Thursday, January 9, 2014
We were flying from the most pristine, sparkling, dripping rich city on this planet to the city with the greatest amount of surface area covered in human shit.
Yep – I said it. A city decorated with feces.
Talk about a contrast.
At something like 6 p.m. we flew into Mumbai.
The air smelled sweet. I don’t mean sweet like that parisian bakery bubbling croissant type of sweet, I mean rotting compost and mysterious matter type sweet.
Before exiting the airport we were tearing off layers of clothing and headed to grab a tuk-tuk style taxi to the train station.
The ride was about an hour or so. Our little taxi inched its way past the most chaotic traffic I have ever seen. If you complain about Los Angeles or Seattle traffic, I dare you to go to Mumbai. You will forever keep your mouth shut.
We were wait listed for an overnight train to Goa, but at this point I wasn’t even worried if we would budge on the wait list, because I was convinced we weren’t going to survive the drive to the station.
An hour or so later we made it to the Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station.
For some reason I imagined we wouldn’t be the only tourists here, is that naieve? James left me with the backpacks while he stood in line trying to sort out the waitlist thing. I sat on top of our backpacks in the middle of the train station and I felt a million sets of strangers’ eyes staring at me. At 7:30 p.m. James came back with bad news – we moved on the waitlist, but to spots #1 and #2, meaning we didn’t have a seat on the overnight train.
After nearly getting ripped off by one young man claiming his friend had canceled his reservation and we could purchase the sleeper train tickets from him, we proceeded to exit the crazy train station and try to regroup and come up with a plan for getting out of Mumbai and to Goa.
Unfortunately, a white couple in the Mumbai train station doesn’t have a chance of “regrouping.” Immediately dozens of people come up and ask you where you are going, how you are getting there, and then offer free “advice” on how crappy and “unlucky” your current situation is before offering up a solution they believe is fantastic.
James and I just wanted out of Mumbai and out of the train station. We didn’t think much about it, but ended up following some random man that looked like the most trustworthy of them all, down a dark alley and found ourselves a makeshift wooden box travel agent stand where we then proceeded to hand over cash to reserve an overnight bus to Goa.
Another bike-car hybrid taxi thing carried us to some place an hour away and we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere.
Excellent. It was now about 9 p.m.
We had no clue where we were and didn’t know if venturing far was a genius idea or not, muchless which direction would take us to a better or grittier part of town.
We looked around and silently both decided it was a better idea to try to find a safer looking part of the city because it likely couldn’t get much worse.
We looked. We did not find this imaginary place. We ended up finding a bank that was shut for the evening and that had security cameras still blinking red so we decided to sit underneath those and hide in the dark. We found a small worn tile without human feces strewn across it and cautiously sat down. A rat the size of my previous pitbull decided to join us, and several hours later so did some unwelcome gentlemen and some security guards. We decided to leave the bank and find better luck inside a restaurant.
James was hungry, so we went to some random restaurant and he ordered an entire meal before a 13 hour bus ride. I swear he has tried this trick a few times before, right?
“Yo..” he says as he munches down some more curry, not even looking up from his yellow stained plate.
“You know we are in India now, right?”
“Yeah… And? Big dogs gotta eat, man.”
I don’t know what kind of good gut flora army that guy has going on in his intestines, but man that boy is lucky.
At 11 p.m. we ended up sitting on the side of a curb where the bus would supposidly pick us up 1 a.m.
A group of about seven young college boys sitting nearby sat closer and asked us what we were doing. We told them we were taking the bus to Goa and they responded “Don’t you guys feel unsafe in this city?”
I think its safe to say that at that point I was starting to get upset with James for not having us take a flight directly to Goa, costing only $100 extra.
Long story short, we got on the bus. We tried to find our seats which corresponded with our tickets. The only problem was our tickets had numbers and the seats had letters. The bus was packed full. Our seats were filled with some very large boys that looked like they belonged on Tupacs album cover, were missing a beer in their hands, a cigar in their mouth and were fascinated that they could recline to about a 20 degree angle in their chairs. The bus basically looked like a barber shop in the middle of the ghetto and I was the only chick on it.
Friday, January 10, 2014
Our amazing sleep was interrupted at about 7 a.m. when the bus stopped to let us pee. We reboarded and carried on until 1 p.m. when we impatiently asked the driver where the heck we were and showed him where we wanted to go.
He suggested we get off in Mapusa, so we did. We ended up getting a taxi and cruised 40 minutes to our new home.
We arrived at The Mandala Resort where we would call home for the next five weeks.
We were greeted by the beautiful Anjelika and were shown to our tent. We settled into Yantra 8 and then went for a walk to see our beach, Mandrem beach. The rest of the day was spent familiarizing ourselves with our new surroundings and settling into Goa.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
We started our volunteer work on the weekend. We are working in the restaurant, reception and random little projects around the grounds as needed.
The manager is pretty awesome, open-minded and an incredible host. The boys in the kitchen are amazing. Their stories are unreal and inspiring.
Goa is crazy. James will tell you it’s a bunch of hippies stuck in the 70’s all still high on acid, trying to swim in printers. I agree with most of his opinions on the subject. About 90 percent of the population are 2 year old naked toddlers with bandanas and anklets, all a spitting image of their parents. Arambol is nearby. Once a quaint fishing village, it’s now splashed with neon and drowning in leather, feathers, hippie fanny packs and bars.
Don’t let my impression fool you. I like it here. I like it a lot.
On Saturday night we went with Andrew and Anj to Anjunas Saturday night market. I love markets.
Saturday night market, although wildly different from the normal market pace I am used to, was a sweet surprise.
Yes, it’s crazy.
It’s busy. It’s loud.
There are drunk people. There are really old drunk people dressed like they are ready for spirit week in middle school.
It’s FUN. It’s entertaining. It’s basically Goa enclosed in circus walls. It’s perfect.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
We started to create and get into a routine within 48 hours of our arrival. We decided every morning or afternoon we would run to the beach (15 minutes walk) and jump in the refreshing ocean to start our day. Days would be spent working, catching up on this blog that is STILL five weeks behind, working on videos, photos, recipes, whatever.
At The Mandala, a typical day for us goes something like this:
7 a.m. Wake up
8 a.m. Go to yoga or teach yoga
10:00 a.m. Make breakfast
11:30 a.m. Go to beach
1-5 p.m. Work in restaurant, site projects, or reception
7-9 p.m. work in the bar/restaurant
I was given the opportunity to teach yoga three times a week. I am of course absolutely loving it and in heaven. Teaching yoga in India within the first three days of arriving is pretty lucky and I’m incredibly grateful for Anj and The Mandala for giving me the opportunity!
Long story short, we’re pretty happy.