Feeling Lonely in Goa (Unexpected Encounters)

GOA, INDIA

DAY ONE

Welp. I didn’t expect this. Perhaps it’s the jetlag or the overwhelming sense of solitude/anonymity, but I felt terribly lonely here in Goa.

It was my first day so I suppose I shouldn’t have been too disappointed or too dramatic, but I felt disappointed already. I was itching to leave Goa already. The ants in my room were insane and they wouldn’t leave me alone. It was incredibly hot and the fan I had wasn’t doing much. The only other foreigners here were Russian, or so I thought, and they don’t speak English so we couldn’t communicate. The only people who talked to me were Indians, which I honestly don’t mind. I just wish I could make friends here.

Despite feeling this way, I did have two amazing encounters with Indians here. The first one happened at the restaurant where I ate breakfast. The second one happened at a clothing shop around the corner from my Airbnb.

That morning, for breakfast, I walked out of my Airbnb, went the wrong way (the longer way), and ended up at a restaurant called Sunshine. While walking there, I passed through a small area with just Indians. The women wore sarees and were sorting through rice and lentils. The kids ran around, chasing each other. It was beautiful. This is the India that I remember so fondly.

At the breakfast place, I had an amazing cheese and mushroom omelette with some of the best masala chai in the world. The owner of the restaurant, Vijay, approached me and asked me what I was thinking about. I lied and said, “Oh, I’m just thinking about WiFi. Do you have it here?” He put in the WiFi information and sat across from me, staring into my soul! He asked me the basic questions, “Where are you from?” “Where are you staying?” “How long are you here?” and he gave me some advice. He said, “Don’t think too much about the painful things you’ve experienced. You won’t enjoy yourself here if you constantly think about the past. Your body is here but your mind is elsewhere. Push past that. Push through that.”

That gave me so much to think about, even though I wasn’t able to see how I could work through my anxiety and regrets about the past.

Later that day, I hid in my Airbnb room, praying for the fan to supernaturally become an air-conditioner, and feeling like I would pass out from the heat. I felt dehydrated and jetlagged.

Endeavoring to explore my neighborhood, Mandrem, a little more, I put on an Indian dress, some sandals, and walked around the corner to a more populated area than before. An adorable little Indian girl called to me from her clothing shop across the street, “Didi!” I walked over and when she realized I wasn’t Indian and didn’t speak Hindi, her mother came over and we had a long chat where she tried to sell me clothing for Rs. 15,000 and I said I’d pay no more than Rs. 3,000. After a back and forth barter which I wasn’t comfortable with, I told her I’d buy three things, get henna on my hands, and get my eyebrows threaded by her for Rs. 4,000 which was still a lot. But, I knew I was in a tourist town so there’s that automatic surcharge.

While sitting on the floor with this woman, Sita, I learned that she was from a neighboring state, Karnataka, and she works here during the tourist season. I felt so happy to be back in communication and communion with Indian people. I began to feel better about my trip to India. There I was, making connections with Indians on the first day! I left with a beautiful henna design on my hands and a slightly more positive outlook on my time in Goa.

 

More on my week in Goa to come. 🙂

 

 

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Goodbye, America

Wow. I can’t believe I’m actually at this point. After three years of dreaming, praying, hoping, crying, cursing, screaming, and all of that good stuff, I’m finally leaving the U.S. I have plans that will keep me for 6 months in India, but it’s likely that I’ll be able to stay on longer. I have no intention of coming back to the U.S. for quite some time. Seeing the amount of school shootings, shootings of unarmed people of color, and the disgusting way the U.S. treats immigrants and Puerto Rico, I knew I could no longer live in such a place. The facade of freedom in this country is strong. No country is perfect, but the U.S. loves to pretend that we’ve got it all together, that we’re NUMBER ONE! We’re not even close.

As I reflect on my 24 years of living in the U.S., most of them spent in New York, I think about all of the amazing things that being an American has provided me. I have an incredibly strong passport, one that people trust and respect around the world. I was able to study at college with no problems whatsoever. I was able to live on my own and work, building up a career for myself. When I had my period, I wasn’t shunned or cast aside from the rest of society. No one forced me or pressured me to get married.

I was able to walk around my neighborhood at night and feel safe (except when it came to drug dealers -____- ).  I was able to freely post on social media about my disdain for Donald Trump and how much I dislike this country. When called in to jury dury, I was able to look the judge in the eyes and tell him, “I can’t serve on this jury because I don’t trust cops.” A cop’s testimony was going to be included. He asked me why and I responded with, “Cops systematically assassinate black people.” I was easily dismissed from jury duty and wasn’t silenced or attacked for speaking the truth. After Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico and the U.S. government did nothing, I openly railed against the government and attended protests in NYC with no fear for my safety. 

No one expects me to do less because I am a woman. No one thinks there’s a stopping point to my dreams. I can do whatever I want. I can easily work hard, land a well-paying job, and watch the money flow in. It wouldn’t be a struggle for me to develop that kind of life. Most of the people I know are quite content with that kind of life. Yet, I am not. 

It is insane to most people that I’m choosing to leave behind a life of luxury to pursue something else, something bigger, something of eternal significance. I’m choosing to live a life in a new place where I’ll have to learn a new language (or three), figure out how everything works, and develop a new life there. 

While thinking about how hard this is going to be for me, even though I know people there, even though it’s not my first time there, a realization came to my mind. This is how foreigners feel when they begin new lives in the U.S. They have countless hopes and dreams. Many of them don’t speak English. They live below the radar, cleaning after us, cooking for us, and managing our gardens/yards. They don’t want to be seen too much. They just want a better life.

I’m going in search of a better life, but not for myself. I’ve already been given so much. I have no expectations of great wealth or health. I want to show women and girls how incredibly special they are. I want them to learn that God made them to do great things with their lives. I trust that He will help me do this.

So as this chapter of my life closes, well it’s really more of a book (24 years!), I look toward the future with thick anticipation, a little fear, and trust in a God who knows what my heart needs. 

Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Jane Eyre and Me

Readers,

On my blog, I typically write about faith, travel, family, mental health, and my shortcomings. Tonight I want to write about something different: Jane Eyre.

For those of you who aren’t acquainted with Jane Eyre, this novel was published in 1847 under the name “Currer Bell”, a man’s name. The real author was a woman, Charlotte Bronte, one of the famous Bronte sisters. The novel tells the story of Jane Eyre, an 18-year old woman, who leaves her evil and abusive boarding school to become a governess to a child in the care of a man named Mr. Rochester. Now the romance between them is of course beautifully written and makes my heart soar when I read about it, but what interests me more in this novel is Jane Eyre herself. Because through reading about Jane, I began to learn more about myself. I began to heal.

We first meet Jane as a child who suffers abuse at the hands of her aunt, Mrs. Reed. Mrs. Reed is a terrible human being. She constantly berates and punishes Jane for simply being who she is, a precocious, headstrong, painfully honest little girl. She is often locked in rooms, hit by her elder cousins, and treated like dirt. She’s eventually sent off to a boarding school where she is abused even more. The headmaster and teachers continue this cycle of abuse and Jane is on a path toward becoming a bitter child until an angel intervenes: Helen. Helen is Jane’s best friend and she’s a young girl who knows the Lord on an incredibly deep level. She believes in holding no grudges. She trusts in the Lord and looks toward heaven as her secure place of joy. This faith inspires Jane to pursue her own relationship with God and she softens toward people as Helen teaches her the ways of Christ. Unfortunately Helen becomes ill and dies. This greatly injures Jane. Yet another person, really the only person who has ever loved her, has left her alone. 

Jane grows into a young woman and as she is anxious to escape her boarding school, takes a position in Mr. Rochester’s home. Throughout the novel we see Jane impressing Mr. Rochester in unforeseeable ways. Her faith, purity, wisdom, morality, and kindness shock him. He’s not used to seeing such a person, considering his past. Although Mr. Rochester is a gruff sort of man, Jane consistently stands her ground, speaks up for what’s right, defends those who can’t defend themselves, and is confident in who she is.

Although Jane isn’t confident in her looks, and she is described as plain (plain Jane, get it?), she’s extremely confident in who she is as a person. She’s grounded. The totality of Jane’s essence attracts Mr. Rochester and they fall in love and eventually marry, of course. 🙂

 

 

There’s your plot summary. Now, when I first read Jane Eyre, I found myself amazed at what I saw written on the page. I saw a young girl being called names and abused by her family members. I was also abused as a child and felt rather small because of it.

As she grew, I saw a young girl with a strong mind, firm convictions, and passion for everything she did. I also prided myself on my convictions, my intelligence, and my passion for what I loved.

When she became a young lady, working in Mr. Rochester’s house, I saw a woman who was insecure and simultaneously confident in her personhood. She’s quite a complex character and if one isn’t familiar with people who’ve been abused, they’d find her a rather confusing person. But because I was also abused as a child, I understand Jane.

She’s a person of opposites: she’s insecure and confident. She’s passionate and fearful of loving too much. She’s open to others but wary of Mr. Rochester’s attentions. She yearns for love but is discerning and only allows certain people to become close to her. She seems like she’s neither here nor there. She’s not from any particular place, she has no ties anywhere, and she lives her life, hoping for something better, believing that her intelligence and character will bring her what she needs in life. 

In fact, Mr. Rochester describes her as other worldly and almost like an angel because she doesn’t fit any stereotypes. She isn’t a coquette like every other woman Mr. Rochester knows. She isn’t a stuffy old-maid type. She has a quick mind, a sharp tongue, and an open yet deeply fragile heart. 

When I first read Jane Eyre, I think I was 18, Jane’s exact age. I was still living in an abusive home and dreamt of a future where I could be free to come and go as I please and to be fully myself. She inspired me to keep pursuing my goals and to love myself, even though I didn’t feel very loved. She showed me that an adult with a childhood full of abuse can overcome anything and everything with faith and fortitude. 

If I had a cup of tea, I’d raise it to Miss Jane Eyre and to Ms. Charlotte Bronte. I’m eternally grateful for having the opportunity to read a book where the protagonist is so very like me. Abused, broken, cast aside, demonized, and every other evil imaginable, yet powerfully persistent in creating a life of freedom for herself no matter what.

Check out the book and the 2006 BBC production of Jane Eyre. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Love,

Gabrielle G.