Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Month Down...

Today marks exactly four weeks since I've been here in Sri Lanka and there is something important I need to get off my chest. Not that this has only been on my mind for the past four weeks but I'm just about ready to explode now...

I think about you all the time, people say that it'll just happen when the time is right but I can't get you out of my mind.

I wish I could forget you, I wish I could just let this year happen but you haunt my every waking moment and it's only been four weeks. How much of my mind will you have consumed in four months time? Why can't you leave me alone? Why must you torment me so?

I see you everywhere. At times I swear I hear you calling my name. And your name...Your name comes whispering in the breeze; it resounds in my head, echoes on my lips, colours my dreams, holds my breath...takes me away from the here and now.

I long to find you, to know you, to have and hold you...but alas so far you are but a distant dream. A relentless fantasy

"I think I have a problem, I think I think too much" - truer words have ne'er been spoken when it comes to me and you. Perhaps if I just let it be you'd come to me, but I can't let it go. Place this in the hands of fate? Wishing for a fortunate happenstance to send you in my direction - I am the craftsman of my own fate (or so I've been told) - does that not apply to this too?

Oh, but to say your name and make it real - this thing that escapes me and simultaneously bewitches. To speak your name without fear - to know what I know, to share in your secrets and make them my own. Spending time with you is a pleasure I look forward but cannot know...not now! Not yet! I have to give it time.

And yet still I yearn to know you, to understand you, to unravel your mysteries and make them known...

Thesis I will find you! But for now please leave me alone.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gastronomic Adventures

Just sharing three loosly related stories, not by any means the most skillfully written blog entry but I'm sure you'll enjoy these stories. Especially those of you who are familiar with my highly peculiar eating habits including my ability to forget to eat. In Sri Lanka almost every conversation begins with an inquiry as to whether or not you have eaten and to someone such as myself who easily has some of the worst eating habits known to man this is quite a frustrating question.

My frustration also extends to their inability to comprehend the concept of no - most of the Sinhala I have learnt thus far is just different ways of refusing food because as you are telling them no they will pour tea or take out food for you. No just doesn't mean no in South Asia.

And now without further ado - Gastronomic Adventures 1-3.

Adventure #1
On the first day to work, the driver cautions me that I should be careful not to eat everywhere and points out a good pastry shop that I should eat from. On day one, I visit the aforementioned location and get pastries to go from the display case - I take them back to work and enjoy them in the comfort of my office.

The next day however, I decided I felt like sitting and eating in the store. So after selecting my lunch at the window I was directed inside to the seating area. There were two tables and off to another side, there was living room suite and a coffee table. I was seated at the coffee table.

Instead of bringing my order, the waitress had placed an assortment of the restaurant's fare on two plates and set before me. I reached for the items I had originally ordered and stared in horror as a horde of flies began to rest on what was left on the platters. Those who know me are well aware of how scornful I can be and thus this sight immediately put an end to my appetite. I chugged the juice I had ordered and requested the bill, claiming that what I had ordered was a lot spicier than I had expected (which was also true - who puts whole chillies in an omelette?).

As I exited the restaurant I observed the waitress placing the food upon which the flies had just partied back into the display case - needless to say I won't be eating there anymore.

Adventure #2
Now, I enjoy curry as much as the next person. No, I stand corrected - given my Guyanese heritage and status as an honorary brown person I enjoy curry more than the average person but I draw the line at rice and curry three times a day.

Now, I've had occasion to warm left over curry for breakfast but never have I set out to prepare rice and curry for breakfast. I've never run down the options as cereal, toast or..oh yeah fish curry. Yet, this is common practice in Sri Lanka and daily I am asked "No rice and curry for breakfast?".

And while I am given at times to hyperbole, this is not one such example. I am genuinely asked daily about whether or not I am eating. And several people find it necessary to come into my office and ask me when I am eating, and if I am having rice and curry.

I did however have a most entertaining conversation with a colleague who noted my extremely thin size and noted that should I eat like a Sri Lankan i.e rice and curry for breakfast lunch and dinner I could easily gain a significant amount of weight over the next twelve months.

Adventure #3
At the beginning of the third year ahead of co-op we are cautioned about expectations - the high expectations that people will have of us and also to be wary of having expectations of the field.

Apparently, the caution re: expectations extends to food. Yesterday, I had occasion to visit a Chinese restaurant and ordered a vegetable fried rice. Badulla is a small town and it was the first time I had seen a food place offering something other than Sri Lankan fare.

I was terribly excited to take my fried rice home for dinner. It was the first time since move-in where I wouldn't be forced to make dinner on my one burner gas stove, and more importantly it would be a different taste.

I opened up the take out box, and the food was wrapped in the traditional way in cut-rite on the inside of the box. Unfolding the cut-rite, the disappointment that overcame me as I noticed that the rice was not so much fried as steamed and that the only vegetables in it were corn and carrots.

I broke out my frying pan to set about rectifying the situation. I diced some onions, fretted over the fact that I have yet to see bell peppers in Sri Lanka, and threw the rice into a pan with some soy sauce. Not nearly the convenient meal I had envisioned when I purchased my "fried rice" half hour earlier.


Monday, August 9, 2010

And now.. A word from our sponsors

Have you ever taken a shower to be scolded afterwards by your mother for wetting up the whole bathroom? Have you ever wondered why it was such a big deal...after all it is called the BATHroom?

Well I've got the answer to your bath related worries...with a bathroom designed as it should be.

The toilet is located in the back left corner of this reduce-sized bathroom. In front of that there is a lower tap and on the right wall is your shower head located inches away from the face basin.

But how does that solve my problem? Simple! The shower, toilet everything share a common floor space. Cleverly built on a slant for easy drainage your mom will never quarrel that you've soaked the whole bathroom again because well with this design that's what you're supposed to do.

Taking a shower has never been simpler and think of the convenience when you're ill. Bath tubs and showers are the way of the past...this innovative minimalist design is the way of the future and it's standard here in Sri Lanka.

What are you waiting for, don't be there be here.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming

Monday, August 2, 2010

Who Needs Wonderland?

Who needs Wonderland when the trip to Sri Lanka was such a wild ride and we'll talk about the streets of Colombo later.

When last I posted I was sitting in Hong Kong International hoping that weather permitted a timely departure from that airport to the next port of call in Singapore before arrival in Colombo. Alas, it was not to be. We never boarded the plane until two hours after the scheduled dedparture - of course there was no announcement from the airline apologising for the delay rather the exchange between myself and the personnel at the gate went something like this:

R: Excuse me, is the flight delayed?
Airline: Yes, because of the bad weather.
R: Of course, but what does that mean for those of us continuing on to Colombo
A: Oh, that flight was already delayed. It won't be arriving in Colombo until around 5 tomorrow morning.
R: (highly dejected) Oh...thank you

Accepting now my fate I waited patiently until we did finally board the plane to leave Hong Kong only to be told once we were on board they had discovered something wrong with the plane, the part was in the hangar and it would take approximately one hour to fix the issue...of course it took closer to two hours but at least the issue was discovered on the ground rather than in the air and we could leave.

But no...that would be far too simple a resolution to this story. At this point the flight manager informs the already cranky cabin of passengers that the crew had an early start to the day (No, kidding) and that they were out of duty hours but that the standby crew was en route and as soon as they arrived to relieve the present crew we would be able to leave.

Some forty five minutes later a new pilot announces that he is speaking with the company to see if they can get clearance to leave the airport tonight because the flight has lost it's place in the departure queue. Ultimately, some five and one half hours later than scheduled we were headed to Singapore.

We landed in Singapore and were instructed to deplane as there were two hours before the scheduled flight to Colombo...the plus we were to resume our original seats once we re-boarded. The downside...the gentleman seated next to me smelt of the strangest combination of dust and spices.

Well, being the busy bee that I am, I tried to think of how I could be productive with the two hours and noting all the free wireless signs I pulled out my laptop to send mother a quick note - she must be terribly worried by now (regardless of which time zone you were in this was long past scheduled arrival time). After connecting to the wireless I was greeted with a notice that said = "Blah Blah Blah Credit Card Information. Blah Blah Blah Internet cost $6/half an hour". Now I'm not the brightest cookie in the jar but last time I checked free meant without charge.

Anywhoosie, eventually I arrive in Colombo. At 4.40 am local time - 2 hours behind Hong Kong and 10.5 ahead of Barbados and Canada. After an eternity in the line I successfully cleared immigration but you would not believe what I saw as I rounded the corner and headed towards the baggage claim.

Yes, it was duty free but rather than trinkets and alcohol there were instead washers and dryers for sale, in fact an entire laundry list of large household appliances. I quickly did a 360 and surveyed my surroundings to see if it was at all possible for me to have made a completely wrong turn in the the 6 ft between where I presently stood and the immigration desk...Uhm, nope this was the right place because 100m ahead I saw the sign pointing to baggage claim. Well, to each his own I guess.

I descended the escalator and collected my belongings the two days of travel weighing very heavily on me. I headed out of the airport and rather that the quiet that one expects of an airport arrival hall at 5.30am I was greeted by a sea of people. The airport was alive and there was not a single inch of free space as people thronged the waiting area to greet loved ones. I focused on the sign bearing my name and headed toward my driver. We embarked upon a one hour journey to Colombo that regardless of my exhaustion prevented sleep from coming in the back seat of this taxi.

Did you know that one can seat a family of four on the back of a motor cycle? I didn't. I also did not know exactly how many vehicles can sit side by side across a TWO lane road before that fateful drive into Colombo. The pedestrians tempting fate were the absolute topping on this journey as they crossed the road with nary a thought to the peril that they were in as drivers executed this ballet which involved rather than slowing down nimbly darting around them. I am convinced I saw people within inches of losing their lives several times on that short journey and somehow was more perturbed by the occurrence than they were.

A power nap at the hotel where I would stay until I made the journey to Badulla and I boarded a tuk tuk with Wagma (Program Supervisor for Students Without Borders) to the WUSC office. Did I mention I had now been travelling for almost 48hrs straight (minor details right?).

The tuk tuk ride was another experience which urges one to set things straight with the Creator. The buses drive as though they are motorcycles expecting to fit any size gap; the motorcycles drive as though they are buses in the centre of the road and expecting to be given wide berth and the right of way at all times and tuk tuk drivers alternate between embracing both views of their small three wheeled vehicles and at times manage to simultaneously entertain them.

So yeah, who needs wonderland when you never know what gap your driver is going to attempt to fit next? When you regularly share a coat of paint with a variety of vehicles as you watch the road whizz by from the open sides of this nimble tuk tuk? Behemoth is the same everyday but boarding a vehicle in Sri Lanka is everyday a brand new set of possibilities.