During our travels in the third world, we have a tendency to return to places we’ve loved – sometimes with pleasure, sometimes with horror to find things unrecognizably altered. Small beautiful adobe towns turned into overpopulated concrete blocks, for example.
Although it’s only a year since we discovered Agonda – I’m apprehensive it won’t live up to our initial experience. We’re even going back to the same guest house. The motherly Portuguese landlady greets us with a warm hug as though she remembers us from the year before, and has a room waiting overlooking the beach.
Agonda is a small sleepy beach town on the southernmost tip of Goa without the usual high rises and package tours. As we stand on the beach, Gerard says to me – was it really a year ago we were here? Everything seems so familiar. Nothing stands still, nor has Agonda, but the changes have been minor. Perhaps a few more tourists than last year and more amenities, but the long stretch of beach doesn’t seem any more crowded. An interesting new spectacle is Indian day tourists, the women wading into the water fully dressed in their saris.
Guest houses always take on the character of the people staying there. Last year, it was predominantly Russians –hip young people, who zoomed around on rented motorbikes and scooters, drank vodka at night and did yoga on the beach in the morning.
Right now, the British predominate – and are older. It’s a novelty to sit down at breakfast and talk with someone in our age bracket. Usually the people we meet are younger, no less interesting, just younger. Gerard says it’s nice to relate important events in his life to someone without them responding, “Oh, yes, I saw that on the history channel”
We’ve befriended a couple from East Anglia. While Gerard discusses with Tony their respective house renovations, Jen and share memories of a common childhood in postwar Britain. Not something I have the chance to do that often living in the U.S. They are old hippie types who found a way to make a comfortable living (including traveling to India every winter) out of designing one-of-a-kind woolen jumpers (sweaters) – using little old ladies to hand knit them. They still sell at festivals and fairs and don’t even have a website.
Another interesting younger couple is from Brighton. He’s a picker (an antique dealer who goes around knocking on doors for items). Over dinner one evening, he regales us with stories of great finds – not dissimilar to stories Gerard’s father (also a picker) used to tell. His wife, Jane, has a vast array of sun dresses that she rotates throughout the day. She definitely does not have a small case! Gerard says he’d hate to have to carry her bags —but I point out that one of her diminutive outfits weighs less than a single pair of his underpants. I wonder if Jane has a hairdryer stashed in her baggage that I could borrow….
We move at a slow pace as the whole town seems to do – no movement till at least 8 am. We still manage to wake early and meditate before the roosters, crows and dogs start their morning chorus. Our days have a nice rhythm. So far we have not done a lot except eat, go to the beach, meditate and read. Unfortunately, a small case does not allow for sufficient reading material. I’ve already finished my quota of one novel (we’re also sharing a lengthy but well written History of India) – but hotel libraries and secondhand bookstores are great for trading books and fun to peruse.
We swim before it gets too hot and again in the late afternoon. When I return from my last swim of the day, Gerard has given up trying to fix the sagging mosquito net above our bed and tame the noisy ceiling fan. He is taking pictures of the red globe sinking between the palm trees before it dips into the ocean, while strains of Miles Davis loaded on my netbook come from our room. Always a designer, Gerard creates a home wherever he goes.
We have ended our first week in Agonda, and we negotiate with Fatima to stay another week.