that his city is south of Mumbai. I looked at the map, and couldn't find that city south of Mumbai, then he took the map and drew a horizontal line to the right from Mumbai, see, this way is South! What kind of doctor doesn't know the difference between east and south??
At the caves I wanted to take a guide, but not pay the full price for it. I saw a couple with a guide and asked them if it was ok if we share the cost of the guide together, and they agreed. This was perfect. I had to pay less, and plus I could stay away from him. When I asked the guide for something, right away he jumped with his knowledge and advice at every opportunity! Did I ask him? Then when he saw that I was clinging to the couple, he started pouting and walking behind us. They all act like such kids, it's incredible!! But because of that, it's very easy to read them. When we were walking back he said that he wants to stay at the island a bit more time (hoping I would stay as well), and I said that ok, you can stay, I saw everything here, and I'm going back with the couple. He said ok that he wants to do something else on the island and he'll go to Mumbai later. Whatever... I could see right through him. They would tie 3, sometimes 4 boats together, and to get to the last one you have to go through the rest of the boats and jump between them, sometimes a meter! And they're moving!! It would never be allowed in Canada, and no wonder, because one guy fell overboard! The boat waited a few minutes until it became full before it left, and surprise surprise, this guy at the last minute appeared on the boat. I pretended that I didn't see him. When we docked in Mumbai, I got out and there he was waiting for me. I said that I need to relax and I'm going to the hostel. He said that he wants to see me again in the evening and it's his last night here in Mumbai, and we should do something fun. I told him that I think we have different ideas of fun, and I'm not planning to go anywhere. Told him goodbye and left. Don't they get hints???!!! It's really very annoying. It's happening every single time. But it's ok, I'm learning. Next time, no more miss nice. I'll tell them right away that I'm not interested. It's a little bit hard for me to do it, but here there is no other way. I have to learn to be more assertive with them!
Next day I wanted to walk around the city, it was soooo hot! There are a few colonial buildings that stand apart from other architecture, but I've already seen colonial buildings, and was not interested in them so much. I went to an interesting Prince of Wales museum and a Modern art gallery, and the rest of the day was just sightseeing. The air for some reason is completely white, I think it's supposed to be pretty, but I couldn't see absolutely anything. I walked along a promenade to some famous but extremely dirty "beach". It was a low tide, and there was so much garbage lying around that I would hardly call it a beach, but rather a garbage dump! I was tired of walking and wanted to take a taxi. I asked a local how much will a taxi cost and he told me 50 rps. I stopped a few taxies and asked them how much it would be. They rolled their eyes, looked at every direction and every single one told me 100. They just can't lie. Some can, especially at markets. But I insisted that I'm not going unless it's 50. One agreed, but after driving for 15 minutes, I felt kind of bad giving him only 50 rupees. But these are the prices. That's how much everybody pays! That was one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Mumbai, but I wasn't impressed. The houses might be expensive, but they're not looked after. It seems that they're building them and then just forget about them.
On the street again some guy started walking after me. Do you want peacock feathers?-  No. Keep on walking. He's walking like my shadow, how about this one, or this one, good price! Usually I just ignore them, but sometimes I talk. So I told him even if he gives it to me for free, I don't want it. It's not my style, I have no room in my bag, and I don't support animal cruelty. He continues to walk. There was one older guy in front of us. He asked, is that your uncle, are you with him? I said no; Then you're with me?; no. I want to cover you in 100 kisses; I'm laughing ... no way. Then he started with some really x-rated talk. I was in shock!!! He's just 22!!! I told him to leave. He said that he'll be waiting for me. I told him not to bother. Yep, every single day I go through it. No good experiences at all !! I wonder how to talk to them. I was adviced to say that I have a husband (and indeed a lot of girls say that), and to say that I'm here only for a week. But if I expect honesty from people, then how can I lie?? I need to experiment with different techniques!
Side note: I notice a lot of Indians have really bad teeth, and usually teeth are considered to be a sign of health, and it's one of the things that you look for when you search for a partner. I wonder if arranged marriage institute changed that ... along with other things? Why bother when you're guaranteed to get married anyway??!
Next day I was so exhausted that I decided to do no more walking, and take only buses and taxis. I went to a bus stop, and they have this stupid system, I have no idea which *&$% came up with it in a very international city with a high number of tourism. The numbers on the front of the bus are tiny and written in Hindi! Only at the back of the bus it would be in normal numbers! But by this time it's already too late, the bus is gone! Needless to say that I learned their numbers pretty quickly!
Went to an area where they wash cloths. It was in the middle of the afternoon, and there weren't too many people washing them, but pretty much it's a huge area with little baths where the males take cloths, put soap on it, smash it on some stone and rinse it in the bath, while standing in it.
Then I went to a temple. What was interesting in the temple is not the temple itself but a local restaurant in which I ate. It had a great variety of pancakes with different fillings. And on the grill there was the usual assortment of lemon and green chili peppers. I've usually seen it on houses, and once I saw it on a car, but it's meant to take the evil spirits away. When the chilies become red it means the job is complete, and you have to hang new ones. The faster the chilies turn red the more evil spirits it took out. And also I met a nice Indian family who sat at my table. The grown up was a chef at the most expensive hotel in Mumbai. His brother was some important figure in the navy who was at the time in Russia. And the kids are so young and clean and smart with perfect English and perfect English slang. One boy said that he wants to be infrastructure Engineer when he grows up! He's only 12!
Beside the temple was a cow. There are cows everywhere, but I guess because it was so close to the temple, most of the people who passed by it touched it. There were also men dressed up like women ... very unpleasant and aggressive. I'm not sure what their story is, but they’re considered to be somehow holy. They would touch their forehead, then somebody else's forehead and demand money for it. I saw a woman giving him 5 rupees (which I think is more than enough), but he started shouting at her that 5 is not enough. She found her wallet and gave him 10. So, not only tourists are getting scammed. What kind of spiritual/religious enlightment can you get from an aggressive queer who's robbing you blind??
Right beside the temple was a mosque. It was very strange to see such a clash of religions living relatively in peace side by side. I then remembered Toronto and the soup of cultures/religions that goes on, but there is seems normal. I guess when you see it outside of the norm you realize how abnormal it actually is.
The people seemed very different. The contrast between Hindu and Muslims is very noticeable. Their eyes are so sharp and determined, like they're looking to hunt someone down. The mosque is built in the sea, there is a 500 meter bridge that connects it to the shore and in a high tide the mosque becomes an island. The mosque wasn't too interesting for me, but what touched me was that on all the length of that bridge there were beggars begging for money. But they weren't just any kinds of beggars, there were 2-3 year old kids sitting all alone with no parents in site, people with no limbs, or completely deformed bodies, no eyes, no legs, half white, half black. Looking at all that, I was not as mad at touts, beggars, thieves as much. When people are born into that kind of environment, they're doomed from birth ... sadly enough :(
Mumbai was not good for my nerves. I don't know why, but I was about to explode. Maybe because the hostel was right in the center, and I had to pass a market to get there. Want sunglasses; madam look at the scarves; do you want watch, elephants, shoes, belts, drums very very nice sound, I give you good price; look here, come to my shop; how much do you pay; pineapple; feathers; taxi, taxi, madam where you go?; dress, I give you cheap, only 400 rupees, ok, only 200 just for you ... pretty much as fast as you read it, that's as fast as I hear it multiplied by 100s of shops! There is no point of saying no, no, no thanks anymore, you just walk by ignoring everybody. I needed to buy sunglasses, and once you stop they put their claws so deep that it's hard to leave. I finally found a pair that I liked, he wanted 350. I bargained a little bit, but he was just too stubborn, I took out 150, put it into his hand and walked away.
I bought train tickets with a photocopy of a passport pretty easily, but when I went to use the internet they wouldn't accept a photocopy! My nerves were running low and you wouldn't know how much power it took to just walk away without yelling, swearing or hitting somebody ... yes, it was that bad!!
I was in desperate need to leave Mumbai, but a guy came to the hostel and said that he's looking for girls to go to an Indian wedding and act like hostesses for 4 hours, we get to wear saris and get paid 1000 rupees! Not bad! I reluctantly agreed, because I wanted to see a rich wedding and to wear a sari. In total 10 girls went, and we drove there for 2 hours hell knows where, still in boundaries on Mumbai! I was already getting scared after watching a few movies like "Taken" or other movies where girls are kidnapped and kept as sex slaves. But finally we arrived, and it was a glorious wedding indeed, except that we didn't have any saris but some factory like uniform, and we had to stand at the front of the entrance and greet guests for 4 hours straight! Our legs and backs were killing us! And at the end, we didn't get to eat all the nice food that was served from every country in the world, but they took us to the back and we ate simple Indian dishes with all the other workers :(( It was the last day of the wedding, with it being a reception. The place must have been the size of a football field with fountains, couches, huge stage for picture taking, so many varieties of dishes, flowers, feathers, fireworks!! Incredible!! Too bad we didn't get to witness any of it :(
Came back to the hostel at 1:30am, and at 6am I needed to get up to take the first train out to Matheran hill station near Mumbai. The heat was too much, and I needed a cooler air. On the train one woman sat beside me. I was reading lonely planet, she just took it and started to flip through it. Then a lot of people entered the wagon, one woman wanted to sit beside her, but she just shooed her away, go go, sit somewhere else, she sat across. Then after a while, she was telling her stories as though she was her best friend. One boy came to sell some fruits. If you want to buy something cheap, buy it on the train. 10 fruits were 10 rps, even in the local shop it's 40, for foreigners, it's usually 100. Women started digging in, picking them up, putting them back, really sorting through them. And then they were eating them with skin on!
When I arrived at the hill station, it was really nice, forest like, but it wasn't high enough to take any of the heat off :( I wanted to take a horse for a ride. One guy approached me and told me that one hour is 375. I barely got it down to 300. Then I got on the horse and he took the leash to walk with it, I said no way, I want to run, so you leave my horse alone, and get on another horse. Now he started saying that his horse will be additional 300. No way, you're the guide, your horse is free. But his logic was that there is 1 horse less for the tourists to use, so they're losing money. Half an hour later (seriously, half an hour), with so much negotiations, I got it down to 400. We run, it was fun, I stopped at 2 view points, but it was just as white as in Mumbai (although 2 hours away), so couldn't see much :( I was very surprised to see so many Indian tourists, it's the best weekend getaway from Mumbai. I haven't seen not even 1 backpacker! There is no traffic at the hill station, and my ears got a few hours rest from all the honking. There are a lot of hiking trails, and with no proper maps and no signs I got lost pretty quickly. It's a small hill station, so I wasn't too worried about finding the taxi stand, it's the smaller things in between that I wanted to find that I couldn't. There were a few Indians hiking, I asked them where the lake is, and they said that they're going there. I joined them. While having a casual chat, I used the opportunity to gather some useful information for example about the horses. Well, what do you know, 3 hours on the horse costs 300 rps!!! And I paid 400 for 1 hour! But on the plus side I found a new way of bargaining. If for example the sales person says 400, I say no 100. He says no, ok, I bring the price up to 200. But it's not the way, I should say 110, then 120 ... bring it up little by little. Good to know!
While I was having juice one guy sat beside me and we started chatting. I said that I'm going for a walk to see the view points, he said that he's going the same way and we can walk together (I already know where that's gonna lead), but sure, lets walk. Hey, guess what??!!! He's another bullshitter!!! He put a certainty into everything. I wanted to get past the gate to take clear pictures of the view. He told me there are no exits anywhere and the gate is all around. How does he know?? He's here for the first time! Of course there was an exit, this is India! If there isn't one, people will make one! Then he said that oh yeah, we're on the right path, we came from here before! I know how to read maps pretty well, and made a point that we haven't because we're walking in a loop, and not back and forth. Why are they trying to be such machos, and give a certain statement about everything?! Trying to show how manly they are? But don't they feel like fools when they're statements are contradicted? For me it's much more manly if a guy can admit that he doesn't know. He's 24, and he's still a virgin. No wonder why they act so childish, they have no idea how to interact with girls. He told me that local girls wouldn't talk to guys the way I do, or walk with them. There were lots of monkeys, I was eating chips, and a few of them were following us. He said that he's my protector, but he was so scared of them and was pleading me to give them the chips so that they would go away, meanwhile I was walking calmly, they didn't look aggressive at all :) He had a phd degree in IT and works in a good company, but when I asked him why the air is so white he told me that in Mumbai it's because of so much construction, and here because it's on elevation! How stupid do you have to be????? The weather got very very hot just a few days ago, and of course I'm not sure of the reason why it's foggy, but my theory is because of evaporation of the ocean. If a surgeon can't tell the difference between south and east and an IT guy has absurd ideas about fog then what can you tell about everybody else who lives here??! But I'm wondering, maybe they lie about their degree just like about everything else, so I thought that next time I'm gonna give them a test! That would be fun :)
Besides giving certainty, there are so many contradictions like he said that he's alone on this hill, and later he said that he left his camera with a friend. Or that he called his boss to get an approval for a taxi(!), but then he said again that he needs to call his boss to get an approval. He was so proud that his company pays him for everything. He called and talked in this childish voice about how hot it is, and that his blood is boiling and he needs a taxi. Even the chips he got me his company is paying for! Yeah right!
Then he started to get more personal. Asking me questions what to do if he wants a girl (you know in general), and he knows that he'll never see her again. I told him that you shake her hand and tell her that it was nice to meet you! But what if he really wants the girl? I ask him, does the girl want you? No! So you have no right for anything! He got very confused by that logic. Then he started to get aroused by my shirt! Said that it's too revealing!! It's like the closest shirt that I have!!
I lied in the beginning about having a bf for 6 months so he won't be trying too hard. Well guess what, after all the questions now he has a girlfriend too! She's Irish, they've been together for 6 months, and she's not a virgin! This is just too funny :) When we reached a crossing, and I said that I'm leaving back to Mumbai, at that point he went back to his friend with a camera, he shook my hand and said that it was nice to meet me !!!
On the way back, the train was full. I didn't get into the women's wagon, and was stuck in a wagon full of stinky, sweaty men. The only space you had was just the space that your body took, it was still very hot and I started to feel lightheaded. But after a few minutes, somebody reached for me and said that there is a free seat! I was once at a train station, where all the counters were closed and everybody was sitting at the chairs. Then someone announced that counters are now open, and it was a scene out of a movie, 100s of people were running, shoving everybody from their way and pushing their money into the counter window. When they act like, I was very surprised that nobody jumped at that empty seat and especially looked for me, and then gave me space to pass through!
In the evening I started feeling very bad, had runny nose, terrible headache, sneezing nonstop, didn't sleep all night, and got up at 5:30am to catch a 12 hour train to Goa. Now that I'm thinking back, after a crazy week like that in Mumbai, no wonder I got sick!
Overall impression of Mumbai - didn't like it not even a bit. What I feel bad about, is that a lot of people who come to India just go to Mumbai for a week and head back home ... what a waste!

https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/Mumbai