A woman’s stories of living and cycling in Goa, India
After years of exchanging letters, a mysterious stranger finally persuaded me to “Come to Goa.” I flew to India in 2008, stayed in his house in Goa for six months, and wrote more than 60 stories of travel, magic, cycling, and family roots…
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- Browse Goa Moments
My name is Ulrike Bemvinda Rodrigues and I joke that I’m a typical Canadian—my mother is from Austria, my father is a Goan whose family emigrated from Portuguese-occupied India to British-occupied Burma (now Myanmar). They met and married in England, I was born in Germany, and we moved to Canada when I was six.
Bemvinda is my middle name, my grandmother’s name and a way of saying “welcome” in Portuguese. I didn’t know that when I read the word “bemvindo” at the top of a menu a few years ago—I thought it meant “all you can eat” or “dinner special.”
Until just a few years ago, I also didn’t know that Goa—the place my father’s family comes from—was a Portuguese state in India until 1961. It never occurred to me that my last name, Rodrigues, isn’t a traditional Indian name. Or that being raised Roman Catholic isn’t a traditional Indian religion.
I never, ever wanted to go to India. But Aloysius D’Souza changed that. He’s the “mysterious stranger.” He lives in Bombay (Mumbai) and is my father’s cousin. He’s the one who, after seven years of writing back and forth, finally persuaded me to “Come to Goa—the land of your ancestors.”
About Girl Gone Goa
I did go to Goa. I arrived in Bombay and then shifted to Aloysius’s house near the capital city of Panjim. For six months between October 2008 and April 2009 I explored Goa not as a tourist—but as a “person of Indian Origin,” borne of the “diaspora.” These terms I learned sipping Feni and Kingfisher beers with Uncle Aloysius.
This travelogue is about discovering family, history, and everyday life in contemporary Goa. I meet neighbours, relatives, expats and visitors. I stumble, learn, and describe what Goa reveals to me. G.O.D. makes a few appearances too.
UPDATE: I returned to Goa in 2014 to edit Aloysius D’Souza’s now-published book Homeward Bound, a memoir of our family’s migration to, and escape from, Rangoon, Burma. It’s available on Amazon.
More stories and travelogues
I write about two-wheeled and independent travel because more girls and women need to hear that it is okay to be curious and adventurous.
- Exploring western Canada by train and folding bicycle
- Motor-biking backroads in British Columbia on a 100cc motorbike
- Ignorance and bliss pedaling the Dordogne region of France
- Solo cycle-camping on the Canal des Deux Mers in south France
- The journey of suicide
Stumbled upon your blog. You really write well, and have a great sense of humour.
We’ve recently returned from the UK, to (re)settle here. I’ve brought back a bike, but as it needs some basic work, I’ve not begun pedalling here. Everyone here tells me I’d be crazy to try, so it’s good to hear of your experiences.
Keep those posts coming!
Merry Christmas and All the Best for the New Year!
Vivacious blog, beautiful pictures. i grew up where you now live – your stories make me miss home some.
I just wanted to know if your grandmother came from Moira village as I know one. Good luck in your venture and may you have a nice time.
My grandmother, Bemvinda D’Souza, lived in Nachinola with brothers Angelo (Anju) and Jerry.
I guess we are cousins of sorts. I am Jerry’s daughter and live in New York.
This from Aloysius (my father’s cousin and Bemvinda’s nephew):
“The only D’Souza family that I remember from my days at St Xavier’s School, Moira are Laura, big house on the right on the main Mapuca – Aldona Road. She married Joe D’Souza (who was a teacher at St Xaviers), whose house was on this main road just near the bridge coming from Mapuca entering Moira.
We stayed just opposite in Lobo’s house — now demolished and a new multi storeyed building has come up in its place. (Mrs Lobo’s maiden name was Nazareth from Nachinola behind our church — her children’s names were Grace, Patrick and Aloo. Their cousin, Antonio Nazareth, runs the restaurant ANDRON in Nachinola.)”
Enjoyed reading your cycling escapades in Goa! You do have a great sense of humour…about time you wrote a book!
I adore those bikes, too. The Hercules and the Atlases and all of those other ones of like design. While I was traveling in India, I began to search for parts as I have a similar styled bike and wanted some add-ons. The search brought me to the ends of towns and cities. But what I began to also develop was a burning desire to acquire one or more of those old, well used (Herculean) bikes. Battling Gardia sapped my ambitions tho’ and I went home empty handed and stomached. Wa-wa. I still pine for those bikes…
Nice to read about you… You sound very adventurous to me.. and your blog / writing articles is a good job which is an art in it self.
Fantastic blog. I’m inspired to pick up my rusty old cycle and rediscover Goa!