India: Goa

After a long but surprisingly pleasant train ride through the rainforests, valleys, and hills of southern India, we arrived at Thivim train station Wednesday afternoon. We immediately crammed onto a rickety old bus for the 10 km drive to the bus stand in Mapusa, where we then boarded yet another shoddy bus that took us to Calangute Beach in Goa. One more taxi ride and a few ventures into various guesthouses, Hayli, Cecy, Sarah, and I settled into a four-bed room at the Fatima Guesthouse in Baga Beach.

Crowded Calangute Beach. Posted by Picasa

As the monsoon season is in full swing, we were prepared for the fact that much of Goa, including shops, restaurants, and guesthouses, is shut down. Therefore, we wisely chose touristy Baga Beach over the more quiet, idyllic beaches such as Palolem in order to assure that we could find beds to sleep in and hot meals to eat. Fortunately, it is the tail end of monsoon season, which means the periodic rain shower and partly-cloudy skies; in other words, a major improvement over the tidal waves of rain and wind that we have endured for a month in Nasik.

We spent what was left of our first day settling into Goa. I avoided signs warning of the tides and went swimming in the murky, brown waves (only to contract my first cold while traveling…also found out yesterday that five Indian swimmers drowned in the same spot, thanks to the undertow!). Thursday we girls spent much of the morning at the beach, but of course the rains continued to hamper our attempts at tanning. Miraculously, Friday morning was a sunny one, and I happily toasted my buns to a crisp by the time the afternoon showers began to fall. That night, in celebration of our shedding the “Ashram Blues,” we went out to Mambo’s club for some apple flavored Hooka and exercise on the dance floor (and, ahem, atop the bar…).

Hey, give us a break…we’ve been in an ashram for a month!!! Posted by Picasa

Saturday it was back to monsoon gray skies as usual, so we decided to be tourists for the day and see some sights. After climbing into “Sam the Man’s” taxi, we rode over to Old Goa. Goa is a beautiful city that was formerly colonized by the Portuguese, and the influence is seen and heard everywhere, from the elaborate Catholic cathedrals to acres of freshly manicured green lawns to Spanish-style homes flanked by gorgeous palms. Even the native Indians have names like Mark DeSouza.

Cecy and the Hooka! Posted by Picasa

In Old Goa, we went to the massive Se Cathedral Church and the ornate St. Francis of Assisi Church. After perusing the lifelike paintings and statues of various saints, we headed to the Basilica de Bom Jesus, Goa’s most famous church. It is here that the remains of St. Francis Xavier are kept. St. Francis lived in Goa in the sixteenth century, but when he died they were amazed to find that he refused to rot. Apparently now, hundreds of years later, some of his skin is still intact, even though he has never been embalmed or mummified…I only could see a bit of his skull from my little spot down on the ground (his glass coffin was raised up high)…he just looked like any old ordinary skeleton to me!

St. Francis Xavier’s resting place. Posted by Picasa

After getting our fill of sightseeing, Sam drove us into Panjim, Goa’s most commercial district for the most exciting adventure of the day…the movies! The movie in which both Cecilia and I “starred” as extras was just released, so we had to check it out. Sure enough, as I was hoping, the back of my head, shoulders, earrings, bracelet (what was I thinking for not taking off that awful red string and shells I was wearing around my wrist??!!) and nightmarish hair made their Bollywood film debut! It was so exciting, and rather funny, actually to see me on the big screen…I have to admit though, I am not the least bit disappointed that my face did not get any screen time…you should have seen the horrendous makeup job!

Catholic church from the Portuguese days in Goa. Posted by Picasa

Yesterday was a completely relaxed day. Again, it was a bit rainy (still nothing compared to Nasik!), and after saying goodbye to Sarah (who was heading back home), Cecy, Hayli, and I just wandered around doing some random shopping. Today was much like yesterday…last minute buys, lunch, and now internet. In just two hours Hayli and I will say goodbye to Cecy (she still has a month left of traveling in India) and board an overnight bus to Mumbai. Once we arrive, we plan to execute what remains of our shopping lists. We both have early Thursday morning planes to catch, and with the increased airline security requiring us to check into the airport three hours in advance, we are planning just to skip out on getting a room and instead heading to the airport Wednesday night. After the nightmare of security, Hayli and I will have each other to keep entertained until we board our respective flights Thursday morning.

And in one final note…I am officially heading home! Here’s to a comfortable bus journey to Bombay, a hassle-free sail through airport security, and a safe and secure flight (sans terrorists and/or liquid bombs) to Los Angeles. I’M GOING HOME!!!

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