Same, Same…But Different

Agonda Beach
Returning for the fourth year, Agonda has the comfort of an old friend – the conversation is easy to pick up again. Like the expression that many of the merchants use, Agonda is the same…yet different.

Dominic and Rita

Each year there are more beach huts and restaurants but so far the character remains the same. Our guest house – the home of Dominic and Rita – is only a dusty walk away from the beach.  Families of pigs trot through the yard, large monkeys with black faces lurk in the bushes eating the leaves, and an early morning bird chorus fights with the noise of the crows.  It’s not difficult to create and maintain a schedule here, with plenty of time for swimming and walking on the beach in the morning and late afternoon when the sun is less fierce.

Gerard, the ‘Swami of Mundane Things’ according to a good friend back home – manages to find things to repair in the room – towel racks, squeaky hinges, and after, Salou, the cleaning girl has cleaned the room, he discretely asks for a rag and disinfectant and continues to wash the bathroom down again.  He’s even been pressed into service to relocate a flying cockroach bigger than your thumb from the curtain rail of our bedroom

Salou on her way to work

Meanwhile I grab my shopping bag and head to the greengrocers to buy deliciously fresh fruit and vegetables. Taking a break from eating out three times a day –  fresh yoghurt in clay pots from the corner store with fruit for breakfast and at lunchtime a huge vegetable salad with samosas fresh cooked in the vil vvillage each morning.  

The two English couples we first met three years ago are here again.  We all look slightly older and grayer….but everyone in high spirits to be back in Agonda…Without effort, we pick up where we left off.  The old couple from Swedenwere enthusiastic to see us.  Ingrid crippled with arthritis, had a stroke last year, but still musters the energy to come down here.  Gerard was particularly pleased to reunite with Johnny, who we have known for the last couple of years, a very sweet Buddhist from England who’s had more than his share of hurdles to negotiate. One being an over production of iron in his system which is slowly poisoning many of his organs. He’s found that the weather and the overall atmosphere here have been very healing.  Unable to travel through Indiaany more he’s content to stay here into the rainy season in May/June.  Many hours have already been spent sitting in the shade of an Indian style covered patio at the guesthouse listening to each other’s story.

Gerard and Johnny

Our immediate neighbors in the guest house include a Polish woman who works in films, right now translating from Czech to Polish, a Jamaican woman living in London, and an Italian lady who comes every year and does yoga.  A new arrival is “Snake” with a huge snake tattoo winding up his arm.  He’s traveled extensively in Indiasince 1971 and is an  goodsource of information.  We like the diversity of  those who find their way to Agonda.

A Buddhist couple from Francea little younger than us come to Indiaprimarily to be with the Dalai Lama. Oudwan is French.  Danielle is an interesting combination of Chinese, French and German.  They have wonderful stories including being married by His Holiness 20 years ago while onboard a plane enroute to India.  The way they describe their experiences with the Dalai Lama is very similar to our own with our spiritual Master.  From Bihar, where there’s a huge Buddhist center, they’ve taken a rest in Agonda because Oudwan has a persistent tendonitis like condition in his legs.  This prevents him from walking far or carrying anything.  Swimming was recommended as therapy. 

Lunch at Blue Planet

We had lunch with them at our favorite and only organic restaurant that is pleasant walk into the jungle.  Over the meal, they both told us their background which left Gerard and I with our jaw on the table.  Like our friend Johnny, they’ve had way more than their share of personal problems and have not come out completely unscathed.  For those of us who have blinders on, it’s a sharp reminder of how many wounded people have to pick themselves up daily and get on with it…with enthusiasm.

Danielle and I hike to a nearby cove, leaving the men behind relaxing.  Nice to have someone with my energy to hang out with!  We have birthdays two days apart and as a fellow Libran and fervent believer in astrology, she analyzes my personality with uncanny accuracy. 

Fatima’s General Store cum Restaurant

Every few evenings, we wander up to a restaurant cum general store, which is a central meeting place, partly because it is one of the oldest and least pretentious in town.  A sliver of a building, with a dark interior, steamy with the cooking that takes place in a tiny area in back…cramped with a couple of wooden tables and benches… a wall of yellowing photos of long gone hippie visitors.  When Agonda was a simple fishing village with few if any other restaurants this was a stop for the locals.  It’s still frequented by the locals and the travelers who’ve been coming here for twenty years.  Newbies like us go there to feel the remnants of the old days.. Sometimes the conversations can be provocative sitting on the steps outside where the air is cooler.

One night Fatima, our original guesthouse owner celebrates her 58th birthday with a party.  Everyone who has had any connection with Fatima – a large percentage of tourists as well as locals – is invited and fed a festive dinner in her open courtyard.  The local Catholic priest formally announces her birthday while she and her husband (uncharacteristically wearing a dress shirt instead of his usual white singlet) stand stone faced beside the priest.  In front of them is a chocolate birthday cake sitting on a pedestal under a crocheted sky blue doily.  A huge display of flowers surrounding the numbers “58” is made entirely out of cut fruit.  A small home made hot air balloon is lit – at the first attempt it rises up and lodges dangerously in a palm tree. A boy climbs up the tree and shakes it loose to fall on the ground below.  But at the second attempt, it soars up into the sky and far away.  The evening is completed with desert –cornstarch custard with mixed fruit… Indian favorite adopted from the British that Gerard enjoys for more than me.  I developed a permanent aversion after being fed too much lumpy custard mixed with canned fruit as a child.

Without evening discos and bars, Agonda continues to appeal to an older group like ourselves.  But I notice an influx of young people and with it the WiFi connected devices.  Back packers now also travel with a large screen Apple laptop. They seek out WiFi enabled cafes – of which there are several this year – and sit on Facebook, search the Internet or watch movies.  I can see how computers can be a useful ally for the solo traveler – an undemanding companion to hide behind when you’re eating alone in a restaurant among strangers.  But if so, then can’t they also be a too easy substitute – a wall between you and the opportunity to meet others when traveling?  We have both commented before about the impact of guidebooks.  As helpful as they are, they have reduced the need for face-to-face exchange of information among travelers.  Computers have now compounded this trend.  

One thought on “Same, Same…But Different

  1. glad to find you back in Goa…This part of the trip feels like an extension of how the two of you live here, always meeting and talking and sharing with people who have their own tales to exchange…it does seem like an ideal location for connecting and growing….and the food sounds quite delicious..


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