April 20 2006 Colombo Ratmalana, Sri Lanka
Yesterday had a great start and a frustrating end.
I woke up in the old dutch Fort at Galle. This is the city in which a bus was shown being washed along the street during the Tsunami. I had come here to track down an old english student of mine called Sanath. Sanath is an Archaeologist, an Excavation Officer to be precise. He looked slightly bewildered to see me walk into his office, but warmed up very quickly. He transferred down to Galle a couple of years ago and has been training to be a marine archaeologist and so dives down to ship wrecks for investigation and conservation. What a Brilliant Job!!! Do any of my readers know anything about this field in the UK?
Sanath and a colleague showed me bits of old anchor and coins and stuff and some videos of the ships in the harbour and then invited me to go diving down to the wrecks with them next week. Gutted that I'll be in India.
Sanath then took me back to his house for an amazing lunch with a couple of beers and laughs and memories.
Then I tried to catch the bus to colombo. I waited from 4:30 till 7:30 and saw a marvellous sunset, but no buses came. The main problem with this was that with the long bus journey ahead I was afraid to drink much water, and I got pretty thoroughly dehydrated in the cue. Eventually I jumped on a long distance bus that was overflowing at the seems... a very difficult task with a rucksack. A few more people were packed in behind me and we stood for a couple of hours before finally getting seats.
Got to Colombo Fort at about 11pm, crashed in the old colonial hotel (very not classy place next door to the "24 Hour Fun club") and then met another old student Kusumseri for breakfast.
After breakfast I headed to an International Research and Development centre called the International Centre for Under-utilised Crops ICUC and had tea with the director while we talked about saving the world with plants.
April 18 2006 Tangalle, Sri Lanka
What a wonderful 24 hours I’ve just had!
It started with me waking up in the idealic bay of Mirissa in the Mount Garden
guest house with Joel (Naomi's wee bro) and 6 other link volunteers. After an
early morning swim (in one of those perfect beaches complete with palm trees,
white sands and blue blue sea) we had an enormous western breakfast of toast jam, butter eggs coffee, pinepples, papaya.
We then decided to bus it for Tangalle. This is another perfect beach spot, but
more remote and possibly more beautiful... although there is debate about that
matter. Katie and I were sent off to find a guest house while the others relaxed on the beach and took in the view. I went straight for a tiny little place by the name of sunsea where I and my batch of link volunteers had passed new year four years previously. Walking along he beech was slightly eerie: unlike Hikkadua, there is still plenty of physical evidence of the Tsunami 14 monhs ago. Holes where buildings once lay and the odd skeleton of a house left.
I was therefore amazed to find that the SunSea was still intact, complete with
Zebra mural. A family reunion seemed to be going on, so they didn't have rooms
for us, but when I told them I'd stayed there before they insisted that katie and I sit down, drink tea, and eat a mountain of cakes. There was a glimmer of
recognition in one man's eye when he saw me, and when I mentioned the New Years
Party that we had there with 9 volunteers squeezed into two bedrooms he laughed
wiggled his head happily.
His first comment was "you went swimming, isn't it?"
This may seem like a fairly pointless comment to all of you who weren't there or hadn't seen the photos - but my old buddies will probably know the scandalous reasons why it was memorable. He asked after the big slightly podgy one, and the indian looking one. It felt great to be back in Tangalle where we'd spent such a brilliant night.
Not long after, we checked ouselves into a nearby guest house and headed for silent beach. I got chatting to a little 11 year old british kid who said that his dad managed he posh hotel nearby and invited us to use their pool... and it
was very posh. $700 per night... we all swung between feeling like imposters and movie stars! Apparently many of the guests are movie stars who arrive by helicopter or sea plane.
Back in our guest house we had an amazing dinner before hiring two Rickshaws to
take us to Rakama beech where turtles were laying eggs. We saw an absolutely
beautiful green turtle cover its nest over. It was amazing.
Another great nights sleep and Joel and I went for an early morning walk on he
beech. We got a litle banter going with a local who invited us to help his
friends catch fish. A little hand paddled catamaran had lain a very long net way out into the sea in a big circle, and we then helped a bunch of guys heave the net in shouting Ellawa Ellawa Ellawa ("Pull" i think) and Hutha! (Something rude
I think). After about an hour of hard work the net was tightening, a sea eagle
was circling and a couple of desperate look fish could be seen trying to jump
over the barrier. Joel and I both felt very manly, all heaving together with the guys and providing food for our women folk like in the olden days. We got our catch onto the beach and were given some to take back to the guest house to be fried for breakfast.
THe girls were impressed.
April 15 2006 Hikkadua, Sri Lanka
Happy new year!
Its party time here in sri lanka, with the local happy new year.
Lots of cake and arak, and fun and stuff.
So, I accidentally ended up back in Hikkadua.
Left Dambulla, planning to head for Anuradhapura to spend the sri lankan new year and easter there... but then I got offereda lift in a nice clean air conditioned car to colombo, and thought that it was too hot to get on a bus. So, I powered down to ... not Colombo, but Negombo, spent a night there (very missable) and then bussed down to Hikkadua to meet up with some of the former volunteers. Now hanging out with Joel from this batch (Naomi's wee brother) and Kelly from last batch. While they dive, I'm trying to rekindle my surfing prowess.
Trying and failing.
Surfing here is not as easy as it is in Kuta beach, Bali. The season is ended so the waves aren't clean, and they're pretty big and scary. And the bit of beach with nicely shaped waves, also has dead coral underfoot and The idea of being dashed to pieces on it is unappealing... I've seen injuries of the goodsurfers.
So, I'm just messing about in the broken waves and getting very tired, but enjoying it muchly. Will be in Colombo from the middle of next week to meet a few people before heading to India.
April 12 2006 Dambulla, Sri Lanka
yesterday Nigel and I took a Rickshaw all the way to Kandy and back so we could take some photos of a property. Also met a Scotland volunteer for lunch in that little chinese place - was very nice.
Its funny, I didn't plan to stop in Dambulla long but its so nice at the arboretum and hanging out with Big Ol' Nige. Also, theres public holidays on at the moment so travelling is difficult and nobody who I want to meet around the country is where they should be... ie at work.
Being in sri Lanka I have also noticed a range of changes in Sri Lanka, all the noticable ones of which represent the onward march of globalisation... and I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I like them.
I mean, take food city... the nations supermarket. 4 years ago, there was a couple of food cities in Colombo and that was it. It was the only place we could buy cheese or nice stuff. Now there are food cities and another brand of supermarket, family supers, in every little backwater. Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Matale, Kurenegala, Hikkadua. And it makes life so nice. You can get good stuff from all over the place. BUt they are sri lankan companies. They do things in a sri lankan way.
Then take mobile phones, internet, 1 hour development of photos from your camera. All now at reasonble prices. 4 years ago, in the backwater of Anuradhapura internet was about 4 pounds an hour. Now its 35 pence an hour.
Its difficult to see any of this as bad. Why should the simple people of dambulla or anuradhapura be denied the privilages offered to richer people living in the capital? But I'm sure my radical friends will tell me otherwise.
April 10 2006 Dambulla, Sri Lanka
I went swimming in a big lake yesterday with Budhika (the nervous trainee scientist) and some local farmer boys yesterday evening. Beautiful... and I tried out that latest cool word
They thought it was great, and seeing as how Dambulla is such a backwater they hadn't heard it was in fashion now to talk about soap.
I just hope the guys in Anuradhapura weren't just taking the piss
April 9 2006 Dambulla, Sri Lanka
Had a wonderful day yesterday, that finished with having a naked shower under the moonlight in the middle of a deserted forest, to the sounds of birds and insects croaking or whatever they do. I can't think of anything better.
Went to Sigyria to meet a current volunteer and her mother who are traveling around the cultural part of sri Lanka. They were planning to do 'elephant stuff' and invited me to join them. SO, in traditional Dave form, I swaggered up to the 5 Sigyria Hotel in scummy sweaty unwashed backpacer gear to meet them.... I was taken elephant riding, involving sitting on elephants as they walked about... it was great when we went throuh a big lake and getting off to swim around our lumbersome friend. Then after an enourmous lunch we hired a jeep and drove aroud a Nationl Park looking for wild ones. It is so amazing to see these gentle beasts in their natural environments with their little babies.
After that I hired a took-took (Rickshaw) to take me to Nigels place in Dambulla. He runs an Arboretum project here... the idea is that they are trying to reclaim abandonned farm land and cut back all the invasive creepers and stuff and then let whatever seeds that are still lying dormant in the soil spring up and regenerate. They have a whole woodland! Its amazing!!! And a control plot next door to show what it looks like untouched... just nasty scrub.
Nigel is particularly excited that his ebony trees are in flower at the moment.
Last night I arrived during the hours of darkness and since there's no electricity it was difficult to find. But Big Ol' Nige' was there looking happy and round and jolly. We had a quick dinner and then I was introduced to Buddhika (his rather enthusastic young M.Phil. student who is doing research there) and left to be talked to. Buddhika is lovely and very keen in a slightly anxious way (bit like Kusumseri) and was almost orgasmic when he found out I had a PhD in plant biology. Eventually I was allowed to go grab my aforementioned shower, alone, and go to bed.
April 8 2006 Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
just found out I'm terribly out of touch and old fashioned.
I've been using the phrase
to say "cool" or "magic" or "pure dead brilliant man"
to the local people.
The direct translation is "cows milk" and I assume that that is because they rarely get fresh cows milk to drink... normally powdered milk.
Ella Kiri always gets a response of wow hey, how do you know that?
But I just found out it is very last season now.
Now the cool way to say "great" is
"Anna Sabang!".... pronounced with a delay and long sounding nnnnn in Annnna
and is apparently totally with it and cool and completely counteracts any image problems I may suffer from wearing my leather fanny pack
April 7 2006 Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
It is wonderful to be back in Anuradhapura, my old home.
I spent 6 months here back in 2001/2002 teaching english, and i was a little nervous that perhaps being here would not be the same. Of course it wouldn't... it will be different. It is different but still good.
As i got off the bus and walked up the hill towards Nuwarawewa Rest House i had all these strange feelings. BUt it felt good. And not like the first time. it felt somehow normal and natural. THe cow munching on an old tyre by the side of the road and rickshaw drivers shouting at me to ask "where?" short for... "where are you going?"
Somehow none of the staff knew that i was coming so i was amazing surprise for everybody. Even the grumpy old waiters who used to hate us managed to smile. James looked really happy. All the receptionists had changed and they accidentally put me in a nice room... now i've been made to change to a less nice room by the nazi-ish Mr benni- assistant manager. The main problem seemed to be that people couldn't understand why i was here without Mr kai (my gap-year buddy teaching partner back in 2001)... i tried explaining that he had exams at university, but i don't really know if it sank in. Been having a great time hanging out with the guys though.
Went swimming in the big lake (reservoir built over 2000 years ago) with Chamile this morning. GOing off on a motor bike this evening to enjoy the sunset and drink toddy (the local alcohol syphoned as nectar from coconut flowers then left to ferment for a few hours before consumption) with Charmara this evening.
I'm not supposed to be getting free food at the hotel. just a discounted room , but its a posh hotel so food is still above my budget... however, all the waiters and kitchen staff sneak me food at every opportunity.
lots of changes.
Laddish lads now married with kids (charmara , chandana, tisa)
Other ladies pregnant (NISHANTI)
buT Seneka, A room boy who is responsible for my room, is still wierd and enthusiastic. He seems to have banned the other staff from going near me. I am now his property. BUt i ignore that.
Also, went for a cycle yesterday around my old haunts.
Blagged my way past the security guards into the sacred city which houses some ancient buddhist relics, including a cutting of the tree underwhich Buddha achieved enlightenment, some massive Stupa temples (biggest monuments in the ancient world after Sphinx and pyramids). My purpose for going there was to visit the archeologists who i used to teach English. Several of them still there and delighted to see me. Same problem about the whereabouts of kai though.
Then onto the tisawewa rest house before dropping in on the Deaf and blind school and hostel.
It was lovely being there. GOt there just in time as all the kids were going home for holidays today. Kids change a lot in 4.5 years though. Some who were tiny 5 or 6 year olds i could still recognise (HELPED by my photo album for reference). after having a tour of the place and throwing them in the air for a while I had a couple of games of Caram.... this is a game like pool but played with draughts pieces on a 2 foot square board. It was a four player game and i'm crap at it... can hardly aim and its only luck when i pot them. the problem was that the 3 other kids seemed to have decided that i had to win... and really really tried to help me win. It was a very long finish, i can tell you. Being in the deaf hostel also made me sad. THe place seems to run so foolishly and crazily that I despair. Several of the kids can hear and if they had hearing aids may not actually have to be there. Two uneducated adults look after over 70 children and give them not much love and attention... althought the new matron is better than the old battleaxe. I was about to leave and go back to the rest house to meet some of my old homies, when I was ushered into the hall for a ceremony.
All the deaf kiddies lined up in rows on seats facing a table with a seat at it... and then a semi-circle of seats round the table facing the kids. I was ushered into one of these seats beside the committee and teachers who run the school and home. What proceeded was one of the craziest things i've ever observed. Man a table stands up and addresses the deaf kids in spoken Sinhala for 10 minutes... occasionally pointing back at staff and committee and me (who can hear but don't really seem to be listening). man sits down. EVerybody claps. Second man gets up and talks to kids for 20 minutes in sinhala... all the deaf kids looking completely bored and making eyes at me throughout as of course they can't hear. The third talk, of 7 minutes, was at least signed for the kids by one of the sign-language teachers. After the 5th talk and about an hour of constant talking, i had to get up and sneak out... it was the only reaction i got from the deaf kids all the time who immediately lept up and made the "i love you" sign to me. i made it back and left... the speaker did not seem to be at all perturbed by this and kept on in his sinhala.
I still don't know what the ceremony was about.
Ok, must dash.
April 5 2006 Kandy, Sri Lanka
I do seem to be rushing about.
Nigel asked me to come to Kandy with him to photograph some stuff with my newly fixed digital camera, and then the plan was to get a lift with somebody to Dambulla and see his Arboretum. I headed up to Kandy a day early so as to escape from Colombo, expecting Nigel to meet me here this morning. But Nigel just phoned up sick and wants to see me here next week instead. So, it looks like after less than 24 hours in this gorgeous city I'll be leaving for Anuradhapura.
Really looking forwards to seeing the old guys there again, and also meeting my blind and deaf children.