on the last episode of: Life in Arambol

on the last episode of: Life in Arambol

Dear Diary aka you guys.

Why is it always so hard to write the first sentence? Like I just get stuck in struggle city for ten minutes every time I sit down to write. 

I’ve been so consumed with building and marketing reign_wala that I feel like I haven’t really explained life in India since arriving here back in September. There were a few IGTV videos so you know there were some challenges but there is much richer detail to share.  I’m really excited to unpack all that right now. In particular I’m going to spend some time on my Rajasthani brothers and their lifestyle since they have been such a big part of my experience here.

So back in September, I landed in Goa around 2pm and was in Arambol (the town in Goa where I live) by 4pm. I booked myself into a hostel called Happy Panda with the intention of staying a few nights until I figured out a longer term living situation. 

By 7pm I was at Sunny’s shop, seeing him again for the first time since we met three years earlier in north India. I sent him a voice note like, “Sunny where’s the shop?” and he’s like “across from Shiv Krupa General Store.” Which is not on Google Maps. So I was just driving around Arambol asking people if they knew it. Finally when I got close enough to it, somebody did. Shiv Krupa General Store is also Sunny’s address - it’s where he receives all of his parcels. (When my mom asked me my address here, I told her Shiv Krupa, and she was like so what if I needed to send you something? And I was like, you send it to the general store. I’ll get it. The General Store is my address, okay? G-D, MOM.) Anyway, Sunny is in Arambol now because it’s tourist season and he can sell very well here (whereas it’s freezing in the north where I met him). 

After just a couple of hours catching up in the shop I was feeling really good and right about the decision to come to Goa. It was like no time had passed, and Sunny was psyched about the business. Well, two days later, Sunny tells me he has to go to his hometown, Pushkar, in the state of Rajasthan, for 15 days. He tells me he has to go for business, to pick up some product and bring it back here. He felt so awful that he had to leave Goa because he knew he was the reason I came here and I really didn’t know another soul. And I was pretty frustrated by this because once I get it in my head that I’m doing something, I get stuck on it. So this felt like a MAYJAH slow-down. So Sunny told me he would introduce to me to his two best friends from childhood, Mohan and Krishna (aka Anil -- I’ll explain this later), who are also living in Goa and have a clothing shop just two shops down from Sunny’s. He tells me Mohan and Krishna are going to look out for me while he is in Pushkar. 

Quick detour to explain a few things. First, Goa is a state. The town in Goa where I live is called Arambol. It’s known for its more relaxed, hippie vibe. During high season (which “officially” starts November 15) there are parties almost every night but even the crazy parties aren’t the craziest in Goa. But we have techno, house, psy trance, reggae, hip hop, chillout, live music, open mic… whatever you want, it’s here.  There are regular drum circles on the beach. Lots of people have circus-y skills like hula hooping / juggling / light stick dancing / poi / slacklining / fire dancing and music-y skills like singing / drums of all sorts / sitar / guitar / ukulele / clarinet. Many people are here for 200-hour yoga teacher training courses. And Goa in general has western influences in many ways. For example, there are vegan spots. Juice bars. Places with western toilets. You can get pizza and pasta at many restaurants. Two places even have AMERICANO COFFEE. Most people speak English relatively well. 

Rajasthan, on the other hand, is a state in northern India, and it’s pretty much what you think of when you think of “India.” Deserts, big white temples, the camel fair, bright colors and it’s a total mecca for handicrafts. Pushkar is the specific city in Rajasthan where Sunny, Mohan and Krishna are from. I haven’t been yet, but I’m going with Mohan in a week and I CANNOT WAIT.

Now back to the story. So Sunny walks me down to Mohan and Krishna’s shop and introduces me. Sunny tells me “Allie these guys will take care of you. You come to their shop any time, okay? You have dinner with them at night, okay?” And I’m like, yup, sounds good. I’m happy to know some locals. Even though I’ll probably just do my own thing. But the next day Sunny leaves and I go over to Mohan and Krishna’s shop to say hello, and Mohan is like, “you come for dinner tonight.” And I’m like, “no, it’s okay, cause I’m gonna eat on the beach tonight!” And he’s like, “NO. You come for dinner our room.” And I’m like “no really it’s--” and he’s like, “NO. Tonight, you eat OUR ROOM.” OK then.

So I meet Mohan and Krishna at their shop at 8:30pm. For the next 15 minutes Krishna closes up the shop and then we take the scooter back to the room that Krishna, Mohan and Sunny share. 

This is the room, which you may have already seen on insta:

Mohan sleeps on the wire bed. Sunny and Krish sleep on the floor. The tin containers on the floor are the Indian version of tupperware.

The kitchen. The walls are stained from cooking but make no mistake, this room is extremely clean, especially the kitchen. Mohan is hardcore about it.

Mohan cooks while Krishna hands him ingredients and washes the dishes as they go. I offer to wash my own dishes, they tell me “beto, beto.” (Sit, sit). We sit in a circle on the floor and eat dinner. It is from this point forward that I begin to become immersed in their routine and start to learn their codes and ways and dynamics. From this night on, I ate dinner with this little family of mine every single night. It was assumed I’d be there unless I “called out” to let them know I wouldn’t be joining.

Before I go further, let me give you a visual reference so you can have these guys in your head because they are essential! As you will see, these three could not be more different from each other.

This is Mohan. Mohan is probably 35. (He doesn’t know his age, more on this later). He has had many jobs. First he was a carpenter. During that job he had an accident in which he lost the tips of two of his fingers (middle and ring on his left hand). He then got a job in Pushkar designing and building one of the top 3 hotels there. It is literally a palace. He decided to transfer from carpentry/designing to cooking, and eventually became the head chef in the hotel’s kitchen. In total he was at this hotel for 16 years before leaving to see if he could set up his own restaurant in Goa. He came to Arambol in Season 2017, had his own restaurant for the season, and ultimately decided that he wanted to be in Goa but that a clothing shop would bring better business than a restaurant. So 2018 is his first foray into “retail.” The shop has silk and cotton clothing. Mohan’s older brother Manoj owns a silk factory in Rajasthan and his tailors make most of what Mohan and Krishna sell in the shop. Mohan knows many words in English from 16 years of working in a fancy hotel but he does not try and really just prefers to speak his local language. I have to beg him to speak English during dinner time. Also, Mohan is very serious. Just a serious guy, in general. This is understandable as he is the owner of the shop and has a grown family to provide for back in Rajasthan but it’s also just his personality.

This is Anil. (Sunny is driving). Anil is Krishna. Krishna is Anil. Same person. I learned that Anil has been called Krishna since he’s a little kid. (Krishna is one of the many gods in the Hindu religion). He introduces himself using this alias. I finally caught on that his name was Anil when I realized Mohan and Sunny were never calling him Krishna and then they explained, Anil is for close friends only. To everyone else –– like customers in the shop –– he is Krishna. But I will refer to him from here on as Anil.

Anil is somewhere between 22 and 25 (like Mohan, he doesn’t know his age). He is insanely hardworking but is also super chill, easygoing, fun and hilarious. Anil has had even more jobs than Mohan. Here’s his story, which he has told me 20 times and I have now memorized: he went to school in Pushkar until 5th grade, but he failed five times, so he stopped going to school and started working. He was doing camel safaris in Rajasthan with his family’s camel which is named Lucky. Then he started working at his family’s little chai stand, Lucky Cafe. Then he started working at Umbrella Cafe — which must always be pronounced YOOMbrella Cafe –– in Pushkar. Then he become a bike mechanic. Then he started doing bike rentals instead of being the mechanic. While living in Pushkar, he would go up to Brahma Temple every morning. It’s on a small hill, and there is a cable car, but he chose to walk. 11 minutes up, 7 minutes down. Every morning. Then he decided to try living in Goa, because his family was pressuring him to get married and he wanted to escape that. So he came to Arambol in Season 2012 and got a job working in a shop (“not Mohan, different guy”). This is now his sixth season in Arambol, but first time working with Mohan even though they have known each other since they are kids. Anil knows how to say “hello, how are you, come to my shop” and a number of other important phrases in about 15 different languages (English, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Mandarin, Japanese, German and Hebrew to name a few). He is pretty fluent in English and likes to speak it as much as possible. He is hilarious in English so I know he’s even funnier in his own language. Sometimes I wish so much that I could understand him in his local language because during dinner time he will make jokes that make the boys actually cry from laughing!! Sometimes I laugh just from seeing how hard they’re laughing but I have no idea what’s going on.

This is Sunny in his Arambol shop making some feather earrings with feathers I brought from NY. I met Sunny in 2015 in Manali, India. He had a shop there at the time, which has since moved around to other places in India (e.g. now it’s in Arambol). Sunny is kind of the leader of the three (although Mohan is the boss of certain things, like food). Sunny has been making macrame for 15 years and has built a successful business but currently the macramé has become sort of a side thing, because it is extremely labor intensive and time consuming, so he started to wholesale all sorts of jewelry in silver/gold (not real) and brass and now has a pretty formidable export business in motion. When I met him in 2015, he was hand making every macramé piece himself and the shop was only macrame. Today, he has a small team of artisans that he has trained to make the macramé. They are all in Pushkar. Sunny’s role is managing those people from afar and taking care of his shop in Arambol which now has a broader variety of goods (like dreamcatchers). Sunny used to be a “cowboy,” riding a Royal Enfield motorcycle between cities and villages in north India. During that time he wore a macramé cowboy hat that he made. He can speak English pretty fluently, but he cannot read or write, so we communicate in voice notes. Sunny’s voice and way of speaking is superrrrrr chiiiillllll. Like, he whispers. Like, our voices are opposites.

Alrighty, now you know who everyone is.

So I’m living at Happy Panda hostel and having dinner with the boys aka my Rajasthani brothers every night. I needed to find my own room because the hostel environment was distracting and I had so much work to do. After a few nights of dinner with the boys, I realize that I want whatever place I get to be just like theirs. Not a guest house or a hostel, but just a room in a family’s home. In a proper little village behind the main road where the shop is. The family lives downstairs, the boys live upstairs and have a separate entrance with their own kitchen. I find out the room on the other side of their wall is free, and you all know that story already. I didn’t really inspect it, moved in, really couldn’t handle it with the bugs and the burning plastic every night. So even though I had that room and all my stuff was there, I would end up sleeping in the boys’ room every night instead. Dinner would be over and I would just be like, guys, I can’t go back there. So I slept on the floor with Anil (Sunny was still in Rajasthan). This went on for almost two weeks and then I moved myself back into Happy Panda hostel temporarily so I could search for new homes. (Side note, Kartik and Sourabh who are the co-owners of Happy Panda are my other family here in Arambol). I found a home just two minutes walking from the sea, in a quieter area of Arambol, and stayed there for the rest of my time in Arambol before going back to NY for the markets. I still went to the boys’ room for dinner every night. Dinner got later and later as the season started picking up. It went from 8:30 to 9:30 to 11:30 and soon we were eating at like 1am. This is because they had to keep the shop open for potential customers, so Anil would stay in the shop and Mohan would go back to the room and start cooking. Then Anil and Sunny would close their shops and we would meet Mohan in the room where dinner would be ready to eat.

Some more about life with my Rajasthani boys and life here in general:

1. One night my friends Laura and Daniel rented a little villa here. Laura is from Germany and Daniel is from Australia and I met Daniel at the hostel and coincidentally met Laura at Sunny’s shop. They have been dating one year. They were in Arambol and it was their last few days together before having to be apart for a little while so they rented this SICK three-story villa with an indoor bedroom, outdoor bedroom, sauna, AIR CONDITIONING and a meditation room. The meditation room was extra dope and even a little creepy. Circular room, entirely upholstered with black cloth, with no light and just a few black cushions on the floor. One night a small crew of us went over to the villa for a little dance party. Here’s a clip of the footage.

2. The boys call me Allie Chellie. Chellie means student. As in, they are my teachers and I am the student. They kinda say my name “Ellie,” so it rhymes. Ellie Chellie. Sometimes they call me Allie Gannv Pahele (pronounced Ellie Gam Pellie) which means “village first” and loosely translates to a revered person in the village. How freaking cute is that? Also on occasion they call me Madame.

3. I learned that between Mohan and Anil, Mohan is the boss and Anil is the helper. It took me a full three weeks to catch on to this dynamic. Every night at dinner I would offer to do the dishes and I’d be told to sit down. I thought they were just being polite so I would go above and beyond to prove I could hang by begging to do the dishes. Until one day I finally realized it was Anil’s job. Essentially, Mohan pays the full rent for the shop and purchased all of the product. So Anil does everything else. He is responsible for opening the shop every morning, closing the shop every night, and helping all customers during the day. He hangs, folds, re-hangs and re-folds. He is the bookkeeper. He makes chai 4 times a day (he goes back to the room, makes the chai, brings it to the shop and serves it to Mohan, and then brings and serves it to Sunny). He cleans the shop and the apartment. He is Mohan’s helper during dinner. He washes all dishes. He goes and gets clean water from Auntie downstairs. He fetches the 50 pound gas tank from Auntie. He does literally everything. He does not have an hour off. He does not have a day off. Ever. But, in exchange for all of this work, Mohan splits the profit from the shop with Anil 50/50. This kind of profit split is unheard of between guru (boss) and helper.

4. Mohan cooks dinner every single night. Sunny will sometimes make the chapati (bread) but Mohan does the heavy lifting because he used to be a chef and is very particular about food. Sometimes I am responsible for getting vegetables from the market or I pick up dessert as a treat. I make sure to have the vegetable man in the shop double check my pickings because Mohan will not tolerate shitty vegetables. I was also allowed to cook once! I made Indian food. The boys said it was really good! I have not been allowed to cook since.

5. The boys have a bluetooth speaker. We watch Indian movies and music videos on one of their phones and they lean it up against the speaker. I love this one Hindi movie called Old Is Gold, about a swaggy Indian man who accidentally schedules 3 dates with 3 different Indian women on the same day. It doesn’t have subtitles but it takes place in Goa so it’s fun to hear the characters referencing the different beaches.

6. One night I was hanging in a slightly-lesser-known area of Arambol called Girkarwada (main naighborhood is called Khalsawada). I found a cafe there called Titu’s. Great food, even better vibes and perhaps most importantly it has the strongest WiFi in Arambol so I go there when I need to GETSHITDONE. This is a clip from when the power went out there (not ideal for getting shit done).

7. For Anil, closing the shop consists of bringing the outside clothing inside, then pulling down a tarp which has to get tied to a cement wall on both sides. The tarp has loopholes which run vertically along the left and right sides, and a little piece of rope ties the tarp to a vertical set of hook-eyes on the cement wall. Once the ropes are tied, five rocks/bricks are laid along the bottom of the tarp to keep it against the ground. 

8. I kinda became famous in Arambol. For the first six weeks here I was one of, like, five tourists. I stuck out like a sore thumb and I would walk the same routes every day so all of the shopkeepers and restaurant workers started to know who I was.

9. One day Sunny and I were talking and I was like, dude, you should come to the US. You could really have an amazing shop there. You could make so much money. You know what Sunny said? He said, “I don’t want to go there. If I go there, I am not free. Here I am free.” Counterintuitive as it may seem, he could not be more right.

10. My phone is confused. Me giving voice commands in English. Me asking for translations in Hindi. The boys picking up my phone and giving voice commands in English. And also in Hindi. She’s Google, so she’s always listening, and she hears English people speaking English, Hindi people speaking Hindi, English people speaking Hindi and Hindi people speaking English. She doesn’t know what search results to give me and in particular she doesn’t know how to process my voice commands anymore. She used to be so good at this. I would give orders to Google Lady all day long and she would get almost all of them right (set an alarm, look up xyz, give me directions to xyz, what song is this?). Now she doesn’t know if I’m speaking English with an Indian accent or Hindi with an English accent. I use speech commands and wait as she outputs results that flicker back and forth between English and Hindi, like an old-school train schedule board, until eventually she decides on a final result and it’s always wrong. [Note: anyone thinking “that’s because you have a Google Phone” can just… no. Siri has NOTHING on the Google Assistant. I’m sure Google Assistant doesn’t encounter this problem often and she’s adapting fast. Siri does not even compare in plain English. So shh. #teampixel]

11. I moved back and forth between the dark backside of the village and the bright, tourist-laden cafes of main Arambol Beach. The difference was remarkable. Anil and Mohan have been living by the beach for 2 months and Mohan just went to the beach for the first time. Many tourists don’t even know that the villages behind the shops and cafes even exist. Kartik and Sourabh on the other hand, the co-owners of Happy Panda, are from a really nice place called Pune and have engineering degrees. They have a completely different lifestyle than my Rajasthani brothers. They go to restaurants and order food in. They buy clothes on the internet. When I was having room issues, I pretty much barged into Kartik’s room crying and he understood my plight. In some ways (not all, but many), his upbringing was closer to mine than to a Rajasthani villager’s. 

12. I’m on an every-five-or-six-days makeup cadence. Sometimes I just want that feeling that only wearing mascara can bring. :)

13. I have learned to be mindful of interrupting. We're so used to being like "hey do you have a sec" but these guys are like, no, one minute, I’m doing something, wait.

14. After so many months on the road (I’ve been traveling since June), it can become exhausting explaining your story. You know how in New York (maybe all of the US?) there is a standard line of questioning when you meet someone new? It’s like, “so what do you do? Where do you live in the city? Where are you originally from?” Well, the standard line of questioning for backpackers is, “So how long have you been in [name of town we are in]? Is this your first time in India? How long will you be here for? What are you doing here?” Having to explain the same thing every day can be tiring, especially as the backstory gets longer and longer.

15. Anil accidentally spilled the beans to me on two occasions. First, he accidentally told me that Sunny didn’t go to Rajasthan for business, he went because his wife was giving birth. Then he accidentally showed me a picture of Mohan’s son, who is TWELVE years old, and I did not know Mohan had a son! Finding out Sunny and Mohan have wives and kids was shocking but beyond that I was kinda pissed they hadn’t told me themselves. When I confronted them they laughed and apologized but also explained that they live a different life here and that tourists misunderstand their marriages and therefore judge them for being in Goa while their families are in Rajasthan, so they don’t tell people. Both marriages are arranged marriages and both Mohan and Sunny have solid relationships with their wives but they’ve been in this situation since they are fifteen years old and they’re not really love marriages. They are arrangements which they continue to honor, more like tradition. They use Facebook and WhatsApp video calling to stay in touch. When I go to Pushkar in a week, I’m going with Mohan, and I will meet the boys’ entire families!!! Their brothers and sisters, parents (Mohan’s dad has passed away, Sunny’s mom has passed away) and Mohan’s two sons.

16. There is something so special about female friendships. I’ve written about this before at various times while traveling and it continues to be a conundrum for me: I really miss having cool girls around when I’m on the road. I do meet female travelers, but we are definitely outnumbered by men and most of my friends here are guys. Most of the time I don’t mind, I love them all!!!, but sometimes, like… Girls Just Wanna Have Girl Talk.

17. I found out the boys don’t know how old they are. Can you imagine how disorienting that would be? Except here, it really isn’t. But in the US, so many things depend on age –– like school, driver’s licenses, drinking legally. But in India, many births happen sort of “unofficially” and then the parents don’t “register” their children until they are forced to when they need identification in order to start school… at which point their parents sort of need to fib about their age to make them seem younger than they are. So the year on the boys’ ID cards is not the year they were born. And I know you’re thinking, “don’t their parents know when they had them?” And for some reason the answer is kinda, no. Like they have a rough idea, but not exact. I asked Mohan “but when do you celebrate your birthday?” and he said “Madame my birthday DIWALI.” And I said “but Diwali is like 2 weeks long so when exactly is it?” and he said “Madame I don’t know, my mama say Mohan your birthday DIWALI so madame my birthday DIWALI.” I have tried really hard to understand why their moms don’t know their birthdays but haven’t got to the bottom of whether it’s (1) just not as important so they don’t make as bold a mental note, or (2) there is some other reason, or (3) the boys just don’t understand what I’m asking (but I think they do).

18. It's fascinating what you can learn about a culture through the phone screens of its people. My Translation people know what I'm talking about :) For example, the way their contacts are named. Or how the boys read Pushkar news every day on their phones. It comes via WhatsApp, from a group titled I Love You Pushkar followed by like 10 emojis. And this is actually an official news source, registered as a media company, and their medium is WhatsApp. (I found out that in India if you have a certain number of members in a WhatsApp group, you have to register as a media company). Anyway, it is through I Love You Pushkar that I found out about Prime Minister Modhi’s visit to Pushkar where he announced free electricity for farmers. I’ve also learned about a recent train accident in north India, and a young Indian boy now called Google Boy who has such extensive knowledge that he has outsmarted India’s most popular trivia game and he’s like 4 years old. Watch here. How freakin cute. 

19. That one time I was cooking for the boys, I took a little slurp from the cooking spoon to taste the sauce and got yelled at. I barely touched my mouth to the spoon, guys. I was supposed to do what they do, which is, pour a tiny bit of the sauce into my left hand and slurp off my hand. Don’t use the cooking spoon. Like how am I getting yelled at for slurping when this is India and there’s literally cow shit everywhere and we eat off of newspaper? But the boys are extremely scrupulous when it comes to hygiene. Sunny also told me that one time Anil didn’t eat the candy I brought for him because we were sitting on the floor and I pushed it over to him using my foot. Guys it was IN A WRAPPER. He didn’t eat it! And there is never any eating off of each others’ plates (so Dietzek family, you wouldn’t survive a minute here).

20. ((LOL can we just acknowledge I’m on number 20? This is such a long post.)) Sometimes at dinner, I make up stories in my head about what the boys are talking about. Because they’ll start in English with me, and then they’ll just go down a Hindi rabbit hole for 10 minutes at a time and I just sit there trying to keep track but I can’t catch everything. So every few words I’ll understand something and I’ll string these context clues together into a story that kinda makes sense? And I’ll just go with that for a while and then they’ll say something that makes me realize I have absolutely no clue what’s going on. 

21. Twice I have been to the top of Arambol Mountain. It’s barely 45 minutes to the very top but you have to hike through a jungle, the trail is not exposed. It’s disorienting when you get up there and it’s a plateau. Or at least for me it was, cause I was expecting a sweeping sea view. Here’s footage from one of the hikes.

22. I’ve been wearing more American clothing and not caring. I used to avoid things like denim or plaid or prints that looked too much like they came from the western world. This time I don’t care. I like looking New York. It helps me maintain that part of my identity. And trust me with all this macrame all over me I’m looking plenty Arambol. I have my shredded jean jacket with me and every local is like WTF is that thing. You buy that thing? But, for real, all those rips make it very breathable.

23. When you stay somewhere long enough you can feel the difference between the days of the week. It’s cool when you start to be able to feel what's a Monday versus what's a Sunday. 

24. Last night there was open mic at this place called Twice in Nature. I think I’m gonna do open mic. I don’t play an instrument but I’ll sing and maybe someone with an instrument can back me up. Talent show dreams come true.

25. I feel so lucky to be a native English speaker. We should not take for granted how easy it is for us to just express ourselves freely in our native language and be understood by others. For many travelers, even if they do speak English it can still be exhausting to mentally translate while speaking or not have exactly the right words to describe your thoughts and feelings. We get to be lazy.

26. While I spend lots of time with my Rajis, I also meet lots of backpackers every day and have had delightful adventures with them. It’s a bit harder on that front from a schedule standpoint because they all want to go have fun during the day and I usually have work to do. Whereas my Rajis are also working during the day so our schedules are more in sync. But I have met some amazing backpackers and it’s always nice when they’re sticking around Arambol a while. Life here is all about the fun jungle hikes, daytime beach cafe hangs, nighttime trance parties and classic Arambol sunsets. It can be tough at times being in a place where everyone is on vacation when I’m really not on vacation. I am working my ass off every day. Other backpackers sometimes get irritated by this or say things to me like “Allie you’re always so busy” and “it’s the busy New York girl who always has something to do” or “Allie you need to just relax, don’t worry so much about working” and I’m like mmkay I’m not worried I’m just not on vaca like you are… but that won’t go over well with this crowd so I just laugh along. :)

27. While in New York I realized I was doing reverse currency calculations. Meaning, instead of thinking to myself “300 rupees, okay so about $5 USD,” I would think to myself, “$14 USD… okay so 1000 rupees.” And then be like, wait, 1000 rupees? I barely spend than on anything in India. Like, there is nothing in my day to day life that would cost 1000 rupees (maybe a WEEK on a motorbike) so why would I mindlessly spend that on a glass of wine in NYC.

28. For real, it takes so long to write these posts. This one, especially. It took me almost 20 hours to write (spread out over 3 days for the actual writing). Then I had to comb through all of my pics, download them to my machine, name and organize them so they’d be usable for this purpose and then upload and caption them. For the videos I had to download them to my machine, then upload them to YouTube so they’d be embeddable here, and then embed them. I’m done with everything except this bullet point which I am coming back to add and then I swear to G I am pressing publish on this thing and I’ll fix any cracks later. And I haven’t even gotten to the market yet!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Arite, lemme show ya more pics and videos from adventures around this place:

Moving from the hostel into my new place back in September. Awful photo of me but had to show this moment. Yes I did put my helmet on immediately after this was taken.

The bottom right corner is my room – the one I got after I moved out of the place next to the boys. I loved this place and might try to get it again when I get back from Pushkar but it will probably be double the price now due to high season.

This is the pathway that leads to the red house in the last picture. That red building is behind the yellow building you can see here. Sometimes I would have to ride my scooter on this TINY path! The only way to do it is FAST.

One of my favorite photos EVER. From the time I got kidnapped by some Aunties on the train and dressed in one of their sarees.

This white bull being a total gangster in the backfields of Arambol.

India Post mailbox.

Sourabh (left), me, and Kartik (right) at Happy Panda hostel. Unflattering pic of all three of us but I love these guys and the vibe they have created at this place. They quit their engineering jobs to make this place a reality. Their parents said all the same things American parents would say.

Dinner at the boys’ one night. Me, Anil, Laura (my friend from the UK who has also been here a while - what up Laura), Mohan and Sunny.

In Goa we have this awful “city,” more like a junction, called Mapusa. There is nothing fun in Mapusa. You go there to get things you NEED, not things you want. Anything you can’t find in Arambol is there. So for home furnishings, essentials like underwear and bras, computer repairs and other random necessities, you make a 40-minute motorbike journey to Mapusa. Usually you go with two people, so you have helping hands for the journey back with the goods. I’ve been both the driver and the passenger a few times. On this occasion, Sunny was going with our other friend Norat. This was my shopping list for him, in preparation for the NY market. You can see he made some notes in Hindi for the stuff he couldn’t read in English. :) The circles refer to embroidery circles, which Sunny taught me how to make, which we use to the display the hair sticks.

Videochatting with Kartik (co-owner of Happy Panda hostel). Not sure why as we were both in Arambol? But this was fun.

This is the main road in the most popular area of Arambol. On the right is Anil and Mohan’s shop. The green dress on the mannequin in the very far right is theirs. And you can see a pair of pink leggings, too - that’s where you walk inside. See where the road curves to the right? Sunny’s shop is right on the other side of that curve, also on the right hand side of the street. This photo is facing north, and the sea is on the left (if you were to walk behind those shops on the left, in about 3-4 minutes you’d get down to the beach).

Above is a back road, the one that goes from the main area to my red house in Girkarwara. (Also called Girkarwada with a D at the end. There are 2-3 spellings for everything. And I actually get this now which is whack).

Me and Laura, from the UK, who has also been here a while. (She’s also in the dinner pic in the boys’ room).

Guys… I think I’m just now accepting for the first time that I live in two places. That New York is home and India is also home. That I will be back and forth for the foreseeable future, with homes and families and communities in both places. My friends were asking me in New York, “is it so weird to be back?” and I’m like, actually no. And upon landing in India, “is it so weird to be back?” Also, no. But is it so weird to feel like I’m “home” in New York ALSO feel like I’m “home” in India? To realize that I LIVE in both places, just at different times? And that, whichever direction I’m going in, whether it’s NY to India or India to NY, I’m going home? Yeah. Yeah, that’s weird.

And that’s a wrap.

Much love,


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