An Australian, meets an Argentian in a German bakery, run by Nepalese, in India
When you head toward sweet lake, from the main beach in Arambol (Goa, India) you have to walk along the cliff face, and around the bend. To the right are numerous vendors, with their wares and trinkets hung haphazardly and spread about. Guest houses are built into crevices in the rock face, and restaurants jut out over looking the water. All are framing a hazardous pathway of rocks that are meant to mimic stairs, and misshapen stone set into the ground, that lay out a far from safe walking path and would make most U.S. local governments shudder at the thought of all the falls. But, in India, it somehow all works.
To the left, is the ocean. Craggy rock formations spike out of the water a few meters from the shore which, I imagine, were once part of the cliffs. Now they provide a jagged and romantic foreground to epic sunsets if you get there at the right time.
On the other side of the cliff, around the bend, is a sweet stretch of beach. It's split down the middle by a long line of lounge chairs all laid out to provide shady comfort for a small fee, and prime position for beach hawkers who will incessantly try to sell you their wares. Behind this beach is sweet lake.
Like many over packed merchant centers in India, the cacophony of vendors offering items at a 'good price for you' can be tiring. In fact, it's downright annoying and often makes any shopping adventures feel like you could be walking through an aviary at the zoo. The squarking turns shrill fast.
One afternoon, on my way to sweet lake, felt exactly that way. So, at first when I saw Cristian sitting in the sun, his blanket laid out and adorned with his handicrafts, I didn't even take a second glance at his work. I just wanted to keep moving to the beach. However, my friend Aubrey caught something I didn't; a sweet, simple pearl bracelet.
I had completely overlooked the understated simplicity of this beautiful, refined piece until she presented it to me later that evening as a little gift. I was captivated and charmed.
A week or so later, after my retreat had ended, I went to visit Cristian to talk about buying his work, to sell on Love Nomadic. This day, I breezed past all the squawking vendors and found Cristian sitting on his patch of grassy dirt, the only open area on the cliff face, and sat down next to him to talk shop. He was cool.
Not only was he cool but his selection of work was fantastic and, it turns out, his sister was just as talented and he was also selling some of her designs, which I immediately bought the entire stock.
We hit it off immediately and agreed to meet the following evening, at the Om Ganesh bar further along the cliff, to discuss colors and designs.
Over a plate of Channa Masala and kingfisher beers Cristian unpacked his suitcase tucked tight with beads and Italian waxed strings in a multitude of colors. It was exhilarating and overwhelming but I was swift in choosing colors and didn't second guess myself. I know where that road can lead.
We agreed to meet at 8am for coffee at the German bakery, run by Nepalese guys, to make the sale, a week later. Over thick coffee, and a thicker cinnamon scroll, Cristian and I talked more about life than beads and I came to find out so much more about his fascinating life.
He is the quintessential nomad. Making handicrafts has come to be the way he gets around the world. He lives frugally and happily. He declared that he hadn't seen a winter in 40 years and that's the way he likes it. He was never good at adapting to a regulated society so he checked out and hasn't looked back since. He's Argentinian but now lives in Italy in the summers and finds a new place for the winter months; last year was Panama, this year India. Every day he sets up his area at 9am and packs it all back up again at 7pm. That's a long day!
But, he wouldn't have it any other way.
I walked away from the Bakery that morning with arms full of beautiful items, a heart bursting with story and connection and also with a new friend.
I'm reminded on this journey of the many ways there are to live and that judgment of an alternative lifestyle just renders you a prisoner in your own.
Look out for more work by Cristian and his sister, Maria who also follows a similar career path but she works from Spain.