Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Goa, India

I only took three pictures in Goa. 

Goa Picture 1 of 3

To be honest, I was disappointed by Goa.  I first heard about Goa when I was deployed to Afghanistan.  I had the India bug back then, too, and I was 24 and determined to go to Mumbai over my "R & R" (two weeks of allotted leave time mid-way through a soldier's deployment).  My dad did everything in his power to dissuade me (for safety reasons), going so far as to send me a link to a Times article detailing life in the Indian slums.  Finally, after sensing that my India dream was too big to be squashed easily, my dad talked to a co-worker from India, who recommended that, if I must go to India, I should at least visit Goa instead of Mumbai.

Goa was described as a laid-back, idyllic beach town with a Mediterranean flair.  This interested me, and gave me pause.  It was a place, the co-worker assured my dad, where a 24-year-old girl would be safe...safer than she'd be in the slums, safer than she'd be in Mumbai...

What transpired next was that we had a death in our family.  And this death made me see things differently.  Life is precious...and very, very fragile.  What if something were to happen to me on the second half of my deployment?  Or to a member of my family?  Instead of going to India, I flew back to the United States over my R & R.

Goa Picture 2 of 3

Long story short, Goa popped into my head again a few months ago when I watched Matt Damon's Bourne Identity.  Jason Bourne and his girlfriend are shown riding scooters along the Indian Ocean in Goa, under a peaceful canopy of palm trees...past colorful (but equally peaceful) shops. 

I guess I kind of built Goa up in my head and placed it on a big, tall pedestal. 

Goa is beautiful.  And I don't want to dissuade anyone from going there.  It's just very, very, very, very touristy.  We were hounded on the beach by vendors.  I could barely even read my book or sunbathe without being approached by locals wanting to sell me...everything.  I finally had to tell one of them, "Look, Buddy, if I want to buy something I'll come to YOU" (and then make a sour expression, cross my arms and avert my eyes for a good 60 seconds before he finally got the hint and walked away from my beach towel). 

Another downer:  the ocean water in Goa is filled with trash.  It was pretty awesome swimming in a sea full of plastic garbage bags and used syringes and...(j/k, Dad...on the syringes, I mean). 

To be honest, Goa made me sad.  It made me see how much we tourists ruin a place.  I thought about Varkala (see Varkala, India post) and how Varkala will probably be Goa in another 20 years.  And how many of the most beautiful, precious places on earth are following the same path as Goa.  (However, I heard that south Goa still retains some of it's original charm; we were staying in north Goa, closer to the airport.)

...My last night in Goa was also my last night in India.  There was a Bollywood movie on TV and it made me realize how much I'm going to miss India. 

Goa Picture 3 of 3

Because of India, the world seems both smaller and larger.  It seems smaller because I've seen that so many emotions and behaviors are universal.  Even though we live in different countries, and practice different religions, and wear different clothes, and eat different foods, and like to pretend that we're so damn different...we're all still remarkably similar when it all boils down to it.  And I realize that, for the next however many years of my life, a primary goal of mine as a writer will be to notice these universal emotions and behaviors whenever they cross my path.  Because, good writing speaks a universal language.  The setting is just a prop...if the emotions and behaviors that transpire in that setting are something that you can imagine happening in any country on earth, then that, folks, is good writing.

But because of India the world also seems larger, because I realize how little of it I've actually seen.  And now that I've seen a fraction of the world, my appetite is whetted.  And I want to see more and more and more. 

Because even the fraction I've seen has made me understand the world so much better, and through understanding the world better, I understand myself better, too.

Off to Israel... 

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