Anjuna, Goa Tales #1- Running in the Hood

It took me a couple weeks to work up the courage for a run in the neighborhood.  I’m not usually a person to let any kind of weather or terrain to get in between me and my passion for a good, long, hearty run, but I quickly realized the stakes were much more complicated in this little tropical paradise than what I usually encountered.

First, there’s the sun.  The glorious, hot, garish sun.  Though it is luxurious to live in a place so warm and rich with Vitamin D, the intensity by the magnificent Arabian Sea is very, very hot.  I mean, not hot like the Australian sun…..which is so dry it makes you feel like everything is cracking.  The hot here is an intensely humid heat.  It’s more like suffocating. . .in the sense that the air is so thick with moisture.  The plus point:  it’s super good for your skin and your hair, kind of like a daily sauna.  However, that means a run early in the morning or early in the evening were my only options, unless a heat stroke was my main goal.  Locals say that November and December get “cooler” so I’ll be curious to see what that means.

Then, there’s the dogs.  Dogs?  Yes.  There’s a lot of dogs here.  A lot.  Most of them are not domesticated, per se, and most likely don’t have “manners” like dogs in other countries.  Oh yeah, and for the most part, they never see anyone running.  And, well, I’d put my money on that most of them don’t have their shots.  Okay.  So now, that means there’s a gauntlet of wild, rabid dogs out there.  No problem.

There’s also tons of cows.  Everywhere.  While they move slow, and pose little threat, I’ve never really hung out with many cows.  I don’t know what they think of runners.  They don’t seem to notice anything else on the road–cars weave around them like they are invisible–but still, they are an unknown variable to be considered.

Lastly, the cars, mopeds, people walking, and a few goats.  Motor vehicles are a bit suspicious because most drivers get really close to everything around here.  The roads are small and drivers’ slide by things with only an inch of space sometimes. . .traffic depending, of course. The people walking and the goats get a ‘pass.’  At least there’s something ‘safe’ out there.

So one morning, I went for my first run at 9:30am.  There’s a soccer field about 3/4 of a mile from my house which seemed like a good option.  I put on my shoes with glee and confidence, made sure to wear my sun hat just in case, and set my gps watch.

A couple minutes down my road, I got accosted by some random dogs.  Since I felt rather prepared and confident for this scenario, I decided to use my lifelong animal skills to let them know who was boss. . .so I stopped and screamed in a loud, demonic voice expecting them to shiver.   HEY!  Nothing happened.  Then I yelled a second time.  HEY!  Finally, they did stop barking and left me alone, but they weren’t exactly scared like I thought they would be.

I managed to get to the soccer field in one piece.  But, lorrrrrrrd have mercy, the sun was already way too hot.  Note to self: I must leave earlier.  Anyway, I decided that since I actually made it to the soccer field, I’d at least get some laps in.

On my way back, almost collapsing from the heat stroke I tried so hard to avoid, I passed a cow.  It was a cute cow eating grass outside a pretty pink gate.  I didn’t think twice about my pace and just whizzed by. . .but, in a split second, the cute cow in my vanishing peripheral quickly became a RUNNING cow behind me.  AHHHHHH!  I need to run, I thought to myself, but then remembered I was already running. . .So I picked up the pace and left the cow in the dust.  Whew!

A few minutes later, I never felt so happy to see the Chill-Inn.  I survived and I rewarded myself with an entire litre of water.  Go me!

Amit’s mom, Jean, was outside on the terrace when I returned.  She asked me how my run was and if any dogs had chased me.  I told her, to my surprise, that the only animal that actually chased me was a freakin’ cow!  “A cow?” she said.   “I know, right?!”  Then we both laughed.  “Do know what to do when a dog chases you?” Jean said.

I thought long and hard about this.  The way she asked me seemed like she knew something that I didn’t, so I said “tell me.”

“Bend down to the ground and act like you’re picking up a stick,” Jean crouched down and demonstrated her words.

“Any kind of stick?” I said.

“No, just pretend you’re picking up a stick,” Jean said.

“Oh. . . .really?” I was dumbfounded.

“Yes.  All dogs are beaten with sticks, so they will run away real fast if they see you do that,” Jean said with a slight bobble.

I stashed her words in the forefront of my mind and headed to the shower.  A few days later, I put on my shoes and hit the road for my second attempt.  But this time, I went at 5:30 pm to try out the early evening obstacles.  While my first run only had a couple dogs in my way, this time of day seemed to be popular with everything.  Traffic, people, cows, and so many dogs–multiple gangs of dogs.

The first group of terrorizing canines approached me and started to chase.  Jean’s words lit up in the lighthouse of my mind.  Maniacally, I stopped running, bent down, and grabbed a really huge, invisible stick.  The pack of wannabe wolves vanished immediately.  Gone.  Poof.  It was like magic!  Hahaha, I laughed to myself, and kept running. A few minutes later, another pack of dogs was on the chase.  I grabbed the same stick, and Poof!  It was incredible!  It was amazing! The power of the invisible stick was so profoundly awesome, I felt like I just learned the secrets to the universe and I could do anything.  Mwah ha ha ha!

This second run was going swell.  I hit the main road to the soccer field and was about to pass a cow.  It started running but at least this time I was paying attention.  So I stopped, again, and walked slowly–as if not to bother the shanti bovine–and it started to charge me.  For a couple minutes, I played sideways ‘chicken’ with a cow on the opposite side of the road.  I didn’t think it was going to allow me to pass, but by some kind of mental power, I made it far away from the big beast.

To my distaste, the soccer field was filled with kids, and dogs, and guess what?  Cows!  It must’ve been prime time for their delicious grass dinner and the worst time for my run.  Ugh.  Note to self: never again at this time.  I didn’t even bother with one lap and headed back in the direction of the Chill-Inn.  Haylo McFly:1 The universe:1.

Two days later, I went out for my third run.  This time, I left at 7:30am AND with a camel pack of water strapped to my back.  To my surprise, not many dogs challenged the size of my invisible stick, and most of them were still sleeping as I passed through different territories.  There were no cows in sight, although I did hear a random ‘moo’ in the distance every so often, but so far, this time of day seemed to be perfect.  The sun was just right, too.

I got to my precious soccer field and enjoyed the interrupted terrain.

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A little slice of obstacle free heaven, isn’t it?  Except for the occasional child cutting through on a mission, I didn’t have to dodge anything.

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On my last lap, a guy riding a bike selling bread yelled in my direction, “Good for health!  Good for health!”  I smiled and bobbled my head.  It is, indeed.  At 8:30am, I headed back to the guesthouse and heard a rooster crowing.  Wait a second!  A rooster is like an alarm clock for the day.  How could this be?   I guess that proves EVERYONE sleeps in around this funny village–cows, dogs, roosters, and people, too.

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