(originally keyed on lunchtime on Sunday 23rd)
Packing my bags in Palolem, I was filled with sadness – I’d had a good time here, despite the guts-ache. I’d felt secure in my room in Pritam’s cottages (plug: run by Puto V Pagui [tel: 0832 2643320, mobile 9422059207], opposite syndicate bank, Palolem Branch, Canacona-Goa 403702) and had enjoyed the infectiously wicked laugh and sense of humour of Rupa and Raj Kankonkar (who run the sun and moon cybercafé and restaurant: mobiles 9422018698, 9423307959, tel 0091 0832 2645219). They grew up in Palolem and have seen the changes from a sleepy paradise to a very commercial place and prefer the former, even though the tourist trade gives them a living.
Despite really liking these people, I spent too much of my time either in my room or on line, not daring to move more than a minute away from my toilet. However I decided that I was going to move on Saturday if at all possible, so Friday would be my last day there. Here’s what happened.
Friday April 21st
I felt stable enough to eat breakfast and bus to Chaudi (3 km) to buy and post some birthday cards. Indian envelopes and stamps aren’t gummed – presumably because the humidity would ruin them. Instead, on the counter of the post-office was a pot of gloue and some twigs for brushing the glue wherever it was needed. Chaudi’s other amazing sight was a woman fish-monger in the market smoking a bidi.
I walked back to palolem, passing an old baba who tried to speak with me. He went on and on in his language – I don’t think he was after baksheesh but I wasn’t in the mood for a cultural exchange just then, so shook my head and walked on. I also passed a cellphone shop and got details of some deals but it still seems cheaper to get a spare sent from the UK, assuming it arrives.
At the entrance to Palolem village, there’s a restaurant called Brown Bread. They sell a vast range of teas and the ginger-mint seemed to be the best one for my condition. I slowly slurped this and then realised that if because it was nearly 4pm, I only had two hours of daylight left.
I then went back to my room, stripped to the minimum I dare wear in public (shirt, lycra shorts and sandals, put a few bits into a polythene bag of dubious integrity and walked along the beach towards the strait separating it from Monkey Island. The tide was in and the strait was wide – no chance of wading so I swam across, holding my poly-bag clear of the waves (thank goodness for all that life-guard training in my teens. [Yes, I **was** Worcester’s answer to David Hasselhoff!]). At the island, there’s a little beach and a well-worn trail to the top – but no other visitors I could see. I sat on a rocky outcrop for half an hour, listening to and catching occasional glimpses of the monkeys and trying to avoid being eaten by huge red ants. This was possibly the most peaceful I’ve felt in Goa – no traffic noise, no madly barking dogs keeping me awake and so stress apart from formic-acid-avoidance.
I swam back fairly quickly because I could see the sun was getting near the horizon, showered and ate tofu-burgers (I’m not proud!) at Brown Bread and tried to settle for the night. This wasn’t easy – my guts were still dodgy and my left ear had become painfully blocked with a conglomerate of sand and wax. Rupa’s ear-drops couldn’t dissolve it, water couldn’t float it out and cotton buds just wedged it in further. I didn’t have tweezers and probably wouldn’t have trusted myself with them if I did.
I also found the Indian version of MTV and saw the video to the new crazy frog song. My mind has rotted so I shouldn’t plug a single by Malika called I hate you even though I thought it was fab.
Saturday April 22nd
So I tossed, turned and read until around 6am, and missed the bus I’d intended to take. I finally got on a bus at 10am and rattled my way to Margao, feeling quite sorry for myself and sad that my last words there had been to a vendor, insisting yet again that I didn’t want to buy anything and that I had all I needed and no room in my rucksack. Aarrgghh! Fortunately, Rupa has told me how to say ‘I don’t want to buy anything’ in Hindi and so as soon as I find a PC which will allow me to install fonts, I’ll create a file and get this printed on a t-shirt!
I got to Margao abound mid-day, phoned Suriya to tell her I was in Margao but still had some things to do before returning to Colva and then took a rickshaw to the government-run hospital Suriya had taken me to the a few days ago. The ENT part was closed for the weekend but I pleaded with the doctor in the emergency department (who was doing nothing else at the time) to have a look. He gave me a prescription for some ear-drops and told me to come back early on Monday morning if they didn’t help.
I then dragged myself to the pharmacy in front of the hospital, got my drops (under 50 rupees) and took a rickshaw to Suriya’s house. She, Bobby and the kids greeted my warmly and the kids delighted in dressing me up in a sari and painting my left-hand fingernails. I asked Gautami about painting my right-hand fingernails and she told me off – nail varnish is poison so I must not do it! I’m so smitten with these kids. Suriya ‘force-fed’ me dosa and drumsticks in gravy. (I love both these flavours but didn’t have much of an appetite.)
Meanwhile, Suriya and Bobby had both been unwell – Bobby had fallen and hurt her leg and developed a serious dental problem. She was due to see her dentist in Colva at 4.30 but was quite nervous about it. Laxmi arrived to look after Dhanush and Gautami, so Suriya and I accompanied Bobby to the dentist. The dentist (a retiree from the Indian Army medical corps) had a very modern/western cool office and I felt that this would be a good place to know about should I need a dentist.
Bobby emerged from the treatment room looking quite tired and pained – her tooth had been extracted and she now had 5 stiches in her gum. We slowly returned to Suriya’s place and I tried to keep Dhanush and Gautami amused and occupied so Bobby could sleep. This was quite a challenge: Dhanush doesn’t speak English at all (apart from calling me ‘Uncle’) and Gautami doesn’t seem to realise that her brother is only half her age and hence half her size.
Suriya insisted I stay that night (she asked what I thought of Vinson and I had to tell her that I really doidn’t like him and wouldn’t give him any money for anything!) and cooked home-made chapattis and mung-bean dahl fry – totally lovely except a filling has dropped out of one of my teeth.
To add to my woes, my sphincter and its environs had become severely irritated so that walking was now a trial. Fortunately the pharmacy was still open when I went out to call the UK and so I could buy some vaseline. I’m sure I’m the only person to have ever stuffed petroleum jelly up their backside for non-sexual purposes while walking through Colva. If there is anyone else like this, I want them caught and shot.
We settled for the night, me feeling yet again guilty that I’d displaced someone from a bed (this was her choice), Suiya and Gautami in Priya’s bed and Dhanush and Bobby on the floor. Bobby was guaranteed a good night’s sleep from her pain-killer and I managed 6 hours of continuous sleep..
Sunday April 23rd
This morning, Suriya, Bobby, Dhanush and Gautami have all gone to their religious services. I’ve been to a pharmacy to buy some cotton-wool (to hold my eardrops in), showered, made great use of Suriya’s outside toilet) and come here to blog. I’ve just keyed the entry but because their connection is down, just keyed it into a Word file.
On Monday I’ll post some stuff to the UK, see the ear-doctor and try the desntist, then head for Anjuna for a couple of days. I’ll come back to Colva on the 27th and then it’s full steam ahead to Salem in Tamil Nadu for the wedding.
Sunday April 23rd part 2
Suriya, Bobby, her kids and I and Suriya’s freind Laxmi went to the beach this evening. Dhanush and Gautami played on the swings and slides while Suriya an, Laxmi and I walked on the beach and I had a brief swim in the pounding surf. I think a the sight of a European mingling with an Indian family is boggling and outraging some people. I can understand curiosity and surprise but outrage? The only answer I have is a bunch of expletives: such opinions are in themselves too worthless to even begin to take seriously. However, I am concerned that there might be ill effects on Suriya and family once I’m gone – she seems to be well-known and well-liked here but my antennae are quivering.
OK, time to crawl towards my pit