Girl Gone Goa

Travel, sex, magic, and cycling in an Indian state

Goa Moment #23: An art walk in Panjim December 7, 2014

Before we head to the Goa Arts and Literature Festival Janis Harper and I toured art spaces around Goa’s capital city.

Marigolds float in a water-filled copper bowl at the entry to Sunaparanta in Goa, India

Marigolds float in a water-filled copper bowl at the entry to Sunaparanta


Janis and I visited Gallery Gitanjali, the Krishnadas Shama Central Library of Goa, the Fundação Oriente, the Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts, and discovered newly-painted mural art from on the beautiful travellers’ Old Quarter Hostel just opened by Goa’s own entrepreneurial foursome, The Hostel Crowd.

Janis Harper and Ulrike Rodrigues at Gallery Gitanjali in Panjim, Goa

(L-R) Janis Harper and Ulrike Rodrigues at Gallery Gitanjali

Sculpture o woman on bicycle with a large basket on her head in Goa, India

Mario Miranda-inspired whimsy at the entry to Krishnadas Shama Goa State Central Library

Detail of window shutter with mother-of-pearl shell at the Fundacao Oriente

Detail of window shutter with mother-of-pearl shell at the Fundacao Oriente

Courtyard cafe with ornate railings and a fabric hung shade in Panjim, Goa

La Bodega, a cafe in the inner courtyard of Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts

Corner view of white building with large, colourful Portuguese-style square patterns.

Exterior wall of The Old Quarter Hostel, hand-painted by co-owner Laura Anna Pawliczek (on ladder).

More Goa Moments >


How an average cyclist became an accidental activist March 29, 2009

Filed under: Magic,Travel — UR @ 2:07 pm
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[Published in the July/August 2009 issue of Momentum Magazine.]

Early days of the Goa Cycle Club

Early days of the Goa Cycle Club

Here in Vancouver, Canada, I consider myself just another person in the city who rides a bike. I keep a pretty low profile compared to the cycling artists and advocates I admire. But something radical happened when I bought an Atlas bicycle, rode it, and wrote about riding it in Goa, India for six months. I became an accidental activist.

Hi Ulrike,” wrote a reader in response to one of my Girl Gone Goa blog stories, “We’ve recently returned from the UK, to resettle 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.

“We” was Luis Dias and his wife Chryselle. They were Goan and keen to ride, though eight-month-pregnant Chyselle admitted she’d need to have the baby first. Luis and I headed to the Panjim ferry jetty and cycled and chatted along the Mandovi River. He said he was looking for a community project to dig his teeth into.



Cycle in Goa? Radical!

Filed under: Magic,Travel — UR @ 1:00 am
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[This story appeared as a feature in Herald “Mirror” Sunday March 29, 2009. Herald is Goa, India’s largest circulation English language daily newspaper – UR]

The best way to see Goa is from the seat of a bicycle

Local girls take to their cycles on a quiet Sunday afternoon in Siolim, Bardez.

Local girls take to their cycles on a quiet Sunday afternoon in Siolim, Bardez (Goa, India)

by Ulrike Bemvinda Rodrigues

“The young lady wishes to ride a cycle all around Goa,” Aloysius explained to the sales clerk, “And she requires one with a basket.” Aloysius and I were standing in the entryway of a cycle shop and since I was a newly arrived visitor, my 74-year-old father’s cousin had guided me here to buy a bicycle.

I’d left my home in Vancouver vowing to buy a one-speed made-in-India bicycle, visit my grandparents’ houses in Olaulim and Nachinola, and – over the next six months –  learn about the rest of Goa slowly, from the seat of a bicycle. This, I discovered, was apparently a radical idea.

My first lesson came in the cycle shop.

“I want a bicycle that is simple, and of good quality,” I told the clerk, “And it should be able to carry stuff because I want to use it for transportation.” The fellow gave me an odd look, then led me through the dark shop and into the alley. A shipment of Barbie-pink bicycles rested against the wall, and I could tell through their cardboard wrapping that they were not designed for the kind of cycling I had in mind.

I peered past the impractical cycles to a dusty pile behind and immediately recognized the archetypal Hercules- and Atlas-brand Indian bikes I’d been seeking: elegant frames, steel brake systems, heavy-duty tires and sturdy carrier racks. “What about those?” I pointed.

The young man shook his head. “Those are work cycles – for sellers, and shops and hotels.”

“Do they come in ladies’ models?” I persisted.

“No,” he shook his head again, “Ladies don’t work.”



Sadho at Sunaparanta March 16, 2009

Filed under: Magic,Travel — UR @ 9:34 am

The Sadho Poetry Film Festival at Goa’s new Arts Centre

Fontainhas, Goa (Ulrike Rodrigues)Sadho is a voluntary organization that aims at taking great “poetry to people” from all walks of life through the use of arts, media and social action. I attended a Sadho film festival at Sunaparanta – Goa Centre for the Arts in Altinho and was quite taken by how well poetry and animation go together.

Coincidentally, one of my favourite poetry films was from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB): A Tragic Story With A Happy Ending. It’s the tale of a girl whose heart is so loud that it disturbs her neighbours. She rides her bike and tries to explain to them, “My heart beats faster because it is the heart of a bird.”

I’ve been to the beach frequently, surfing in the warm rolling waves with a borrowed boogy board (half surfboard). I’ve also been awash with feelings about leaving soon. That night, I found myself falling asleep poetically, and scrawled a quick poem the next morning:

Goa 3am

The 3am air is warm and heavy like the Arabian Sea
And I float uneasily in the night’s discomfort,
Salty skin bound by an accidental sari
Of damp sheet cotton.
Hair brushes pillow, hushes mouth, tangles,
As I am tangled under and inside a net
That traps restless women,
Thirsty mosquitos,
Sheets and saris,
Sweat and sea.
A dog tells the moon that this surface drenched in darkness
Is her own.


A Conversation with G.O.D.* February 17, 2009

Filed under: Magic,Sex,Travel — UR @ 11:17 pm
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Apparently, a little eyeliner works wonders

guirim scarecrow goaDear Ulrike,

G.O.D. here. I’ve been hearing from you a lot lately and – you’re welcome. It’s my pleasure to see you surrounded by the beautiful nature, kind people and little joys that I have tucked away for you to discover in Goa. It’s one of my favourite places, and  – judging from the volume of prayers I hear from the Catholics there – I know I did the right thing, sending the Portuguese over like that.

Sunday it pleased me to see you on your bicycle and grinning with delight on the stretch of meadow between Guirim and Parra (the one with the scarecrow woman in a patch of garden – I’m glad you notice my subtle gestures), and Monday evening I felt your wonder after I put you in the company of Nobel and Booker prize luminaries and other great minds to inspire those books you said you’d write.

By the way, what’s taking so long? You’re here in Goa, exactly where you wanted to be, you’re exchanging bon mots with the region’s finest published writers, and you haven’t even drawn up an outline?

Honestly, Ulrike, what more do you need to fulfill your life’s destiny?

Oh, right, that. This afternoon, I heard that old prayer. You were cycling up the long hill from the Betim ferry jetty and a sadness that you’d been carrying all day pressed down on your heart and the pain blurred your eyes with tears. You felt betrayed because this sadness – the one that you thought you’d left behind in Canada – had found you today, here in Goa.


Ulrike, I’ve surrounded you with love. You have newfound aunts, uncles and cousins who have looked after you; neighbours who worry about you when you come home late; friends who share chai and musings; colleagues who encourage your voice; comrades who share your passion; strangers who gift you with smiles. I’ve even thrown in a storeful of tolerant clerks, five affectionate kittens and  two lusting admirers, for heaven’s sake.

What? Sure, they’re married, but love is love. No – I’m not suggesting you sin – I’m just saying it’s  better than nothing, right?

I don’t know how much longer it will be, Ulrike. Maybe if you just took a little more care with your outfits and wore some makeup…(joke)…what I meant to say is: yes, I know you’ve had a rough time of it. You’ve fallen in love with men who didn’t love you; who wanted to change you, who missed their mothers, who hated their marriages; and who returned to me after huffing the tailpipe of an idling Toyota.

I know that one really hurt, and I wish I could explain. I know you’re strong, and now – well – you’ve learned to be humble. Sorry about that, it was out of my hands. But hold faith, Ulrike, and trust me. Be kind and honest and keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. When it’s time, he’ll find you and you’ll find him. You want a sign? Sure, I’ll send something good, I promise.

No, he won’t be married. Yes, he’ll love, respect and accept you as you are…but a bit of eyeliner wouldn’t hurt.

Oh, lighten up Ulrike! Now get started on that book and let me worry about the details.


*Goal-Oriented Director


A single woman’s dilemma February 9, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love? More like Eat, Cycle, and (eventually) Love

where good vegetables go bad

Goa: where good vegetables go bad

A few readers have complained that my blog has “Travel” and “Magic” but – with the exception of “Bicycles and Bare Breasts” (which is not about breasts at all) – not enough “Sex” stories.

There’s an obvious reason for this – I’m not getting any – but it’s more complicated than that. First, some history…

Ten years ago, I cycled solo through Thailand and Laos. I didn’t have sex with anyone because I had a boyfriend to whom I swore I’d be loyal. But I did see other peoples’ “sex”. A Thai petrol-seller told me about a French man who started a family with her then fled back to Europe; a Thai glass blower told be how he had many “sisters” (mistresses), and asked if I’d like to be one too?; a German woman told me a Thai man had pursued her endlessly then dumped her when she “put out”; a British man told me how easy it was to find a Thai “girlfriend” for the price of a pair of branded running shoes.

Sex is a part of a traveller’s experience, even when you’re not having any. I’ll keep my ears open for other people’s stories, but until then I figure I have one of six options for sex if I want to experience it before I leave: (more…)


Beach, Art and Bliss on Mojim Beach January 14, 2009

Filed under: Magic,Travel — UR @ 11:00 am
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“Do you live in a state of bliss?”

Subodh Kerkar begins an art installation on Mojim Beach, Goa

Subodh Kerkar begins an art installation on Mojim Beach, Goa (View photos)

Kim, originally from California, posed the question from a plastic chair next to Ganesh, her Gujuarat husband; and I stood near by with a Kingfisher in my hand.

When she and Ganesh arrived at Mojim beach to join our sunset group of artists, writers, workers, kids, and a Russian wedding party, I suspected I’d like her immediately. Her long blonde hair was held back with a casual ponytail which brushed the collarline of her salwar kumeez (loose fitting tunic and pants). She lived in the same tiny village as Ganesh’s family and she admitted that she was here in Goa for a western-style holiday in her own (adopted) country.

I took her question about bliss seriously. I tilted my head back and took in the sights, sounds and smells that had surrounded me for the past few hours. Mojim beach was locally referred to as one of the “Russian beaches” for the Russian mafia that had apparently staked a place there. This end of the beach was free of the noisy shacks that crowded the beaches further south.

Its relative isolation had caught the eye of Candolim-based Goan artist Subodh Kerkar as a good place to try out a new idea, and he’d invited a few of us to tag along. We’d started the day at his house in Saligao with a homemade lunch, then piled into his friend Veronica’s Jeep and carefully stowed camera equipment and rope under the seats. It felt more like a picnic than an installation by an internationally recognized multi-media artist.



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