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goan strong


Hello from the Bangalore* airport in south India, where I have been since the overnight bus arrived at 7AM and where I will still be until 3PM when I board my flight to Kochi, the capital of Kerala. Kerala is a state in the southwest of India, famous for its houseboats, tea plantations and beaches.
A few weeks ago, I made a day trip from Delhi to the Taj Mahal and back, and then headed off for Goa, a state on the central western coast of India. Vallika had cooked paneer-butter-masala (my freakin favorite dish) for dinner the night before my flight and then gave me the leftovers to take on the plane the next morning. Felt super authentic eating Indian food out of a tupperware on the plane. Saw a woman next to me assess my situation and process that I must have been spending time with a local. Mentally high-fived myself.
Goa was far more westernized (to be taken with a grain of salt) than the rest of India. It’s a popular tourist destination for both foreign backpackers and Indian vacationers. But the Indian vacationers are not looking for the backpacker experience. They want to ball out and go all out. There are very few authentic street food options or handmade goods for sale. Instead there are fancy and expensive restaurants serving western food, some accommodations have air conditioning, and nights out require pricey cab rides and steep cover charges… well, for the guys, at least. Ladies actually get in free and get free open bar all night. Free entry and free drinks. All night. FREE. Never in my life! There is even a Ladies Only dancing stage at one of the clubs and you best believe I was up on it. 
It’s also a Christian state, not a Hindu state, so everyone speaks English which just makes it feel more western. Very few people speak Hindi and instead of names like Priyanka and Apoorva the locals have names like Jackie and Evelyn.
I ended up living in Goa for a full two weeks. My hostel, JUNGLE, was the bomb. So many great friends made at that place! Our daily routine of beach trips, motorbike rides and sunsets made it an easy place to sink in and soak up. But the lack of walking (you ride your motorbike everywhere) and abundance of alcohol also made it an easy place to put on a hot seven pounds in two weeks. So, um… eat pray love?
Other things that happened in Goa:
  1. I rode a motorbike (read as: motorized scooter) for the first time ever. Upon rental I was not asked for my license or even asked whether I’d ever ridden before. My first ride was to Arambol, a beach town one hour north of JUNGLE Hostel. We had an awesome seafood meal on the beach and then the sun started to set and we were like, wooow! that sunset is sooo beautiful! OH SHIT - the sun is setting.  We need to start riding back, like, right now.
  2. Remember Winston, who I met in Varanasi and followed to Kolkota? Well Winston had really wanted to make it to Goa and hadn’t yet, and after we parted ways in Kolkota, we had been staying in touch and really liking each other, so we decided that he would come to Goa to meet me and so that we could spend some more time together.  We were very clear and honest with each other about our expectations for this time together: not a stepping stone to something more serious, but rather a spontaneous romantic ten-days-only beach adventure.  This seemed like a great idea at the time. Yay, boyfriend for a week! PERFECT.  But it didn’t exactly work out that way. We got off to a great start, and in fact nothing about our time together was bad, but it was really difficult to operate as a couple when the truth is we’re not a couple. It may have been different had we continued to be in the same place and let things blossom organically. But because we were meeting up again, we were essentially forcing a relationship dynamic on ourselves. We were jumping right into being a unit. After each having traveled solo for months, it was pretty tough to coordinate our every move and mood. To consider each others’ hunger levels and energy levels when we’ve been so used thinking about only ourselves. To show up in other peoples’ worlds as a pair when we’re actually both single. One of the best parts of being on an adventure like this one is that you do get to prioritize your own wants and needs. You get to be selfish. And so I guess we’d both gotten used to being selfish — I know I sure had — and neither one of us felt sorry about that or wanted to give that up. So after a few days, we decided (very maturely and amicably) to live in separate guest houses. We still really liked each other and saw each other a few more times in much lower pressure environments. All was good in the end. But that was a mayjah learning experience for me.
  3. A Bollywood movie was being shot on the beach one day. The lead actor and actress seemed completely unremarkable to me but were glorified by the locals nonetheless. And the whole coordination of the production was hilarious to watch. People inadvertently walking right through scenes as they were being filmed, the director shouting directions over a loudspeaker that were totally muffled and therefore completely ignored by the actors.  
  4. I reunited with Sumaan, one of the Nepali brothers who ran Sunshine Cafe back in Manali. Sumaan and Sunny move their Sunshine business to Goa for the high season because Manali gets too cold. I could have sent Sunny a Facebook message to try to meet up, but I wanted to just show up at Sunshine cause I thought that would be way more fun.  Turned out it wasn't constructed yet, so I called the number on their business card to see if they were even in Goa and Sumaan picked up.  I was like, "Sumaan! It's Allie, from Manali! I'm in Goa!"  I could tell he had no clue who I was from over the phone, but he was like, "yeah, yeah! Let's meet at the beach at 1:30!"  And so we did.  Once he saw me he knew me immediately and it was awesome to see him again. The world is flat!
  5. On a particularly inspired day at Little Vagator beach (pronounced with a hard G but lovingly nicknamed Little Vag with a soft G, sorry, had to), a few of us were enjoying the ocean so much that we actually stayed in the water playing “Feel The Wave” and other nonsensical ocean games for a full four hours… and the next day I had an ear infection.
  6. It was impossible not to just lay my whole self, starfish style, on top of these cows that would just be lounging on the beach every day. They were so, so cute and lovable.  
  7. We partied on the beach. As in, feet in the ocean, waves rolling over our ankles, music blasting, dancing the night away. 
  8. We partied to Psy-trance, a genre of music that has sort of found its niche in Goa. I’m not really sure why, but it’s super popular there.  Psy-trance trance music with a very fast BPM, and when we first arrived at Hilltop (the outdoor club/venue) I did NOT know how to dance to this music! For about five minutes I felt like a huge spaz, completely unable to find the rhythm. But after spending a few minutes observing what all the psy-trance-heads were doing, I totally got into it.  Am I gonna listen to psy-trance in my headphones? No. Am I gonna Shazam it when I hear it playing somewhere? No. But was it a good fun experience jumping around to that shit all night? Yeah, it really was.
Pics from Goa: https://www.facebook.com/witHappens/media_set?set=a.10104121934427218.1073741836.5726557&type=3
After two weeks in Goa, a big crew of us from JUNGLE who had been hanging out for 1-2 weeks traveled to Hampi together. There were ~10 of us to start, and more joined once we got to Hampi. Countries represented included Australia, France, Spain, England, Germany, Israel and USA.  Fantastic human beings.
How does one even describe Hampi? Hampi looks like the moon. It is a self-contained little bubble of a world, six hours east of the coast, surrounded by mountains that are actually not mountains but rather massive piles of massive boulders. It is apparently the bouldering capital of the world. What I absolutely loved about Hampi was how active we could be there. We rented motorbikes to get around but I also rented a bicycle which gave me so much joy (and also helped me shed those eat-pray-love lb's).
Other Hampi-licious happenings:
  1. We were the Circus. We stayed in huts nestled in rice fields, but the property had a sort of backyard which was equipped with all of these fun games and activities: monkey bars, acrobatic rings, a volleyball court (so random), a sort of wooden climbing wall thing… and then on top of that, between us we had come with two hula hoops, two sets of poi and a slackline. We were constantly playing outside, one of us doing some kind of circus trick at any given moment. It was great.
  2. There was a massive lake about 5 kilometers from our guest house, so we’d ride our bikes there and go swimming. Every single day.
  3. Every day at 5:30am, some subset of our crew would climb up somewhere to watch the sun rise.
  4. Every day after sunrise, some subset of our crew would go bouldering
  5. Every day at 4pm, some subset of our crew would go bouldering again
  6. Every day after bouldering, some subset of our crew would climb up some climbable thing to watch the sun set.
  7. By the time I left Hampi, I’d been part of a pretty big crew for almost a month. There is something so awesome about that. Always someone to do something with, and always someone who can relate to recent memories. The flip side of that though was that I did get a bit exhausted from the group dynamic after a few weeks. And I felt a weird kind of guilt-y funk, like I should be making new friends, not keeping the old.  It didn’t take long to snap out of it and do both, but then my funk sort of turned into this raging desire to be alone.  Just totally solo.  I realized that I hadn’t been alone — like, slept in a room by myself — for three months. It became apparent how important my alone time is to me. Time alone means time to think, time to reflect on what’s happening in my life and have conversations with myself. Those conversations with myself are more critical to my balance than I realized. They help me make sense of the world around me.  I decided to get a hut to myself for the last two nights and that was just faaaaantastic. Private hut, but still with the crew and therefore surrounded by all of the best people in the town of Hampi! Win win. 
  8. I had been driving my friend Sara around on the back of my motorbike, and driving really really slowly and carefully. I’m not that great of a driver (as my high school friends and siblings will attest to) so I wanted to be on the safe side, especially with a passenger on my ride. So I kept jokingly saying to Sara, “sorry I’m driving so slowly… I gotta ride to make my mama proud!”  But then, one morning, I was riding solo for the first time and I kinda got excited and wanted to drive, you know, the fun way. So I was probably going a little bit too fast. And on this very tricky dirt road, I sort of lost control of the bike, and instead of trying to course-correct, I got nervous and gave up… and so I kinda went flying, superman style, off the bike and onto the dirt road. And the bike fell on top of me. It sucked big time.  Of course as a bunch of locals rushed over to help me up, my friend Aldo who had been driving behind me came riding down the path and found me covered in dirt and dust with the "I want my mommy" look all over my face.  I have a huge cut on my right arm and small but deep cut on my left hand. I was wearing leggings so thankfully no cuts there but my legs are literally blue with bruises. I guess I haven't really had a big fall or accident in my adult life, so it was defintiely a shock to be hurt like that.  (Mom and Dad, I was going no faster than 20km/hr in the first place and I am now completely fine. Cuts are healin' up GREAT. I strongly considered telling you I fell down a flight of steps.) 
  9. My friend Wes let me steal a bunch of movies from him. I hadn't watched any movies or TV since leaving New York so I took this opportunity to not only indulge in the delicious act of media consumption but also catch up on the thousands of movies I have never seen. You may or may not know that there is a gaping hole in my movie knowledge pre-2009. I decided to grab the goods from Wes and watch them in alphabetical order. So far I have gotten through American Beauty, American Psycho, Birdman and Blow. 
  10. I took an overnight bus from Hampi to Bangalore, in order to fly from Bangalore to Kerala. When I got on the bus, all I wanted was some good, solid, solo thinking time. I just stared out the window and realized that some of the best moments I’ve had in India have been on the bus or train rides, passing through small villages, thinking quietly to myself as I observe life going on around me.
Pics from Hampi:  https://www.facebook.com/witHappens/media_set?set=a.10104122010320128.1073741837.5726557&type=3&pnref=story

Okay - here we go! Kerala for my final two weeks in India. Boarding time now. 1:11PM. See, I’ve been writing all day! Shit, blogging is WERK!