illin' illai

Got better, though the respiratory drainage is taking its time. I am hurrying it along with chillies and (Cypriot, though the Aussie was better) OJ. I am running around putting things in boxes and leaving the boxes with people who promise to make them appear (magically!) in Boston. I have given some of these people large sums of money, which should expedite the magic. I have also made loving farewells to the boxes, in case I never see them again.

Many thinkings but mostly it's just the packing, the sneezing/dripping, and the India-scheming. Trying not to drown in melancholia; worries about money are helping with that as I can only experience one emotion at a time, and salli nae trumps hari dukay, on the same principle that says that the proles must have bread before revolution.

Besides that, what? Nothing, really. I feel as if I am lurching into a void, what with no job house plans winter-coat. It doesn't feel like "going home," it feels like "leaving home." Plus, I have new Colombo friends, and job offers here. What to do.


I don't want your pity

...but I've fallen ill. The last time was sorta flu-esque, in Jaffna, in May; now it's an obvious sinus/respiratory thing. I wheeze, I sneeze, I drink liquids.

The real pain of it is that I can't tell if I've got a fever and I can't bloody read Anushka's old-skool mercury thermometer! victim of technological progress! ...and it's so hot that I feel I must be roasting to a crisp. This brings on fears of malaria (probably not, I don't feel cold), dengue (probably not, I'd have nausea or aches at least) and bird flu (definitely not, hasn't come to Sri Lanka). I can't take a cold shower for the heat, because if I do have a fever that would be bad.

Well, what to do. I have tasty Betadine gargle potion (I thought it was just for cuts, but no!) and big ol' 500mg vitamin C tablets and books and movies and "The L Word" which is so amusing! That show is easily 25% PG-13 lesbian sex montages (oh great, now I'm going to get page views from people looking for lesbian sex montages) with intense kissing and boobies and clenched O-faces. The show features wealthy skinny white lesbians who look like male fantasies, even the most butch ones. There's a token black character, who looks white, and a token straight male character, whose young anorexic writer girlfriend is seduced by the loveliest of the dykeflock. The writer seems to have a total breakdown around this, having somehow reached her early 20s in a creative field without ever meeting any gay people. Ah, television.

Also finishing my veg eating article. It'll get posted as soon as Tyrant Editor (ha, totally not the case) says I can, which will probably be after the magazine comes out. And sweating, and drinking Australian orange juice. When that's done, I'll switch to Cypriot! Thrills. Meant to go get my India visa today but I couldn't deal with errands in this state. Ugh.


calling vegetarians and our friendly co-eaters

I have been (willingly, happily) suckered into writing an article for the LT on veg eating in Colombo. This will be fun but would be more so if they were going to buy me a ton of free meals. As is I get a couple free meals; that'll do, pig, that'll do.

There's a thread at Indi's blog on this already but I'd like to reiterate a broadcast call for Colombo denizens and interested parties to tell me where to go and what to eat. Please! Post there or here, and you may be immortalized in print!* If something's been mentioned already on that thread, go ahead and mention it again if it's great; I won't have the time or money to visit a bunch of places so I have to rely on previous knowledge, hearsay, and speculation. Hooray for principled journalism.

Am back from Nillambe, which was lovely. More later on that, but let me suggest that those meditating there in future be mindful of the bus journey back to Kandy, which was nauseating and more than usually jammed for a SLan bus. It put a dent in the whole spiritual-peace thing. I recommend returning by balloon or perhaps dirigible.

*first I typed 'immoralized' but, ha ha, I probably won't be doing that to anyone, especially not in print in a public forum like the LT. Ahem.


this chinese proverb originated from the netherlands

As the countdown to my public-speaking catastrophe ticks, I spend the afternoon blithely consuming the American Center's fast free internet. Yummy.

Isn't it annoying that Blogger is doing maintenance whilst I have access? I can't fix formatting and whatnot. Also I can't figure out the printing costs and don't want to ask for fear that the prim librarian types will point accusing fingers at the "please restrict usage to ONE HOUR" sign and then boot this four-hours-plus weasel off the machine and out of the aircon. On the other hand there's nobody else in the joint aside from the staff and the embassy cultural officers in their "Public Diplomacy" offices and embarrassing outfits. (Really, countrymen!)

Conclusions to be reached, with internet consumption:

1. Indi is very, very hungry. Three posts about food?!

2. Bloggers would make lasting peace in Sri Lanka if only someone with actual power would listen to us/them. See thread at nittewa.blogspot.com for details of a proposed peace plan. On the other hand, if someone with actual power was listening, we'd all be getting shot.

3. All my American friends are getting increasingly riled over the Katrina debacle and are starting to more or less handwringingly blog about what to do. Some are philosophizing, some are ignoring. I don't want to sound nasty about any of these approaches, but more lead-in to conversations about how we should be Saving the World (or southern Louisiana) is probably not going to make us feel better.

Also in hurricane response opinions--mine:

The efforts to create a refugee/people-driven rebuilding and relief distro organization are snowballing like mad, which is awesome, and I seriously hope that it works. I also hope that the group doesn't resort to crude development-bashing as a solution to poverty and its ills.

This tragedy should not be envisioned as an inspiring kickstart to all the movements against all the injustices at play in New Orleans (before and after). That is poor logic at worst and shoddy planning at best. Yes, the grassroots needs money; yes, people need vision and hope and utopian dreams. We should set realistic goals, though; otherwise you just get rhetoric, failures, and cynicism.

For example, one site states that money for school rebuilding should go through channels run by people who've been creating good charter schools in NO for years. Sounds like a good idea, but these people are going to need to work on their own schools before they can oversee a districtwide revolution. This is definitely a case for local governance, but also a space for outside expertise.

I guess a lot of this is filtered through ongoing tsunami frustrations here. Of course, the tsunami survivors have basically been forgotten in the National Question rhetoric now surrounding the election biz. You'd be hard pressed to find tsunami 'news' in the papers aside from the very occasional key-handing-over ceremony.

Meanwhile Mahinda has bent over and kissed the JVP's tush, and Ranil is still mad sketchy (and probably unelectable) and the LTTE and SLA escalate killings daily. Nothing, of course, has changed in Colombo.


everybody is somebody, sometimes

The glare of perverse celebrity has worn off, or more accurately tailed off with the cessation of the hate-mail (see comments below). I'm back to an ordinary sense that no one is really paying attention to me, which is good.

One of the major themes of thought I've been having about leaving is that it will be hard to go from being Someone to being no-one. That sounds a whole lot more arrogant than I mean: I don't feel that I'm especially important to/in Sri Lanka, at all, but I am certainly more novel. Additionally, because it's a small place and because I'm correspondingly more part of the elite here, I have friends who edit major publications and direct major plays and are generally Known. Aside from my power-pals, I am more of an enigma and a local oddity to many, many ordinary people (mostly in Kandy although the Colombo 'hood cops are starting to smile waggishly).

In any case, this all adds up to a sense that I am going not just from a small pond to a large one, but from a delicate and complex web of social situation and responsibility and outsider license to, well, who knows? Have more thoughts on this but must go meet some folks for to see a play. I am proud to have the friends I do. Is that snobby or loving? It feels warm and kind.


End Times

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and surrounding has been pretty well described by major news media and other bloggers, so I'll skip it. I haven't seen TV coverage of course, which means that it's that much less real to me. The tsunami was harder and worse to live through, being closer and in places I actually had visited and could visualize.

Is is not amazing, though, that there were SO MANY disaster scenarios that predicted this? And is it not criminal that the Bush Admin had basically gutted FEMA and Army Corps of Engineers funding to pay for Iraq? And is it a coincidence that in a majority Black city the scale of the disaster was under-predicted, even as it was unfolding, and under-appreciated until they had to evacuate the Superdrome? Perhaps this is the easy response of a person (me) who's been trained to look for prejudice to a disaster that stymies the blame game. Any disaster does that, but I claim the right to ask, what could have been better or worse about this?

Having dabbled in disaster-relief and disaster-mitigation-planning this year (tsunami/dam project) I know that in America these events may be catastrophic and costly but they are not usually chaotic and fatal in a way comparable to this. Not at all. That was something we talked about post-tsunami, that Time magazine write about; the First World has systems and people set up to manage these crises, with the result that more is predicted and more is prevented. Also the emergency response is coordinated. Obviously.

I can't imagine why, with so many predictions and speculations about the conditions for New Orleans flood disasters, this wasn't seen as clearly as Katrina itself, whirling around in the Gulf for five days like a demented Eastern Bloc figure skater. That's what the name sounds like, anyway. Those hit hardest are the poorest of the poor, as everywhere, but the apparent blind eye turned by the Powers That Be to their plight (hundreds told to head to a convention center for relief arrived to find no relief and no coordinating authorities there) is tragic and gives me pause when I think about the role of the American government in protecting our people.

The only thing I can imagine in terms of a governemental bias, besides a persistent racial prejudice that says heavily Black areas can be neglected with respect to just about anything, is the perhaps more damning (and I mean that) belief by Bush and Co. that God and America have a special cozy relationship. The man does think so, I'm sure of it. Therefore natural disasters are God's Will, and additionally fit nicely with the current aura of contemporary millenarian End Times fantasies.

It's quite simple to neglect disaster planning and public schooling and economic responsibility and foreign policy and whatever else when you (and a sizable number of your constituents) actually think that the Rapture is coming. The Administration has been quite silent, it seems, on the topic of the Gaza pullout; maybe they're discouraged as Jews must hold the Holy Land for the Antichrist to arise! Not sure if the Antichrist is looking for ancient or 1949 or 1967 or 2005 borders.

In any case it wouldn't surprise me if they see the past year-of-natural-disasters as another Sign. To them, the Day After Tomorrow isn't about climate change or oil prices or transportation policy, no, it's about punishing the deviants (including, um, the rest of the world) who didn't line up for Jesus, Coca-Cola, white America, Iraq liberation, vanilla heterosexuality, and Bush/Cheney 2004.

On a more personal note, I left Kandy yesterday (going back in two weeks, ha) and have settled in some nice people's house in Colombo. I'm down the street from the best theatre and gallery in the city! And close to the embassy pool. They have a yellow Lab puppy. My cell phone works again. I am starting to see myself in America in six weeks, which is daunting but exciting. I don't feel in-between yet, but I will soon. Going to India (Chennai-Pondicherry-Ellora-Cochin-Trivandrum, I think) on the 25th of September for two weeks and I actually bought a ticket and everything. Hooray planning.