Going Native

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
1
24
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Trip End Oct 01, 2006


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Friday, April 21, 2006

I leave tomorrow at dawn, though Mama and the family keep encouraging me to stay until the 25th. My travelling "feet" itch so badly that for a time I thought I had tinea pedis, or something.
They love me here, this family, and they are good to me. This is why the leaving takes always a day or two more than one originally plans on. Remember this when you come out into the world, give yourself ample time to stay in the places you like, and get out of the places you don't like as quickly as possible. See the sights and go. I do understand that this is a hard thing to do if one is on a two-week holiday, but nonetheless. And who knows, you may almost be adopted by a wonderful Goan family or some such. Listen to your heart on this, some places have a better "vibe" than othere. A psychologist or anthropologist would certainly be able to explain this as a case of reading non-verbal cues, and the state of your own emotion, and such, but hey, that is a little technical for me and I just call it "vibe."
When travelling, always respect the local people, and bond with them wherever you can. If you only talk to other westerners, party all the time, and read books, you are denying yourself one of the beauties of travel: To get the feel of a place, to "Go Native."

Bathrooms, I have heard, are a challenge for those who think that their own bodily functions are "gross" or have body hangups. It is, I think, best to try to work through all of that and let go, as the customs of the toilet are different here, and one might even find that they like the Indian way better than the Western way. As it is, the Indians think that the typical western practice of **ahem** cleaning one's self by wiping with paper after a morning constitutional is disgusting and unsanitary. I kind of agree, actually, though I have gone "native' in many other ways as well.
***WARNING***THE NEXT PASSAGE CONTAINS TOILET INFORMATION WHICH SOME PEOPLE (especially those with the aforementioned body hangups) MAY FIND DISGUSTING OR OFFENSIVE. .

I'll start with going "#1". .
It might just be a good idea for one to get used to the Indian (and most places in the world) style of toilet, on the floor level, and a squat toilet. (**for a picture of one on the train, see my earlier entry, "the long train to Goa"**) The process for urination is much the same for men, and women will have to squat. Men, if you need to go outside, remember that though it is natural, you are probably doing your business in someone's yard, so be polite, and do this behind closed doors. .
#2: Both men and women will have to squat to do this, and after you learn to keep your balance and not fall in, it is quite efficient. I am told also that this shortens the human "plumbing" and this makes sense, we are built to squat. Take aim, and fire. You do not want to miss, however, so this may take a little practice. Leave your deposit, and when through, you will see right in front of you usually a big bucket full of water and a small ewer-type plastic container with a notched spout on it. Pour down the back of the crack ( I learned this after the initial splash-from-under attempts), with the RIGHT hand, while "helping" with the left from underneath. C'mon, don't be shy, it's only crap, after all, and left hands can be washed. Voila! A fresh clean feeling you don't get from using "western roll" paper. .
When thoroughly clean, dump a couple of pitchers down the toilet, making sure that you wash away any misses, and stand. I find it is easier to just take your shorts or pants off for the "constitutional," as this makes it much easier to get into position, and also precludes any type of disastrous bad aim. . .
If the big bucket is low on water, let the tap run while you are doing your business, it is polite to fill the bucket for the next person. It is also polite to thoroughly rinse the sides of the toilet where the feet go.
One more thing you can do that will endear you to the staff is to squeegee the floor. The bathroom is generally a combined shower, toilet, and occasionally will have a sink as well. No bathtubs, and no shower stall, just a shower head and one or two taps sticking out of the wall. There is a concrete or tile floor, and a drain at one end.
Dump water on the floor at the end of your visit, (you ARE barefoot, I hope), washing out any dirt or sand that might have accumulated from you, or other, less respectful visitors.
If there is no floor squeegee ( you might want to check the other bathroom, if there is one), just wash the water toward the floor drain. If there is a squeegee, put the water down and squeegee it toward the drain. This makes for a nice and clean floor, you can rinse your feet in the process, and your hosts will be very happy with you, as it is polite to wash down the floor. Besides, wouldn't you like to come into a clean floor to do your "thing?"
NOTE: DO NOT PUT PAPER INTO THE TOILET. If you must use paper, you should throw it into the trash can in the bathroom. It clogs the plumbing, and takes ages to go down. This is also true for Western style toilets, and the same goes for embarassing feminine products, cigarettes, or anything else. Put only what comes out of you into the toilet, nothing more.
Wash your left hand, though if you have done it right, you should have it clean already.
Indians also think it disgusting to use the left hand to eat, as the right is the "pouring" hand, and the left is the "shit" hand. Never shake hands with the left, and try not to use the left for eating anything. The left hand is fine for holding your plate, or possibly your serviette (napkin) or to hold the knife, though no-one really eats much of meat here except Westerners. Stick with the seafood wherever possible, at least in Goa, as it is cheap, plentiful and delicious. The only "looseness" I have felt at all was after eating "steak" which is probably made from water buffalo anyway. In the hot climes, meat will only make you sweat anyway.
Paneer is a sort of "farmer's cheese" and when grilled with the right spices (tikka or tandoor) it is nothing short of heavenly. If you must eat animal products, stick with Paneer, curds and perhaps "milk coffee" which is a heated milk with Nescafe in it.

Breakfast--Always eat "curds" with breakfast. It is generally a sort of yoghurt-like substance of varying consistency, from thick to thin. This will help your gut to acclimatize to any new area, I believe because the acidopholus bacteria (good bacteria) is intrinsic to the area you are in, much as sourdough bread is different for different regions of the world. This may only be a theory of mine, but I truly believe that by eating the curd, perhaps with fruit, you can get more used to the local bacteria, which love soft city people. Subjectively, I have not (**knock wood loudly**) really had any severe digestive problems at all, and my breakfast consists of fruit salad with a bowl of curd which I dump onto the salad. Some like to put honey on it after that, but being a purist and a bit of a tough guy, I just eat it plain. Besides, I am sweet enough already.. .

Things that make you sweat more:

1. meat
2. caffiene
3. alcohol
4. hair
If you like wiping your forhead all the time, having your waistband be perpetually soaked, sand sticking to you in the wind, and generally looking and feeling damp, eat and drink and grow all of these. If not, stay a little moderate on the partying, and a little reserved on the caffiene end of things. And if you observe the native people, watch what they eat. You just may discover delicious new flavors. "Meat" includes chicken as well, and one also should take it easy on the cheese, especially cheese other than paneer.
Or, you may just be a bit of a masochist, in which case, carry on. Drinking a little less and getting up early helps you to keep your wits about you, and even enjoy your trip a little more. Remember, there will always be another "party" in life, so it is not the end of the world if you miss one. You will thank yourself for giving yourself the full experience of Goa and not spending your mornings nursing a headache or worse.
Again, follow your heart, it speaks, and one needs to but cut out the noise and listen.

My first night here in Palolem, however, I did not listen to my own advice. The bars here stay open much later than they do in Arumbol, until dawn, or beyond. I got to playing pool, and having a good conversation with a couple of people, and noticed the horizon getting light. Time to go, past time, for sure. . Walking back to my hut, the fishermen were pulling in some nets, and so I went to watch. The next thing I knew I was helping to pull them in, they string the net out using a boat, then bring the ends in by tying sticks to the net, and slowly pull up the net from both sides, which takes ages, and is fairly hard work. I got in with a couple of lads who showed me what to do, and though it had been a long night and I was a little off my head, I got right into it, pulling hard and slowly with the others, and getting to the top of the beach, the stick is untied, and re-tied in the water on the leading part of the netline.
These nets seem miles long, so slow is it to pull them in. As the gap closed, I began to feel, through the netline, the movement of fish. We knew we were closing in, as the women, dressed in saris, brought their baskets out to the ready. By the time the net came up fully, the sun was nearly fully up, and the women bickered and haggled, each trying to get the biggest fish, calimar or prawns for market or restaurant. There seemed to be a pecking order there as well, as one of the older women got to go through first and pick out the best specimens, then whern she was done, it became more of a free-for-all, a bit like the town markets I have seen in Panji, Mapusa, and such places where tourists generally don't really go.
The sea did not provide much of a bounty that day, many prawns and fish and a few squid, but nothing all that big, and perhaps only about 250-300 lbs of fish in total. The fishermen in Palolem catch the most fish during the monsoon season and often shiver in the rain to gather the gifts of the sea, heading off to market, and sharing the profits. Everyone knows everyone here, and so the fishing is treated as somewhat of a cooperative, the profits of the more lucky being shared with the less fortunate fishers.
All in all a pretty friendly and good system, Community makes the world, lack of it breaks the world. . .
That is the story of how I became a Goan fisherman. They call me "full power," and I do try to live up to that moniker, I guess I always have.
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