On the last day, I was on a motorcycle taxi, flying past the Mandovi river and lush green fields. When it began, I cursed myself a little, wishing I had just taken a regular cab or at least had a helmet. Clutching the back of the two-wheeler tightly with my right hand, and trying to keep my bags from poking the pilot, as they're called, I slowly stopped worrying and decided to trust the universe. I could barely keep my eyes open against the wind, but I kept my head down and tried to look around anyway. Scenes flashed by; I began to feel the exhilaration.
|A house in Fontainhas|
Monsoon in Goa is a green affair. There were no floods to be seen, though I was glad for my tough shoes. After a beautiful, happy monsoon wedding in the south of the state, I decided to take it slow for the remaining three days of my holiday in Panjim. I ate sandwiches and watched the rain in the verandah restaurant of the Panjim Inn on the first day, learning from the menu that Goans have a word for this: sussegado, or a calm contentment. The more I saw of it, the more I felt that this is how life should be: with time to watch and wait and wonder, rather than the glorification of busy found in other cities.
So when I wanted to be lazy all evening in my room with mozzarella sandwiches and lemon cake, I let myself, and when I got lost in Panjim and walked for over an hour, I rewarded myself with an afternoon of nothing but chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup and cold coffee. And one memorable morning, I found myself all alone in a giant, immaculate cathedral far away from the world.
|St Cajetan, Old Goa|
|Se Cathedral, Old Goa|
I didn't lack human contact, however. From serendipity to strangers, every day brought something new. I met a friend I hadn't seen in ages. New friends invited me to travel with them to a beach up north, and we surprised yet more friends, gaining a night of stars and sea. I saw the same locals at the coffee shop every morning, and learned that I didn't need to feel transport-impaired: Panjim is very walkable, I was told. I grasped at this with glee; being alone in a new city can make it feel very large, but I love walking, even getting lost, and there's such a comfort to that slowness of life experienced through the feet.
|Cafe Lilliput, Anjuna|
|Walking in Fontainhas|
On my walks, I asked for directions to the famous church and ended up with a companion for the long walk. She was on her way to picking up her daughter from school, and as we walked by the colourful houses of Fontainhas, she told me I needn't feel afraid to walk anywhere in Goa, that nothing would happen, that the people here were nice and respectful and outsiders were to be blamed for any incidents.
|Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim|
As I was inspecting an old wishing well, I heard a violin being tuned and smiled at its owner. He caught my eye and beckoned; an elderly man in what I assume was an artistically tattered vest. Violin in hand, he asked about me, observing that most Goans weren't particularly fond of travel and preferred their home and family. He invited me to have a cup of tea with him on my next visit.
At the end of my exploring was an airy room large enough for a family, with a sloping roof and polished red floor, in a 200-year-old Portuguese house turned into a hostel. I selected it after careful consideration, always preferring quirky accommodation with personality, and though the reception was down the road and I had to fend off a spider and at least two millipedes (thanks rains), it felt like I was forging a real connection with the place.
Sometimes I look back on things like this and wonder if (calculated) risks make life worth living. I've missed opportunities and experiences because I was too scared or too comfortable, so now if I want to do something, I try not to shy away. I do my research, but I trust my gut. Because I'm learning that all we can really control, if anything, is how we live our lives and who we become. And that there's a difference between being controlling and taking back control to empower ourselves.
As I was booking the bike taxi to Old Goa, I was asked if I had a raincoat.
"No," I replied.
"What will you do if it rains, then? Manage with your umbrella?"
I was flying back that afternoon, and it was now or never. I thought for a second, and decided to let life happen; let the rain come; all we can do is tell ourselves that we'll be fine no matter what. Because it rains unexpectedly sometimes, and no forecast can predict everything.
"I'll manage," I replied.
And sometimes it won't rain, and you'll have yourself an adventure.