Goa was such a beautiful place; coconut palms everywhere, green paddy fields, lush vegetation and the people were so laid back. We weren’t far from the beach but we had to catch an auto-rickshaw to get there. When we were on the beach, it was difficult for the girls to do anything. People were fascinated with the two little blond girls and wanted to pick them up and take photos with them. They got so upset at one point when they were trying to build a sandcastle. We had all had enough of the attention. Tony started telling people we charged Rs 1,000 per photo. They soon disappeared.
We started to collect household goods and kitchen utensils. We stocked up on our food supplies and I learnt to cook all over again. I had never used a pressure cooker and I was terrified. All the Goan ladies told me that I had to have one for lentils and tough meat, so I got one. Mabel sent her house-helper to show me how to use it.
One day, Tony came home with a small black plastic bag and handed it to me saying, “Here babe, it’s still pumping!” I was used to frozen chicken, not warm, pumping chicken straight from the butcher. I tipped it into the bowl and tried not to touch it. It tumbled out with its pale, boiled head still attached; eyes, beak and all. I closed my eyes and chopped it off. I felt so brave. Then I saw that many innards were hanging out of its other end. I wasn’t sure which end was worse. I put my hand inside and pulled out two more heads and lots of other extra bits. A three headed, two livered, three hearted chicken; surely not. I went across to ask Melba. She said it was to make it weigh more. It took some time for me to gather the courage to keep going. When I finished cleaning it, I propped it up on the chopping board. Asha, had watched the whole process with big eyes. She made me laugh when she said, “Look mom, it’s sitting like an old lady!”
“There are a few things to get used to here-
Boiling water to drink.
Boiling milk to drink.
Bathing from a bucket with a jug.
Squatting over the Indian toilet.
Constant power failures and the heat that come with them.
No transport (packed buses and walking to get autorickshaws)
Our brightly coloured house.
Wet toilet seats from the bum spray.
Washing dishes under running water in a sink without a plug.
Sorting through rice with weevils and sticks and stones.
Our neighbours were very friendly and very nosey, especially about foreigners. If you were white you were a hippy, drug user and had lots of money. They wanted to know everything about us. The girls and I would go for little walks in the afternoons. The ladies on their verandas were ready for me. “Have you prepared your dinner?” If I said, “No, not yet”, they would ask in a tsk-tsk tone, “Why not? You are taking a walk when your food isn’t ready? You aren’t looking after your children and your husband?” When the subject of their husbands came up the response was always the same. “Let them stay in the Middle East. When they come here they just drink and make our lives miserable. We can’t wait for them to go back again.”
Siestas were so good! Everything and everyone shut down after lunch so we were forced to rest after lunch. There was only movement after 4pm and then life built up to a frenzy and stayed that way until about 11pm. Children would be up and about all night and get up early in the morning for school. I could never figure out how it worked for them. I also wondered how parents got adult time together. They didn’t seem to be too bothered about that.
A lady from our community offered to teach us Hindi. It was relaxed so we didn’t get very far. The girls picked up a few words here and there and we made up a number rhyme for them:
“Ek, do, tiin, chaar, panch
Once I caught a fish for lunch
Chay, saat, aath, nau, das
Then I ate it on the grass”
Well, at least we could all count to ten.