1.29.2005

Headed for the Hills
Bad Luck and Many Happy Returns

Finally, home in Kandy where I belong. Home, where my thoughts were escaping, where my music is (finally!) playing. Brought the wrong iPod cable on my twavels and oh, the pain of a 4-hour jerky bumpy exhausty acceleratey slam-on-the-brakesy bus ride. Every time I ride the bus between Kandy and Colombo I get about twenty minutes into the trip before beginning to seriously regret not availing myself of some handy over-the-counter Valium.

Colombo holds certain charms--several nice swimming pools, ritzy shopping, good foreign food--but when you're stressed and schedule-less and you have to get around by bus and carry all your stuff everywhere and worry constantly about your health (read on) it just becomes this big, congested, dirty, traffic-y mass, filled right now with aid workers in silly vests. (The kind with about twelve million pockets!) I feel so much better than I have in days, just being in a peaceful place and having taken a nice long shopping-walk through the hills around sunset. I went to the 'Royal Mall' where they have a nice supermarket (smaller than an American convenience store) and stopped at several produce/general shops on the way back to amass a stash of veggies exceeding my wildest expectations--lettuce! red pepper! lemongrass!

There was a several-day spate of bad luck amongst my friends this week. Malka was in a bad car accident and luckily emerged with only bruises and whiplash. She's sore and has a Gorbachevlike forehead birthbruise but has been a real brick about the whole thing. She has several funny stories of the progression of hospital visits. First she went to a local "base" hospital, where they refused to give her a blanket while she was in shock because "this is a poor country." Also apparently really wanted to give her painkiller suppositories and could not understand why, conceivably, she might not want this. Then she was taken by a coworker to Apollo, one of the big'n'shiny private hospitals in Colombo, where they kept calling her room to ask what kind of dinner she wanted: eastern/western, vegetarian/non; there's a Masters' thesis in there someplace I'm sure.

Tod's brush with disaster was Wednesday night, when several of us were out to dinner. He had come straight from work at the WTC and put his computerbag on a ledge across from his seat. Somehow this random lady picked it up, thinking a friend/co-diner had forgotten it, and managed to walk off without Tod noticing... result was that he Freaked Out in the restaurant, being as he had a huge meeting the next day for which all his info was on that computer. HE stayed in the place until they closed, vowing to, oh, kill the bandit who done took his comp.

I ended up retrieving the computer the next day, as there was little useful I could do in the office. The lady, who turned out to be extremely apologetic and kind and pretty, a Francophone Swiss attached to their embassy, was staying next door to the WTC at one of the posh hotels. While waiting for her in the lobby I was pleasantly rewarded for my patience with the sight of lots of (strong, handsome) US Marines commanders hobnobbing and lookin' spiffy. I swear I have never been happier to see military personnel. What a little fascist I am inside!

Computer redelivered, I went off on another runaround mission: get VSL t-shirts made, quick-like, so the team doing our first big project can wear something matching. I was instructed to get 20 shirts, ten decent quality and ten cheapo, and schlep them out to Nugegoda, a nonscenic very crowded suburb. For the nice ones, I went to Odel, which is like the Bloomingdales' of Sri Lanka. My trishaw driver was really offended that I was going to buy something in bulk there, and painedly told me in Sinhala, "don't buy anything! Just look and then we'll go to Pettah [outdoor insane bazaar area of city, opposite direction] and you will get local price, good stuff!" I decided to buy the ten "good" ones while there and throw him a bone with the other ten.

And what do you think? The Pettah ones were both more expensive and better quality. Like, almost twice as expensive, even with local price and bulk. The stall-owners all cooperated to get me the right number and balance of sizes but of course the shirts have some minor design and fabric differences. Not like anyone would notice; we're talking free stuff for techies. The Pettah shirts were definitely much better quality than the Odel ones. Also more fun to buy... not fun, however, was the rush-hour ride to and from Nugegoda, even though the driver turned out to be a super nice guy and even bought me a tambili (king-coconut) to drink.

He also told me all about how he keeps house for his two younger sisters who are still in school because their parents are dead. To cap it all off he asked me if I 'drink' (in Sinhala, means both drink and smoke, literally) and then when I said I drink a little, asked me if I drink grass, and did I want to pull over and have some, because by the way he's got some right now, and doesn't it smell great? It smells fine, I said, now put it away because we're in the middle of traffic and there are cops around! This guy was definitely not hitting on me; clearly too old and also had started calling me 'little sister' around Pettah. Therefore, I conclude, he was just a friendly guy who wanted to share his weed with the world. But still.

Right, so that's the bad luck before the Illin' which is that for the last few nights I've had intensely painful stomach knottiness and dizziness starting around 8pm and lasting until bedtime. Almost definitely stress based, as suggested by my last few weeks' grief/mania emotional swings. Further proof that I really needed to get out of Colombo. Haven't had it tonight despite cooking and eating a somewhat odd dinner: pasta with white beans in a garlic/mustard/cilantro sauce, but it was weirder than that somehow. Cooking was soothing.

Also soothing is not wearing the same bloody clothes I've been wearing for two weeks. Not 'bloody' like blood-encrusted, for those of you who fear the worst. I washed clothes in a 'semiautomatic' washing machine at Jeremy's house on Tuesday and I think the clothes were thanking him for allowing them to escape yet another vigorous soapwielding mauling by yours truly. A semiautomatic washing machine is an interesting thing: you have to physically place it near a sink, fill it via a hose, direct another hose to a drainage area, again manually fill it for the 'rinse cycle,' and eventually wring out the clothes and hang them to dry. It doesn't even spin them dry, just drain. Jeremy's has a 'dryer' which is about the size of a #10 can and just spins fast, attached to the side of the machine. Really the only thing automatic about the machine is that it agitates the clothes for you. You don't even have to put a lid on the thing while it's agitating, though, so it's not what I'd call 'agitation' but rather 'mild swishing.' The clothes do seem to get clean, so maybe my criticism of the machine comes from the fact that I am a vicious laundress...

Yes yes. Somewhere in my mind there is something useful and not simply rambling.

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Jerky Direct said...
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