Hard and Good in Goa: India Part Two
Pollution has given way to rice fields, beggars to tourist shops. Coconut trees jut from the base of the beach like a protective wall, shutting out the rest of world. I haven’t read the news for two weeks now and it feels strangely disconnecting, but nicely freeing, too.
We shop for trinkets and jewellery, skirts and bags. We swim at sunset and we eat dinner by candlelight on small tables on the beach, our toes digging into the sand, our children running off and coming back from time to time to sip their soda waters.
We’re in an alcove of beach in south Goa — Palolem our home for the past week now.
The other night, a woman at the table next to us struck up a conversation with me about my kids. She told me how sweet they were, how good she thought it was that they were in India, and she asked how it was travelling with them. Though there were a million things I could have told her, all I could think to say was: it’s hard but it’s good.
But that’s just parenthood, right?
We’ve had some doozy moments so far and for a while there, Joel and I had a new mantra which got repeated every five minutes and is best represented by the letters FFS. Travelling through India with kids is not for the faint hearted, but then travelling through life with kids is not for the faint hearted, either. The other day, Joel said ‘Having kids is like parachuting. You just have to jump out of the plane.’ I thought that was somewhat wise until he added, ‘Then you’ve got no choice, have you?’ .
He’s so loving, that man. But he also said: If you want an adventure every day, have kids. Besides, what else are you really going to do with your time? Well, sun baking and shopping, for one.
The thing is, it’s not the outcome but the love of adventure that stirs you to embark on this trip with children, because there isn’t really an outcome — a final destination. Adventure is simply stepping outside your comfort zone into the unknown and being curious about what you find. In India, we have found challenges we never would have if we stayed in our safe lounge rooms in our clean countries in our stable minds. But then we would have missed all the treasures waiting for us, too.
Every New Year’s Eve, Joel and I come up with our word for the new year. Last year mine was Build, and looking back, I’m happy with what I built: a photography business, carving out a style I felt was mine, every session I was proud of. This year, over candlelight and butter chicken, we were trying to find a word for Joel that embodied a line he really liked: Let whatever happens be okay.
Let whatever happens be okay — In every moment we’re uncomfortable in, each one we’re frustrated or edgy in, all the ones we’re hanging to get out of. It’s not so much live in the moment (I only just realise how much I hate that phrase) as it is accept the moment, because the more we struggle against what’s happening right now, the greater we suffer.
Which is the attitude we’ve adopted on this trip, the one we try and embrace throughout the endurance marathon that is parenting, and the one we’ll work to hold onto once we’re home, faced again with dirty dishes and long days and work deadlines.
Let whatever happens be okay.
Travelling with kids, man. Barely a piña colada in sight. Different ball game altogether. When I once did anything, ate anything and made pretty risky decisions, now I scurry after my children dispensing hand sanitizer (which Ella endearingly calls hanitizer) onto their unsuspecting bodies every twenty seconds.
I kid, I kid.
It’s more like twenty-five.
They are hard work these babies, in India and at home, but gosh are they good.
Some favourite moments of our time in Goa:
This girl. Jenna.
Jenna grew up next door to Joel. Their parents are great friends and she is like a sister Joel never had. And since I’m still grieving the fact mum and dad never provided me with a sister (how dare they) I’ll take one whenever I can. It just so happened that she’d be in Goa at the same time as us so we enjoyed her for nearly a week before she flew back home. We joke that Jenna has become our nanny; we have barely seen her without a child hanging off her, and it’s just been so lovely to have her with us in this gorgeous part of the world.
New Year’s Eve.
Celebrating with family, candlelight, the best chicken korma you’ve ever tasted, beers, and lanterns.
I took my girl for her first ever pedicure and she lost her mind. It was on a broken chair in the middle of a sandy stall selling elephant print harem pants and silver bangles but matter it did not. My girl chose rainbow colours because she knows picking favourite colours is too hard a job. Choose them all, sweetheart. I will never forget the smile on her face and she looked on, and then up at me.
Worth every cent of that five dollars.
Spectacular. We make it down to the beach every evening for the show.
No trip to Goa is complete without a day spent at the Anjuna markets. Rows and rows and rows of textiles, trinkets, jewellery, leather shoes, clothes, Tibetan handicrafts. It was heaven.
The kids even scored some tiny rickshaws, so win/win for all.
Even though I wanted to be lying under a beach umbrella sipping pina coladas, may we all remember we are travelling with kids. We gave into Ella begging us to ride an elephant since, like, last September, and headed to the zoo. I told myself they were treated well, these elephants, with washes and love and a whole heap of fresh leaves.
It was a happy little fifteen minutes and Ella was so excited we had to FaceTime grandparents afterwards to tell them.
Sunset boat rides.
At the top of the beach, you can take a little trip on wooden fishing boats at dusk. The boat guy throws chicken pieces into the water and masses of sea eagles swoop down in front of us to grab the pieces for their dinner. It’s pretty cool. Joel and Jenna loved it.
And of course…shopping.
Even Joel slipped away and had a little shopping date. The haggle is fun. The treasures beautiful. My suitcase is full to the brim.
We farewelled Jenna two nights ago with a feast on the beach and a lantern lighting, sending wishes of love and friendship and a great year ahead high into the sky.
And tonight we board an overnight bus to take us to the next leg of our journey. (May you all send some prayers and good vibes our way. The last time I took an overnight bus was 15 years ago with some girlfriends through Vietnam and their parting words with me before we left for India was “Do not ever take an overnight bus, Rach. Ever.” We had a pretty bad experience 15 years ago. It revolved around the bus’s toilet. I’m still scarred.)
Thank you Goa for the wonderful week. We love you so.