Agonda Beach, GOA, India (she)

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As she climbed into the cab, she bid farewell to Nilaya Resort, and rested in the back seat while the driver sped away.  He apologized for his lateness and divulged to her that he had been sitting bedside at the hospital with his young son who had electrocuted himself only the day before, he had to wait until someone could relieve him.  I was awestruck that this man would leave his son to dive me but then she realized that income is income and no matter what he has a job to do.  She felt a sadness in her heart as they continued driving in silence.  She had brought along a sandwich and fries for the 3 hour trek to Agonda beach, after some time had passed, she offered the sandwich and a handful of fries to her driver who she imagined had not eaten in a while, he hungrily accepted the food and ate silently as they drove along, both lost in thought.

The road windy, narrow and scary, she held on and gazed out the window not wanting to miss anything.  The driving in Indian, not unlike Indonesia, they pass in the oncoming lane while traffic is surging towards them, they think nothing of it.  They have an unwritten, unspoken code and although it seems like complete chaos and madness to her, they seem to have it all under control.  The windy road to Agonda was a series of sharp hairpin turns, her driver would take risks passing without any sight of the oncoming traffic coming around the corner.  She would sit back and try desperately to relax, grateful for her knowledge of breath and how to calm herself in difficult times, like this one.

As they drove down the main road of Agonda Beach passing resort after resort, the taxi driver seemed worried as they were at the end of the road and he had not see “Ashanti Beach Resort”, he would ask someone along the way who would point to where he had stopped the car, no signage, he smiled nervously at her as she stepped out of the vehicle.

The entrance filled with piles of dirt, stacks of plywood, fans laying out, people littered all around the property sitting in wicker chairs chatting, everyone would scatter and disappear as she approached.  It looked like a construction zone, her heart sank a little. Two woman came out to greet her and took her overstuffed bag and between the two of them carried it to the bungalow all the way through the property until the very end; she followed behind watching her step the whole way.

She is staying at Ashanti Beach Resort which sound glamorous and high classed but decides it is not with the end of the season in high gear most of the bungalow’s have already been disassembled and the property resembles a construction zone.  There would be young men working throughout the day, taking down, ripping apart, hammering, folding, putting away, getting ready for the upcoming monsoon season.

This would be her home for the next two weeks.  As she approached her bungalow her spirits lifted at the sight of the Ocean and the bungalow only meters away.  She had booked a garden cottage, the cheapest available and now to her delight she was staying in an ocean front bungalow, the rest of the bungalows were gone.  She felt excited, a beachfront bungalow, the ocean in right in front of her, what more could she ask for?  The beach going on and on for what seemed like miles, a light breeze blowing helping her manage the unbearable heat. 

She used to dream of a place she would be some day, a place just like this with a bungalow on the beach, a place where she could sit on her patio gazing out into the Ocean watching the waves crashing into shore, a long beach to walk along each morning, gathering her thoughts, to contemplate what was next for her.  She smiles thinking this is the place she had dreamt about so many times.

She would walk up to a large bungalow and get the grand tour; a queen sized bed, a foamy thrown on top of a plywood makeshift plywood structure, two plywood night stands and a cabinet for her clothes, with only one side opening.  It is about as basic as you can get.  The roof is overlapping bamboo with open air space all around leaving gaps, holes, to the outside world.  Outside is a large inviting deck with a double sized bed to one side and two wicker chairs with a coffee table.  Everything is rough, made of plywood, simple, yet it seems enough. 

Upon her arrival, the hosts kind but her greeting short and sweet.  As she walked up the pathway towards the beach, Bobby, the owner, was walking towards her, he said hello and shook her hand, introduced her to his wife walked her up the stairs to the bungalow, opened the door and disappeared.  She was told that it is the end of the season and food is not available through the kitchen for guests, breakfast can be ordered but the rest of the meals will be on her own.  Most of the restaurants along the beach have already closed for the season.  She panics a little, wondering how she would feed herself for the next two weeks.

As she glances around noticing the open concept of the bungalow, her imagination runs wild knowing that this means allowing whatever insects decides to come in for the night the opportunity to snuggle right up in bed beside her.  A door opens to an open air bathroom that is the size of a small cottage.  It is spacious and completely open air, again, allowing any and all critters quick access to the grounds.  She imagines what is out there.

Beside her in the adjacent bungalow is a german woman with a quiet disposition and a kind, warm smile with the most beautiful blue eyes, small pools of sky blue, offering a glimpse into her kind soul.

First things first, she would take a walk down the beach to find a place to eat, she would stumble upon Samrose.  A large enough restaurant with a huge menu, a couple of adolescent cats, a couple of resident dogs, a library and people.   She would stop for a bite to eat feeling flooded with relief knowing that this would be a place of nourishment during her time on Agonda Beach.

Samrose, had a large selection of choices on the menu, a beautiful atmosphere and loads of books.  This would be the place she would return to-day after day to fill her belly with nutrition, her mind with knowledge, her soul with the ocean, her need for connection filled with the people sitting around her; her need to watch and observe satiated.

The waiters, two young boys not more than 25 years old, one dark and sultry, with mysterious deep dark eyes, he is slow to serve his guests, spending as much time looking at his phone than caring for his customers, it is the end of the season.  He does his job but offers nothing more. He wears a sad, irritated scowl and is preoccupied and in deep thought about something else. His hair is shaved close to the scalp at the sides with a long hair hanging down from the crown, covering his eyes.  He looks miserable.   The other one has a cute baby face and a smile that would knock your socks off, he does the cutest Indian head bob.  He has a shy disposition and a cute little smirk as he memorizes your order.  He too, is preoccupied and slow to serve customers but occasionally he will share one of his smiles as he lights up the room.  The manager is a bit older, maybe 30, with a sunny disposition, always smiling and asking how you are doing, constantly doing something, cleaning, wiping, organizing, checking in on people. 

After a satisfying meal she would walk back along the roadway to scope out any shops that might be open, there were a few.  Everything is a built by hand with several labourers doing manual jobs, one piece at a time, no equipment, just young boys hired to get the tasks at hand completed.  Labouring in the 40 degree weather, fully clothed, sweating profusely, dirty from the fine red dust the seems to have accumulated everywhere.  The shops are small and open allowing all the dust from the roads to cover their wares in a fine powder.  Liquor stores are plentiful, several up and down the strip, a local bar still running, just like out of an old western movie, the bar, a couple outdoor seats and a high counter looking out into the street.    Fatima’s Restaurant across the street serving a plethora of choices, the menu extensive.  

As she settles into the confines of her bungalow, she continued to write in the dark with the soothing sounds of the ocean not far away.  She is preoccupied by the bugs who have gathered loving the light of her computer and the sweat of her body.   The breeze seems to have disappeared since the sun set and it has become noticeably hot and sticky.   She retreats to the inside only to find there is no reprieve, still hot and sticky, still bugs.  

As she settles onto the foam mattress, it dawns on her the amount of effort that goes into moving to a new place each time, a whole process unfolds, as she watches herself go through it.  She become restless and is filled with a need to reorganized her suitcase and creates piles. She inspects every corner of the place and makes note of where there are holes, open air where critters can get in, she walks around the place and knows where the floor sags.  She scopes out the bathroom each and every time she has to use it, freaked out each time she opens the door and flicks on the light, worried about what could be out there.   She makes note of any available counter space, if there is a hanging rack, if there are going to be bugs crawling on her while she sleeps.  She notices if the door locks from the inside.  She recognizes a feeling that seems to have followed her on this journey, it doesn’t matter if you lock the door or not if someone wants to come through it, they will, with it’s skimpy plywood all around very poorly put together, a decent wind storm could knock it over. 

She realized that she has landed in what some would consider heaven with the Ocean only steps away, the tranquility, quietness and peacefulness of this serene place but at the very same time is feels like hell, similar to Dolphin Bay, with the flimsy building, the open air space and the fear of critters and bugs occupying the same space.

She feels like the little pig in the straw house knowing if the wind just huffs and puffs a little harder it might blow the house down, the fan above overpowers the calming, rocking sounds of the Ocean but it is imperative to keep the bugs to a minimum and the air flow circulating to keep from suffocating.

She arranges her things putting them into places where she knows where to find them, should she need them.  Her comforts, her books, her journal, her inspirational messages, her hope.  She is aware of her surroundings.  Scenarios run through her mind, of what could happen and what her exit plan might be.  

As she putters away happily getting set up and comfortable, she pulls out the garments she would be using on this leg of the journey, she reaches into the cupboard and rests her hand on a hanger and pulls her hand away feeling nausea well up; it is coated and crusty, her hand sticky.  She pulls back takes a breath and reminds herself that she is in another country and is adapting to the nuances.  Squirmy, her mind racing, she continues pulling each hanger down and draping her clothes pretending not to notice the feel of each hanger and she deposits it back on the bowed rung.  She’d looks outside the door for reassurance and upon hearing the gentle sounds of the ocean she settles knowing she is right where she is meant to be. 

Everything settled and organized, she spends time with her fears and insecurities.  The battle in her mind that she notices over and over again is coming to a balance of ensuring her basic needs are taken care of and letting go of all of the comforts she has become accustomed to and somewhere in the middle finding a balance finding the line in the middle of creature comfort and disgust.  Heaven and Hell.

She continues to adapt to the conditions for which she has found herself.  Although, her EGO having a temper tantrum which starts a chain reaction ricocheted through the rest of her being.  She takes the time to pause and feel it out trying desperately to replace the fears running through her being and focus on the importance of her being here, in India.  To experience the culture, the people, the way they live, to really live it, fears and all. 

She discovers a new angle on adaptability working with the mind to allow this new surrounding to be what it is and let go of her expectations, her wants and focus on her needs and try desperately to fold herself into the current situation and enjoy the time in this new place, Ashanti Beach Resort, Agonda Beach, GOA India. 

The heat is excruciating, it feels unbearable, her energy drained.  There is no reprieve inside or out, it’s hot and she continues working with her mind to adapt to this new experience and continues finding solace by simply looking out into the eyes of the Ocean.  In all that it is;  the one thing she can continue to count on as her saviour, as her blessing, the Ocean. It is her ground that she will continue to come back to over and over again.

After the sun sets the bugs would arrive, the darkness would overtake, and unfamiliarity of her surroundings would send shivers down her spine.  So much of her comforts were suddenly being challenged all at the same time. 

The bugs are in the bungalow, on the bed, little tiny ones, flies with a hard back and completely out of control, drunk it seems, moths, some large scary bug that actually made an entrance as he knocked his large hard crusted shell against the roof upon his entrance landing on the floor.  She would brace herself as she tentatively went over to see what had fallen, setting her eyes on a large unrecognizable bug with its hard shell on the top of its tiny body, she would quickly put her water bottle on top of if and slide tentatively back into bed.  Feeling a need to sleep with the lights on but going back and forth wondering if the lights attract the bugs and darkness is the way to go.  She is torn, a nightly ritual would develop.

The mattress, an old piece of foam with a thin sheet on top, she imagines all the many people before her who have slept and sweated in this bed, the pillows made of cheap foam along with a red fuzzy blanket strewn across the end of the bed.  She would smile at the thought of the fuzzy blanket remembering her own waiting for her at home but wondered how this blanket was going to provide any support in this 40 degree weather.  It would be a difficult night.

She smiles at the absurdity of it all and finds gratitude in her sleeping pills.

Each morning she feel a deep sense of gratitude that the night is over and the day light has ascended upon her, she throws open the doors of the bungalow and breathes in the air, thankful she has made it through the night. 

Each morning she sees a white horse that comes daily for his stroll along the beach all by himself, alone, he seems bashful putting his head down when encountered the curious dogs running and barking in his face.  Each day he arrives she can’t help but wonder if he is a sign from the universe, her white stallion dreams crumbled so long ago. Her fairy tale ended.  It seems like a goodbye, it feels like the ending of an old story.  Goosebumps appear and she shudders as she lets her mind reminisce about her life with the stallion, a life that seems so far away, so long ago although the memories still fresh, still painful, she pulls herself back to the moment and allows the past to fade into the background of her mind.

She would awaken each morning to walk the beautiful beach laying out in front of her, captivated by the beauty, letting her thoughts run wild, her imagination let loose, watching people, smiling at the simplicity of the day about to unfold.  Each day sinking into the next and the next and the next.  

 As she walked along the beach she became aware of the culture of the wild dogs that littered the beaches.  Watching, waiting, and finally being seduced into their world.  Her heart would be the first to flutter as she witnessed the society unfolding day after day.

Unsure and allowing fear to be present, to drive, tentative at first, hearing the voice tell her not to pet the dogs, but her heart overriding her annoying mind and reaching out, offering love, understanding, and a human touch.  They crumbled and succumbed to her offering and nestled their warm bodies up against hers signalling that acknowledgment, touch, communication and love was not a usual part of their world and they had a craving for it.

The stray dogs littered the beaches, sometimes many dogs ran together in a pack or scattered individually along the beach allowing space and honouring the code, the boundaries, the divides that they had so clearly articulated to one another.  Everyone fighting for survival.  Everyone wanting to belong to something, someone. 

The wild dog culture is one of its own; distinct structure and they all know the rules and know to survive within them or they don’t and get hurt.  The young learn very quickly.  They all play the game, they have to, its survival.  They survive in 40 degree heat everyday wearing a fur coat, without a regular supply of water or food, fighting to get a spot in the pecking order, fighting to get a spot in a pack; the weakest are shunned and beat up, the stronger ones, rule the beach.  Her heart bleeds for these dogs yet at the same time she is fascinated at the structure they have created.

She has never known the extent to which these animals have been neglected, she had never seen it with her own eyes, felt it with her own heart nor heard the cries from her own ears.   She used to wonder why people would adopt rescue dogs from other Countries when her own Country had so many in need.  She was starting to understand and grasp the magnitude of the problem.  She was starting to understand the pull of the heart-strings that drive people to take these dogs home.  She understands.

She would encounter her own challenges with the dogs in the days to come.  As she walked down the beach with the sunlight kissing her cheeks, a light wind blowing, she would encounter the dogs.  She had slipped a box of digestive cookies into her bag, just in case, feeding herself seems to have become a top priority with the scare of little or no food.  As the first dog bounded up to her she offered him a cookie, he simply left it and walked away.   A perspective shift in that moment told her maybe they were not starving after all and she noticed herself take a large breath of air. 

A second would come bounding toward to her smelling, licking her hands, wagging its tail, excited to see a Westerner somehow knowing she would have a soft spot and he was determined to find it.  Frolicking in front of her and showing off, he did circles running around letting her see him fully.  In her good nature and helpful way, she took another biscuit from the bag and offered it to the frolicking dog, he too snubbed the offer. 

A third dog would join the now group starting to form around her, she was starting to feel like a movie star, surround by dogs all seemingly excited at her presence.  He was shy, slow, and tentative seemingly insecure around the other two dogs.  She felt a twang in her heart as she noticed he seemed a little shy.  He touched her in a special way as it reminded her of her own shyness and felt a connection somehow to this tiny creature.  She dug into her bag and pulled out another biscuit and offered it to this wayward soul. 

He lunged at it but before he had the chance to reach it the other dog pounced on him biting him hard sending him reeling back howling in pain and cowardly slinking away. She jumped back and screamed, terrified they would fight.  It was normal for them.

A moment of realization that there was a structure, there was a hierarchy and that these dogs were not willing to share with one another.

Her body reacted in the moment, flooding her mind with memories of her own life and the vicious fights she had witnessed growing up.  That same feeling was upon her now and she shuddered to think that this world could be similar to the one she herself grew up in such a long time ago.

She made some decisions in that moment.  One, she would not put herself at risk and continue to be aware of the structure of this society and play within it.  Two, that she would always be looking for the underdog and three, that it was a long time ago and that she could let go of those memories and allow her body to release the violence that was still hiding somewhere inside her cells.  Things were different now.

Her mind would recount her lessons in this lifetime thus far flooding with memories of her own times being the underdog, surprised at how easily it all come rushing back, how fresh it can all seem in the moment.  Remembering, how it felt to be bullied, remembering her own recoiling from the bigger, stronger, more confident women in her life who pushed her down, pounced on her, bite her, scared her, send her running with her tail between her legs.  As she reflects on these memories and makes a resolve that this will never happen to her again.

She would spend the next few days alone, reflecting, reading, writing, disconnected completely from everyone and everything just her and nature.   She would meet her neighbour friend and enjoy some friendly conversation but keep a distance.  Realizing that perhaps they are both there for the same reason, introspective time to be with themselves.  There was no felt sense to connect, just be.  She would relish the time to herself, strolling along on the beach coupled with a swimming in the sea.   The surf strong and brilliant, pushing her forward and pulling her back reminding her of life.  The stepping forward and the falling back.  She would spend the next few days laying in the sun bed, covering herself from searing hot sun reading book after book.   She would write at her makeshift desk overwhelmed at the magnitude of the book she intends to share with the world, so many pieces in so many places, she closes her computer and buries her nose into another book engrossing herself in someone else’s story.

Anouk, a friend she had met at Swan Yoga Retreat, would arrive and the three single ladies would have dinner together, sharing stories easily and enjoying the moonlit sky.  The temperature would drop, the stickiness in the air would subside even if, only slightly, they would settle in and enjoy what lay right in front of each of them; friendship, companionship and a knowing that the universe orchestrated this meeting and all three souls, a reason their paths had crossed.

She would get lost in watching the people all around her, enjoying one of her favourite things, simply observing human beings.  A couple would come out from their bungalow and sit a deck chairs off in the distance.   The couple distant, each to their own, setting up in solace, plugging in and staring at the screens of their devices, not seeming to notice the beauty all around.  He would set up a bar beside himself and continue to pour himself whisky after whisky downing them one after another, firmly plugged into his device.  Drowning out any resemblance to the world right in front of him, all around him.  Connected.  She wonders about his life and imagines how sad he must be, how broken, how disconnected, how shut down.  It is not compassion she feels but anger as her minds melts back to at time, she remembers the shutting down, the disconnection, the skeleton of the man she married, taken by alcoholism.  Sadness fills her heart as she reflects on a time in her own life when she did the very same thing, drowned out anything and everything right in front of her trying desperately to turn down the volume of her ever-present belittling, berating, harsh mind that would never let her rest. 

She would bid both woman and goodnight and retreat to her bungalow and start the arduous task of settling in for the night.  It would become a nightly ritual of wanting to go to sleep yet looking around at every crack in the wall, hole in the floor, space in the ceiling inspecting everything.  Watching all the bugs on the lamp shades, shooing off the ones that crawled into her bed, shivering at the thought off turning off the light and closing her eyes.

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The following morning she walk down to the local restaurant that has been nourishing her body since her arrival, her earlier fear and panic of not having food simply faded into the background as she felt her way around this new land.  She sat in a booth by herself mesmerized by the sounds of the ocean and kept a watchful eye on the Indian family sat directly in front of her, she smiled thinking that they looked deliriously happy, each one of them smiling, conversing with one another and the children that accompanied them, the couple seemed in love.  She came to love sitting at a table by herself, reading a book, and glancing around the room inconspicuously enveloping everyone in the room.  Creating stories in her mind of their lives, concocting who they were, what they did, how they survived in their tribe.  

The couple to her right, perhaps newly married, early thirties, late twenties sitting opposite one another staring into the screens on their phones, no conversation taking place between them all the while the Ocean crashing onto the shore, the sun beaming from the sky and the perhaps  the man or the woman you love are sitting right in front of you!

She would finish her meal and prepare for departure when suddenly one of the woman from the Indian family who had been sat in front of her asked if she could take a picture, she looked up as the woman spoke and nodded smiling assurance.  Next thing she knew the woman had crawled onto the bench seat tucked tightly into the table and along came her friend or sister with her iPhone attached to a selfie stick and crawled in beside her on the other side wildly snapping pictures from different angles. The children were looming by watching it all unfold, the little girl had ice cream dripping down her chin, her mother quickly wiped it off and summoned the children to come and sit beside her, each one climbing onto her lap and more pictures were taken.  The family thanked her and all clamoured away smiling and giggling with one another.  She wonders what the caption will read?

It strikes her that we, the tourists want to take pictures of them and they, the residents want to take pictures of us, we are from different lands, different cultures but inside we are all basically the same, we are one.  We all want the same things.  Affection, Attention, Appreciation and Acceptance.  She smiles and bids the family farewell as she continues down the beach to retreat to her bungalow and immerse herself back into someone else’s life, diving back into her book.   

Later that afternoon, as she was walking down the street she decided to stop by the local store and buy some dog food and feed some of these staving dogs. It seems that she had not yet learned anything from her first experience with the cookies.   She purchased three small sealed packets of dog food, puppy chow.  Her intention was to feed some of the ones she had grown to fond of, the underdogs, the weaklings, the ones who were alone. 

She had met him at Samrose, an older beat up dog with a mangled paw, his nails were curling into spirals.  The paw has been broken and left, it had set into place in a way that he will never be able to use it again.  It seems he forgets the pain in his paw and sets it down to rest only to pull back quickly as the pain racks through his old and frail body.  She has opened a big space in her heart for this older dog who hangs around the restaurant sleeping under and around the tables when he is inconspicuous enough to not get booted out.  Her aging friend has scars all over his beaten, broken body, his ears misshapen and half gone, he bites at himself to eradicate the fleas that revenge on his body, the flies are incessant constantly landing on his face, in his eyes, he swats at them away with his broken paw. 

She noticed he was sleeping on the floor when she strolled in that day, she watched him stir and swat at the flies landing on his scared face.  He would stir and come over to greet her.  She wonders if the dogs start to recognize and know which humans want to give love and affection, he seems to understand the pull she has for him as he wanders over looking at her with those deep pools of chocolate-brown.  Feeling excitement stir inside of her, she pulled out the first bag of puppy chow, looking around not to draw attention to herself and making sure no other dogs were watching in protection of her new friend.  She carefully opened the bag and dumped it into a saucer her tea-cup preciously sat on filling it with kibble and quickly putting it under the table hoping not to be seen.  He looked up at her and then around before he licked up a crunchy and swallowed.  He continued to lick the tiny crumbles up piece by piece continuing to look over his shoulder before diving down again.  After eating half of what was on the plate, he sauntered away and laid down under a table and went back to sleep.  She quickly gathered what was left and put it back into the ripped bag and put all the evidence back into her purse.  Satisfied that perhaps one dog would go a day without the hole of hunger burning through his stomach. 

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Thoughts swirls around in her mind, the dogs are starving and she can see that but feeding them brings a whole host of other problems.  Dogs start getting braver and braver encroaching on territory because they know, they smell, they sense.  They cross boundaries in order to survive.  She worries that in her helping this little bit only ends up causing more problems in the end for both the dogs and the restaurant owners. 

Regardless, she leaves that day feeling satisfied, feeling proud, feeling like she was able to give in some small way to this old, crippled dog. 

As she continued down the beach, two dogs darted toward her aggressively, she put her hand out for them to smell.  A mangy looking dog licked her peace-offering and then started biting her open hand, gently as first, nipping at her ankles and her bag, he kept coming towards her in all directions and eventually bit her hard enough to take notice, leaving four teeth marks on the top of her hand although not breaking the skin, he then lunging again for the bag, She held it up on to her shoulder remembering the open bag of dog food they could smell. 

Another dog came over and started the same process, both of them jumping, nipping and wildly trying to get at the bag, she was terrified.  She pushed them way but they kept coming, she started walking into the water remembering a similar experience in Lombok.  Thankfully there was an Indian family standing in the water close by, she walked beside them hiding from the dogs.  The Indian women shouted at the dogs and scared them away.  She smiled nervously and told one of the woman she was really scared, the woman asked what she had in the bag, she told her food.  Her first thought was to get rid of the food, throw it out, but the memory of the cookies and the dogs fighting one another came flooding back and she couldn’t deal with the violence let alone being the cause of it.   She held her bag up and continued walking but as soon as she got away from the family they came bounding towards her again, she cowered towards the family again, she was really afraid, shaking.  She walked farther into the Ocean, enough to get her shorts wet and they bounded right after her, the women shooed them away again.  She started to walk away again and they bounded gain, she retreated again.  A couple had come and sit on the beach nearly across from the Indian family, the dogs bounded toward them and as the couple started petting and paying attention to them, an Indian woman said okay go, she quickly retreated looking over my shoulder the whole way terrified they would come at her again. The further away she got, the more she remembered  her breath and started to breathe again.  Relief flooded her when she spotted the entrance to the restaurant.

She was to meet her new friend Anouk, relieved to have someone to share her story with.  The two of them would share the remainder of the food with a couple local dogs to get rid of any remaining evidence.  We now had friends, these dogs knew who we were and one settled in under our table with a full belly.  A little while later a group of people came to occupy the table beside them, our new friend with his full belly couldn’t resist the temptation to see what scraps he could get from the new party.  Unfortunately for him, another dog had already called this new table his territory and warned our new friend several times to back the fuck off.   He chose to take his chances and continued nuzzling up to his new-found friends until the other dog pounced and a horrible dog fight ensued, I closed my eyes and plugged my ears, I couldn’t stand the howls, the screams. The drinks went flying, glass got broken, people got scared, the dogs fought for territory.  She would bid her friend a good night and retreat back to her bungalow for another night of bug terror.

She would spend the days walking, reading, watching, writing.  As the sun started its decent she would sit on her deck and observe the people, the families, the dogs enjoying time on Agonda Beach.  The sunsets absolutely outstanding!

He, about six feet tall, sleek, slim with slight musculature body, he saunters along, he never seems in a hurry, casually talking to his beautiful wife who stands as tall as he, blonde hair swooped up on the top of her head, she is always wearing a dress, he is boxer type swimming trunks snug to his taut body and always a few steps behind is a tiny white blonde combination of them both.  The scene takes me back to Blue Lagoon and the adorable little baby they created together.  They allowed their son the freedom to roam, some space to explore on his own, climbing rocks, swatting at the dogs, running one moment and mesmerized in another, they would walk ahead and their little blonde beauty would travel behind walking like a little chimpanzee with his bow legs and newly formed muscles.  She enjoyed watching this family day after day. 

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Upon waking the beach that very next day, she confirms the decision that has been going back and forth in her mind, to move to another location.  She realizes that she is in a constant struggle of fight or flight each time she nestles down for the night wrestling with her mind.

After much deliberation, she realizes that until your basic needs are taken care of you can never really settle in, she cannot settle in.  The battle inside cannot be tolerated anymore, living in flight or flight mode for the last week has called for the white towel to be thrown in and a realization that there is a bottom line, there is a boundary, there is a line in the sand and she must take care of herself and retreat to a place that can accommodate her basic needs.  Cleanliness, a space closed off to the outside world, a functioning shower & toilet, and a feeling of safety and security.

She realizes that in making this decision she will be giving up the Ocean right out in front of her, the one she had dreamt of so many times before, with the beautiful beach with miles of walking pleasure.  She will give up the sweet, thick Mango smoothies that had become a sweet indulgence at least twice a day along with giving up waking up in the morning, throwing open the door to be greeted by her love, the Ocean.

She spends part of the day packing her stuff, she makes a reservation to stay at Dunhill Resort just down the road, a hotel style building.  She is excited to know that she has two more sleeps and before she will be in comfort of my own room that closed all the way around, a nice rainfall showered, A/C, a fan that seems to keep the place quite cool on its own, a bed, a real bed, with real pillows and a decent blanket, a little desk, clean towels everyday, clean sheets, its clean.  She is beaming with excitement for the move. 

As she sits on her deck on the eve of her departure, she gets this eerie feeling, so many workers in and out all the time, sometimes they sit at the bar beside the bungalow and stare at her, watch her, she is uncomfortable. 

She breathes a sigh of relief after talking to the owner and letting him know she was going to stay at another place. Grateful that he seemed to understand, giving him the impression that it is a favour to both he and she as it has become obvious to her that end of season means end of season and he and his crews are eager to get things finished before the monsoons come. 

Her final night in the open air, dirty, hot sweaty bungalow, her senses heighten, reluctant to turn off the light for her final night’s sleep.  As she swallows her sleeping pill to allow sleep, she utters a small prayer asking that nothing crawls on her body as she sleeps.  In that moment, she sees him, a rat crawling across the wall straight in front of her, he looks at her, she looks at him then he disappears out through the hole way up in the corner where the roof meets the wall clumsily leaving a large gap to the outside world.   She is in shock, she cannot believe what she has just seen, he looked at her, her skin literally crawling. Every nerve standing on edge as she closes her eyes waiting for the sleeping pill to take her, pretending she didn’t just see what she just saw.  Terrified, the pill renders her unconscious but her mind remains on guard, she is restless through the night and awakens unable to move her neck.  Gratitude envelops her as she awakens, no more sleeps. 

Today was the day she would make her way to a new home for the next week. Grateful for Dunhill Estates and the presence of a security guard all night long.   

She would settle in and by nightfall grateful to take a hot shower, climb into a clean bed knowing that it was just going to be her for the night, no bugs, no rats, no worries.    

Samrose would close and Jojolopa would become her home during the day and Dunhill Resort hotel would be where she slept at night free from worries, free from rodents.

Jojolopa would also have two male waiters, one a young boy in his early twenties with a serious disposition, and an occasional smile.  He is slow to attend to his guests.  The other waiter is a tiny Indian man with a sense of humour in a quiet teasing kind of way making you laugh even if words are not spoken.   He wears a little hat on his head and walks around talking to each and every guest, it is easy to see that he takes pride in his job and enjoys human interaction easily joking and conversing everyone.  He has done his homework and knows his guests, he teases them about the night before, knows what they want, he makes guests feel like they are at home.

The dog culture has done a full pendulum swing as you walk onto this property.  They have a baby pug that is the apple of is daddy’s eye, his is the prince and treated like royalty.  He is a little monster with no manners and he bites HARD.  He has this devilish gleam in his eyes.  He is placed upon a bar stool with a fan blowing a foot from his head circulating cool air, his ears sway in the breeze.  He gets a bowl of boiled eggs for dinner, delivered to his heiress at promptly six o’clock.  He is adorable.   One day she happen to be there he was on the ground, he was rarely on the ground, digging in some dirt and enjoying being a dog, his owner promptly scooped him up and took him away, upon his return he was freshly bathed, towelled dry and then talc power gently rubbed into his fur to keep the fleas off his precious.  He was put on his perch, the stool with his own fan blowing and left to have a delightful nap in the afternoon shade. 

She would notice the cows come to the beach every night at the same time, as the sun is setting, they all file out onto the beach and gather in a pile waiting for feeding time just outside the restaurant boundaries.  She would observe their behaviour.  She has become fascinated with the cows and their affectionate nature with one another.  They groom one another.  They wrestle with each other butting heads but ever so gently, they are playing its clear to see.  The get themselves onto the ground by laying the chest on the sand dropping their chest and legs plopping to the ground, curling their legs up inside.  She stares at them and they stare back at her.  She was captivated.  They snuggle, lay their heads on one another, they tease by butting their heads, they pee on each other (if a cow sticks his nose up the other cow’s ass, it pees on his face).

She would spend the days settling into a routine of morning yoga sessions followed by meditation and a walk on the beach and a swim in the Ocean.  She would settle into a sun bed reading, writing and observing. 

Each day they would meet, Anouk, stunningly beautiful but doesn’t know it, a long lanky lean body and a beautiful smile. She is adorable.  A thick London accent with a french twist, she is confident, yet shares her insecurities.

They would become fast friends and spent time together each day, walking, swimming, gallivanting around, eating meals together, watching the sunset, hanging out on each other’s deck talking while at the same time allowing silence.  

She, this quiet, confident, older woman travelling around the world on her own on an inward journey of self discovery.  A quiet beauty, unassuming, grounded, settled within herself, a short muscular body, short hair growing out from a short warrior cut she started her journey with.  Her green eyes glowing, inviting, pools of warmth and curiosity.   A Canadian true to form, giving and accepting. 

Their paths crossed with so much in common yet so many differences.  Both on journey’s of their own, yet at an intersection of sharing themselves with one another.

They would prepare a road trip and take a driver for the whole day stopping at four locations.  A restaurant that Anouk had been raving about, they would stop in for the most delicious piece of carrot cake she had ever eaten, then onto the post office, her case was getting too full again, she needed to send a package home.  FabIndia, the most delightful store offering tastes of India along with many clothing, lotions and potions. Next they would head into the core of the busy city, to a Temple to participate in a 40 person Satsung, beautiful.  Then tuk tuk back to Agonda Beach to settle in for the night. 

Walking home that evening they noticed a bunch of men, scooters parked along the road all standing around a shinning lights, a car stopped with its headlights pointing toward them, curious enough, they walked up to see what everyone was looking at, a snake, a dead King Cobra,  An Indian man had a stick poking the dead snake trying to break the skin.  Rarely seen by the villagers, each one trembling at the sight of this creature who had lunged at a man driving by on his scooter earlier that evening.  The men were clearly shaken.

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Each day was a new day with a set routine and the welcome addition of an Indian massage, Athma, a short stout woman with strong hands would set into motion deep rhythmic movements all over her body coaching each muscle to relax and let go.  She would stretch and pull each group of muscles working them over and allowing her to go into a relaxed state, numbing her mind with the sweet pleasure of touch.  Mediation music playing softly in the background, a fan twirling overhead and a strong woman pulling apart her stress ridden muscles.  She could now relax and let go.  No more bugs and rats!

As she walked home that afternoon after a blissful massage, she would be the witness to the brutal reality of the dog culture here on this beautiful stretch of beach in Agonda.

He ran into the water, six dogs chasing after him, he backed up as far as he could go up to his chest deep in the water, the ocean pushing him forward into the pack of dogs chasing him deeper into the sea.   He barked loudly, anxiously, terrified as six dogs snapped at him from all different directions, he clearly surrendering as he back further and further into the Ocean.  One by one they started to back off and run towards the shore but never taking their eyes off him.  One of the dogs never left his side following him as he retreated out of the water.  The rest walking along the beach playing with one another letting him know that he was not welcome here or anywhere around here.  Over and over they would lunge at him, one would start it by running full speed ahead towards the dog cornered by the Ocean.  His only reprieve.  He cowers and backs up, they all come again, six dogs snarling, barking and biting in different directions, he bears his teeth and barks as loud as he can bark, puts on his best suite of armour.  This is his only choice.  They would bark until they couldn’t bark anymore and then one would run away, the others would follow, like a gang.  They were a pack.  Bullies.

They would lunge at him six times in total as I walked slowly down the beach witnessing this over and over again, my heart ached for this dog.  I prayed out loud asking to please make it stop, please make those dogs leave him alone, stop it, you’re hurting him!    She wanted to step in, she wanted to protect him but her own fears got in the way and all she could do was watch from a distance and pray.  A lifeguard came into sight and started walking towards the dog in the water and the dogs on the beach, right in the middle.  He started throwing rocks at the dogs, they scattered and ran ahead.  He continued walking past the dog in the water and kept throwing rocks until they were far enough away that the dog could get away.  Looking back every few seconds, he took off an ran as fast as his terrified body would take him, hide and contemplate his next move for survival.

The lifeguards line the beach day after day.  Red flags flap in the wind.  A jeep drives up and down the beach many times a day, moving the guards from post to post.  They are covered head to toe in red lifeguard garb, most have their faces completely covered, they have surf boards sitting out in front of the make shift huts.  All men, sit in the scorching hot beach from sunrise to sunset watching the waters and warning swimmers when they have ventured out to far.  They are a presence.  A beautiful welcome presence.

The town was getting more and more deserted, the streets lit with street lamp in sections and none in others.  The energy is warm and inviting, the people are kind and respectful.  Most are gracious and smile or reciprocate with a greeting.  Another day ends, another relaxing evening in the comfort of her new home. 

As she sits at Simrose settled in to watch the sun decent, she watches an Indian family who has been around all week, a strapping father with two tiny naked girls making their way to the beach.  They would sit in the sand for hours building, playing getting attention from their attentive father digging right along side of them, it would be a sight to behold.  The mother laying on the deck, taking a much-needed break with her nose buried in her iPhone enjoying the time to herself.  The dad would eventually take both girls in his arms and go and sit in the Ocean just far enough so that the waves lap upon their curled legs.  The sun setting just behind them she had plenty to watch with this beautiful family in front of her, the cows just off to the right, the dogs lined up along the beach, three meters apart claiming territory, a masala tea steaming beside her, a good friend sitting in the chair next to her, she is completely enjoying each moment. 

It was packed, full.  Conversations going on all around her, an Indian foursome sitting to my right all dressed very well talking about how many times a week the house cleaner comes and what she does and doesn’t do.  They struck her as people with money but abused the privilege and had become egotistical.  The men a presence, the women spoiled, the son annoying to them.  Behind her she watches a couple on one side of the table, she a half African-American, half white, shoulder length curly hair wearing a beautiful dress, she had certainly dressed for the occasion.  Her boyfriend, longish hair, full unkept beard, dressed in kaki pants and a nice shirt, he looked like philosophical hippie.  Across from them, directly across from her leaving the seat in front of the boyfriend empty, was her dad, he was mostly bald, he sat on the edge of his chair, using his hands as a form of communication, and the veins in his neck bulged when he spoke, from her perspective a heated argument.  The woman across from him sat back and stared at him while he went on and on not giving her the chance to speak, cutting her off every time she opened her mouth.  The boyfriend stepped in and took some time and explained something to the older man sitting across from him.  He spoke in a calm but firm manner, explaining something.  The older man listened but it seemed he wanted to jump in several times but refrained.  The older man softened somehow and seemed to acknowledge something which put them all at ease.  Then he started on what seemed like another tangent about something, they both leaned back pretending to listen, lost in their own thoughts. 

The staff always fascinate her, how they interact, if they interact, do they laugh, do they joke, are they having fun. This group felt like a family who poked fun at each other and had real conversations.  The kitchen bustling, blenders blending, nan being rolled out into balls and flattened and baked into deliciousness.  The would serve a delicious banana pancake with chocolate sauce, the best masala tea she had so far with a side of warm milk. 

The days would fold into one another with a morning routine and a general meeting arrangement with her new friend, she enjoyed the solitude but looked forward to the camaraderie.

They would meet again at 3 o’clock for lunch, juice along with a beautiful view of the River, nestled in behind a new restaurant, Mariposa, surrounded by lush forest and a stunning view of the Bay.  A sunset paradise.  Not a cloud in the sky, the sun throwing off some serious heat, to stand in the sand for a few second without flip-flops could burn the bottoms of your feet.  It was hot.  They would fill their nutrition needs and frolic in the Ocean, the retreat to their own solitude relaxing on the sun beds. 

Her favourite dog, the one who was ostracized by the pack came up to her with his sad, scared face and stared up at her looking into her eyes with his deep dark pools of brown.  As soon as she reached down to stroke his head, he nuzzled up into her legs and set his head onto her lap.  Tear stung he backs of her eyes as recounted the attack she had witnessed only days before, she continued stroking him.  She would share her bottle of water with him watching him gulp down every drop, dehydrated, beat up and tired.

As the sun makes it decent into the darkness, the sky is lined with layers of thin clouds each time sun drops through a layer it give the impression that it is setting within a thin layer of cloud only to slowly drop below the layer reappearing as thought it has risen again, dropping through another layer to repeat the whole process again.  It seemed as though the magic of the sun setting tonight allows the vision of it raising and setting three times before it would make its final decent.  There is something so enthralling about watching the sun set, another day is complete, another cycle has run its course, tomorrow will be a new day, with new beginnings.  It all starts over again. 

They would take a small row-boat across the river and eat their final meal of the day at the restaurant overlooking the Bay, two flights of stairs to the top floor, a bar dimly lit and tables surrounding the large open deck overlooking the beautiful Bay down below.  The sun had set and blackness was rolling in, they would watched the moon and sit in silence.  The walk back roadside was beautiful with the illumination of  the beat up neon signs.

The village is bustling with local people, sitting around on their bikes, sitting in plastic chairs in front of storefront, men chatting away like a bunch of olde women, the lone bar frazzled light glowing off single bulbs hanging from the ceiling, a few men sitting roadside on bar stools, drinking.  Fatima’s restaurant busting with people, orders, staff all excited with their attention no longer on the guest, its themselves they are thinking about.  Seven months is a season, these people are excited for a break.

The would encounter some of the familiar dogs from the beach, the cows strolling along the roadside heading home for the evening, the pigs and piglet roaming the streets looking for scraps, the residents gathered at the corner sitting on their bikes, gathered in small groups talking or playing cards, it felt like we were part of this world in some small way.  As she walked, three people called our her name and bid her a good night, she smiled feeling in some small way that she belonged. 

Today would be her friend’s last day, she would be leaving later that evening, sadness ascended upon her.  They would make the most of what was left of their time together and venture into the Ocean for one last swim, the tides were rushing in one after another, the undercurrent unmistakable, everything had changed. She knew immediately the Ocean was trying to tell her something.  She understood and came out of the water and watched it angry nature roar onto the shore. 

The darkness moving in, the temperature changing, the vibe shifting, there was no mistaking that something was coming.  Something different was about to happen. 

She had been asking for the monsoons to come, she wanted to witness and be part of it somehow! Today, a warning of what’s to come, she was amazed to smell it in the air, feel it in the humidity, and see it in the Ocean. She was filled with excitement as the black clouds floated in, the winds followed picking up and gusting within seconds, She knew it was time to run for cover when sand filled her eyes. Then the rains came, the blissful rains, hugs droplets of water pelting out of the sky, she stood in the glory of the rain!

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The temperatures cooled by 10 degrees it was refreshing and powerful.  The air-filled with moisture just pleading to be let out. 

Her friend would depart that evening, they would embrace and speak the words in their heart reflecting on the time they had shared together. The relationship was easy, fun, hippy sheik, a sharing of ourselves and our dreams of moving forward.   The easy conversations of insecurities and fears, the sharing of dreams, the all moments shared by two friends, the memories created will last a lifetime.  Sometimes people come into your life at just the right moment for just the right reasons, Anouk would leave her mark on her and she would cherish the time spend with her new friend wish her well and continue on her journey in anticipation of the next soul that would cross her path.

Finally, her last night at Agonda Beach has arrived, she would move one more time to a bungalow on the beach, at the very end of the beach near the Bay, Royal Mariposa on the beach. 

She would take a walk before nightfall to watch the fishermen cast their nets in hopes of bringing in a fish or two.  The fishermen would throw a large heavy net that catches the water in a complete circle reeling it it by hand, and throwing it out once again.  Twenty or thirty men all within a foot of one another casting their nets.  The rain pouring out of the sky, huge droplet of water landing on her body, sliding down her face causing a slight blur to her vision.  Her dream had come true, she wanted to walk along the beach in the rain, getting soaked and today was that day.

As she sat watching, shooting video and taking pictures, simply enjoying the scene she noticed the fishermen had a pack strapped to their backs to collect the fish they might catch, some with a single fish, most without anything.  She stayed until the rain-soaked her entire body, she was dripping wet.  She started walking back, deep in thought, she suddenly heard a thud, like the last laborious breath one takes before transitioning or something had thudded as though it had been thrown and hit the sand with a THUD, she looked down to see a snake at her feet nearly dead slithering for the last time gasping for air, his mouth wide open trying desperately to take another breath, suddenly he was still, his mouth gaping open.  A moment of pure shock, realization that she may have stepped on a slithering snake, a realization that this snake landed here for a reason, he was a messenger just like all the others who cross her path.  She turned to look at the fisherman standing on the shore wondering briefly if he hurled the snake at her or if it was already there taking its last breath.  Shivers went up and down her spine, she quickened her pace, all her nerves standing on end, she retreated to her bungalow and quickly shut the door.  Her mind swimming now, fear gripping her and her thoughts starting wildly imagining a snake just outside her door, in the bathroom perhaps.  She huddled onto her bed and let the moment pass, sitting with her fears as they enveloped every fibre of her being.  She would allow her thought a few moments to run away and make up stories and just as quickly she would reel them back in and remember that she is not her thoughts.  Her thoughts and her fears are only that, thoughts and fears.  Coming back to the present moment and allowing herself once again to appreciate the beauty the surrounds her, listening to the sounds of the Ocean calming herself once again. 

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The weather has changed for the season, the sun has disappeared and the dark clouds have overtaken, a light rain drips out of the sky and the ocean has become more wild, the dogs have returned with the light rain.  The tiny crabs with only one claw come out of the ground, hundreds of them all inches from one another as they bat at the air with the single claw as though they are all part of a symphony playing a beautiful melody.  She sat in awe of what was right in front of her. 

The birds have come, suddenly they are everywhere.  Crows, brown headed crows.  Hawk like birds, smaller in size and soar the skies just like an Eagle with their perfect formation and precise technique riding the winds and then flapping their strong powerful wings and gliding through the sky. 

She would encounter the piggies a few time on her journey through town, so many different animals inhabiting this small little beach.

As the season comes to a close, the shops, restaurants and resorts are quiet, mostly deserted as crews work tirelessly to take down the bungalows, huts, restaurants, tables, chairs, everything must be put away for the season.  She realized the sameness of her chapter coming to a close and a feeling of sadness floods through her body, she reminisces of her time here at Agonda beach and smiles through the tears stinging her eyes. 

He would come back and visit her one more time, the bullied dog with his sad scared up face and tender eyes.  He came over and offered himself without pushing himself on her, she would stroke his head tenderly and he would melt at her touch and put his head onto her lap.  They would have a moment of looking into each other’s eyes, a song would pop into her head “hopelessly devoted to you” played out word for word and tears streamed down her cheeks.  She was going to miss this beautiful soul.   As she started humming the words, he would look into her eyes and nuzzled up even closer almost climbing into her lap like a scared child.  He pressed his body next to hers and let the energy pass between them, the tears falling onto his head as she held him close.  She would miss him.  She would pray for him. 

She would take one last walk along the beach and notice the dogs had returned to their rightful places to protect their territory walking by the gang that terrorized her new friend.  Feeling a sense of compassion for these dogs who only knew what they knew.  Some of them bounded towards her for one last pet, she was more confident now, fear no longer emanating from her as she walked by.   As she continued along the beach she noticed a skinny white dog crouched in a hole he had dug on the beach, its seemed in a position ready to pounce, as she got closer she realized that was exactly how he was sitting, when she got close enough he pounced jumping up high raking his claws on her arms, his paws hooking on the waist bank of her pants pulling them down, she commanded him to stop, to get down in a bold confident voice, although shaking a little inside, he backed off and ran away.  Perhaps his way of saying goodbye to this beautiful stranger who had given so much of her heart, who emanated love and compassion. 

She would continue along the beach taking it all in, saying goodbye to the ocean properly, she stood with her hands to her heart and spoke.  A tender moment between herself and her ground.  She would take the road back to reflect on her past two weeks, silently saying goodbye to all that was during her time here on Agonda Beach. 

As she strolled along the road, she reminisced about the food she had eaten as she passed the restaurants, waving to the tuk tuk driver who had come to know her, waving to the shop owners she had come to know, the few that were still open. 

She would cut through the resort where she had enjoyed many massages from a beautiful woman, Athma, who was done for the season and excited to return to her village and her children that she had not seen in 7 months.  Her young two-year old son had joined her a month prior was there with her, she walked to him immediately and smiled.  Put out her hand and the tiny boy dropped his tiny hand into hers, she smiled and thought of her family and how much she missed each one of them.  She reached into her bag and pulled out some sweets she has just purchased from a shop along the way and handed it to the little boy, he snatched it out of her hand and looked at his mother for reassurance.  She spend some time with the two of them enjoying the moments.

She sat on the wet furniture and simply listened to the sounds of the Ocean, the bliss before completing the final packing. 

Another chapter of the journey within completed, her chapter in India over. 

She would come away from this portion of the journey with some sadness in her heart leaving behind the dogs she fell in love with, and leaving a place behind that seems to have touched her soul, a place that in the two weeks she spent here felt a little like home.  She would realize that during these past two weeks she had allowed herself complete disconnection from the outside world, from the need to blog, from the need to connect, she would immerse herself into herself, just being. 

Her driver, Deepak would pick her up and driver her to a small town to have her package wrapped to be sent back home bearing gifts for those she loved.  They would stop at a tailor shop and watch as the three men sitting behind sewing machines work dilligently on wrapping her package, fascinating.  She stopped again at the postal office to mail the parcel to home, filling out paperwork, handing over her only copy of her passport and dealing with grieve from the grumpy man sitting behind the window that day.  Eventually the parcel was taken and would start its journey through the postal system.  She wondered if she would never see the package again.  Next stop airport on her way to Thailand to start yet another journey.

My friend would come to bid a final farewell!

Goodbye Indian!

One comment

  1. Quite the article! I came to this several days when I wanted to hear more…and it served that purpose. So much in it, a running commentary of her thoughts and actions. Next time you might give her a name. So good.

    Like

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