Kandy is Dandy
but it's somewhat lonesome too.
Back in the old 'hood today after a stunning (as always) ride up from Colombo with Jeremy, Jill, and Dharmasena. J&J are other 'brighters and Dharmasena is the program driver. We had an awesome time coming up--the views from the road are absolutely gorgeous as you leave the low-lying, paddy-crosshatched fields and jungles of the coastal plain and mount the incredibly steep and forested mountains. Every time I'm struck by how geographically daunting it would have been to any invaders--that's why, I think, the central areas of the island were uncolonized until 1815 while the coasts were overrun with greedy Europeans since long before then.
Anyway... I'm at the good ol' Kandyan Villas ("Kandyan Vistas" according to half their signs), the hotel we all stayed at for about a week back in 2002 when ISLE started. The staff remember me, which is heartening. I'm trying to do things one step at a time and not be all stressed about trying to immediately secure an apartment, a phone, an internet line, a plan for research, a group of friends, a place to exercise, a haircut, and a sense of control. Ha ha.
My plan for the evening: make some mobile-phone inquiries, have dinner with host family, watch movie in bed at hotel. Sleep as long as possible. Chill the hell out tomorrow. (Sunday, yay.)
Yesterday was fabulous, however. The orientation sessions wound up with a bang, provided by the AWESOMEST army dude ever--LTC Rich Girven of the embassy staff here. He gave us this incredible rundown of the US govt's military interests in Sri Lanka, mostly in order that we understand the prejudices Lankans might have. His talk was hilarious (the man has an amazing sense of understatement and wit) and hugely informative; if only more Army guys were this brilliant and perceptive, well, we'd live in a different world.
After that and the rest of the sessions, well, it was time for the embassy pool. Also amazing and wonderful in its own right--a guarded, gated entrance off posh Gregory's Road into the loveliest, greenest, calmest part of Colombo I've ever seen. Jill, Malka, and I had the pool to ourselves until Jeff and Debbie Lunstead (ambassador and wife!) showed up for their evening swim.
side thought: it's weird that Jenny Lunstead's parents are here and are so impressively ranked and all. I have this impulse to treat them like any other of my friends' parents. I sort of can with Debbie, but with The Ambassador it's different--he's like this minor god vis-a-vis the goverment and the embassy and all. And then he shows up at the pool dressed like a tourist--go figure. I'm sure he does it to blend. Besides, you can't schlep around Colombo in a suit for more than it takes to get out of a car and into a building or you'll collapse.
So, we swam and chatted and whatnot, then went off to the Marines' house for a barbecue. We'd expected a frat-housey, boozy kind of shindig but really it was like any barbecue: beer, Webers, kids tear-assing around, dogs trying to steal food. My hero Rich was there, as well as Tod-the-'brighter-from-Texas who's hilarious, and lots of other embassy folks. We had a great time and ate lots of Amerikaawe foods (three-bean salad, for God's sake!) and yammered about politics and trivia and who spoke the most languages. For the record: Rich, 8. Jill and I tried to convince folks to visit Kandy at some point. Everyone seems to think of it as this hopeless backwater. No no, I said, it's like Cleveland--not sexy, but enjoyable nonetheless.
And now off to pursue my evening's plan. With some luck it will all happen--ha!