Monthly Archives: June 2013

Post 79. Three headed chicken

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Goan friends

Goan friends

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. 

Stale chocolates.

Washing dishes under running water in a sink without a plug. 

Blocked drains.

Sorting through rice with weevils and sticks and stones.

No telephone.

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.

Ash and Zo with their little friends.

Ash and Zo with their little friends.

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.

Post 78. Adjusting to our new home

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We moved in with our new friends Duncan and Vasanti Watkinson until we found a place of our own.  Dudley Reed and Tony had stayed with them during their survey trip.   He wasn’t sure what impression he had made on them.    In the middle of the night, Tony did a bit of sleep walking in his jockeys.  Duncan was still awake and met him in the passage outside his bedroom.  He very gently turned Tony around and led him back to his room.  They didn’t know each other at all so it was a bit awkward the next day at the breakfast table.  Tony vaguely remembered it but didn’t want to bring it up in front of everyone.   He could only imagine what would have happened if Duncan hadn’t been awake.

Asha turned four on the 21st September.  We had a party for her and her new little Goan friends.  She loved it.  We got her a brightly coloured cake from the local bakery.  It was Rs 90.00.  On our train trip we had seen an advertisement: Abortions: Rs 90.00.  The life of a baby was valued at the same price as a child’s birthday cake.

Flat in Goa

Flat in Goa

Within a week we found a two bedroomed, semi-furnished flat in Borda.  It was on the first  floor, right behind St Joiaquin Chapel.  The landlord interrogated us and asked if we were hippies.  We said no and took the keys.  It was so lovely to be in our own house. The heavy furniture was very dark Goan style.  Tony put up a little wooden plank swing in the doorway off the lounge and onto the veranda.  The kitchen was green, our fridge was blue, the plastic veggie rack was pink and to add a bit more colour, the sink was a bright turquoise.  We had two toilets; a western toilet/shower room and also an Indian one. The first time I held the girls over an Indian one they were terrified and closed their eyes through the whole ordeal.   It didn’t take them long to get used to it.

Ash whispering into Zoe's mouth.

Ash whispering into Zoe’s mouth.

Tony and I had a HUGE, very creepy, four-poster bed. It was so high that the girls couldn’t climb up without help.  I could hardly get onto it.  Their room was just across the passage and they were sharing a mattress on the floor.  We got them a little plastic table and chairs and they were all set up with their toys and books.  When they lay on their mattress they could see us on our big bed, across the passage.

One morning Asha asked us, “Who were those people around your bed last night?  They wouldn’t let me come to you.”  She described a lady with a long dress and long hair.  She was really scared and we knew it was some kind of demonic presence.  We prayed with her and it didn’t happen again but it added to her fear.

With all the travelling, Zoë had been a bit unsettled and miserable. She was crying a lot at night, not listening and being cheekier than usual.  Once we moved into our own place and she had some firm boundary lines around her, she was much happier.

Melba with the girls

Melba with the girls

Goa is predominantly a Catholic state and we were right in the middle of a very Catholic community.  Melba was our neighbour on the first floor.  Her hair was a lovely grey and she had a very kind face.  She became like a grandmother to the girls.  When we opened our door, she opened hers. Ash and Zo went in and out between the lounges with armfuls of toys and dolls.  They put them all over her lounge and had tea parties with all kinds of Goan goodies.  Melba’s husband was working in Abu-Dhabi as were many of the men from that area.  She had a little chipmunk called Chappa, which she kept in a cage.  He was quite aggressive and would jump against the cage and wee on her if she didn’t give him food on time.  The girls found him very funny.

Zoe and Rosey

Zoe and Rosey

We were surrounded by pig, rooster, cow, dog and cat noises. Ash woke up one morning and asked “ Mommy, why at night when we’re sleeping is there ‘woof woof , meow meow, cockadoodle- doo and talk talk?” Rosey and Melvin lived in a labourers hut just opposite our house.  They were poor and didn’t mix with the likes of Melba and the others who lived near them.  Asha and Zoë played with them in their cleanly swept dirt garden for hours.  Rosey was about sixteen and she worked in the houses in that area.  Melvin was nine and had a very big tummy and was very small for his age.  He loved coming to our house to practice his English and hear about Jesus.  When they went to church, they weren’t allowed to sit on the chairs like the other people who lived in the flats.  They sat outside and had to be very quiet.  When the statue of Mary came around to all the houses, it never went to Rosey and Melvin’s hut. They were poor and never expected it to.

It was shocking to find out that 50 percent of Goans were alcoholics.   Their pubs and bars pride themselves with names such as, “The Miraculous Jesus Bar,” or “Mary the Immaculate Pub.”  Shorty was a little man who drank from morning until night.  He would get really drunk and walk along the path in front of our flat, shouting and throwing stones at anyone or anything in his way.  He had a really gruff voice, which was way too big for his body.  We only ever saw him in tiny shorts and a dirty white vest.  His face was swollen and his legs were really skinny.  Ash and Zo had mixed feelings about him.  They would rush to the veranda to see him and hide when they saw him coming.  Zoe wrote a sweet letter to him with a drawing.  She hid it away in case he found it.