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04 November 2005

whose condition seemed to be deteriorating

checkout time at the afonso guesthouse in panjim, goa, was 0900, a little early for my taste; i much prefer the 1000, 1100, or in rare cases, 1200 checkout hotels. i had another delicious omelette, some goan toast, and two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice, checked my room one last time and then bid farewell to the beyond friendly family who ran the hotel. back over the footbridge to the bus station... first bus to mapusa and then another to vagator.

i enjoyed both of the bus rides as i had the ride the day before... not exactly sure why. the exterior of each bus was a patchwork of metal siding; the interior dirty, crowded, and permeated with an unpleasant odor. i could have taken a 300 rupee taxi from panjim to vagator, but riding the buses made me feel closer to the average local. the bus from panjim to mapusa cost 9 rupees and the bus from mapusa to vagator cost 7 rupees if i remember correctly.

arrival in vagator. i pulled out my map to get my bearings and started to walk in the direction of the beach, toward most of the accomodation in the area. i hadn't walked for more than two minutes when a man rode up on a scooter and asked if i needed a room. i wasn't sure how to respond.

'sure, i'm looking for a room.'

'get on. i'll take you to julie jolly.'

i definitely remembered the name from my guidebook and scrambled to find the vagator accomodation page in my guidebook. the book indicated that three hotels, jolly jolly lester, jolly jolly roma, and julie jolly were all run by the same family and were well recommended. it looked like jolly jolly lester had the best location so i asked scooterguy if he could take me there.

'sure, same owner.'

i jumped on the back of the scooter and we took off. it took a few seconds for the driver to adjust to the added weight and we wobbled from side to side until he'd worked up enough speed to stabilize. we arrived at jolly jolly lester within a minute, he beeped the scooter horn, and a smiling woman appeared at the front desk.

'do you have a room available?'

she led me through a series of paths between several guesthouse buildings, finally stopping at room 2 in the far building. the room appeared clean and included a bathroom with western style toilet and a shower. i knew hot water would be wishful thinking, but i really haven't minded the cold showers in india... very refreshing after a long day in the hot sun. i told her i'd take it, pleased that i'd found a room so quickly and could dump my pack and go out to explore the area. 300 rupees a night; she talked me into staying two nights after using the familiar 'i can't guarantee you'll be able to stay tomorrow because that's my last free room' tactic. fine. i'd planned to stay two nights anyway, but would have preferred the flexibility.

after i'd handed over 600 rupees she told me not to leave any valuables in the room. damn... should have asked about security before i'd paid... it had slipped my mind.

'why? is theft common here?' when she'd shown me the room, she'd pointed out that i could use my own padlock to lock the front door.

'we've had a couple of problems.'

'what happened?'

'sometimes people come home drunk late at night and forget to lock their door and have had things stolen.'

i didn't plan on becoming so intoxicated that i'd forget to lock the door, but i didn't like the thought that a thief would enter a room with someone else in it. bold.

'and if i lock the door?'

'some people have used sticks through the window to pull things out.'

whoa. okay then. lock the door. put nothing by the window. i returned to the room to scout the security situation and noted that each of the windows was fitted with sturdy bars. i checked for any potential security risks and finding none decided it was time to explore the beaches. i sat down on a chair and began digging through my bags for my sunscreen and during the search a tiny frog jumped out from under the bed and nearly gave me a heart attack. i was already on edge due to the security concerns and the sudden movement on the floor shot my adrenaline and made my skin tingle. no worries... just a teeny frog.

'hello, teeny frog. and what is your name, sir?' have i mentioned that it would be _great_ to have a traveling companion here in india? the frog's name was luke flystalker and i liked him immediately, despite the scare. i eventually got him to pose for a picture after he found his way out the front door.

i made my way down to the beaches of vagator and found them to be nice, but not overly breathtaking, and i was slightly aggravated to see the touts and trinket and garment selling merchants combing for prey. i'm still trying to adjust to dealing with these people... it's just so so frustrating... to the point where it is really impacting my travels and perception of india. all westerners are targeted with furious intensity and persistance and the salespeople will not respond to the word 'no' unless it is delivered with an escalated, almost shouting, tone. it really goes against my nature.

two women caught me off guard on the beach and instead of refusing to talk with them outright, i allowed myself to be pulled into the 'where are you from and what's your name?' conversation. i _had_ planned to look around for some very light pants for the heat, but i wasn't going to tell either of them that and i continued the 'i'm not interested' attitude. long story short, i bought a pair of black ninja pants for 350 rupees... about $8 us... from one of the women. the price she gave me initially was rs1250 and she didn't seem happy even after i'd given her the money, so i suppose i got a decent deal. she should have considered any purchase a victory.

i watched the sunset on the beach and then returned to my room at the jolly jolly lester where i discovered luke flystalker sitting peacfully on the chair.

'hello sir, and how are you doing this evening?'

i planned to hit up a restaurant with outdoor seating, so i opened my pack to pull out my mosquito repellant. while i was rooting through the small pocket of my bag, something lunged at my hand and rapidly scurried up my arm. 'HOLY SHIT!' [accompanied by the 'holy shit some little critter is crawling up my arm' swat swat swipe swipe dance.] a gigantic roach fell to the floor and ran into a crevice in my backpack... into the space which holds the waist belt of the pack. i knew it would be nearly impossible to flush it out of there and just had to hope that it would find its own way out over the next day.

so... thieves, frogs, and roaches.

i had a delicious chicken and potato dinner at the nearby bamboo palace, recommended by the woman who ran jj lester, and returned to an empty room, slightly disappointed that luke was not around to chat. i took a refreshing cold shower, broke out my sleeping sack, doublechecked the locks on the door, climbed into the sack, zipped it tightly to keep out any crawling indian beasties, set my brain to wake me up to any 'thief breaking into my room' sound, and drifted off to sleep.

end of my day, right? wrong.

a few days ago i reported that my digestive system had made an exceptional transition to indian cuisine. well, the situation has changed slightly and recently i've found myself noting the location of the nearest restroom facility after each meal. a few hours after falling asleep, i woke up with... 'the feeling.'

me to the feeling: 'can't this wait until morning... please?'

the feeling: 'most certainly not. this is happening right here, right now... i'd advise you to head into the bathroom immediately.'

[sigh]. i unzipped the sack, slipped on my bathroom flipflops, hit the lights, and stepped into the bathroom.

what the hell was that?

i kicked gently at the wastebasket on the floor and a roach (the roach?) zoomed out and ran up the side of the toilet bowl.


i kicked again and it scurried away behind the toilet, out of sight. i wasn't sure whether this was a good thing or a bad thing... i think i'd have preferred to keep an eye on my enemy, especially given the vulnerable position necessitated by the task at hand.

the feeling: 'uh... are you playing with a bug right now? apparently you don't understand the situation. let me make things clear for you.'

and with that said, the feeling made things _very_ clear. i'd forgotten my toilet paper and scrambled out to grab the last precious roll and then quickly back into the bathroom where i used the majority of the roll to line the toilet seat. done. i turned around, dropped my pants, and just as i was about to sit down, i saw a dark movement in the bowl.

oh no... the roach.

the feeling: 'are you kidding me?'

i pulled my pants back up and turned around for a better look.

luke flystalker: 'hello.'

noooo! it wasn't the roach at all. luke flystalker was swimming gleefully in the water. there was a _frog_ in the toilet bowl... and at the most inopportune time.

the feeling: 'you have exactly 30 seconds to deal with this situation and then we're going to rock... frog or no frog.'

what do i do? i had no time...

'i'm sorry, luke... may the force be with you.'


but the situation didn't get better.

in fact, it got worse...

AAAAHHHH! luke flystalker's wife and child had been hanging out under the rim and were swept down by the rushing torrent of water. when the water stopped, three frogs were scrambling wildly to get out of the bowl. the child flystalker managed to jump out and onto the floor. i quickly opened the bathroom door and shepherded him out. the feeling was stabbing at me, so i flushed again anxiously but there wasn't enough water to do much.

the feeling: 'i warned you. let's do this.'

the first flush had thoroughly soaked my toilet paper seat cover and had rendered it completely ineffectual. i couldn't sit down on the wet seat, so i turned around, pulled down my pants, hovered about 10 centimeters above the rim of the toilet, and apologized outloud to the flystalkers. i had no choice at that point; the feeling had taken over.

i'm not going to go into the details, but suffice it to say that whatever was inside of me wanted to get out... in a hurry... and combined with the high altitude... well... things weren't pretty. the remaining toilet paper was not nearly enough for the job... hell, it wasn't enough to get _started_ on the job. i folded up the used paper as best i could and laid it on the bathroom floor, remembering a key point on the sign hanging on the wall of the bedroom: 'do not throw toilet paper in w.c.'

i hobbled around to see how luke and his wife had fared. both were still swimming; beyond that you'll have to use your imagination... [or, you can check out the photo when i post it. oh yes, there is a photo.]

a shower was my only option at this point. i hobbled out of the bathroom to the far end of the bedroom, hit the bedroom lights, and then hobbled back over to the bathroom where i took off my clothes, taking special care to 'contain the situation'. when i opened the bathroom door, i discovered luke's wife sitting on the floor next to the roach which had come out to see what all the commotion was about. i apologized again and escorted her out of the bathroom. luke was still scrambling as i turned on the shower... nothing more than a nozzle hanging out of the wall. i picked up the soaked pieces of paper lining the toilet seat and then directed the water into the toilet in an attempt to help out the poor frog whose condition seemed to be deteriorating rapidly.

i cleaned myself thoroughly and then checked on luke. the shower water had cleared the toilet water significantly, but the frog was nowhere to be seen. i flushed a few times and wished him a fond farewell. dried off, got dressed, returned to the my sleep sack, and zipped it up tightly.

what a truly bizarre situation. the feeling made a return appearance later in the night but was easily combatted with a couple of tums and sheer willpower. i never saw luke flystalker again.

posted by paul on Fri 04 Nov 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)


Awesome! best story yet!!!

posted by James on Mon 07 Nov 2005 at 10:25:34 est (-05:00)

Frogs that live in Toilets, Professional Ear Cleaners......Are you sure you're in India? Sounds like you took a wrong turn at Heathrow and got sent to a different planet.......

posted by NEAL DAVID on Mon 07 Nov 2005 at 12:30:59 est (-05:00)

Amazing story... I'm gonna light a candle for Mr flystalker and his family... Amazing country... Amazing Paul

posted by LAURA still in Prague on Tue 08 Nov 2005 at 14:58:25 est (-05:00)

Luke Flystalker, roaches, explosions!! I hope the flystalkers made it out ok!! OH my...you've given me some great laughs this evening!! Sounds like you're having quite the experience. Enjoy the rest of your travels.

posted by Lindsey Orlowski on Thu 10 Nov 2005 at 19:29:34 est (-05:00)

lindsey, my long lost cousin! thanks for posting! i'm afraid to report that luke most likely perished in the jolly jolly lester disaster of 2005. a true tragedy.

posted by paul recon on Sat 12 Nov 2005 at 03:01:47 est (-05:00)

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