Anjuna, Goa Tales #13–The Canine Revolution of Running in India

When I arrived in Goa, I spent the first few weeks in Anjuna calculating the daunting mission of obstacles out on the open roads.  The cows, the goats, the cars, and those dang dogs that everyone warned me about.  Going for a walk or a run meant that I had to face the great wonder of Mother India.  I had to face the elements, and fear, but most of all, I had to face myself.  People told me, “Be careful.  The dogs will chase you,” or, “Good luck with running.  No one does that here,” or, “Make sure to take a stick.”  If it wasn’t instilling fear of the animals, it was put on the heat, or the sun, or just an arbitrary feeling of disdain.  Countless negative remarks on how the idea of running in such surroundings was, for lack of a better word, crazy.

That was 6 months ago.

Now when I leave my house at 7:30am to hit the road, I am not a victim of unknown elements, I am a victor of my own universe.  Those scary, “rabid” dogs have turned into daily cuddles.  Those cows that originally chased me have become blessings, and the faces I pass along my route have become familiar smiles that make my day.

It’s funny, really, that the dogs here are all bark and no bite.  I’ve figured out that they’re just alarm systems for the house or business.  They bark and the owners know someone is around.  Fair enough.  That means, they’re really good at their jobs.  Might is right, like when driving.  India teaches me to be assertive, and the dogs do, too.  If you let the dogs boss you around, they surely will.  The same goes for everything else in India.

India tips:  1. Personal Space is a luxury.  2. Assertiveness is a necessity.

I’m still getting to know the dogs on my little street, but once I hit the main road, I find these two sillies. . .

They are my new friends, and until I find their owners, I just call them both sweet pea.  The most common name for dogs around here is Blacky, so that’s a good bet, but these two are just too sweet to be called something that common.  They run towards me with wagging tails when they see me coming down the road.  Sometimes they even fight over who gets cuddles first and I don’t mind at all.

Around the bend from my two sweet peas, there’s a whole turf of older dogs.  They’ve got scars, cataracts, and grumpy barks, but they don’t even move from their curled up positions on the side of the road.  I’m sure, like the rest of us, they just want to be heard or noticed.

In this group, Gabby sits quietly with kind eyes and she waits for belly rubs. . .

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I’ve also become the Mother Teresa of goats.  Heh.  Near the soccer field I used as my initial running track, there’s a whole herd of awesome goats.  Since it’s been so hot, the ground is pretty scorched and all the green leaves are hard to reach.  This is when I take a water break and pick 14 big, green leaves and give each goat a delicious present.

They were a little freaked out the first time I did it, but now I think they’re getting used to salad delivery.  It makes me feel so happy to see them so happy, and I have a little peace in my heart knowing it’s one less bit of garbage they have to digest.

Running on the Anjuna streets promises beautiful and interesting views.  There’s the dude who hits golf balls into the soccer field abyss.  There’s the old lady dressed in her very best–like she’s on her way to church every day.  She nods at me as she walks by and she seems to be another kind of sweet pea.  There’s countless parents shuttling kids to school, and there’s always a dose of that mystical man, Jesus. . .  20160329_080000

At certain junctions where groups of men hang around–drinking chai, napping on bikes–every once in awhile, one of them will yell out, “One more round?”  I do 2 laps on my route and I think it’s so funny the village counts with me.

These are some fun buildings along my path. . .

And this is my favorite hippie cow. . .adorned with love beads. . .

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Domino’s Pizza has a shop here, which I’m not too sure about, especially when I get to see the aftermath of their success. . .

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Yuck, right?!  Coming from the birth place of this monopoly, I cringe when I see the waste in such a beautiful place.  Thank goddess there’s so many beautiful views to make up for this mess.

The “main road” is a hodgepodge of sights. . . including one of my two favorite dog friends, Bingo.

Bingo barked at me countless times before I knew his name.  Now, I think he was just barking for attention.  He gives hi-fives and loves being adored.  I’ve never seen him unchained, which is a bummer, but he seems happy, regardless.  I thoroughly enjoy his playful energy.

On the home stretch of my run, I get cuddles from my most favorite Anjuna dog friend, Blacky.  She’s so loving and friendly. . .a true lady!

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By the time I get home, I am drenched with sweat and good vibes, and am ready to take on the rest of the day.  My morning run is a constant lesson in growth, a daily dose of love, and a way to make my little universe collide with everyone else.  It’s truly Goan Good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.