Eating My Words, Part the Second
I stand corrected, major big time.
After all that bellyachin’ about the lack of public whatnot, oof! We went to “look at Vesak” (as it is put in Sinhala) and gawd if half the island wasn’t in downtown Kandy, noshing on the free food and drinks, buying tacky balloons and noisemakers, and rushing around in conga-line style groups. That’s so they don’t get separated, but it’s cute how they squiggle past the lantern displays like a choo-choo train.
It is like First Night (New Year’s Eve in Boston) and the Fourth of July put together: string lights all over town, streets arched/draped in the classy Olcott Buddhist flag, candle- and bulb-lit lanterns hanging from every shop and house, tons of ice-cream vendors playing the ever-beloved Cargills theme song (with break-beat second verse), the Temple illuminated and jammed with whiteclad worshiper/gawkers. The lake looked stunning, reflecting the lights of the hotels and homes up the sides of the valley, and the Bahirawakanda Buddha (or “Smugface” as I call him) was easily visible from town, decked in the aforementioned flags, lights, lanterns. The streets were crowded and noisy, thus startling the lakeside tree-roosting birds, who were shitting everywhere—including on me, ugh. It was beautiful.
Jeremy and I arrived downtown around 6 and the joint was beautifully deserted. I’ve never seen it so empty. Thus we had some nice chill walk’n’gawp time, including free cool-drink (stickysweet cordial with pineapple and cucumber flotsam) from a big bunch of thirteen-ish boys and their sports-coaches. I explained about the free-food thing? Right? They set up little booths and serve food, drinks, etc for the holiday. Later we were aggressively solicited to have a rice and curry supper at the Central Province minister’s big free-food booth, but the line was long. Looked tasty, though. We opted instead for Pizza Hut because Jer has recently exhausted his rice-eating capabilities and there ran into Haakon and met up with Gavin, Kristen-his-visiting-girlfriend, Janaka Billy kids family etc etc etc.
Got to jet to Jaffna so I’ll keep this brief—the lanterns, and decorations generally, were stunning. Some of them were like the giant openwork birdhouses they used to show on the sides of giganto-packs of popsicle sticks; I could only imagine how long it took how many people to glue all those little tiny things together. Will post photos later, but—the lanterns are more like giant elaborate candelabra/diorama/sculptures, made from anything (Styrofoam, paper, grasses, leaves, coconut fronds, cellophane, papier mache, punched metal…) and usually with many elements and parts, some moving or lighting up in different colors and patterns. Ordinary ones are the size of a breadbox, and the biggest are 12’ tall. They have a huge competition for the designs and so some are really incredible--think cake decorating meets parade-float-construction. I kept thinking how great a Sarah-and-Tim creation would be… next year, I guess.
All in all, it was glorious and beautiful. We chatted with nice people, got ice-cream bought for us by Hindu priests (who were joyfully drunk and living it up!), and saw gorgeous things. Friendly, frenzied, art-full, public: what more can I ask for? America needs a holiday centered around elaborate craft projects.