One topic that has been strangely absent in this tome is how we dealt with our survival issues on the road. As we quickly learned, no amount of planning can help you deal with every situation that may arise, but we had developed a knack for making up our plans as we went. The result was often something that we never could have planned, that started out with difficulty, and ended wonderfully.
Meanwhile, reality has a habit of kicking you in the ass, and we had more than our fair share of trials and tribulations in getting ourselves set up in our various locations. We had once envisioned ourselves moving from place to place nomadically, like the horse people of Mongolia, finding what we could for accommodations as we moved from place to place. The literature we had read beforehand often regaled us with tales of families being taken in and welcomed into village life, made to feel at home, and offered the best food, the best place to sleep, and the opportunity to sacrifice the village goat. The reality of travelling with children made us realize the necessity of stability, and rarely provided deeper insight into local living. More often than not, we would find a place to stay of our own volition, and stay in that one spot for a long while.
The downside of this was, of course, setting up house. This usually involved finding suitable accommodation, locating grocery stores and restaurants nearby, buying any sort of amenities we may need, like cooking equipment, utensils, cutlery etc, and generally getting comfortable. Add to this the fact that we were schooling our children on the road, and the necessities became even more crucial. And by necessities, of course I mean high speed internet. We had been fortunate up until that point in our travels to find a good connection to the world wide web wherever we went, whether at a hostel we were staying at, or in house in Thailand. Not so in India.
The Bernard Jensen Guesthouse lacked an internet connection of their own, which seemed a bit odd, as it was a reasonably upscale establishment compared to the grass huts in the heavily treed lot next door, and of course, none of those grass huts had open wi-fi connections we could ‘borrow’. This left us with no other choice but to visit local internet cafés and coffee shops, all of which had internet provided by masses of tangled cables strung between the buildings. Our first digital connection was via the famous “Sunny’s Internet Café.” Less café, and more ‘hole in the wall catering to desperate travelers’, it was crammed full of pieced together computers undoubtedly laden with viruses seeking the banking information of any traveler un-savvy enough to type their personal information in. I was prepared for such circumstances by having a usb key containing the passwords for various accounts in a protected file, so I could type in the website url, and copy and paste my username and password, bypassing the keyloggers recording every keystroke and reporting my sensitive data to those clever crafters of malware.
We soon grew tired of Sunny’s, and found warmer climes in Literati, a beautiful local bookstore, which had poor wi-fi, but great hospitality. I helped them upgrade their wi-fi, for which they were ever so grateful, granting us a free pass to use their internet whenever we wished.
Transportation was also an issue, so, as in Hawaii and Thailand before, we needed wheels. As much as it might seem like madness to brave the open roads of India on two wheels without the protection of a steel cage around you, we decided that my scooter skills were up to snuff, and that renting a motorcycle scooter wasn’t such a bad idea. None of that ‘all four of us on one bike’ stuff that we had dared in Thailand, mind you. The roads of India are a dangerous place, and require full psychic presence at all times just to stay alive.
With Theresa entering the educational arena in her course in Ayurvedic medicine, I had been saddled with the task of schooling our children. This had been Theresa’s realm for the previous two years of home schooling, and she was exceptional at it, making it look easy. Not that she didn’t put incredible amounts of time and effort into it, but she is one of those people with a knack for intuitively and spontaneously coming up with amazing ways of educating children. I’m sure having a degree in Early Childhood Education helps, but she is a natural.
I, on the other hand, need to be walked through the process, like… a child being homeschooled. I feel as though there ought to be a manual in how to home school your child, because, believe me, it is not easy. There may be some homeschoolers out there who just dawdle around, or play fast and loose with the truth, (I’m looking at YOU, Alabama), but there are many, like us, who made great efforts to ensure the best possible education for their children.
Thus far, I had felt as though I was adrift at sea. From trying to get food into the kids (which is every hour in Violets case), to organizing their lessons, to keeping them on task, to doing the laundry (by hand, believe it or not; they do not have washing machines in Goa, and you can’t trust the laundry service not to destroy your clothes), to keeping the house clean, I felt as though there weren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish what I needed out to do. I had become Mr. Mom, and had a newfound appreciation for all the stay at home moms and dads out there.
I started to feel as people must have for most of human history, or perhaps as many living in India do now, manually performing chores and taking care of the household. I was, however blessed with electricity and a gas stove. A propane stove, mind you, that required a full tank of propane. And acquiring said propane was a far more difficult and dangerous task than I would have imagined. Despite the fact that the stove itself was provided for us, we were informed that we would need to acquire the propane for ourselves. Upon inquiry of where to get said propane, we were directed to the market district in downtown Calangute.
After asking around the market, we were directed to a shady looking backdoor place which made it apparent that we might be dealing in grey market propane, which is a scary prospect when dealing with highly explosive substances. We purchased a ticket for the filling of our tank, and were directed to the propane fueling station just outside of the village. I later learned that that the fueling station was located outside of town on the off chance of an explosion, which would have spared most of the inhabitants of the ensuing fireball, and I began to feel as though there might be some sanity and reason in India after all.
I called up Raj, our faithful driver, to carry us and our empty tank to the filling station, which he was more than happy to do. I tried not to think about the fact that an ordinary cab was allowed to transport tanks of highly explosive substances around the crazy roads of India, as that would have made me question the balance of order and chaos in India for the bazillionth time, and proceeded to the filling station, where scores of hapless souls were casually milling about, smoking cigarettes, and carrying on as though the slightest error on their part might not be the cause for the eradication of half of the local population.
Full propane tank in hand, we made our way home, and I cooked us a fabulous meal of divine proportions using all of the culinary skills at my disposal. Just kidding. We went to the local vegetarian restaurant for dinner, and thoroughly enjoyed a fabulous meal, prepared as only Indians can. But at least, if the desire took us, we would be able to cook our own food. Self-sufficiency was our, at least in name, if not in practice.