Beep beep… beep beep…. Coming through!!! Beep beep.. and we are all coming through!! Signs on the back of trucks and buses welcome you to “HONK” and everyone does!!! Horn use mandatory! Mayhem… motocycles and scooters in waves, trucks billowing black exhaust, Tuk-tuk’s cutting in and out, and pulling U turns. Oohhh for silence but with 1 ¼ Billion people, you don’t come to India for that!! But it all seems to work.. all the chaos, you very quickly learn to blend with their kinda thinking: No rules apply!! Drive wherever you want. either side of the road and may the best man win.. and never mind the cows or pedestrians or any other obstacle… all adds to the fun of it! The death toll on the roads here is frightening.. oh well such is life as we set off with the wind in our hair and the sun baking our golden skin.. it aint’ all bad and no worries about the dreaded “Black Ice”!
2 months in India and back to vibrant “Third World Living”… a long way from Europe. Ferry rides that make you shudder packed solid with people and bike’s, nightly power cuts, daily battle finding and working with internet service that sucks!! (Do they really provide technology support to the Western world?). Non existent etiquette of forming lines in stores or anywhere else a queue might be appropriate. Space is a premium in India, one gets used to competing / fighting for every square centimetre. Frustrations abound!!
Bugs and critters.. pigs and monkeys are fine… not so much cockroaches on steroids (our bags could be packed PDQ if they even think of crossing paths with me); The not so little rat-like things called Bandicoots, that are about as big as a small cat!!. We hear them screeching at night… I inspect the cracks under the doors and pray they do not like to squeeze through small places; The ongoing battle with ants that suddenly appear in a dense procession across the counter top at the slightest presence of something to devour; snakes and spiders… let’s not go there! The killer spray is on hand for all!!
We have been introduced to the concept of the ‘Traditional Indian lawn Mower’ .. delicate little Indian women dressed in colorful sari’s sitting on the lawns hand picking each individual blade of grass, sipping from the garden hose to keep cool in the blistering sun… and what do they gat paid.. maybe less than a $1 a day!! Our condo complex security guard lives on the job. Painting his manicured nails while working back to back to back 24 hour shifts, rarely getting relief. We keep him well fed with cookies and coke and other goodies and exchange English and Hindi language lessons. Not sure it improves the security but maybe he’ll put on a little weight! Dust and dirt is everywhere… but the sari clad ladies with their one-handed feather brush sweeping technique at least keep the dust piles moving… even if it is never picked up!
But what is life if not an adventure.. filled with suspense, thrills, magic, misery!! Take the good with the bad: Days that suck and you want to scream and run for home.. (Oh yeah right… we have no home!!); and days that indulge our senses.
Looking at the big picture we have been spoilt to have the most awesome 3+ years… a gift of one incredible breath-taking moment after another. The most wonderous meetings and treasured friendships… our hearts “Bursteth” with JOY!! … (Most of the time!!!)
“Auntie! Uncle!”… a customary term of respect from younger Indian nationals… we enjoy so much the greetings on our daily beach walks. 2 young men bounce up to us, hand in hand (of course) in their ragged old underwear substituting for swim wear, Just loving life with hearts so massive and soo full of joy, not a penny to their name.. we have so much we can learn from these people! We love these encounters… “Hello Auntie and Uncle, where from?” “Canada” we inform, well that just about does it, we are Stratospheric.. if you are not British or Russian you are ‘something else’!! The read is they are not at all crazy about Russians, who’s government have some sweetheart deal that enable them to flock here… even menus in restaurants are in Russian! There are the Russian beaches and shacks, and lets just say the Russian blend with the Brits is not so HOT… Humans never seem to find the easy path to embracing differences!!
Beaches known to be ‘National’s Beaches’ are soo much fun to walk: literally thousand’s of nationals standing around in and out of the water, grown ups jumping in the shallow waves like children, wide-eyed and screaming as they enter the surf fully clothed, camera’s trying to discreetly capture us strange-looking visitors in our swimwear, the occasional bold person that comes straight out and asks us to pose in their group picture… This opportunity is one of those “Pinch Yourself’ highlights where we all giggle.. We teach them to throw the Peace sign and a blast is had by all!! Then there are the Russian Page 3 “Thong Wearing” Model Types who throw themselves around in the water doing the most provocative “poses”.. OMG the Poor Indian guys can hardly contain themselves!!
Christmas and New Year have rolled around.. New Year on a Goan beach and place of hippie lore from way back… gotta do that one time in your life.. the joy of the Nationals who have such appreciation for things un-Indian, they play and jump with the innocence of children in total wonder at the magic of it all as we launch Chinese lanterns and fireworks over the Arabian Sea..! The most fun was wearing our santa hats riding the scooter around town for a few days.. the smiles and laughs and people who would ride up alongside wishing us a Merry Christmas… having mastered the art of sitting “Side-Saddle” on the back of the scooter in true local style, impressing even myself to death (now just learn to ride the bike!!!)
The grimace on Steve’s face was enough for me to clear out of the tattoo parlour PDQ and head for a café… He had signed up for a “Biggeee”! Art work had taken more than 2 weeks to perfect… This was it “The BIG One”!! ………….. A tribute to “Pumper” and our Odyssey plastered on his right shoulder in full blazing glory.. awesome!! Fortunately we caught the little spelling error on the license plate.. it almost read “HIRPIES’ instaed of “HIPPIES”.. now how cute would that have been!! Our artist Mokesh in Calangute ( www.goatattoocenter.com ) did us proud… we have art work for a follow-up, and another in Nepal with a Kathmandu artist… OMG, what are we like!! Our kids must shudder and shake their heads!!
We are in serious plan mode. As enjoyable as our visit to Goa has been with our many new friends, it is time to explore and adventure and “DO” India!! Northern India and all of its cultural delights and no doubt horrors… A must… zip across the border and spend time in Nepal… I can hardly believe it.. NEPAL!!!! One month trekking around India’s less travelled regions.. survival mode thinking kicks in… a quick prayer “please keep me out of all hospitals and I will be eternally grateful!!”
Meanwhile Pumper rests in a container in Athens, missing us as much as we miss her. Temperature in Athens was barely above freezing this week, makes us shiver. Pumper is probably quite pleased not to be fighting for every square centimetre of the road, dodging potholes, and sucking in India’s dust at 35 degrees centigrade. Spring is around the corner!
शांति और प्रेम… Peace and love, Hindi fashion…