Goa Day 1: May 11-12

After we had all recovered from our various ailments, we booked a sleeper bus from Bangalore to Goa. Sleeper buses are not nearly as nice as sleeper trains. Sleeper trains are relatively spacious, you have your own bunk, the temperature is pretty nice and the train is usually pretty smooth. Sleeper buses are a different story. You are two to a bunk, the bus swerves back and forth like crazy in and out of traffic, and the AC vents are right in your face pumping out freezing cold air that quickly goes from uncomfortable to almost painfully cold. When we first got on, Justine managed to switch our bunks so that I was right beside their bunks. Joanna was not too impressed at first, especially since she got some gum on her hoodie, but better than getting gum on her hair. I at first didn’t mind it that much because I foolishly assumed that I had my bunk to myself, especially since it was almost departure time. But just before we were about to leave, this big family came on. It fell to one of the younger boys, a kid around 14 or so to bunk with me, and he was not too happy about it. So we spent about 12 or so hours on that bus, with periodic pee/snack breaks where I would run out and pee by the side of the road, like most of the other men did. For some reason, knowing that you have very little control of when you can pee makes me want to pee all the time, which made the bus ride even less enjoyable.

We finally reached Panjim (now called Panaji) and took a cab to a guest house that Justine found in the Lonely Planet. We got cleaned up, and headed to a restaurant, Viva Panjim which apparently is quite famous. The food was so-so. We wandered around for a bit, found our Uncle Francis’s store Just Casuals, and did a bit of shopping. Along the way, we randomly saw “Mascarenhas” plastered on the side of a building, which was cool…people here don’t give me a funny look when I say my last name, which is a nice change. And so began our hunt for more Mascarenhas sightings. That afternoon, we headed out to Old Goa. We walked to a bus station where I guess the drivers and collectors work on commission because as soon as you get there you’re just bombarded with people yelling their destination over and over again. We finally got pushed into a bus by a guy yelling “oldgoaoldgoaoldgoaoldgoa…” It was a pretty tiny bus and they packed us in pretty tight….we unfortunately had to stand, and it was really hot, and we were swaying all over the place. Justine and Joanna’s faces were covered in sweat (Joanna had a pretty mean sweat ‘stache), and I probably didn’t look much better. We finally arrived in Old Goa around 4 o’clock (about a 15 minute bus ride). Unfortunately, a lot of things were closing around 4-5ish, so we had to hurry up. As we were walking towards the Basilica of Bom Jesus (Bom means Holy, and Bom Jesus refers to Baby Jesus), a man approached us and asked us if we would like him to be our guide. Having decent guided experiences in Hampi, we agreed. He told us all about the church. It was devoted to St. Francis Xavier, and contains his incorruptible body. (Incorruptible means that the body does not decompose, which seems to happen to some Catholic saints, and people of other religions as well. I’m not sure if there is any scientific explanation about why this occurs.) Apparently the body used to be laid out and people could come out and touch it, but then a woman went to kiss St. Francis Xavier’s big toe and decided to bite it off because she said she was related to him and wanted a relic. So now he’s kept in a glass coffin. Our guide also informed us that the Basilica was commissioned by none other then Don Jeronimo/Hieronimo Mascarenhas, which brought another smile to our face. After going through that church we crossed the road to see a Dominican and Franciscan church. All of these church’s seemed to have been built in what you or Joanna might call the (or one of the) scary periods of the Catholic Church, where it seemed to be all about suffering and not at all cheerful. Joanna got a bit scared in the churches, especially since there were some crypts inside the churches themselves, and a lot of the statues and decorations were not cheery, as it were. We spotted a few more Mascarenhas inscriptions here too. We walked down the road and found another large church that was modeled after some other church. Unfortunately we could not enter. We eventually got on another packed bus back to Panjim. After wandering around and getting lost for a bit, we headed back to our guesthouse, had a quick shower, and tried to find a river cruise. It was getting late, so we got in line for the first cruise we saw, which may or may not have been one of the worse ones. At any rate, we finally boarded out boat, and sat on the roof for the show. We had a beer and some yummy chicken puffs we had bought earlier. At the front of the boat was a stage where the entertainment was to take place. But before any professional dancers came up, the MC called up all the kids for a little bit of a dance. Some of the kids were really into it, it was kinda funny. After that was the first dance, and it was none other than the dehkni (sp?) dance that Melissa, Marsha, Justine, Tammy, & Andrew and I learned probably about 17 years ago, and Joanna learned a little later. Personally I thought our dance was a fair bit better that the one we saw on stage. After that they called up all the guys to dance. I decided to not go up, but rather to remark that it was a real sausage party….a Goa sausage party if you will, which made me laugh quite a bit (for those of you who don’t know, one of the dishes Goa is famous for is Goa sausage)…anyway, those guys were also fairly into the dancing…after that there was another traditional dance, which we also knew – the dapica dance that some of the family did, coincidentally for the Panjim pavilion at Caravan in Toronto probably at least 10 years ago. Who says we’re whitewashed? I was just waiting for the ami dogi (sp?) dance that Marsha and Mel did with my St. Tim’s hats, but that one didn’t come up. They called up all the single women for a dance, which was a predictably weak affair. After that was a dance that seemed to have more of a Portuguese flair to it. Then they had a couples dance, and then that was the end of that cruise. We went to a nice Portuguese style restaurant called Horsehoe Tavern (or something like that) and had some pretty good Portuguese and Goan food, including a Goan sausage fry, and then we headed to bed.

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