My flu-like symptoms finally broke on the overnight bus ride from Pune to Mapusa, Goa early this morning. I first got symptoms of a cold/flu on the all-day train from Ahmedabad to Pune on Monday October 24. (I had predicted that I would get sick having been in a van with some women from the slums on the Ring Road in Ahmedabad, one of whom was very sick.) Although I had given away most of my medications and vitamins my first couple of days in Ahmedabad, I had enough to reduce the severity of the cold, although our early days and hard traveling in the field with Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI) to see improved cookstoves in use around Pune did not help. We’ve scheduled these three days in Calangute, Goa, purely for R&R. (Decided to skip a trip to Delhi to meet with another NGO working on improved biomass stoves – too far north to eventually head back to Pondicherry and too difficult to travel around Diwali.) Mark also has a minor version of what I have.

My first impression of Goa is of lushness. There is greenery and water everywhere (although the infrastructure does not seem to be able to handle getting water to people – there are water tankers on the roads, and prohibitions on washing clothes in hotel rooms due to lack of water), and less litter, little pollution, and more birds. Besides a few signs in store windows wishing Happy Diwali, there are no other signs of celebration (no lights, no fireworks). It is fitting that given our proclivity to spend Christmas in non-Christian countries, we would spend Diwali (November 1) in a non-Hindu state. Walking from the bus station to our guest house this morning (Sunday), we passed a chapel overflowing with worshipers.

It is a little bit disconcerting to be in a tourist area, with clothing, leather and wood products, hotels, guest homes, and restaurants lining every street, and every citizen and immigrant on the make. Tourist “transport” (white minivan taxis) roam the streets, as do men and boys wearing the uniform of the big bars and restaurants, offering you free admission to some event or another to get you to come to their establishment. You cannot walk two steps without someone asking you if you need a taxi, hotel room, motorbike, restaurant! The beaches are nice and clean, but also lined with restaurants that offer free “sunbeds” in the hopes of selling you food, drink, and ayurvedic massages. Most restaurants offer “multicuisine” and make sure the food is not at all spicy. There are not enough places that sell fresh juice. (Most of the restaurants here believe that their customers would prefer “clean” packaged juice to fresh.) Thankfully, although the sell is persistent, it is not hard, and therefore easy to ignore.

Ironically, every beach resort in India has the requisite clothing and handicrafts from the mountains of Kashmir and Tibet. There is a relatively large contingent of Tibetan refugees who find the packaged tourism of Goa an easier place to make a living than the northern cities or “resorts”. It is also cheaper to buy an Indonesian sarong here or in the state of Kerala than in Bali.


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