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Posts Tagged ‘James Bertrand’

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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Ka Ka Ka Ka Kathmandu

 

Full Moon in Nepal

 

         Our time in Nepal was brief but it slid into the realm of the timeless.  I still haven’t integrated into words what we experienced there.  But I can say a few things:

 

         Kathmandu is more polluted by far than Bangkok – unbelievable!  We found an oasis of sorts in the Mustang Holiday Inn (no relation to the American one, that’s for sure!), that was somewhat hidden from the incessant horn honking and diesel smoke-spewing traffic.  With that as our base, we ventured into places where we could breathe.

 

         The tantric temples of Nepal are what attracted us, and it was amazing to me to be sitting in temples full of symbolism that I understood:  the 6-pointed star, the gods and goddesses, the shiva linga, the yoni platforms, etc.   In some of the places I really felt the power.  That’s what I’m still integrating.

 

         We went to be in a Tibetan Buddhist place, and that felt both familiar and exotic.  I often directed my prayers toward Tibet, thanking it for holding the sacred tradition that is now out in the world, and asking for its release from suffering under the Chinese.

 

         We met up with artists from a Tibetan school of painting in Bhaktapur, and James and they had a real meeting of the minds and hearts.  They toured us through the school, which is run by a Tibetan lama, and we marveled at the thankas they painted.  They also very much appreciated James’ paintings, and our work.

 

         There were plenty of Hindu temples and shrines, too, which also felt familiar as I could name the divine characters and many of the scenes.

 

         A strange thing about the many Nepalese we met was the very deep connections that we forged.  Perhaps it is because this country has only been open to the outside world for less than 60 years, and they haven’t become jaded to foreigners.   I noticed that when we said goodbye to new friends, I would get a lump in my throat and linger at the farewell, just like old friends.  I noticed they, too, would look back and wave after we had parted.   

 

         We even had a meeting with a yogic master who teaches Eastern tantra (breathing, mantra, visualization) – a spirited discussion that collected a crowd around us.  I think people were taken aback that we were arguing with the master, but it was a respectful exchange that we all felt better for.  And the master, Dr. Chandra, is a high guy – no doubt about it.  His eyes emanated light.  It was a true honor to meet him.

 

         James has repeated often that he feels privileged to be in Nepal.  Closed for all these centuries . . . and here we are meeting people, visiting the temples, beholding the Himalayas.

 

 

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City of the Angels

 

Bro & Sis do shots

Bro & Sis do shots

Los Angeles, California   USA

 

LA is a great big freeway …. and so it is.  But for us, we have spent these days organizing and packing for our trip in the sanctuary offered us by James’ sister Jacqui and brother-in-law Gene.  They have many years of experience as the welcoming port and launching pad for James’ many international trips, and their hospitality is well-honed; even the lemons were cut for the greeting tequila shots when we arrived.

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California Dreamin’

 

 

 

 

Santa Barbara, California      USA James calls Santa Barbara “the belly button of the world”, and indeed we feel snuggled in the middle of it here.  It was his home of 17 years, and so he returns in many ways to Santa Barbara — to family, friends, and memories.  Time changes everything, of course, so we got to enjoy heaps of love with new little beings — the grandkids Katie and Dilyn — (and their adults Lyla, Alex, and Mary), as well as behold the scorched landscape of the recent fires. I relished stepping into the Pacific Ocean and breathing in deep the salty sea air.  So different from the high desert we just left.

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