Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Diu: Being A Bum

Diu is an ex-portugese island not too far off from India. Maybe a mile or two away. Nature here is just exquisite. Bright green plantation everywhere, lots and lots of palm trees, clean air (for India), and not alot of pollution. Its just alittle run down island that makes me never want to live or an ideal place to seek out retirement in the future. The weather is warm, even when the sun is behind the clouds. When the sun is out, it gets quite hot. The weather combined with the beaches reminds me of home, I love it. Besdies the beaches, there are alot of churches here which has became my second favorite sight to see here in Diu (other than the beach). The churches along with alot of the buildings here, look like they havnt changed since the island was under portugese rule. The paint is peeling, faded, dirt is caked on the walls, and the any fixtures are cracked and broken, all contributing to the look of immense history behind each building.

I am staying at the cheapest place I could find in Diu, and its a 3 minute walk to the shore. If you listen closely you can hear the waves crashing on the shore from my atrium area. The room is decent, for India that is. Im stoked I have my own squat toilet, it might not be the cleanest but Im stoked on it. Ive grown to prefer these toilets than western toilets. I am paying peanuts here, and it helps me stay on my daily budget. It has a great location, so this place a diamond in the ruff to me. Each morning after breakfast, I go use the internet (at the fastest and reliable computer in India so far!) and I think part of the reason I kept coming here was the food for my eyes on the way. I have to walk about 5 to 10 minutes through a neighborhood where the alleys are filled with old beautiful houses. Beautiful in the sense that they, like the churches, and other buildings here, havnt changed for years. Everything is run down, but not in a eerie deserted horror movie kinda way. Women sit on their stoops and smile at me as I walk by. Children play in the street and swarm me with smiles and questions. Children even at nearby houses on balconies, will scream down to me, "Hello" waving their hands like I was the president.

Every other night there is a all you can eat BBQ at a nearby hotel. Its quite costly but for how many plates I am gorging my face with, I surely make it worth every rupee. Its a great place to meet other travellers too which make it a plus. The food here in Diu is interesting. Being a island, naturally there is alot of seafood. Practicly in the every dish. So much for not eating meat in India...Everything has some sort of seafood in it which is interesting because they have indian dishes but instead of a tomato, and potato curry dish, you have tomato, potato cury dish with prawns.

Everyday I found myself being a bum at the local beaches. Here is where I took my daily shower which consisted of stripping to my underwear and swiming around in the ocean and wind drying. I literally smell like a bum and at times look like one. I often would walk a few miles into town, buy a bunch of fresh fruit, and walk a few miles back to one of the beaches and pig out on fresh fruit. So good on a hot day. I love fruit, being in India eating dishes with ALOT of spices, I have craved certain foods more and more. One being sweets, the other being fruit. I spent the majority of my days here in Diu on the beaches, devouring the islands fresh fruit, reading, and swimming in my underwear. I love it. I get to the shore, set off my backpack on the ground, take off my clothes, and run and jump in the water. So refreshing. Which brings me to my next point, there is NO bookstore here. That is blasphemous! As a result I have re-read the books I just read and cant wait til I am in Delhi so I can buy a few new books.

Ive met alot of different travellers here. I met a older couple probably in their mid fifies from Germany. We took the bus here together, and they are staying at the same hotel as I am. On my whole time here, I never saw them together. They were always seperate when I was out and about. Thats so interesting, and not at all in a bad way. One afternoon I was eating lunch and I ran into the German man ( I cant remember his name) and we started talking small talk about our trips and where we have been and where we would head to next.
"I dont know if you are into any spiritual stuff but there are quite a few sights you should check out in the south while you are there"
"Yeah thats the main reason I came to India.."
"Oh well in that case, get out your guide book!"
He showed me some of this favorite, not so well known parts that he took a liking to. We ended up ordering some chai and talking for a few hours. Hes a pretty intense traveller and person. He and his wife at some points walk hundreds of miles to their next destination, finding a place to pich a tent off ther road, being entirely independent. That is so rad.

Also, thanks to the BBQ I met some cool people. I met Issac from London, and two girls from England, Nikki and Liz. Issac speaks with an awesome accent and owns his own photography business in London and carries around with him a camera that costs almost as much as some automobiles in America. He has quite the talent for capturing moments in a photograph, I must say. Nikki and Liz are from England and speak with thick English accents that make me smile. We all hit it off immediately and instantly became friends. At the end of the BBQ, I suggested that tomarrow night we go and have a bonfire at a place I saw along the beach that looked like a good area to have a fire. We set a meeting point and time for the next day and said Goodbye.

The next day I spent the whole day at the beach, again...It was supposed to be my sightseeing day but it turned into another beach bum day because it was a beautifully hot, sunny day. I saw the german man from the hotel I am staying at and we ended up talking again for a few hours. Hes a riot and full of knowledge. When it got time, I left the beach and headed towards our meeting spot. I was a bit early and Issac was sitting outside so we talked until the girls arrived. We started talking about why I dont drink and he asked,
"Are you straight edge?"
"YES! Wow, you are the first person in India to know what that means and let alone guess I was edge right off the bat...Very impressive..."
"Yeah well I grew up in the hardcore scene in London. Straight Edge was quite big at that time, as I am assuming it was in LA, but overtime, sadly all the edge kids I hung out with arent edge anymore..."
"Yeah, sounds alot like how it was here. When the kids I hung out with were edge I was the opposite and when I became edge, they all broke edge. The scene is sadly not as strong as it used to be, especially with people like the Courage Crew, who go around beating up people who drink or smoke. They fail to grasp the essence of straight edge, which has been to me and will always be about giving you a positive scene to goto to get away from the negativity of drugs and drinking"
We talked for a good 40 minutes about straight edge, hardcore music, what shows weve attended and the great essence of the positive hardcore scene. So rad, I never thought in India I would be talking about the hardcore movement, and some great hardcore music it has and is producing. So rad. So rad.

Shortly after the women arrived and we were off. We all went and got a bite to eat and on our way walking to the restaurant, we passed by an old church that whenever I passed by it in the 4 previous days of staying here, has always been closed. I always thought that it was abandoned and as a result of always being closed up. However, the doors were open this time and upon seeing this, I ran up the stairs to get a view inside. It wasnt abandonded at all. It was so full of life in that church with no one inside, and full of history as well. Pigeons flew out from one side of the ceiling to the other side upon my entrance, just like you see in some of the movies, and it echoed throughout the whole church. A silent, "whoa" came out from my exhale. There were pews (sp?) in the center and then all around your sides were different christian pictures in frames. In the center altar, it had a glowing orange hue to it. When I took a picture of the center altar, the nearby pillars and walls that appeared a faded white with black dirt to your ete, turned into a beautiful turquoise in the picture. Hands down, this was the most beautiful church I have set foot in. No T.V.s, no sound systems, or any new age advancement like how all the churches are back home. Everything was just as old as the building itself, even the paint with caked on dirt. All contributing to the incredible aura of this place. I feel this is how a church should be, not like how I find them back home. Its focus was clearly on one thing, the divine. Not how state of the art it is. I was so grateful to be given a peak inside.

Then it was time to eat, and after dinner time to collect the firewood for the sunset and the rest of the night. So, I went diggign in local bushes violently yanking out branches and twigs of all sizes and diameters. My hands got so cut up by the end of it because the majority of the branches had thorns, and would constantly be pricking my hands. We get to our bonfire spot and its such a majestic looking area. Its up on top of a little hill with a shrine right next to the outside bonfire area. The hill has a few caves where they are also little shrines. The bonfire area is roofted with palm tree branches and has a great view of the ocean in all directions around you. Immediately upon arriving, we set down the wood and start breaking them up for the fire. I seperate the tinder from kindling and after more cuts, and bruised knees from breaking the wood, the fire was ready to get set up. So I set up my fire with a teepee and then light the tinder. I get a little light and with my breath I fuel the fire. It takes a couple minutes to get going after going out several times, but then, smokes starts pouring out more and more so I keep blowing and blowing, more smoke more smoke and then poof! we have fire. Immediately I start piling on a little larger branches to get the fire roaring enough to put on the big logs. Within 10 minutes we have a roaring , hot fire. I am hear to tell you, there is nothing, nothing, more that I get more satisfaction out of than building a fire. Nothing. Issac took amazing pictures of the fire building process,
"Cody look at this picture of you. You look almost tribal!"
The picture was too beautiful for words to portray. I am building the fire and in the background its just the dim blue sky right before dusk, and fire glowing a firey orange upon my face. I have to have that picture!
We kept that fire roaring for 5 hours. 5 hours we sat up there, talking, playing cards and being in a trance to this fire. At points, locals would come from the road to sit and join the fire, being completely silent, and helping contribute to the fire when we got low on firewood. Continuing to get the fire going put me in a trance I swear. I was hypnotized by this fire. Constantly fueling the fire with my own breath, cutting the bigger pieces of wood with my knie, breaking them with my hands, I even at one point used dried up cow poop because we didnt have anymore wood. So I found some dried poop and threw that on there. Got to use ALL of what mother earth gives you right? Issac asks,
"what was that you just threw on there"
"....Dried up cow shit"
"I never thought a guy from L.A. could have such good firebuilding skills!"
That fire was exactly what my spirit needed. I am so thankful for having that expierience, I will surely never forget that bonfire.

On the last night Liz and Nikki were hear, Issac and I and the girls all got together for one last hoorah. We went to initally get food at a place called Bon Apetit, which was a bit a ways away from where we were staying. I hopped on the back of Issacs scooter and we were off. I saw alot of the island I never saw and could never accomplish by foot. This place had a great theme to it. All the buildings were made out of wood logs and palm branches gicing it that island getaway retreat look. It even had a tree house you could eat in. Rad! The best part was that the restaurant had a book exchange there were you give one book of your own and take on of theirs. I found a great book to read. Treasure Island. How perfect, for I am on an island? :) This restaurant recieved the perfect island theme for a restaurant. After we all waited around for the staff to appear we decided to leave and catch the sunset. That restaruant might be a bit TOO relaxed. No one was there for like 30 minutes. No one.So we went to catch the sunset. We ended up getting a frontrow seat. We pulled up to a small cliff that you could climb down and then its about 50 feet of level rock that walks you to the edge of the water, and nothing is blocking your view of the ocean swallowing the sun and contact with the ocean here. The sky started as a deep orange against the light blue sky and as time progressed, went into a deep red and bright purple at the end. The setting of wathcing the sunset, being so isolated with just yourself and, the ocean, and the sky combined with the glorious colors of the sunset, made this one of my favorite sunset viewing expieriences. Then it was time to eat. We went to a restaurant we all knew of that is right next to the beach water. The restaurant expierience here was full of laughs. Trying to get an explanation on any dish from our waiter (because there were no descriptions) was quite the obstacle, but was quite hilarious at the same time. Our poor waiter was so patient through it all and bless him, heeded to our every call with a smile on his face. The entrees were quite the suprise for me atleast. The most exspensive and smallest cup of chai I had here, my vegetable fried rice was orange noodles cut up to look like rice, and the BIG cup of strawberry ice cream could fit in my shirt pocket. My verbal reactions to each of these dishes were greeted by my waiters understanding of "yeah I know, but Im just the waiter". Towards the end of our stay at the restaurant, a large indian group of people sat near us and immedately a man came over and started talking to us. Shortly after he says,
"my son wants a picture with you, is that ok?"
After agreeing, he brings over his son who had to be no older than 1 and 1/2 years old and sets him right in the middle of me and Nikki. Issac who sat across from us is now videoing this and Liz had her hand on her forehead trying to hide her giggle. Then the kid starts crying, so here me and Nikki got a picture taken with a crying indian baby. After looking at the picture we start talking about how random it was,
"So he comes over and just plops his baby on the table in between us two?"
"Yeah looks like we have an indian baby"
"I just met you two days ago and already we have a baby!"
Out of all the times I have gotten asked by indians for a photo, this by far was the most random and couldnt figure out why...

After dinner, I went and got a cup of chai twice as big for a third of the cost nd 2x as better. Then we walked to one of the forts here in Diu, and it was still open at 11pm. Quite eerie being in the fort all dart, and seeing the jail cells at night. Shortly after we walked back, said goodbyes and called it a night.

On my last two days, I rented a scooter to see the parts of the island I neglected while being a bum. One of the nights Issac and I met up to goto a night ferry that takes you out into the ocean and then back to shore where it includes music and snacks. However, when we arrived for the ferry it was not going that night. So I suggested to Issac,
"Wanna go shake our booties at one of the nightclubs here instead?"
"Yeah...Thats an excellent idea."
After our dinner at the awesome restaurant Bon-Appetit, we asked the owner if he knew of any good dance clubs in Diu. He said there is only one called the Footloose Disco, and said we wouldnt like going there. We still insisted upon it, he told us the way and we were off. We arrived alittle before nine and are told to park our scooter at a different entrance than the one we came in. A guard met us, opened the padlock into the waiting room of the place, which was a small room no bigger than my bedroom that was lit up by one string of christmas lights, and he opens to door into the dance room. There is NO ONE in here and its blasting electro music. There are figures painted on the wall that glow under the dance floors blacklights. The paintings were of cheesy musicians with sunglasses on where they were standing on a flying meteor, and the singer was on fire. Awesome. Issac said,
"Feels like I should be at a laser star or something!"
After seeing the place, we ask the guard about the cover charge to get in. He hold out his hand and says,
"500 rupees"
"500 rupees?!?!?!"
"Yes Entrance Fee"
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Issac and I laugh in his face, while his hand is still held out expecting 2 500 rupee notes. Once we get the laughter out of our system, we turn around, walk straight into the club and ask the bartender,
"How much is it to get in?"
"50 rupees"
So there we paid to get in. Not the guard. After seeing we were early, we drove back to the hotel, dropped off our bags and came back. Now there was about 20 people on the dance floor that could hold about 50 MAX. Issac gets a beer, I get a Coke or (Thumbs up as they call it here) and within a couple of minutes we were out on the dance floor. Right when we go on the dance floor and start dancing, the floor gets cleared. EVERYONE leaves the dance floor and it is just Issac and I...Talk about makeing your self esteem hit rock bottom! So we went back and ordered another drink...There were a few indian men that were on the dance floor the whole night who made out expierience. We dance with them, mimic'ing their dance moves, and taking pictures with them. I took a video of them to show you all back home. Lets just say, I got some new sweet moves to bring back home. The rest of the night, Issac and I just danced the night away. We meet some 18 year old indian guys from our hotel that met us there and we all never left the dance floor until it ended at 11pm. Thats just when it gets started in Hollywood! ahah Seriously, that was the best dance night I have ever had. The music the DJ was playing, the atmosphere of being able to totally dance how ever you wanted, the ambiance of the "disco", and the guard trying to pull some shifty business on us, made that night unforgetable.

On the other days of being here, I finally was able to attend a Church sermon. Issac and I woke up early one Sunday morning and cruised down to a nearby church. It was a huge church very similar to the one I mentioned earlier. It was a faded, rustic, chipped, white on the outside. Inside it had very high ceilings, white in color with blue trim and designs. The paint fell from the ceiling during the whole sermon. Blue flakes and dust were in my hair and on my clothes. All around the sides of the church were pictures of christ in different situations. Candles up at the front, and the priest was in the center podium. The sermon was about making a change in you to accept God in your life. After the sermon, we walked out into the courtyard and Issac and I were talking to the priest fora few minutes until we went back inside to take pictures now that it was clear of people.

For sunset one evening, Issac and I went to a nearby desolate beach and on our way there was a cricket game going on with the local kids and adults. Issac and I jumped off our bikes and joined the game. Soon after, it was time for a new batter. I was chosen. I have very limited knowledge about the rules of the game let alone, HOW to play. All I know is, hit the ball that is thrown to me and run back and forth to earn runs. I take the cricket bat, and wait for the ball to be thrown. The pitcher runs, throws the ball, I swing and hit one of the wickets behind me completely missing the ball and because I touched the wicket, I am out. I swung, missed, and managed to get myself out. All the players were instantly in an uproar of laughter and after I was told by Issac what happened, I joined them. Issac got it on video for you all to enjoy as well. When Issac was a batter, he scored about 10 runs. He did alot better than me :)

One of another attractions of DIU, was a Sea Shell Museum that was closed almost everyday I was here. One day when it wasnt Issac and I went inside. Two floors full of hundred and hundreds of different shells, sea urchents and creatures in jars for display. Alot of them had magnifiying glasses on top of their containers so you could see in detail what the naked I could not. The owner and collecter was a captain of a ship and collected all of these himself while sailing all over the world. Each shell or group of shells listed its name and where he got in the world he got it from. Awesome! This totally inspired me to go looking on the beach later that day for my own treasure and I am sure glad I did! I found so many little shells, that were nothing like what was on display but to me they were of equal value. As I am walking back from the water onto the shore, I see a yellowish white shell buried under some sand, I go to pick it up and it is a BEAUTIFUL conch shell! All in tact! I found a beautiful conch shell! I was so stoked, so stoked.

On my last day here, I woke up early in the morning to go see the nearby fishing village. Issac and I went here the night before to grab some food and we checked out the dock at night. Lights from the boats were seen as far as the eye could see. Issac went around takling pictures which got us on a few boats. Some we had to climb up ladders to get on a MASSIVE boat. What an experience and sight nonetheless. So the next morning, I hop on my scooter and cruise into the town. Here is where boats get worked on, drop off their catches, and retire for the night. Hundreds upon hundreds of boats here. Every boat had a flag on it of a color of their choice. No pirate flags :( The boats also had their fishing hanging from poles and also each boat had a single light ontop of a pole in their boat, which was aweomsome at night. The village is about 15 miles from town and I am suprised I couldnt smell its stench from my hotel. It smelled of fish mainly, secondly poop. Fish and poop, in very very strong incriments. Oh man at times it was quite overwhelming, but that didnt stop me from my morning cup of chai!

I am sad to be leaving this little kicked back island. Being a bum on this beautiful and relaxed island was exatly what I needed to charge my backpacking spirit for my full forced next month of sight seeing in the south. But before that, I have a long journey on buses and trains to get to Delhi for my first Indian wedding.

Much love to you all.
Be Happy!