I can't really write about this yet--my experience has been so fractured. A few words to reassure and describe the post-tsunami Sri Lanka, and me in it.

At the time of the tsunami, I was at home in Kandy, in the mountains, with my mother and aunt Steph, whom I had just collected from the airport the day before (Saturday). I received some text messages that morning from various friends saying that there had been a tidal wave in the South. As the day wore on, I got more and more reports from drivers, people in the streets, etc. It wasn't until that night that we got online and found out the extent of what had happened.

On Monday we three left Kandy for a brief trip around the mountains, as I had planned before their arrival. Actually the trip was to continue on through several beach towns. Those towns aren't there anymore; many of the people I know in those towns are missing or unaccounted for. It's been hard to get information; who do you call about a guy you know who works in a beachfront shack? Especially when the cell networks are overloaded and the landlines have been destroyed. Luckily for me, all my close friends are safe; my extended friend group has suffered casualties already.

During our trip I swung between willful ignorance (no, I don't want to read the paper) and gnawing grief (leave me the hell alone). I don't know that my mom and Steph had a fabulous time but they seemed to be enjoying themselves; I held myself apart and wondered why I was having such awful mood swings. Finally we've returned to Kandy and I feel like I can, for better or worse, throw myself into relief work. Am heading to Colombo tomorrow afternoon to work with Sarvodaya, a Gandhian/Buddhist/community development NGO.

Even now, the full damage hasn't been reckoned. It seems like each time I look at a newspaper or a website it's worse. That isn't just melodrama; the worst hit areas are so isolated (both before and as a result of the waves) that the news is literally not known. This country doesn't have the physical infrastructure to deploy all the aid that's come in. Also the government is in such a horrible state that they don't have systems in place to deal with this.

The local governments on the coasts have literally fallen apart in some places: there are no buildings, no offices, no records, no staff. (Many have died or lost family.) The central government is in perpetual disarray and in particular has no specific ministries or wings to manage the crisis. Apparently there is political infighting (as always here) and massive inefficiencies. Sarvodaya is no longer calling for financial aid and instead focusing on getting resources to the people who need them.

I am hoping that with Sinhala and a computer I can do some good. I am afraid that the wholesale destruction of roads, rail lines, and local organizational infrastructure is going to make relief and rebuilding into a morass of want. For those of you looking to help, of course donations to the Red Cross etc are useful--but please also think about writing letters and making calls to keep our (USA) government helping in the long run.

Me personally: well, my research is going on the shelf for the time being; who cares about culture when people are homeless, hungry, dead... I am very grateful for all the emails and calls I've been getting. Anyone who wants to talk, give a ring to 00-94-77-311-5694. The time difference from the East Coast is 11 hours; i.e., when it's noon in Boston, it's 11pm here.

What else is there to say? I am thankful I wasn't there on the beach when the waves came, as I always stay right on the ocean. I am deeply sad, unfathomably so at times, for the losses here. I can hardly begin to imagine the lasting impact of this disaster. I have a lot of survivor's guilt going on right now and a lot of grim hope that I can help in some way. I haven't cried yet.

Best wishes for a better New Year.


No, They’re Not Really Hipsters

I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of people wandering around Sri Lanka who, if you saw them on the streets of New York or Phila, would seem to be dripping with Cool. Their messy hair, their tatty clothes… it’s a study in careful dishevelment.

Except they’re not Cool, they’re poor laborers and betel addicts and alcoholics, by and large. Some phenotypes of this:
-middle-aged guy in tight flowered poly shirt, open to the navel, also wearing a batik skirt (sarong), with shaggy bedhead ‘do
-young guy in short shorts, pink flipflops, big curly Sri-fro, and about twelve necklaces
- the Sri Lankan punk: plaid short-sleeve button-down with plaid sarong

Also notable: the women cops, especially traffic cops, wear tight knee-length skirts and tucked-in shirts and little Gestapo-y shiny caps and belts and lots of insignia. Their uniforms are sort of mauve and they wear matching ankle socks and laced oxfords, making them look like some kind of paramilitary R. Crumb fantasy. Hott!

...I am reading Frantz Fanon, and think he would disapprove of my observations. A colonizer, clearly. His ideas about violence and hatred of the 'native' for the 'settler' are way out of line with my sense of the colonial past and memory here. Then again Sri Lanka didn't have a violent independence movement. No no; they waited till after independence for that!
Travel-ations and Grenades
Observations From a Somewhat Dangerous Land

I’ve just returned from a weekend in Prohibited Territory, or rather, The Places I’m Supposed to Ask the Embassy for Permission to Go. I didn’t. Had planned to visit Malka in Vavuniya: “VOW-nya” not “va-VOO-ni-ya,” as foreigners generally have it). However she and Kevin, her visiting pal from the US, had already commandeered a vehicle and invited some peeps from her NGO to go to Trincomalee on the coast to see the amazing kovil (Hindu temple) and lovely beaches there. Therefore I took a 5-hour normal bus—like a schoolbus, no AC though not warranted cuz the weather was nice—up to Vavuniya, spent the night and met some NGO folks, then shipped out early the next morning for Trinco.

Vavuniya is the last Army-controlled town north before you hit the Vanni, the amorphous strip of LTTE territory. The last Army checkpoint is about twenty minutes north on the A9; from there you can look down the road and see the first LTTE checkpoint, where they stop all vehicles, search your bags (for contraband, including porn, I am told), and charge you the traveling “tax.” Their income-generation projects, including the tax/bribe, are quite organized and clever. They’ve taken a page from the Mass. State Troopers and have tons of speed traps; suddenly the posted speed limit will go from 70kmph to 30kmph, for no reason, and they’ve got a cadre there with a “radar gun” (maybe working, maybe not) to tell you you’re doing 34. This is all hearsay, by the way—I didn’t go north of Vavuniya. Yet.

Going there, even as briefly as I did, was important and educational for me. I forget that many many people in this country do not speak Sinhala. It was a sort of mirror-world as compared to the places in Lanka I’m familiar with; similar layout of town, same types and chains of shops, much of the same food, etc; however most of the local shrines were to Ganesh or Kataragama rather than to Buddha, and the signs and conversations were in Tamil. There were lots of cows and bicycles, though that’s more a dry-zone thing than a religious or cultural thing. We in Kandy don’t ride bikes much because it’s hillier than San Francisco; your knees would die.

It chastened me. I generally assume that I ‘know’ Sri Lanka and can get along anywhere just fine. Plenty of people there speak Sinhala (at least a little), but it’s not their language and they’re a little indignant if you speak to them in Sinhala when they’d prefer English. The whole conflict, basically, has been about language rights; how foolish of me to think my Sinhala gives me quasi-insider access to the whole island? I hope to go to Jaffna sometime in January and see what that’s like. I may try to get some Tamil classes so that I’m not a total ignorant jerk.

Trinco is the beach area in the Northeast I visited as an ISLE student; then it was barely barely developed for tourism; lots of little guesthouses and “tourist rests” have sprouted up in the two years since then. About two weeks ago there was a lot of rioting and a bus was hand-grenaded there around the LTTE Heroes’ Day; it’s not LTTE territory but they have a large presence, and the raging Sinhala nationalists (a specific political party) basically made lots of trouble by trying to keep LTTE from flying their flags etc. Their flag is hideous, by the way—it’s a roaring tiger head and claws popping out a red background. It looks like a bad 70s high school mascot. Anyway the northeastern monsoon is still going strong, so, no tourists. Either that or they were chilling out inside their guesthouses.

The kovil was beautiful as I remember—perched high on a promontory between the main town area and the huge Trincomalee Bay (reputed site for secret US Navy submarine base). There are amazing ocean views and waves shooting up fissures in the cliff-face, gaudily painted fishing boats bobbing by below on the bluedeep, strips of bright gold—threaded coloured fabric tied to tree branches (part of worship) fluttering in the breeze. We burned incense, got our foreheads decorated with sacred ash and oil and red powder, and smashed coconuts.

Smashing coconuts is fun; you put camphor blocks on top of them, set the camphor on fire, and wave the smoke around your head before hurling the coconut with all your might onto a big rock provided for the purpose. Monkeys hang around to eat the smashed bits. It was a Sunday, nice day for agoen’ to the temple, so there were more coconuts than the monkeys could handle. You really have to slam the coconut if you want it to break properly (spilling the coconut water and putting out the camphor and fulfilling your vow or whatever) and often they don’t break the first time so you see people fishing their coconuts out of the wreckage pile and trying again. Sometimes they’ll nab someone else’s insufficiently smashed coconut and give that one a go, too. Old ladies are the best at the wind-up. I am pitiful especially given my extreme height and muscularity compared to your average 4’10” 85lb. sari-wrapped achchi.

Lucky for us the rain stopped while we were climbing up to the kovil and doing our pujas. As we were walking down it started drizzling and the Sri Lankans, wise as they are about the nature of rain, hightailed it to the van. Malka and I mocked them and sauntered leisurely down, forgetting that an afternoon drizzle during monsoon is basically the sixty seconds before it Really Starts Raining. We stopped under a very effective tree once the windows of heaven were opened and waited for the driver, Kumar, to bring us an umbrella. Then we went into town and stuffed ourselves with buriyani.

After that it cleared up again and so we went 20km north to this gorgeous beach. It was cloudy and windy but Malka and I decided to put swimsuits on, and basically risked flashing a small busload of innocent-looking Lankans and some little boys selling candy. The water was lovely and warm[-er than the air] and the waves quite pleasant. As opposed to the beaches in the south, which shelve off pretty quickly, there the water is shallow for about 100 yards offshore, so you have this enormous breaker zone with about waist-high water and smallish waves (which break further out and re-form) rolling in.

Eventually we hauled back to the van and heading back towards Anuradhapura. You have to understand that this constitutes about three hours each leg (Vav-Trinco-A’pura) over Very Lousy Roads some of the time. The dry zone is beautiful though, and nice to drive in when the checkpoints and potholes are scarce. We stopped to buy a fish (and a bucket, and ice) to take for dinner, and then to have tea and egg hoppers, and then for buffalo curd (which is best in that region). We arrived in A’pura in pouring rain at about eight-thirty and were dropped at the house of Malka’s NGO’s chairman, a lovely lovely open-air building on the edge of one of the wewas (“tanks,” huge ancient-built-still-in-use reservoirs) and showered and drank tea and waited for the housekeeper/cook/cool dude, Susila, to cook our fish. Having eaten we fell into exhausted stuffed stupor.

Today I came back to Kandy. Five hours on a bus Saturday, six-plus in a van yesterday, and three and a half today—on an A/C bus too, which is really tiring because it’s stuffy and cold—I’m tiiiiired. Did some in-town errands which I can hardly remember at this point and then went to ICES for the Sunday papers.

Read about a hand-grenade bombing in Colombo Saturday; there was a big Indian film-star concert (20,000 audience) and someone threw a grenade near the VIP area. Two people died. The event had been protested because it fell on the one-year death anniversary (an important date for Buddhists) of this influential nationalist-extremist monk from the JHU, the monks’ party. There were protests earlier in the day before the concert and a bunch of monks were having a fast-unto-death, which they called off when the concert organizers formally apologized.

Anyway no one seems to know what the grenade business was about. It can’t be LTTE because it’s way out of their line (suicide bombers, actual specific people or institutions targeted) and it probably isn’t the JHU given that their protest was already happening someplace else at that point. My theory is that it was someone with a grenade and an Imp of the Perverse—apparently the people killed and injured were near but not in the VIP seating area, and the thrower may have simply wanted to throw ordinance around. There were lots of pyrotechnics and firecrackers going off anyway. Maybe s/he aimed badly.

It’s a terrible shame of course—besides the loss of life, it’s a real blow to the social world. The last thing Lankans need is a reason to be scared of going out and having fun. People are already distrustful of others and afraid of being ‘out’ and vulnerable. It’s the stay-at-home mentality that keeps there from being a rich civil society here. There is this perception that the world is full of bad people, and if you leave home both your person and your house are going to get assaulted, robbed, etc. It’s the unpleasant side of a well-developed attachment to housebound R&R.

Anyway I’m blathering. More later, maybe. I have to go, like, do some work…


Another Sucker Born Every Minute

After years of having a dog—and not having a cat—I had begun to think of myself as a dog-person. Actually I have become a Mandy-person; no other pet can possibly come close to the level of personality that dog has.

I’ve been wanting to take home one of the endless adorable road-dog puppies—or two. I even have a clever name all picked out, a pun in English and Sinhala. Lucky for me, unlucky for Puppy, my landlords hate dogs (“they will dirty the garden”) and I’ve acted in accordance with sanity. (You just know I’d end up trying to bring Puppy home with me in July.) Was thinking about a parakeet but the sight of a caged bird makes me sad and I have lots of birds to watch from my verandah.

However, I have been adopted by a cat. There are two that commute, several times daily, down the length of the verandah. I assumed they were buddies or coworkers or something, as they look alike and frequent the same routes. Last night one actually stopped off and sat a while in the doorway, blinking winking whiskers twitching, until I conceived that she was in fact hungry.

At that point I saw it all clear: myself as salve and slave to gritty-ethereal, grimy-delicate, streetwise-starving kitty. Also myself as hapless gooey-minded lover of cute animals, roped into providing tasty morsels for cunning little beggar. I had eaten all the dinner I wanted, so I figured she could have a shot at it. If a cat is willing to eat kotthu roti, well, she can have it. (Recall: kotthu is chopped Indian-style flatbread, with veggies and eggs and spices scrambled in. Not exactly Purina.) Sure enough, she chowed it down. Immediately I dubbed her “Wink,” after the manner of her previous communication, and resolved to feed her leftovers forever and ever.

I sat and watched, getting misty-eyed in the candlelight from my hastily improvised menorah’s two candles. I made it out of a Kerry-Edwards pillbox (thanks, Mom!) with six compartments open and one closed, to elevate the shamas. I hadn’t really gotten around to thinking about the seventh and eighth days, and now I don’t have to, because the plastic pillbox caught on fire when one of the candles burned down. Who knew plastic burned so easily? Who knows what awful chemicals I inhaled in the five seconds before I put it out? Anyway it was a valiant Little Menorah That Ultimately Couldn’t. Today I’m going to get some little traditional clay oil-lamps and dispense with the treacherous candle regime.

After Wink had eaten some, the other (bigger, male, ugly) cat showed up and my grrl-power instincts had me all up in arms. Tsst! Tsst! I angrily hissed—the customary “go away, cat/dog/crow/goat/cow/monkey” sound in Sri Lanka. Interestingly enough, for elephants you shout “hey! elephants!” repeatedly. Not that I’ve ever shooed an elephant. Sadly Wink fled, along with Mr. Meanie Cat.

She did reappear to polish off the kotthu, and then again this morning. I fixed her a bowl of instant full-cream milk, at which she turned up her nose. I ripped up some bread, which seemed to interest her more. The milk cooled down a bit and then she lapped it up like a good storybook kitty. (One has to mix the milk powder with hot water or it doesn’t blend well.) Now she’s eating slightly moldy cream caramel flanlike pudding, culled from my ill-ordered fridge, which the ants are loving as well. I’ve never seen a cat eat flan either.

I feel a bit bad whenever I take away some tasty sugary ant-food and kill fifty ants just in rinsing off the plate or wiping up the counter. I imagine that little spill or tablespoon of pudding could feed the ants like manna for hundreds of ant-years, an entire colony blessed by the generous god of Messy Cooking. I suppose the ants are doing okay; the ant population of my apartment and verandah probably outweighs me in strict biomass terms.

Wink has departed—teatime over, back to work no doubt—and the ants are having a ball with the leftover-leftover caramel. The container is a small reused margarine tub with the charming label “fat spread,” which as Jeremy says is a marketable term only outside the US. We don’t get a lot of ‘shortening’ here; it’s not a euphemistic language in general.

By the way—I didn’t vanish last week. I’ve been in Colombo and busy. Only one piece of physical mail upon return, you slackers! (Miriam, you don’t have to cover shirtless men on postcards.) Staying home today to read all 55 emails (a project with dial-up), catch up on fieldnotes (I do work, really), devour Cloud Atlas (amazing novel, read it!), and engage in the lengthy process of making hummus. Will try to post some thoughts on last week at some point. Along with all that other stuff I said I’d put here. Ha.

Happy Hanukkah, Happy Wink.


Eating My Way Through Kandy Hills
…sometimes life seems a promenade from food to food.

Awesome Sinhala class today. Topics for discussion: Yoga Exercise and The Middle Path. Fascinatingly* philosophical! It was good, though, because I was picking up on the new stuff quickly and understanding what we were reading and having fairly fluid flow of thoughts-into-Sinhala. The best feeling is when my mind sort of checks in with itself—are we actually understanding this or just saying yes yes yes?—and realizes that it’s not been translating the Sinhala, just swalleying it down and understanding it whole. Of course sometimes after a long conversation (or day) with no English I feel the swalleying as if I were a boa eating a boar.

After that I did fun things like breakfast! laundry! attack fruit flies! and in short order I was out on my way to town. Ran into Yvonne enroute and so we trishaw’d together to Mina’s school and saw her and all the adorable tiny kids in their adorable tiny uniforms—they wear bow ties!—and then on with it by myself. I just love taking the bus sometimes; it plays well into the amuse-the-locals aspect of the Fulbright. Extra points for jumping on or off with the bus in motion.

I went to photograph some possible sapphires for a certain future relation of mine. (I am so dutiful.) It was great fun, as always, to chat with the jewelry-store couple, Dhammika and Manik. We gossiped and speculated and they gave me, as always, more contacts in the wedding biz. Tomorrow I am going to meet a gown designer. Manik and Dhammika think I should model for this guy. He’s ‘very exclusive,’ apparently, so I’m vaguely daunted.

I already had one conversation this morning, with Herath, about how I’m getting a little bit fat. For the record, he agreed. However it’s good to be a little rounded here. Hard to say, then, whether he was agreeing in order to be polite…regardless I am all kinds of fussed about my body right now, especially as it’s starting to get used to the yoga and I want to make it work harder. Plus I’m getting fat! No, really! That gym thing sounds like a good plan.

In terms of food, though—I had a lunch packet from the almighty Soya Centre today, which was delicious and composed of quite unusual curries. The parippu was made with urud-dhal, which is very uncommonly nutty-delicious**. Other curries included a face-burning fennel-y tofu and soya-meat curry, ‘del’ curry (breadfruit, like a cross between a banana and a potato), and gotu kola, a sambol made with scraped coconut, green chilies, lime, and intense parsleyish greens. Also, my eating a lunch packet where I bought it and with my fingers scored high on the amuse-the-locals scale.

Then of course I had soya ice cream. Which I ate sitting on a curb alongside some beggars (a little ways away) and a group of gossiping/sarong-and-junk-adjusting men. The ice-cream-eating was even better at ATL, as proper people Do Not Sit By the Road. A white girl doing so is positively bizarre. One guy even said, quite joyfully, to me, “this is Sri Lanka!” as he went by staring at me. I couldn’t tell whether he was scolding me or congratulating me on being there.

After which I bought some awesome pants at Fashion Bug (no relation to the tacky USA chain, though tacky junk abounds) as part of a futile attempt to outfit myself for Colombo. I always feel frumpy when I’m there. Then I bought train tickets and somehow ended up with second class, which is okay (cheap!) but not what I intended (a guaranteed seat!).

Then off (via bus, more excitement) to Peradeniya to make the most of my ridiculous costly week-pass, only to find that the bloody library was closing early for ‘vacation,’ i.e., three days between the end of exams and the start of the new term. Bugger! Instead I drank some tea with about a quarter of a cup of sugar in it and ran into Saashi, a friend of a friend who I want to be friends with. He is working on an undergraduate thesis in Sociology about estate Tamils, which is his background, and promises to take me to Hindu weddings in exchange for editing help on the thesis. Mais oui.

From the disappointment of the library I walked the lovely 40 minutes back through the day’s fading heat and gave away lots of school-pens to the many, many kids enroute. Didn’t get scared by any vehicles or pissed off at any boys, so it was a success. I stopped off to see my pal, the tailor, and was fed with ‘sau’ which I had entirely forgotten as a Lankan food I love. It’s a pudding made with tapioca or sago and coconut milk and sugar, and it’s mildly saltysweet and just a delight.

At last I came home and did more laundry, read more books, made fabulous veggies-with-peanut-ginger-yogurt-sauce, and packed intensively for this silly four-day Colombo trip. A lot of the packing time was taken up with figuring out what to wear to the several social engagements I have lined up. I am such a flake sometimes! It’s under control, and I’m listening to Blondie, and I’ve got to get to bed soon.

[Perhaps because yoga is a big emotional release] I spent a while last night with happysad tears streaming down my face while listening to bittersweet music. Being far away is one thing, and the realization that I want to work and live outside the US more/later is hard to swallow amidst emotions of loneliness. Still missing yall.

*There has to be a good pun on ‘fascina-TINGLY’ although it won’t work well because ‘tingly’ is a word that doesn’t look like how it’s pronounced. Maybe a radio pun.
**Urud-dhal = my child's nutty friend.

***Wow, I wrote narration.


Huggle Withall, Yo
From the Research Desk

There’s a beautiful lighting storm going on outside. It’s pretty chilly out. I am trying to tough it out vis-à-vis the weather, and not just run to put on a fleece when the temperature gets below 70. The dessert factor in chill-ness (both temperature and temperament) is significant as of now: I’m eating cream caramel pudding with English Toffee ice-cream. The English Toffee is particularly pleasant; it has a gritty consistency from the sugar not being entirely emulsified in the dairy. It melts differently on the tongue than I recall ice-cream doing. I’m certainly no expert!

My brain is a little fried as I’ve been working unconscionably hard this week. Somehow it doesn’t get me anywhere… I spent Monday morning doing Sinhala (see translation below) and then the rest of the day in the starchy Peradeniya library, for which I paid the royal sum of Rs.150/, then today in a tizzy; first with Jill in town ordering designs for our recently-purchased shalwar kameez sets, then at ICES with madhouse setting (they’re moving next door tomorrow), finally back in town for yoga and evermore grocery shopping, then at last home again. The frazzle will only get more, I think; I am going to Colombo Thursday, before which time I must make it through more Sinhala class, photograph some sapphires, call a bunch of people, buy train tickets, and generally keep it all up. I need a vacation.

The research I’m doing now is equally fascinating and dull. The dull stuff is, like, economics journals from the 80s with articles debating the validity and usefulness of weird statistics like the SMAM (Singulate Mean Age at Marriage) versus other medians and means normative figures. If your eyes are glazing over, yeah, you see what I mean. The fascinating stuff is simply better written but often less directly related to my project. What happens is, I read something, start doubting its usefulness, then realize that of course it’s useful if I think it’s related. If it makes me think. If it keeps me in the library long enough to string coherent thoughts together.

The best part about it is that I do spend a lot of time reading work by people who are really smart, and sometimes a little smart-ass in clever and insightful ways. So far the best example of this is from an excellent postcolonialist book, criticizing the colonial practice of photographing ‘natives’ in largely made-up ‘traditional costumes.’ Apparently they were predictably drawn to a particular set of sartorial choices: “Early ethnographers were largely men, who despite showing considerable interest in nakedness showed much less in clothes” (Tarlo, E. Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India).

I also spent a while reading social histories of marriage traditions. This is surprisingly readable stuff—16th century English Puritan marriage manuals are a stitch. The exegesis of them is even better, of course; that they were written for a middle class audience by nobles who basically didn’t know what they were talking about. (Try telling Queen Elizabeth that women should defer to their husbands in all things, ‘even if it go against God’!) Advice columns in all eras are good reading, and the stuff doesn’t go stale as one might expect. Before there was evolutionary psychology, there was the rudimentary understanding that even when economic conditions are difficult, people will persist in getting married—notably, money won’t matter to a man “if he have his pretty pussy to huggle withall” (Stubbes, P. On Wives, 1567).

Speaking of ‘withall,’ Samir and Jeremy and Malka were all about this weekend, Malka first then the boyz. It was a good antidote to my current semimalaise of loneliness. It was also quite pleasant to host, as I enjoy cooking for people and trying to make things nice and generally fussing in a low-level way. Guests also help to boot my lazy butt into doing stuff instead of just enjoying multiple cups of tea and pages of the current novel or non-current New Yorker.

Saturday night we had dinner at my new favorite S. Indian place in Kandy, down the street from the overpriced touristy one… it was a party! (Present: myself, Jill, Samir, Jeremy, and Gavin, my bizarre twin.) We let Samir do the ordering cuz he’s, like, Indian-American, even though the waiters really wanted me to do it as I’d been there before and spoken Sinhala with them. I obliged with speech but not ordering, which was a flawed decision as Samir ordered enough food for about twelve people… 12 idlies, 6 vadais, 2 huge 4-foot stuffed dosas (I am not joking here!), sambols, chutneys, sambar, dhal, on and on and on. He thought he was ordering by the piece, but he was ordering “portions” which come with several pieces, dig?

We were fat little piggies and then came home here to drink arrack+ginger beer and eat ice-cream (the aforementioned Toffee). Incidentally, these three ingredients make a fabulous alcoholic Lankan milkshake/float delight. We sat in the glorious full-moonlight, under the glorious stars, on the glorious verandah. The only imperfection was that my Astroturf lawn is rolled up to keep it clean; we have roofwork being done. A mere trifle!

…Janaka’s yoga class was again intense and brought me near tears but in a good way, really. It is an emotional as well as physical release. Today included the desired hip-openers, and how; my hips are so open that my legs are practically falling off. At one point he was giving corrections in his usual muscular/weight-bearing way and I breathed, “aeti…” [enough]. He smiled sweetly, leaned into me, and murmured right back, “madi!” [more]; he was right. He knows his stuff. I have made progress though some poses remain ridiculously difficult. I must practice more at home.

Another bit of reading I did said that ‘love is frequently the art of the possible.’ It’s feeling a little distant and impossible these days, and I sorely lack the art, it seems. I am missing you out there, you people I love and can’t possibly huggle. I’d like to huggle with-all-y’all. Huggle each other for me, please.

and, Happy December! yikes, it's December!
Mudelihami’s Eyeglasses
A sad story, and yet funny

His name is Mudelihami. He is fifty. Mudelihami never went to school. Because of that, he doesn’t know how to read and write. He hasn’t learned even one letter. But Mudelihami’s friends can read and write well. Those guys use eyeglasses. Therefore, they can read the newspapers.

So Mudelihami thought that if he had eyeglasses, they would be the thing he wanted and he would be able to read. After that Mudelihami went to the eyeglass-store to buy eyeglasses. Mudelihami asked the clerk working in the store whether he could buy some eyeglasses. So, the clerk gave Mudelihami a newspaper to read, because he wanted to test Mudelihami’s eyes. But Mudelihami couldn’t read even one letter.

The second time, the clerk put a pair of glasses on Mudelihami’s eyes and said, “read this paper.” But even that time, he couldn’t read. The next time he gave him another pair of glasses and a different book to read. But, even with that, he couldn’t read. In this way the clerk, having given Mudelihami all the glasses in the store, saw that even so he couldn’t read.

Finally Mudelihami said, “The glasses in this store are no good. If I could get a really good pair of glasses, I would be able to read.” Upon hearing this story, the clerk gave him yet another pair of glasses and yet another book. This time, though, the clerk saw that Mudelihami was trying to read the book while it was upside-down. He asked Mudelihami, “do you know how to read and write?”

Now Mudelihami said, “I don’t know the letters, but if I have good glasses I’ll be able to read and write. In this store, the glasses are not good.” Mudelihami said, again, to the clerk. Then the clerk got a bit angry. He said, “Mudelihami, you’re innocent, but really stupid. If you want to read and write, you must learn the letters. Even if you have glasses you won’t be able to read. Go, learn the letters, and come back. Then if your eyes have a problem, I’ll find some good glasses for you.”

But Mudelihami never went back to that store to get glasses.