Letters

Letters 04-14-14

Benishek Inching

Regarding “Benishek No Environmentalist” I agree with Mr. Powell’s letter to the editor/ opinion of Congressman Dan Benishek’s poor environmental record and his penchant for putting corporate interests ahead of his constituents’...

Climate Change Warning

Currently there are three assaults on climate change. The first is on the integrity of the scientists who support human activity in climate change. Second is that humans are not capable of affecting the climate...

Fed Up About Roads

It has gotten to the point where I cringe when I have to drive around this area. There are areas in Traverse City that look like a war zone. When you have to spend more time viewing potholes instead on concentrating on the road, accidents are bound to happen...

Don’t Blame the IRS

I have not heard much about the reason for the IRS getting itself entangled with the scrutiny of certain conservative 501(c) groups (not for profit) seeking tax exemption. Groups seeking tax relief must be organizations that are operated “primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterment and social improvements.”


Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Stranger in a Strange...
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Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert Downes - December 3rd, 2007
If any of you are weary of winter’s chill in Northern Michigan, I invite you to jump on a plane and join me on the beaches of Goa in southern India, where -- I must confess -- it’s a bit lonely going it alone under the pulsing sun.
After two-and-a-half months of constant travel on my way around the world, I’ve left my backpacking chums to roost for 12 days on the Indian Ocean as a respite from being constantly on the move.
The village of Calangute in the state of Goa is hardly the paradise it’s cracked up to be. I half expected to find 20 miles of high-rise hotels, similar to Cancun, but instead it’s much the same squalor and anarchy as the rest of India, with hotels, restaurants and shops (and hundreds of hustlers) packed into narrow lanes paralleling the beach.
Instead of pretty topless girls in string bikinis, the human scenery here is mostly paunchy Russians and Brits on package tours who look like walking conch shells, stuffed into skimpy thongs that only a stripper would wear back home. I think the Europeans owe Americans a sincere apology for claiming that we’re fat. Some of these guys have beer guts so big, it looks like they’re ready to give birth to twins.
But the locals are mellow and friendly, and since I tend to leave a big American tip of 15-20% (unlike the stingy Euros and Aussies), I am greeted with fond smiles and treated like royalty whenever I return to a restaurant.
And the beaches are a glory. You can wander for miles, watching the fishermen haul in their catch from 30-foot wooden rowboats and filling bushel baskets with flopping fish. Young Indian women splash in the waves, fully-dressed in their saris. Young men walk hand-in-hand, sometimes three abreast, without a clue that this looks gay to Western eyes. Brits play cricket on the beach with Indian teenagers, and cows ramble up and down the shore.
Just offshore is the wreck of an old Russian freighter that has run aground and is rusting away in the tropical sun. A sea eagle glides past the word MOCKBA (Moscow) painted on its bridge, while swimmers splash in its shadow.
And when it comes to spectacles,
you can keep your Taj Mahal. My choice is the Wednesday Flea Market at
Anjuna Beach.
Back in the ’70s, an international group of hippies founded a colony near the village of Anjuna, living naked,
doing heavy drugs and bopping a different partner or three every day. It was the ultimate free love dopetopia. Many are still going at it in the sames spirit, with new young recruits from all over Europe and Australia.
But there are no handouts in India, and even hippies need to eat. Solution? They launched a flea market on the beach, making their own homemade crafts. It has since become world-famous, drawing vendors from all over Asia.
Talk about your Magical Mystery Tour: It’s like driving into a big rock festival, down a long dusty road lined with three-wheeled tuk-tuks and motor scooters. Then you come to hundreds of tents and stalls, filled with all the treasures of India, China, Tibet and Southeast Asia.
You see leathery Tibetan women dressed in the colors of circus clowns with their faces dangling with at least a pound of metal jewelry. Also, little workshops along the way where custom clothing, textiles and jewelry are being hand-crafted by members of the last hippie tribe. Cows wander through the throng, which pulses with the techno and trance music that Goan raves are famous for.
And talk about characters. My own hair is rather on the long side, yet I look as conservative as a lawyer in a three-piece suit compared to the groovy cats drifting through the market. They are as picket-fence-thin as the Indians, covered with freaky Asian tattoos, and have matted dreadlocks that fall to the waist. And of course, shirtless with dozens of bangles, piercings and who-knows-whats-who-knows-where.
Yes, Goa is a bit of a trip, but this lonely traveler wouldn’t mind bumping into a few Americans, who are as rare as snowflakes in India. On the beach, I see the flags of Israel, Denmark, France and those of other countries fluttering proudly in the breeze, and it makes me wish the Stars & Stripes were here as well.
On the other hand, I guess if I wanted to see Americans, I wouldn’t be on the far side of the world, now would I?
Overall, this is a place of “good, good, good, good vibrations” that the Beach Boys were looking for, but even so, too much lounging on the beach gets old after awhile, not to mention cooking like an egg in the 90 degree heat. I’ll be happy to move on in a few days -- say to the jungles of northern Thailand. See you there.
P.S. You know you’ve finally reached paradise when a friendly cow with 10-inch horns wanders into the open-air restaurant where you’re having dinner and stands in the doorway for an hour, watching the chefs prepare the meals.
No one shooed it away -- apparently, this friendly beast drops by each evening to welcome guests to the restaurant.
And then -- another one walks in! It’s just one of the many sublime sights at the heaven on earth called Palolem Beach in southern Goa, where I’m wrapping up my last days in India...


 
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