Stories

 

Goa, India


From December 10th 2013 to February 15th 2014

Sunday morning , there was not a soul in the streets of Mumbai. The different neighborhoods between the airport and the train station seemed deserted. Although in the past I only transited through the capital to reach or leave the airport, the city looked cleaner than in my memories.

While visiting Dhobi Ghat, the largest open air Laundromat of the world, a young boy was proud to share that both of his parents live and work in the facility. The laundry, is a work for men. Hotels and hospitals linen are washed, brushed and beaten in large concrete basins and dried in the open air. Textiles are then pressed by women before being delivered all around the city.

    

While we kept epic memories of buying a single train ticket in a train station, for the first time we booked them online. A week before our arrival in India, the train was already full and we were in the 5th and 6th position on the waiting list. The day before departure, our ticket got confirmed, we had two berths in 2AC class (two bunks with air conditioning). At seven in the morning, the train left Mumbai Central Station on time. Even though it was a day time journey, we enjoyed our beds to recover from the jet lag. Because of some work on the line, the train reached Goa two hours late.

For our first week in Arambol, our friends Shola & Guido generously offered us to stay in their house until their arrival after Christmas. It gave us time to find our bearings, seek accommodation and a scooter for the coming weeks.

The Pani- Puri stall was around the corner. The perfect snack for sunset time. Pani means water. In this case, the water contains a mix of spices and herbs. Puri is a kind of bred which inflates after being fried and forms small balls whose interior is empty. A small hole is made, a mix made of potatoes and chickpeas is added as well as some pani, fresh onions and coriander. This mixture of liquid and flavors floods the mouth in a single bit. Writing about it is already watering my mouth. Other snacks such as Shev Puri or Bel Puri are made with the same ingredients. So yumi !

    

The reason for this trip to India was not to travel around the country. It was more an inner journey, a way of finding ourselves and following our inspirations. To begin this intention, we decided to follow a 15-day Ayurvedic detoxification. Every day, we received two hours of massage, each type having a different effect on the body. In addition to these treatments, herbal medicines were given to prepare our system for the final cleaning of our digestive system. With no particular health problem, this treatment allowed us to relax, discover the various Ayurvedic massages. It also gave us a better understanding about the Ayurvedic medicine philosophy, which seeks to restore body balance and treats the cause of the problem instead of the problem itself.

I discovered "The Primate Trust" through "International Animal Rescue Goa" which had a stall on the Anjuna flea market. This foundation provides long-term care for orphaned, abused and injured primates. This work is essential due to the loss of natural habitat, human conflict causing an increase in the number of injured or orphaned monkeys. Other monkeys are rescued after being illegally held as pets, often in appalling conditions. After contacting John, he invited me to visit the centre. As an animal lover, I've always wanted to dedicate some of my time, but never found the right place, nor the right moment for it. Staying in Goa for two months, this looked like an amazing opportunity to approach and learn more about primates.

    

A few days after I started volunteering, the centre rescued two baby monkeys including a baby female macaque. At just a few months old, Dixie is staying in John's bedroom and have 24 hour care. From that day, I have spent every afternoon with her, keeping her company. I just loved watching her behaviors, helping her open green beans, playing and letting her sleep in my arms. After a week, I was able to take her out for walks where she loved making a mess with flowers in the garden. Day after day I felt more complicity and seen the progress she made in acclimatization to her new environment. Aside from a bed, John's room didn't look much like a bedroom. Bamboos, branches, ropes and hanging toys were added to make it the perfect monkey Disneyland. Dixie loves jumping from one place to another and knocking me down when jumping on my head… She is such an entertainment !

    

Silva is a one year old baby female Langur. Her mother lost life after being hit by a car, leaving her orphaned. More timid, Silva could be stroked, but was not particularly seeking for personal contact. During my last week, I participated to the first stage of the process leading to her introduction to the other Langur monkey of the shelter. Unfortunately this process takes weeks and I did not have the chance to follow the whole evolution.

This was my first volunteering experience with animals and I appreciated the way both Jo and John open their house to volunteers, giving them the opportunity to come as per their own availability. Some are helping the staff with the daily monkey care (walking, feeding, cleaning), while others are coming up with ingenious idea of recycling any item into monkey toys. More and more monkeys are being rescued and the Tree House is not getting any bigger. I hope the government supports them and provides a piece of land so they can expand their help for these delightful creatures. < / p>

Despite being frightened of Indian drivers, this experience allowed me gaining more self confidence. For a month and a half, I made the 45 minute scooter drive to the center located out off the touristic area. The ride through the countryside, along the river was a journey in itself. Every day, driving from villages to villages, I found the same dogs or cows resting on their favorite spot, often on the side or on the middle of the road. I met merchant strolling bike signaling their presence with a horn. Women and children greeted and smiled at me. Some of them carried bundles of firewood, water jars or gravel buckets on their head. At sunset, teams formed to play football or cricket on dusty fields.

    

The freedom on the schedule allowed me to have free mornings for yoga classes and enjoy the beach. This yoga center has adapted the traditional Iyengar yoga postures to accommodate different physical problems with all kinds of material. For three to four hours, we followed sequences of postures, maintaining each of them for a while, allowing mental and physical tensions to release.

Although I wasn't very inspired to come to India, those two months in Goa passed too fast. Siddhartha and Aicha, whom we visited in Curitiba (Brazil) spent a few days with us. Nisheetha our German friend who lives in Goa for nearly 20 years joined us for a week in Arambol. Thierry, our former colleague of Geneva, also managed to join us for our last week in Goa. It was also an opportunity to spend time with our friends India, Mahima, Davide, Nirupam, Meera, Shola, Guido and others.

It is with a heavy heart that I left Dixie, this agile and tender little monster.

Click here to read the following story about our trip in Brazil and Amazonia.

See the album "Goa, India - December 2013-February 2014"