Thursday, 4 March 2010

Day 2 of Curry Heaven....

We were disappointed that Day 2 of our Curry Heaven didn't provide us with as much of a buffet of bizarre people watching. The local guy wearing only a dirty, scruffy loincloth that he frequently adjusted and made us fear we'd see far too much of his tackle really was the grossest thing we saw topped that today.

We did however see another pack of boar piglets, far more mangy dogs and even befriended a not so dirty dog who cosied up to us INSIDE a beachside restaurant. This one has been nicknamed as Garlic and after enduring his cute puppy-eyed stare, I finally gave in and was patting it and got told off by the waiter. Jena was feeding it scraps of buttery naan bread and was trying to work out how to feed it rice without getting too much negative attention when we decided we should head back to our beach beds before we got banned from the restaurant.

It appears that there is a massive trade in local jewellery and sarongs and henna tattoos and stickers and fake dvds and just about any portable, shitty, tacky, revolting holiday trinkets you can imagine. We were offered all of these today and found it rather hard to politely say we just weren't interested. Our disinterest was taken for coyness, wanting better prices or just to be offered more stuff. The trick is to not make eye contact and don't engage in ANY conversation.

We were set upon the minute we sat on our beach beds by two ladies with an extraordinary ability to hit you right where you couldn't say no. Firstly they complimented us on our smiles, skin colour and our hair - making us feel bad that we had nice hair, fair skin and teeth that weren't rotting right out of our heads. Next, when we attempted to stop the polite, yet strained conversation, the older lady said ''why you no speak to me, you think I'm just a worthless girl, a piece of rubbish?''. Of course I felt a need to defend myself, when I really just wanted to lie back in the sun, let my 15+ sunscreen do it's work and pop my ipod in and pump some John Butler Trio. Finally when they decided that they'd set up a portable shop on the end of my bed did we had to pretty much tell them to bugger off. With slightly withering glances and the ''oh but I have 2 children to support'' comment, they set their sights on some girls just a few metres away and we were free to lie back and ingest some yummy Kingfisher beer. Those tactics must work on some tourists, but not us!

Once we got peckish, we engaged in our 4th curry meal in 2 days and I must say...I'm not tiring of this odd diet yet. I had palak paneer, a yummy spinach and cottage cheese dish. It was the colour of Kermit the Frog and was quite nice until it got cold. I'm loving the curry but am seriously hanging out for a MASSIVE plate of banana and nutella pancakes. Perhaps after some yoga in the morning I'll treat myself to a calorific breakfast on the beach!!

One thing I detest about the public beaches in Dubai is that on the weekends it's like migration day - there are hordes and flocks of Indian and Pakistani men who wander along the beach in jeans and totally-not-beach-clothes, taking photos of the girls in their bikinis. I hate to think what kind of websites they end up on. This is illegal, even in Dubai, and the police are supposed to be policing such activities, but it's really a case of snarl and bear it. We were warned by a friend that there might be lurkers hiding behind trees on the beach in Goa taking happy snaps, but today as we walked down to the water a group of 5 men approaching us all had their cameras and camera phones out and were snapping like crazy paparazzi! Deciding I wasn't having any of that today, I thought about how to approach such a situation. In any other part of the world, we'd just give them the finger or shout or scream or tell them off or even steal their cameras and throw them in the water. In Dubai, giving someone the finger is illegal and the punishment is deportation - I know, I know - CRAZY right?! Well, here in Goa, it's totally legal and I decided to rock it out. One guy had the good grace to lower his phone and look away but it seemed to encourage another even more!

Seriously, anything goes in Goa....and it's not all good!

Goin' to Goa!!

My darling flatmate Jena has just referred to me as a douchebag, for not having updated in....3 months. On this occasion, I'd have to agree with her, but would perhaps not use such heavy-handed words. Or if I did use such words, I'd layer them with adjectives like 'busy', 'flying wayyyyy too much' or simply 'vacant-minded', 'lazy', or even 'dormant'.

It's been a rather busy 2 and a bit months since I've last written and I must cast my mind back over the latest antics and wade through the fog and haze that inhabits my brain these days as I approach 4.5 years of flying.

Yes, I know, it's an awfully long time to subject oneself to the life of living out of a suitcase, sleeping on aircrafts, eating aircraft food, engaging in inane, boring crew-conversation, changing time zones more frequently than I wash my hair, sleeping in strange beds, wondering not what hotel I'm in when I wake up, but what COUNTRY, speaking different languages, hopelessly attempting to treat my lactose and gluten intolerant stomach to some kind of a normal diet and being so jetlagged you actually fall asleep for a few seconds while mid-conversation over pub-grub in London with a mate you've not seen in 2 years, and mumbling whatever rubbish your brain scrambled to provide you with when you snapped out of it - sorry Luke!

For the girl who moved overseas and out of home all in one step...and only thought she'd be away for 1 year at the most - it's certainly been an adventure. That's putting it mildly.

So, after I returned home from a lovely, hot Christmas holiday with my family, it was straight into some crazy rostering - topping 120 hours in one month and being rather incapable of coherent speech or proper sleeping patterns. Like a wayward rubber band flung wayyyy too far, I've hit the shores of London (multiple times!), Tunis, New York, Lagos, Houston, Bangkok, Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland. Add to the mixture a few local flights and it makes for a very busy Lauren!

This month looks truly hideous with the only good things being a Sydney trip that I'm trying to swap for a Houston to buy 5 bottles of my new favourite red wine, and a lovely trip to Malta. The rest is Accra (ok for sunbaking) and 5 dreadful nighttime, joint-rest turnarounds. Usually saved for the naughtiest of crew, I've been slammed with a 6 day hell-tour and wonder how I'll manage to stay awake for all of them. Must drink coffee, must drink coffee, must drink coffee!

Now onto my current location - GOA!!

Jena and I decided not to join our old flatmate Ashleigh and her boyfriend on their trip to LA because subload staff travel to the other side of the world for 4 days was not a good idea. Ash came to stay with us on her way over and considering it took her 3 days to get out of Dubai on an LA flight with an old staff ticket, we're kinda glad we opted for a firm, yet still discounted ticket to Bombay and connected with a domestic carrier to Goa to sit on the beach and drink super cheap Kingfisher beer for a week.

Wondering how awful the aircraft would smell on the flight to Bombay, how delayed it would be due to the incorrect cabin-loading of human-sized baggage, what kind of sloppy vegetarian food I'd be forced to eat or which jingly movies we'd be tortured with on the unchangeable movie sets showing on the telly, we were pleasantly surprised with only a minor delay, not too much cabin stink, a relatively ok-to-digest runny potato and lentil stew and the ever-pleasant ICE system, with a whole stack of new movies to watch...all on a 2 hour and 15 minute flight! I promptly fell asleep on my own shoulder, hurt my neck and was awoken by the wafting smell of curry.

Landing in Bombay wasn't as disastrous as we'd imagined - spying the slums at the end of the runway and sniffing cautiously as the air as we disembarked, our nostrils inhaled a funny musty, old air-conditioning smell, full of potential for Legionnaires Disease and that stale tea smell that most airports in India and Bangladesh seem to have. Customs was a breeze, there was a free, well organised bus to the domestic terminal and then a fuss-free hour-long flight to Goa after a 2 hour transit. FYI - Jet Airways serve way better curry than Emirates do. Not surprising, with India being the home of curry, but with the amount of Indians in Dubai, we thought we'd be up there in terms of food. Not so.

After chasing our baggage around the baggage hall on two rather crazy carousels, we emerged into 31 degree heat to find our driver with Jena's name on a placard and a big, white smile on his face when we waved to him. He took us on a hazardous walk to the car, dodging in between cars and buses and over a rocky bridge with our suitcases in his hands, while we tottered behind, digging in our bags for sunglasses and trying not to get run over. Hoping the little car would have air-con, we were disappointed to find out it didn't, but rather enjoyed having the windows down for the drive. There's something about a really hot day that is far more pleasant and bearable while on holidays!!

Organised by the place we're staying at, the Village Guest House, he drove like a rally driver on speed. We roared around corners, tooted at other cars we were anywhere near and generally risked our lives at every bend in the road by doing completely illegal, inside lane overtaking on blind corners. We were shrieking in the backseat, covering our eyes and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The occasional waft of dirty, decaying fish as we passed by the slums and the burning smell of rubber/trees/grass/rubbish or whatever was in the piles we flew by was not so pleasant. Indians seem to love burning stuff - at every corner there was something on fire.

Finally we turned up to the Guest House and I was rather bemused to have my extended hand completely ignored when both our hosts came out and asked for Jena by name. I happened to be closer to both of them and pointed over my shoulder at Jena as I introduced myself and reached out to shake hands...and was totally shut down. Our room is a nice airy room, complete with a rock hard mattress, jet-powered air-con and free wireless. Can't really argue with that can you? We woke up in the middle of the night with sore hips from the mattress and feeling almost frozen solid from the lack of blankets - we covered ourselves with sarongs and beach towels and then Jena amazingly found a blanket in the cupboard in the morning - how we missed it is anyone's guess.

Provided with a welcome beer by our hosts, we sat on the balcony and felt a little drunk after 1 beer in the middle of the afternoon, full of curry and desperately wanting both sleep and a trip to the beach. Guided by the man of the house to the beach, we navigated rocky, gutterless roads, dodged cars and avoided packs of wild boars (not joking!) and finally stumbled out onto the sand to find a million people enjoying the late afternoon sun. There are sprawling bars and restaurants everywhere, a smattering of boats and a rather eclectic collection of wildlife that can be best illustrated with pictures only.

We were on the beach for no more than half an hour when we witnessed a bull mount a cow, innumerable dirty, dreadlocked, drug-f***ed hippies in varying stages of drug-induced hazes, a group of half naked monks wading in the surf and multicoloured mangy dogs covered in dye from Holi festival... Surreal, much?!

We hope you're as amused as we were by the sights below: