Published: November 12th 2006November 12th 2006
Well, we've finally returned to India. Hopefully we'll stay here in Goa until the end of April, when our friend Sanjay and his Papa, have asked us to return with them to their home in Kashmir. Then, we've been invited to a wedding in Delhi in June. We'll need to go somewhere towards the end of March to renew our visas, probably either Sri Lanka or Thailand.
The tourist season is beginning to take off, and we return to a different Baga and Calangute to the towns we left three weeks ago. Most bars, shops and restaurants are now open, Calangute in particular is heaving most of the day, and the beach is teeming with hawkers - although probably not yet up to full capacity. There's a new road being built towards the river in Baga, and the lorries full of earth add to the traffic problems, being not quite narrow enough to easily pass the buses on the Baga road.
Our memories of the sights and sounds are starting to return to us. From about six o'clock the bakery boys start peddaling along the Baga road honking their horns, on their bikes that are fitted with large baskets on the back. Once the day starts to heat up, they are joined by the boys selling ice-cream, ringing their bells instead. The professional beggars are starting to arrive from around India, along with their practiced pleas of 'money money money', often carrying their borrowed, well fed, babies. One pleads hungar to me, to only look disgusted at the offer of a couple of bananas, wanting only money. A friend gave one a packet of sandwiches, only for them to be thrown away on the ground once he had walked away. In contrast, the genuinly needy beggars, the sick and the maimed, normally don't hassle at all, but quietly sit and get as many donations from other Indians as they do from tourists.
At least one of the normally four visiting elephants that travel up from the south of the country each season, along with their fake sadhus (holy men), have arrived. Apparently, only two are coming this year, Laxmi, the elephant we took pictures of last year has gone up to Rajasthan to fleece the tourists there. Despite the printed receipt book for a children's charity, the money they collect in return for allowing you to take photos of the elephants isn't for charity, its a scam.
We've spent our time sorting out our flat and making it look more homely. We're trying to find some cheap wall hangings to brighten the place up a bit. We've seen some nice paintings on cloth of Ganesh and Buddha, but the jury is still out as to whether they really are handpainted, or whether the guy painting outside the shop is carefully dabbing at a mass produced half finished print. Possibly they are handprinted, but not necessarily by them, maybe back in Rajasthan.
Abo and Amanda's bar, Banana Moon, is coming along and should be open next week, and we've been helping a bit with some painting and other stuff. Their landlord's mother is 84, but was up on the roof the other day collecting ckeekoo fruit. Apparently her son had to stop her climbing the coconut trees only a couple of years ago. We watched her with a 8 foot bamboo pole with a net on the end, trying to collect the fruit. Having exhausted the supply at that height, she walked back over to her house, hitched up her sari and climbed over the gate, only to return with about a 15 foot pole to try a bit higher! Claire reverted to A&E nurse mode, and watched the old lady's varicose veins in horror as she scrambled up a pile of bricks to get extra height!
Abo and Amanda stayed in our flat while we were back in England, so there was no need for our landlord Hugo to make his boy Vijay sleep outside on our step every night for security, as he had offered. We had declined this in horror, but he'd probably have made him anyway, alongside Toby the dog. Toby is starting to learn not to come into the flat, and although still sometimes sneaks in when the door is open, normally sits outside. He's also now started to lift his paw up to shake hands for a biscuit. Not bad for basically a street dog!
Gianne and Babu, who own Karma Collection, probably Baga's only fixed price shop, have offered to lend us their car while Claire's brother Sean visits next week, so we're going to experience first-hand driving in Goa. When they first got the car they discovered the unique hazards of car ownership in India, the first day they parked outside their shop a coconut fell through their windscreen!
We've not yet had a chance to go up to the school in Anjuna. We've raised a little money for them, so will visit soon to see what they want bought with it, probably books. We've taken no pictures yet either, but will post some on our next blog.
Keep in touch, its always good to hear from everyone. We've had a few emails that we've not yet been able to answer, but now we've got more time we will soon.