The Trek to GOA, India

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The trek from Bali, Indonesia to GOA, India started in the early AM.  I have become accustomed to sleeping until my body naturally awakens since leaving the Ashram and it usually decides its time to walk up between 7-9am which is still pretty early for me considering at home I could easily sleep until noon, sometimes even 1:00pm.  Mind you since I have been travelling, I simply cannot keep my eyes open after 9pm.   The first leg of the journey went pretty smoothly an easy check in at the Indonesian airport, the only thing I didn’t think about before leaving was printing my Visa information but I easily pulled out my laptop and showed the clerk the Visa information she was seeking and she was satisfied and took down the information and produced two boarding passes and told me my luggage would meet me in GOA, no need for a baggage transfer.  Awesome! 

I flew with Silk Air, a new experience for me, and have to say compared to Air Asia this was a treat.  The plane was of normal size, the attendants were kind, efficient and well-organized.  The seating capacity was three to each side with enough leg room to store my knapsack under the seat comfortably with room for my feet, remember I am 5’2” and weight about 120lbs, not a big person by any stretch.  Air Asia crammed 4 seats per row leaving little, if any, leg room never mind space to store a carry on bag.  Silk Air has my recommendation. 

I landed in Singapore with a 6 hour lay over and a plan to sit down and write, download pictures and get all my half-finished posts together and get them posted.  Excited for some speedy wi-fi, I have not had the pleasure of having since the last time I was in Singapore.  I am so easily distracted in airports by all the stores, the glitz, the glam, I find myself drawn into the stores to look around in wonder as I gaze at all of the products on the shelves and comparing prices from country to country.  A culture shock ccoming from Indonesia where everything is ridiculously inexpensive to Singapore where everything is extremely expensive.   I realized I could not check in for my flight for several hours, so wandered around until my feet were screaming at me, finally settled in at a Starbucks ready for some busy work, I realized that the wi-fi password I had retrieved before I got all settled did not work.  I had my laptop open, the tea steeping beside me and I was ready to write.  Feeling a surge of frustration I walked all the way back to the kiosk and asked for another password which I got without incident.  I went back to my post and got resettled at a different table and went to work, time seems to disappear when I am writing, all of a sudden it was time to check in so I closed up my laptop and headed to the check counter which already had a massive 40 minute line up, I settled in to people watch. 

As I looked around I noticed that I was the only white person in the whole line up, not a single white person, everyone else was Hindu.  I didn’t feel out-of-place and people didn’t seem to be staring perhaps my skin colour makes me blend in a little.  I waited and watched as I like to do and zoned in on a group of young males travelling together, one of the young men had lost his immigration ticket and was literally freaking out internally, it was easy to see on the outside as he fumbled and panicked looking through all of the pocket in his bag, going through his wallet over and over again.  Eventually his friends joining in to help him, tease him or just simply enjoy the show.  It was quite entertaining.  In his panic, a friend asked an agent what he needed to do, as it was all spoken in hindu so I can only speculate but it seemed like he was telling him he would have to go back to customs and get a new form, he shook his head and pleaded with the agent, then I overheard something about $1,000 dollars, he shook his head again.  He stayed in line fretting the entire time, beads of sweat starting to appear on his brow.  While all of this was going on he, in his frenzied panic, gave his phone charger to his friend to hold.  This friend zipped it into another friend’s carry on while he was not looking and turned away.  A few minutes later the guy who’s luggage the phone charger was zipped up inside, unzipped his carry on luggage took out the phone charger and zipped it into the guy’s luggage who put it there in the first place while he was turned the other way and zipped it up.  Straight faced, both guys, the whole time.  Later as I watched this fiasco continue, another one of the group was tearing off his old baggage tag, he crumpled it up and put it in another friends luggage and zipped it up while he was not looking, he never noticed and it went with him.  Quite something to watch.

Finally, I got to the counter after much amusement, handed over my passport and she said I need a copy of your Visa, I pulled out my laptop and said I will show you, she said NO I need a paper copy.  I told her I have no means to print a copy, she said go down to the information counter and they will print one for you, frustration mounting again.  I left and head down to the information counter and inquire about printing my Visa documentation, they tell me to go back upstairs to another kiosk to print the document.  I head back up the stairs to the kiosk right across from where I had just come from, get my Visa documentation printed and head back to check in, the line still massive.  I made a decision right then and there that I had already waited in line so I went right to front and told the person at the head of the line I had already waited in line, he simply nodded and I stood first in line.  A different clerk this time, she wanted my flights out of Indian, so I pull out my laptop and show her the tickets, she says she needs a number, she can’t see it on the computer generated ticket, I was starting to sweat thinking I was going to have to go and get my flight out of Indian printed, frustration mounting with myself for not thinking about this while I was getting the other information printed.   She keep looking at the screen until finally she seem satiated with the information, handed me my boarding pass and sent me on my way.  I was all set.  Through security once again.  Each one is different, this was a do it yourself, scan your passport, wait for the light and then press your thumb onto the screen and wait for the gate to open.  I didn’t know what to do so I had a little Chinese man yelling at me to press my thumb, press my thumb, I pressed my thumb but the machine was not giving me access, he came over and physically held down my thumb until finally the gate opened.  

Out into the open air again, hit in the face with a new level of glamour and glitz, duty-free, cosmetics, Coach, Esta Lauder, Victoria Secret, Electronics, bookstores, chocolate, restaurants, food anything a weary traveller could ever want or need was readily at your disposal at a handsome price.  I still had 80 Singapore dollars and my face desperately needed some moisturizer, I have been without for many months and my skin is dry.   I went in and spoke to a consultant, tried the product, my fact soaked up the moisturizer so I purchased the product spending every last dollar I had on me.  I walked out of the store and as I was putting the product into my bag the clerk came running out and said that because it was over 100ml it might get taken at security and she didn’t want that to happen since I had just spent so much money on the product, she said come back to the store and I will refund your money.  I was shocked at her integrity knowing a saleswoman in a store like this likely works off commissions.  Grateful yet again.  I thought the universe is at it again, for some reason, not wanting me to have an empty wallet as I enter a brand new country, “gawd” shot.  I exchanged the money for Indian rupee and now I had a few dollars in my pocket should I need them once I land in a new world yet again. 

Through another security sitting and waiting for my second flight, my body aching everywhere, my feet and legs screaming in agony, my back not a happy dude, I am sitting in the waiting section of Gate E 22 at the Singapore airport surrounded by Hindu’s all speaking loudly in a foreign language that I do not understand a single word.  I have not even stepped foot in India yet I feel I am being christened somehow.  There are no boundaries, loud, crowded, kids running around all over the place letting their voices be heard, I sit here writing seemingly invisible to the masses of people all from the same race and a small white woman waiting for the same flight seemingly unaffected by the cultural shock and difference I am surrounded by.  Two more flights to go before I land in my final destination, GOA, Indian. 

I land in India, Mumbai and made my way to arrivals, I see the “In transit” counter and signs, wonder if that is where I am supposed to go, my instincts told me to at least check in there, something else inside of me said “no, you know where your going” EGO at its finest.  So I kept on walking, came upon the baggage claim, continued to the next floor to find out where my gate is at because I already had my boarding pass.  My flight does not seem to be listed on the massive charts showing all the flights except mine.  I stand in line at the Air Indian ticket counter for an eternity, I still have a long time to wait and an agent came free so I walked up, out of line, and asked her if she could just tell me the gate number for my flight, she obliges and writes it right on my ticket.  I go to domestic security check in and he tells me to go around the corner to the right, I go around the corner to the right and stand in another 40 minute line up, something is telling me this is not right so I ask the security guy to check my ticket where he tells me I have to go back to domestic, my frustration is mounting.  I go to the information counter instead, he tells me I have to go back to the security check in I just came from, so I do, now believing the security guard who told me to go back to domestic didn’t know what he was talking about so I wait in line again, another 30 minutes, I get through the security guard stamps my boarding pass and off I go.  Many, many lines to choose from I pick the first and business class then notice it’s not the right line so I move to the general line, wait another 20-25 minutes, once I get to the counter he says no go to the domestic counter, I go to the domestic counter, no line up finally.  He tells me no you have to go through International, I tell him I just waited for 25 minutes in that line to be told I needed to come to domestic, he just keeps waving me to go to International.  The line is bigger now.  I march right back to the guy who sent me to domestic and tell him domestic sent me back to him, he finishes with his current customer and then takes me to the office behind him where there are a lot of white shirts all chattering away solving problems.  He speaks to two or three different people and they all seem confused, one guy takes me over to another kiosk beside domestic with three guys in white shirts and says something to them and leaves.  I am in the hands of another white shirt, he tells me I have to go back to the Air India desk and get a new boarding pass this one is not valid, this boarding pass I was given on the first leg from Singapore to Mumbai.  He makes a couple of phone calls and seems to have sorted things out, he takes me as far as the security I just came through, reams out the security guy who told me I was in the wrong place the first time, who then reams out his female coworker who stamped my boarding pass without looking at it.

Mr. white shirt tells me Mr. B will be there waiting for me at the air India counter and he will give me a new boarding pass.  I walk up to the counter (each time I make a move to another counter add 5-10 minutes).  I make it to the Air India counter where all the white shirts are sitting on phone calls, problem solving, chattering away.  I walk up and ask for Mr. B, he looks at me with a blank stare and says what is this about, I gasped in exasperation thinking he knew nothing of why I was standing before him, he looks at my boarding pass and nods, he says we were calling you.  I have no idea why they would have been calling me but okay good he is the white shirt who spoke to the other white shirt.  He is concerned about my luggage and says I should have picked it up when I came through, I told him I was told that my luggage would go straight through to Goa, he shakes his head and says no you have to pick it up here and re-check it through security.  He gets a young woman dressed in a red sari to walk me down to the baggage claim and see if my bag is on the belt.  Getting back down to the baggage claim is no easy feat, there are many security check points to get through and each time she has to explain something to them, each one apprehensive checking my passport and looking at me, she was in no hurry, walking very slowing talking on her cell phone part of the way.  I just followed along knowing that however this turned out would simply be and I would take the next step and we would go from there.  I was feeling frustrated and exhausted but inside I was feeling calm.   She spoke to many people, the baggage experts who seems perplexed by the baggage tag that I carried with me, at first sending up to carousal 4 where they were sure my bag would be spinning around, I let the wheel spin around 4 times sure my bag was not on it, several white shirts where working on the problem but each one more perplexed than the other.  No one seemed to be able to understand the baggage claim ticket I was holding.  After about 40 minutes of more waiting and watching the whiter shirts trying to locate by bag, which at this point, I am sure is not there.  Finally after each one trying to figure out the mystery, I was told to get on my flight to GOA and see if your bag arrives, if not, put in a claim to the baggage service in GOA.   A slow, arduous walk back up to Air Indian, find Mr. * and get a new boarding pass.  Mr. B passes it off to an agent who issues me a boarding pass and instructs me to go through all the security checks I have already been through, a few times.  After all of this, I finally check the time, my flight leaves in 15 minutes and I have no idea how far I will have to walk so I walked to front of the line and just put my stuff down I don’t say anything to anybody I just do it.  My extremely long layover was suddenly over and all I did the entire time was tried to get to my gate so I could just relax.  

Through security check points for the third time, back through domestic, he giggled when he saw me coming again.  Through the plethora of glamour and glitz straight to my gate, a 5 minute sit and then off to board the next flight.  It was 4:18AM in Indonesia and approximately 1:20AM in India as I boarded my flight to GOA,  I have been up since 6AM travelling, I have not slept a wink and I am exhausted and starting to get that nauseated feeling I get when I am really over tired, everything hurts!  I have had smoother travel days, this one has been the worst.  

Landed in GOA, no luggage.  Filled out the necessary forms exchanged phone numbers and went to see if my ride was still there it had been at least an hour since the flight had arrived.  As I proceeded through customs, the two guys were talking I asked do you want to see my passport they just waved me on.  So I carried on and there was a guy waiting with “Swan Yoga” sign looking a bit exasperated.  He said you Jodi Mellott, I said yes, he said I am parked down here and continued to walk at a break neck speed I couldn’t keep up and was too tired to try, I lagged way behind him keeping him in my sight, it was 3:30am, not a soul around.  I laid down in the back seat because I was so over tired nausea was taking over, I didn’t see a thing, came through the gates at the Swan yoga retreat centre, staggered to my bungalow, crawled into bed and slept for a couple of hours before waking to wander around and get acquainted with some of the staff.

After being given all the information about the retreat and the schedule I wandered back to my Bungalow and I just sat and cried.  So tired, so uncomfortably hot and feeling very homesick.  It was a difficult journey.

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