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Posts Tagged ‘Becca Tzigany’

At Home in Anjuna

January-February-March 2009                       Anjuna, Goa, India

 

         Granddaughters Katie and Dilyn asked us to describe our new home, so this post is for them!

 

         Anjuna caught us with its vibe.  When we looked around Calangute Beach and Baga – the hip places of the 1980’s – James remarked, “Look at all the ole farts around here!” 

         I replied, “James, young people would say the same about us.”

         “Look again!”  he pointed out.  And he was right.  We’re not really typical specimens of our age group.

 

         In addition to the hipsters, Anjuna has young families.  30-something Europeans who are raising their kids here and therefore have come up with their own cool businesses.  So there’s bakeries and health food and concerts and movie nights and bookstores and internet cafés.  The old Goan families have their own little empires – guesthouses and restaurants/night clubs and Ayurvedic health spas.  The beach, though, is what got us.  A long expanse of sand with thatch beach shacks and a mellow vibe.

 

         We arrived here  toward the end of January to look for a house.  All the grand old Portuguese homes with gardens had been rented since November, and we had little to choose from.  Even so, we found a 2-year old, very clean, 2-bedroom house in a compound.  Really nice landlords who live next door, and 2 dogs for security.  Reasonable rent ($300/month), sparsely furnished, but at least furnished.  The bed is way too hard, but we found that to be true all over India.  Good location – ah, but too good!  We are right on the main road of Anjuna (incessant traffic, and in India, that’s loud!) AND a main cow path (wandering cows set dogs to barking).  I located my office at the back of the house and turn on my I-Tunes when the traffic surpasses a certain level..

 

         Throw in some buzzing mosquitos and you have a nasty recipe for a light sleeper (James) or someone prone to insomnia (me).  We don’t sleep that well here.

 

         On the property of the compound is a little thatch-roof, dirt floor restaurant (no sign outside – you either have to live here, or know about it, to find it).  Francis and Elizabeth (they’re Catholics, hence the odd names) cook up fabulous food most days.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is for me to know that when I’m working to the point of suddenly realizing I’m hungry, all I have to do is walk next door and get a 3-5 course plate (a thalli) of whatever they’ve fixed, for about $1. That means:  dahl (lentils), 1 or 2 curried veggies (cauliflower, peas, eggplant, fenugreek greens, cashews, etc.), chutney (they call it “pickle”), yoghurt (“curd”) sauce, and a chapati, all of which I add to my own whole grain. On Sundays the price triples because they fix the local speciality:  Goan Fish Curry – a delicious blend of peppers and coconut milk and curry over delicate white fish.   It’s fantastic – and 20 steps away!  How lucky could we get?

 

         You can see pictures of some of the rooms of our house in the post entitled “A Day in the Life”.

 

         Altho we’ve attended the infamous outdoor dances, the Goan trance parties are a little too techno for my taste (still searching for who’s playing tribal trance music).  So we’re not shakin’ it with the youngin’s too much.  We’ve mostly fallen in with the yoga community.  There are 2 excellent yoga centers here, and I attend morning classes in a screened-in pavilion under big trees. 

 

         We were invited to a Valentines’ Day party, which was a multi-segment event starting in the afternoon and going into the night, and totally my style:  Upon arrival, we were smudged and then sprinkled and dabbed with fairy dust.  Then we sipped an Ayurvedic herbal aphrodisiac tea and chatted in the lush tropical garden.  At sunset we gathered around the fire pit (in a stepped amphitheater smoothed with dried cow dung, like adobe), where we called in the directions, burned old habits in the fire, and other ceremonial fun.  Then the mega-speakers were cranked up for trance dancing under the palms and the moon.  At 10pm we all (about 60 of us) sat on the ground for the thalli-style meal served on banana leaves, followed by a concert by an amazing Russian guitarist.  I think they did a slide show and who-knows-what-else later, but we left around midnight.   But that gives you an idea of who we’re rubbing elbows with.

 

         In Anjuna there’s a group who gather to do Sanskrit chanting, complete with a bunch of musicians and drummers, and sometimes I join them. 

 

         James is out much more than me, and has made friends with all the beach peddlers (women from the hills – more on them later…) and tourists, mostly Europeans here for a week or so.

 

         It’s a mellow community but lacks a coherent center.  I have talked with a couple locals about that, and  NO, I am not going to organize anything or do anything about that!  James and I are very content with Goa just the way it is!


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Let Goa

 

 

 

 

January-February 2009                                       Goa

 

         James said all along we’d end up in Goa, and he was right.  It is so different from the rest of India, I was afraid it would be too Westernized or too expensive for our Indian sojourn, but actually, it is just right for us.

 

         Goa has beaches, beaches, and beaches.  Its tropical climate (in the middle of India’s western coast) is welcome to us, but this winter being one of the hottest in memory, we are really feeling it.  One day I checked the weather online and get this: 

                                      Goa                   Taos

                  High            94°                  49°

                  Low              71°                  17°

 

         The most amazing thing about Goa is the culture.  Goa was not a part of India until 1961, when 400 years of being a Portuguese colony ended.   Hence, there are Christian churches (and Christians who may think and dress Western-style), older people speak Portuguese, and the food has a European bent.  The Goan people are extremely friendly (and for India, where we have been so warmly welcomed, that’s saying something!) and culturally open-minded.

 

         So between the easy-going culture and the awesome beaches, it was inevitable this should become a refuge for wild and crazy tourists, free-spirited artists, and other homeless global citizens.  Trance dance and raves came out of Goa in the 80’s & 90’s, making this a mecca for people who love to dance.  The line-up of beach shacks have invested more in sound systems than in kitchen equipment, creating quite the soundscape!  Thank the gods and goddesses that global trance is one of our favorite kinds of music, so we can groove with it.

 

         Part of me objects that, for the sake of my writing, I should be in completely traditional Hindu place while living in India, but the practicalities are this . . . 

          When it’s 98° out, I want to wear shorts and a tank top, not 3 layers of silk on top of a short-sleeved shirt and long pants (in Mangalore and elsewhere, Hindu extremists have attacked women wearing jeans or “noodle strap” shirts), and I want to wear a bikini at the beach.  In Goa, I can dress for the weather. (When in town, I dress conservatively but comfortably).

         When we shop, I want to buy millet and olive oil and balsamic vinegar and organic veggies, etc.  Along that line, there are several German bakeries here, where I can get sourdough whole wheat bread, chocolate mousse, apple strudel, and walnut cake (very dangerous!).

         The music scene is fabulous (not that I get out much), and the international expat community is within reach, so when we socialize, we party with peers … yoga practitioners, writers, spiritual seekers.

         English is widely understood.

         The infrastructure is reasonably together.  

         It’s still quite cheap, if you’re willing to go Indian style on food, transport, etc.

         The Goans are so very kind and accepting.

 

         So that’s our rationale … not really surprising, if you look at our former homes.  We are always blessed with a community of magnificent nature, conscious/artistic/globally minded people who are movers and shakers, and sustaining traditions.  Well, that pretty much describes Rincon, Tuscany, the Big Island, and Taos.  Now we add Goa to our list of beloved homes.

 

         Goa is a tourist destination for Indians who want to let their hair down.  Here I’ve seen more Indian women in shorts (granted, they’re usually entering the sea with their clothes on) than anywhere, and the musicians, and others who are free-thinkers are a real delight to talk to – to hear their stories of getting liberated in a very conservative culture.

 

         The international community is quite interesting (in order of predominance):  mostly Europeans of all stripes (especially Italians, Spaniards, Germans, and heavy on the Britishers), Russians, Israelis, Japanese, and just a sprinkling of Americans.  I’d like to comment on the Israelis . . . because every kid at 18 must serve in the military (women for 1 year, men for 3 years), when they get out, they (self-admittedly) need therapy.  As one woman told us, “We all have lost dear friends in combat.”  Many are angry, others are shattered (PTSD, I’m sure).  They come to India either on a spiritual quest or to Goa for a blow-out.  They drink and do drugs and are generally so self-expressive, as only Israelis can be, that they often tangle with the cops.  India has changed its visa procedure just for Israelis, trying to restrict their presence here, coz they often tear the place up.  But the ones we’ve met seem quite self-aware; they know the war has screwed them up, and they’re just trying to put their lives back together.  It’s a tragic picture of the effects of war on young people.

 

         Still, Goa takes them in.  Goa takes us all in and heals us with its magical presence.  We’re happy to be here.

 

Next:  our home in Anjuna Beach

 

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Solstice Time

                    

23 December 2008                                                 New Delhi, India

 

                 The sore throat James felt in Bangkok  intensified in the frigid Himalayan air and became a full-fledged cold in the pollution of Delhi.  So James spent his first days in India by taking it easy, nursing his cold.

 

         Shashi, a friend of 18 years, provided the perfect space to just hang out.  By opening his apartment and office to us, we were able to get on our feet in India.  He assigned his “manservant” to us to answer our every need.  The kitchen is Binay’s domain, and it took some convincing to get in there to butter our own bread, for example.  [Otherwise, we would put in our requests and wait].  When it fit with the greater schedule of the office, we were given a driver to take us where we needed.  At the office I became part of the staff’s job description, which is a great help though often mysterious, as I would make requests and wait.  Tea is served all around, then suddenly people rush in and out, and then tea is served all around, and I have a vague feeling things are getting done.  Obviously I’ve got a lot to learn in this culture.  [However, the waiting part is suspiciously similar to when I used to do business in Mexico and Guatemala].

 

         It’s great reconnecting with Shashi and he’s re-initiating his Hindu instruction with me . . . so I’m getting new mantras to practice.  Also, among the parade of people through his office are gurus, spiritual masters, and other interesting types that we’ve been able to meet.

 

         Binay is from a village in Jharkhand, a young man of 19 years.  His purity and hope remind me of my own son.  He dreams of being a teacher, or of having his own tailor shop, but as he says, “I have a problem – I am a poor boy.”  He misses the green trees of his village, the water, the blue skies, the freedom . . . but, he says, his 3 sisters need their dowries, and his father is a poor farmer.  So here he is in the concrete jungle, working as a servant, and grateful for the opportunity.  James and I have a wonderful connection with him.

 

         James’ and my favorite place in Delhi was the Birla House, the home and gardens where Gandhi last lived.  The museum was moving to us both, and at the site where he was assassinated, we were overcome with tears.  A monument sits in a white-rose garden and marks the spot where that Mahatma (“Great Soul”) left his body.  It was all very impressive to us.

 

         Across the street from the grounds of the Birla House is the Defence Academy.   Their entrance has cannons pointed at the place where Gandhi died.  So in a sense, though a sole assassin’s bullet felled the Father of the Indian Nation, India’s military establishment is gunning for his ideas of peace even today.  Supreme irony.

 

         On the solstice we paid our respects at Gandhi’s place, as well as at the shrine of a Muslim saint that Shashi took us to.  Though I got one dirty look from a woman in black jalaba & veil (somehow I left the house without a scarf), the people there accepted us with great sincerity, giving us gifts and offering James many hands getting up and down.  I was there bareheaded and James could not sit properly, and we were obviously Westerners, but the Muslims there really embraced us. 

 

From my many years of dedicating the solstice to world peace, I found it fitting that we should celebrate this one affirming our connectedness among diverse people.  At the Muslim shrine, we made offerings of rose petals, and I prayed for peace between Pakistan and India, who are both rattling sabers at the moment.  At Gandhi’s place, James and I both felt the power of peace as it was embodied by one man.   It is a power that has changed the world.

 

 

 

           

              

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Himalayan High

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Thai HI

 

 

Tuesday, 9 December                                    Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

For James and me, the tropics feel so much like home; therefore, much of being in Thailand feels familiar.  We recognize the trees, know how to prepare the foods, have a sense of how the weather unfolds through the day.   The fact that we’re in Northern Thailand, surrounded by its jungle mountains and immersed in its gentle Buddhist culture, as well as its earthy Hill Tribe people, make it the perfect landing place as we transition from all hustle and bustle of our departure and prepare for our pilgrimage in India.  We splurged and got a package at a resort on a lake for 2 days (thanks for the birthday $$, Jacqui & Gene!). [Even so, such a splurge in the US wouldn’t even buy a room at a Motel 6].   There we began to feel just how tired we were – how much pain James had been suffering, and our pressures of packing up – and we let them go into the lake, the swimming pool, the quiet of the trees.

 

         Here when you say thank you [“kapkunkaa” (fem) “kapkunkap” (masc)] to a person, you both bow, hands meeting in a prayerful gesture, and your eyes meet.  I love that.  You feel like you’re really connecting with the other person.  The Buddhist culture is gentle and kind… we feel welcomed here.

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Korean Day Trip

6 December 2008               Seoul, South Korea

 

Not known for being wallflowers, even when over-extended and exhausted, James and Rebecca seized the day – the one day – we had in Korea.  The bracing cold (14 degrees F.) kept us awake, and the friendly and disciplined Koreans we met made our day.  Our long layover, which we spent tripping around Seoul and visiting a temple on Yeongjongdo Island, convinced us we really had set out and were now on our Asian expedition.

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