Namaste from Goa, where it is now my fourth day in residence. Unfortunately, and most unexpectedly, I have yet to see any sun, as we are currently in the grip of a cyclone, which blew in on Monday (the day of my arrival) and is still hanging about, providing strong winds, dark skies and torrential rain. All in 30 degree centigrade heat. Coastal Goa doesn’t really seem to be set up for weather like this in the main tourist season, so the resort is full of disgruntled, pale skinned visitors, roaming the streets, avoiding the puddles and roadside primordial ooze of sand, dust and cow dung, and complaining loudly at any available opportunity about how lousy the weather is and that they might as well have stayed at home.
However, whilst seeking sanctuary in this internet cafe (60 rupees, about 80p, for an hour) I have checked the BBC weather site and apparently all should be restored to “normal” by Friday. Let’s hope so.
Yesterday I had lunch at a beach shack with the rather cute name of “The Cheeky Chapatti” – chosen primarily because it had covered tables and a sort-of-roof thing going on. Whilst eating my “fishcurryrice”, I was visited by several children, all of school age, who all performed in front of me and the other tourists and then asked for money. Their performances consisted of acrobatics (cartwheels, handstands, etc), dancing and playing a small drum. It was usually a small girl doing the dancing, accompanied by a boy who then asked for the money – together with much pleading, gazing up with soulful eyes and saying things like: “Please give. I hungry”.
(There seem to be more children here than I remember from previous trips – I’m not sure why. Could be this stretch of beach, perhaps, a different time of year or perhaps something tied up with the local economy?)
The children’s charities out here strongly advise that tourists NOT give money to children, or to adults accompanied by school age children and so far I’ve only seen the Russians actually hand over a few rupees (are they more generous? Or possibly less aware?).
The whole situation makes me feel very sad and uncomfortable; the children obviously need the money and see tourists as a seasonal source of revenue (understandable, in a country where millions live on less than a few pounds per day) – but yet surely if they grow up with the mindset that they can earn a “living” out on the beach, they’re not ever going to go to school, get an education and break the cycle of poverty?
Many of the children work the beach with their parents, so it’s easy to see the continuing pattern. I also did a rough ratio check yesterday; the girls on the beach outnumber the boys by 3:1, whereas, when I walked past the local primary school the other day, coincidentally at “going home time”, the boys (in uniforms, with satchels) outnumber the girls in the same proportion.
I’ve also learned, on a more frivolous note, to not wear the necklace I bought here earlier this year at the big Anjuna market. In England, it’s just a slightly funky string of mixed semi-precious stones; here, it identifies me as the kind of easy “mark” who buys this kind of thing – and accordingly gets mobbed by every. single. seller in Goa with similar necklaces for sale.
“Please madam, lovely necklace, how much you pay?”
“300 rupees” [about four pounds]
“I show you other necklaces/bracelets/ankle chain [delete as appropriate], very good price …”