Archive for month: January, 2012

No ordinary lunch

25 Jan
January 25, 2012
My elderly friends, Margeret and Pascal had been staying overnight at their son’s house nearby. All three of them were going to pick me up at the hotel around 10, to take me to their lovely home, a 45 minute drive north, for lunch.

 When the car turns up, Margeret is not with them. It turns out she has taken one of SL’s overcrowded buses at 6 this morning, to buy the few things their well kempt garden doesn’t provide them with, and to get a head start on preparing the food…

When we finally arrive, she is in full swing. The cobra to be served along with the jack fruit seeds acquired from the garden and now simmering in a pot over an open fire, has already been scraped out of the coconut (also from the garden) by the purpose made scraper in the outdoor part of the kitchen.

The salad, a combination of finely chopped vegetables and fruits is standing on the kitchen counter, and the tuna resembling fish, has been marinated and is now being fried over the simple, but perfectly adequate gas stove. The amazing scents make my mouth water and stomach rumble.

Colombo

24 Jan
January 24, 2012
Waking up early, going out into the garden at the back of the house, finding Pascal (85) standing there in his long sarong, taking in the singing of the birds and enjoying the yet not scorching sun, were the favorite moments of my Colombo stay. The garden is small, but doesn’t seem that way, because only a meshed fence separates it from the neighbor’s vegetable plot, and beyond that are the paddy (rice) fields with grazing buffaloes against a backdrop of green hills.

The area used to be part of a jungle. It is still hot and humid, now called The Wetlands, but the rich and unique ecosystem has gradually been replaced by developed land, in the process  destroying the habitats of a variety of species, among others monkeys, a few of which are still roaming the area, living off people’s fruit trees.

The neighbor, barefoot, long haired and dressed in a brown short sleeved shirt and a shorter, and dirtier…, version of Pascal’s sarong, moves silently about, watering and tending to his plants, mainly string beans and lady fingers, a legume commonly grown here. The watering is done by using a ceramic vessel of traditional shape; a big “belly” with a narrow nozzle. Scooping up the water from the small irrigation canals, he lets it flow from his urn and onto his hands, which in turn deftly spreads the water where it is needed. He goes about his work, meticulously , but without haste. Once in a long while he sits down and drinks a brownish liquid from a plastic bottle. I find myself hoping it’s tea, and not discolored water…

To read more go to Colombo

Catamaran Adveture

19 Jan
January 19, 2012

When I first set foot on the beach, the day of my arrival, I was approached by a friendly, but very persistent guy, trying to persuade me to go out on what to me looked like a rickety vessel, a Sri Lankan catamaran. A little apprehensive, I warded him off with a smile and a non-committing “maybe later”. After that, every time I crossed the beach to get to the ocean, he popped up out of nowhere, following me back and forth, pleading with me.


This morning I had no plans, there was less wind than the previous days, so I was actually tempted to go when he, as was now his custom, joined me on my way to the water. I was tempted, but also a little reluctant, or to be both more honest and precise, scared. He said the conditions were perfect and there would be only me on the boat except for the crew. I didn’t like that much either: If I was going to get eaten by a shark (which they keep telling the tourists are “way out there”) or being thrown overboard and drown, I wanted to make it a social event and do it in the company of some like-minded people. I was, in not so many words, able to convey this to him, and he seemed to understand my predicament. He pointed to a group of people threading water and told me that they had just been out, I could talk with them. It turned out they were all Russians, didn’t speak any other language than their own, and my sign language did not seem to go through to any of them. If they had ever been out on a Catamaran, they had totally and completely erased the memory from their minds.



The guy then pointed in the direction of the hotel gardens, indicating a man seated at a table, enjoying his beer. When I asked him how he had liked his catamaran trip, he looked at me blankly. Oops, wrong guy. My friend down on the beach was now waving frantically, pointing towards a relaxed looking fellow, with long hair, red t-shirt and shorts, coming towards us…



To read more, go to Catamaran Adventure

Under the beautiful Skin of Sri Lanka

17 Jan
January 17, 2012
Outside Hindu Tempel
Pretending  to know the first thing about Sri Lanka and it’s people after having spent just a few days in the country would be presumptuous, to say the least. Having been the object of my friends’ abounding hospitality for a couple of days, living, eating, talking, walking, exploring with them, has given me a few glimpses into their world, their society, their joys and their challenges. But as often is the case when you venture into new territory, and boy, am I on new grounds here; the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.

And this is possibly where I should be wise enough to adhere to the words of Lao Tze: “Those who speak, do not know, those who know do not speak”. But alas, I have not reached that level of wisdom yet.

Pascal tending to his garden
Of course a lot of things here are different, and to a traveler, different is inherently good, the ultimate motivation for leaving home sweet home.

For a newcomer, a visitor of short standing, the island seems like a paradise. “Beautiful” is a word that constantly comes to mind, both when nature and people are concerned. Another is “diversity”.
Starfruit
Everywhere you turn there are new wonders to be seen; all the exotic fruits, flowers, spices you’ve  ever heard of, and many, many more, in gardens, in the wild or on display in the stalls lining the roads. People dressed in beautiful (there I go again) saris, Sri Lankan or Indian style, and more casual wear, loosely fitted pants or wraparound “skirts” for the men, mainly long skirts and light long sleeved blouses,  for the women. Places of worship; Buddhist viharas, Hindu temples, Catholic churches, Muslim mosques and other wholly places or shrines, in designs from the very elaborate and sometimes in Nordic eyes glaring, to the more modest, all give an idea of the diversity of this religious and cultural melting pot.

Paddyfields
According to “the books”, the official story and the first version given to you by the locals, all is well in the land. Tourism, which Sri Lanka is desperately dependent on, is back on track, and you can sense the almost tangible relief of now being rid of war and the constant and paralyzing effect terrorism had on people and society.


This may be the reasons why it takes some prodding to get a chance to peek under the wonderful skin of the country and its people…

To read more go to Under the beautiful skin of Sri Lanka 

Shit happens

14 Jan
January 14, 2012
Sitting down at the breakfast table, in the outdoor restaurant overlooking it all, I couldn’t stop smiling. Couldn’t believe I was actually here, couldn’t really care if people took me for a constantly grinning lunatic, just having been released from the mental ward. Fortunately the Sri Lankans are a smiling people, so who knows, maybe I am just naturally blending in.
Sam was also all smiles when I by appointment met him in the reception. He was the sole local representative for all the umpteen tour operators in the area. And I was the sole person at this morning’s information meeting. So I made the most of it, and by the time I was finished with him I had drained both a bunch of information and the strength out of the poor man. He was a pleasant guy though, and was a good sport about it, particularly when I promised I after the weekend will make one of the day trips he was offering. …

To read more, go to Shit happens

Tuk-tuk, awaiting the 7 generations…

Sri Lanka Arrival

13 Jan
January 13, 2012






…..The lady scrutinizing my passport was dressed in the same beautiful kind of sari the rest of the all smiling female airport personnel were wearing, but in stark contrast to the others, she was stone faced. There was not a hint of a smile, she was looking so sourly at my papers that for a while there I was positive I would be sent right back to Doha, Kualalumpur or some other place I had no immediate wish to go. Pondering these glum prospects I looked up on the wall behind her where a huge sign read: Import of illegal drugs is under the death penalty! No less! (my comment) I couldn’t help thinking how befitting a background the sign was for this mean looking lady. After keeping me, I think she was actually enjoying it, in the dark for what seemed to be an eternity, she eventually handed the papers back to me without looking at me or uttering a single word. “Eeeeh…”, I ventured, “is everything ok?”. She gave me a royal wave with her hand in the general direction of the baggage claim area, which I took for a “yes”, and scurried away before she had the chance to 
change her mind.

I again asked a poor soul to lift my literally stone heavy suitcase on to my trolley and went off to look for an ATM machine. As I did so, it occurred to me that on this trip I was possibly leaving an array of people now prone to life long back problems in my wake…

Excerpt from Sri Lanka Arrival. To read more go to Sri Lanka Arrival


Parenthood

07 Jan
January 7, 2012
A well-known TV series set in a hospital environment has for long been cherished by the two girls of the house. My own first encounter with the program happened accidentally one evening a couple of years ago when I dropped down in the sofa next to the girls (both then well into their teens) to see what they were so intently watching. It turned out that that particular episode evolved around nothing but, it seemed to me, a  gore of blood, dismembered body parts, people pierced by and literally stuck together with a pole, in such a way that one of them would, if luck prevailed, survive and the other one surely die when the pole was removed. The medical crew’s dilemma was who should live and who would have to go. I was shocked, stupefied, nauseated, definitely cast out of my comfort zone, to say the least ….by the horror of it all. I begged the kids to turn off the tv, for their sake and for mine. They looked at me in mild surprise, overbearingly, as with a child not before having been exposed to the realities of life. I didn’t have to, they assured me, but they would definitely continue watching, intrigued by and absorbed in the dramas (there were more than one going on at the same time, the focus with irregular intervals cleverly and with uncanny timing, shifting back and forth between them all). And after all, they said, it was only a TV series, i.e. fiction.


read more Parenthood cont.

The Devil is in the Details

02 Jan
January 2, 2012
The little technicalities, 
the tiny trivialities
the unimportant bagatelle
may joy and inspiration quell

Unfriendly words 
persistent nerds
can make you frown
may weigh you down

A broken dish
will make you mad
a dead, old fish
oh, my, so sad!

No peace of mind
is there to find;
that you are bad 
is not a fad

The world is black
your thoughts are blue
all virtues lack
your doom is due



Now,
Chuck every trifle!
and don’t let you stifle
your life is your own
with soul, skin and bone
Shake off the past
go have a blast
forgive yourself
fly like an elf
Go dream a dream
blow off some steam
lay crazy plans
walk with a prance
What is in stall
for each and all
we do not know
But light a glow
within your heart
and make a start
on your own way
to Mandalay*

*…Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,

Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin’, an’ it’s there that I would be —

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea…”  Kipling