During India's Independence Day we were lucky enough to get time off from our internship to go to Goa. After seven weeks in Loni, we were counting down the days until we could have our own little vacation where we would be able to eat American food, go to sleep and wake up when we wanted, and go swimming. But mostly, we were just excited for the food and it was pretty much all we talked about for the week leading up to our vacation.
Finally the day was here, but first we had to get there. We began our 6 hour drive to the Mumbai airport at noon. Our flight was at 9:45 pm, but we wanted to leave plenty of time for breaks because riding in cars in India is not the most comfortable arrangement. We got to the airport at about 7:00 and they began boarding our plane at 9:45, instead of 9:15 (even the airports run on Indian time, which means if you are 30 minutes to three hours late to anything then you are still on time). It took us an hour to get to Goa from Mumbai and then we had a 45 minute car ride to our hotel in Baga. We were finally in Goa and we were exhausted so we all called it a night. Ready for our vacation to begin in the morning.
After breakfast on our first day (toast, scrambled eggs, samosas, poula, and tea) we caught the hotel shuttle to Baga beach. As soon as we stepped foot on the beach women came up to us trying to sell us necklaces and bracelets that we had no interest in and men were trying to get us to sit in lounge chairs in front of their restaurants where they were also hoping to get us to pay for leg massages. Each time another person would offer, we just kept repeating that we just wanted to walk along the beach and we didn't want anything. Eventually I got tired of all of the hawkers, so I made a beeline for the Ocean. I came to Goa to enjoy the Arabian Sea and I decided that was what I was going to do. Within minutes of stepping into the ocean a girl named Coocoo came into the water and asked if I wanted henna, and I did, but I told her maybe later. After talking to me for a few minutes she became scared of the water and told me that she could not swim, even though the water was only as high as my shins she was still very nervous. She shook my hand and walked away. When she left I mention to the two girls I was with, Cassie and Connie, that I thought it would be fun to get henna at some point. Then I went back to enjoying the ocean. The water was so much warmer than the Pacific Ocean. I was dying to go in a little further, but I had my camera with me and cameras hate water.
While I was enjoying the water the women came back. I walked into the conversation they were having with Cassie and Connie a few minutes later. When I walked over they were telling the women that I wanted Henna. This was our first mistake. Immediately after they said this the women were dragging us back to the beach telling us they were going to do it for us and if we didn't like it then we did not have to pay. I was not quite ready for this, but I was overwhelmed by the excitement. After sitting down I asked Coocoo how much and she asked me if I wanted it on my arms or legs. After deciding on my left arm she told me that it is prettier to get it on both and I repeated that I only wanted one and asked how much. She told me it would be 1600 RS for both arms and from here I began my first bargaining experience in India:
Me: "I only want one, how much for one?"
Coocoo: "both arms is very pretty, you'll look like a real Indian woman" (this made me laugh a little, because there was not a chance that I was going to leave the beach that day looking like a real Indian woman.)
Me: "but I only want one and 1600 is way too much"
Coocoo: "how much do you want to pay?"
Me: "I will give you 500 and you can do just my left arm"
Coocoo: "give me a fair offer for two"
Me: "I want one"
Coocoo: "give me a fair price, come on, give me a fair price"
Me: "I'll do it for 800" (looking back this should have been my final price, and even then it would still be too high)
Coocoo: "for 1000 I'll do two, come on it is going to start raining soon, we must get started"
And immediately she began decorating my hand in henna without waiting for my response. In the end I kind of felt like I lost because she wouldn't let me get just one hand, but it was a really fun experience bargaining with her and I was ultimately very happy in the end. I also ended up bargaining Coocoo down a little lower than my friends who paid 1400 and 1600 RS to the ladies that did their henna.
As Coocoo was doing my henna all the women on the beach began circling us like vultures, with their goods. I saw one woman walk by with a beautiful elephant scarf earlier on the beach, and as far as I could tell that was the only thing I wanted so I just kept saying no. Somehow, a few minutes later, the woman with the scarf pushed her way through and was sitting in front of me. The first thing she did was put an anklet on me, telling me that it looked very pretty. I immediately told her I did not want it and she responded by telling me that it matched my shirt. After repeating that I did not want it she asked me to please look at her stuff, and that was when I saw the scarf that I was eyeing earlier. She had a large pile of scarves sitting on one thigh and they were all nicely folded. On the other thigh was the elephant scarf. I pointed to it and said "I like that one" and our exchange began:
Lady: "I have all these different ones, please look"
Me: "No I like that one"
Lady: "Okay, you buy the scarf and the anklet"
Me: "I don't want this (pointing to the anklet), I only want the scarf and that is it"
Lady: "I will give you both for 1200 RS"
Me: "No, I will just take the scarf and I will give you 200" (I started much lower this time because my last experience was still fresh in my mind"
Lady: "Come on make me a fair offer, 200 is not fair, I will give it to you for 1000"
Me: "That is way too high, plus I am not interested in this anklet, I really don't want them, I am not paying that much"
Lady: "I will give them to you for 800, come on that is fair"
Me: "No, I don't want the anklet and I am not paying that much"
Lady: "make me a fair offer, come on"
Me: "I will pay 500"
Lady: "750, pay me 750 please"
Lady: "come on pay 750"
Me: "no, I don't want it"
Lady: "come on, make me a fair offer"
Lady: "come on, I said 800, you say 500, I say 750, make me an offer and we will both be happy" she holds oout her hand as if ready to shake on it "come on, make me an offer. I am ready to make the deal and I will also give you this necklace."
Me: "I will give you 600, that is it"
We shook hands and made the deal
At this point, Coocoo was ready to go to the next hand so she told me to get my money out because it would be too hard later. I paid both women and said I will not be buying anything else so Coocoo could tell friends that I would ruin my henna if I got into my bag again.
A few minutes later, a woman came by with a beautiful tapestry blowing in the wind. It was yellow with colorful elephants on it (I guess I was obsessed with elephants that day). I wanted it, but decided that it would end up being too expensive and I didn't actually need it. I immediately turned away.
Shortly after I saw it, the woman came and sat next to me, telling me about all her tapestries and how they were handmade. I only gave her half of my attention because I didn't want to be tempted to buy one. She had a whole bag full and she showed me every single one. They were all very beautiful. She asked me if I wanted one. I told her they were all beautiful, but no. She started putting them away, asking me "do you like?" for each one. I just said no as I decided in my head how much I would be willing to spend for the one I wanted and I decided on 1500. Realizing that she was never going to let me have it for that much I decided I wouldn't even talk to her about it. Once she got to it and said "do you like?" I said yes but that I had no more money. I had spent all that I could and only had money for food, I was sorry. Her and Coocoo began to tell me I could make a deal and she would come to my hotel later to collect. Then she was suddenly in bargaining mode before I knew it:
Lady: "this is off season, it is hard for me to make sales. I will come to your hotel later to get money. I know people come here for the water and do not bring money; I do this all the time. It is off season, when the season begins I will sell this for 6000, but now it is off season. I will give it to you for 3000."
At that price I felt like I could get close to what I wanted to pay so I started playing the game.
Me: I'm really sorry I have already spent all the money I can, I won't have any money for food"
Lady: "this is off season, I don't make many sales, please make me an offer"
Me: "I can't, it is very nice and I will not be able to give you a fair price for it."
Lady: "Please make me an offer, how much money do you have?"
Me: " I only have 3000 RS to last the next 3 days. I'm sorry I can't buy it"
Lady: "you can have it for 2000, please"
Me: "I will not have enough money for food. I will buy it for 1500, but that is all I can spend"
Lady: "Okay, I will give it to you for 1500, thank you" and she seemed very happy
I was very happy, I got exactly what I wanted for the price I wanted to pay without even really doing any work. Although, now that I think about it, I probably could have gotten it for 1000 if I tried. Even so, I was ok with what I spent. I really liked it and I didn't think I could have gotten if for less. If I would have gone to the stores first I would have realized that I was wrong, but this is one experience that I was destined to have in India and I had a great time. Buying things the way I did is just one big game and it takes practice. This was my first time ever playing this game and these women have been doing it their whole lives. They are obviously the stronger opponent and either way I was happy to have done as well as I did, despite being mortified about how much money it cost me to just take a seat on the beach.
Later, at the pool, when we were telling the other interns about our experience Stephen summed up my experience pretty well "yeah Kourtney is all like 'so I just sat down on the beach, didn't even have to go anywhere and I got so much shopping done. It was great," I know he was making fun of me for spending so much money, but I had a great time.
That night we got in a cab and asked the driver to take us to a restaurant that served American food. We were a little nervous that he was going to take us to a vegetarian place that served Indian food and we were uncomfortable telling him we wanted to go somewhere that served steak (since cows are sacred in India) but we just hoped that he would take us to the right kind of place. After driving for a short while the driver parked and walked us down to a restaurant on the beach. This restaurant was great; they served steak and there was a band. I ended up ordering a garlic steak, which was a little different than what I was expecting but it was still so good. Although I did start to feel a little guilty eating a steak in India, but that guilt went away as soon as I started eating. After dinner we got up on the dance floor and danced for a little while before heading back to our hotel. When we were back at the hotel we all surprised Cassie with a birthday cake because her birthday was going to fall the day we got back from Goa. She was also having a particularly bad day, so the surprise was perfectly timed.
On the second day we went to the beach again and just played in the water for about an hour. We also did a little bit of shopping in one of the shops where we all bargained a little and left happy because the prices were all reasonable. It was a wonderful day at the beach and we also had the opportunity to walk around for a few hours before heading back to our hotel. That night we went to a Mexican restaurant where we shared nachos and then I ordered the shrimp sizzler for dinner. Oh boy was it delicious.
On the third day we changed hotels and we were within walking distance of the beach. After lunch Cassie, Connie, and I got a taxi and headed to Old Goa to look at all the old churches. They were all so beautiful. We saw the ruins of St. Augustine as well as many other churches and cathedrals. We also took tons of pictures and really enjoyed walking around and going inside all of these beautiful and ancient buildings. That night we went back to the same restaurant that we went on the first night. We were placed in a private room and although we were bummed we couldn't enjoy the band, the room we were in was awesome. I ended up ordering the garlic crab and it was delicious, but messy. By the end of the meal I had garlic butter up to my elbows (I would not recommend anyone order this if they are trying to impress the people they are with, because that is just not possible). As I walked to the bathroom to clean myself off the others were laughing at me for putting on such a show with my crab. After dinner I shared a triple chocolate mousse cake and a strawberry mousse cake with Marissa (we decided to share so we didn't have to choose which one to get).
We were not ready to leave the next morning. We had so much fun and we also had a nice time just relaxing on the beach, but it was time to head back to Loni. By the time we made it to Mumbai we realized we were all very excited to begin our postings in the hospital again, but like any vacation it is always hard to leave.