So, where was I?

Although I didn’t have much trouble, a whole bunch of people in New York, New Jersey and Staten Island are still without power… which also means no heat. So if you’re able and feel like helping these people out, please do. You also can try browsing Twitter for leads on aid.

Now back to your regularly scheduled spiel.

A quick recap first…

Things were moving pretty fast in Sri Lanka, my sunglasses broke, CERN is still awesome, flowers were pretty, but people are still somewhat rude.

I got back from Sri Lanka and discovered that even though I consider myself Sinhalese, almost everyone else there didn’t. And for more than a year, I’ve been planning on building a cabin. Nothing too exiting happened afterwards, but I did manage to survive the Sandy unscathed.

Super.

I’m going back to school

This wasn’t a decision I reached lightly since I already have two jobs and very little free time to begin with, but I think it’s about time I put off finishing it.

It is a bit awkward to see a class full of people (and sunlight for that matter) 10 years or younger than I am; this was the opposite of how it was when I first went to class at night when I was 10 – 30 years younger than almost everyone else.

I don’t really want to go with Computer Science, but since that’s what I started in, I may as well finish it. From my chats with the family, practically everyone wants me to pursue that or Engineering. This is like a cultural thing in Sri Lanka. You’re either an Engineer or a Doctor and sometimes, being Accountant is also acceptable, but Carpentry, what I’d really rather be doing is a no-no unless it’s the family business.

It’s like a status thing.

Another possible field would be Psychology. The lessons I’ve taken so far were very interesting so that may be something to look into. And I like listening to people.

Not sure if I’d go that route, though I’ve been interested in Architecture as well, but I’ve been told that it takes years to get a foothold in the field and even then, it’s pretty hard unless you’re really, really lucky. We’ll see.

What love life?

My ex and I are both programmers and I felt maybe dating outside the sphere would be good since I thought there is such a thing as having too much in common. This turned out not to be the issue.

It’s been 3 months since I last went on a date and I wasn’t too into it at the time. She was very sweet and I’ve known her for a year now, but I didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. And I was looking for a girlfriend at the time since have enough girl-friends, yet somehow I didn’t want to pursue and I think I know why.

I’m reasonably sure I’d rather be single at the moment and somehow that doesn’t bother me as much as it did ten years ago. I know this timeframe with certainty since I met my ex a year before that. A bit of a hard pill to swallow to admit that you haven’t been happy (on and off) with someone for more than a decade, but I guess the truth shall set you free.

Though I don’t really use Facebook except to keep touch with high school friends and stuff, I just changed my status to single. In the years I’ve had the account, this is the first time I’m actually setting the status; a small hint on how on the fence I was about it.

Masks

Speaking of lying to yourself, I finally got to unpack some of the things I brought back from Sri Lanka (yes, it’s been months!) and got to unwrap the masks. These are Raksha (demon) masks representative of the traditional crafts of the country. The full-sized versions are worn during Kolam, a performance carried out entirely in costume. These are much smaller than those, naturally, since they needed to fit in my luggage.

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Flora

It’s been a while since I last posted and I have a perfectly good excuse… gimme a minute to make one up.

Meanwhile, enjoy these pics from our visit to the Hakgala Gardens in Sri Lanka. The images are a bit disjointed because they’re from two different cameras. I was borrowing my cousin’s camera (on account of Fiona suggesting my one sucks), but it ran out of juice half way so I then borrowed my aunt’s camera.

Farting with confidence

Of the few things miss since I came back to Sri Lanka, I have to say etiquette takes the cake. Sri Lanka, when it used to be Ceylon under British rule, was actually a very decent country. People were well-mannered (even those unexposed to the Western variety of etiquette) and a lot of social responsibility was taught early to children.

Of course, that all started changing around the mid 70’s. Everyone started going about their own interests, public good be damned, there were clashes among Tamil and Sinhalese citizens — prelude to the full on civil war starting in ’84 (I was 2 years old) — and of course manners went the way of the dinosaur. This wouldn’t be so bad if it were just Sinhalese people (my ethnicity) since if there’s one thing Sinhalese people do well, it’s complaining of other Sinhalese people.

I’m seeing a chronic lack of “Excuse me” or “Sorry” or “Thank You” or “You’re welcome” across the board among all races and ages in addition to an increase in petty vandalism to epidemic proportions. The list goes on into a more disturbing territory.

Loudly burping, sneezing into mid-air (or worse, into hands and then touching everything including children), coughing up both lungs into someone’s face, farting with all the delicacy of a tornado hitting a sewage treatment plant and a systemic prevalence of laziness.  And of course the proverbial disrespect of elders in a land that used to worship them. Sri Lanka is in trouble.

And I didn’t know these were a thing…

Flat-D Flatulence Deoderizer – Disposable Underpads

I’m tempted to print up brochures depicting proper etiquette in Sinhalese, Tamil and English and start disseminating them to everyone, but I’m sure the idiot brigade would require more stern persuasion. I wonder if I can borrow Room 101 for a bit.

Did I mention Sinhalese people like to complain?

Happy 4th of July!

And that would be in the U.S. Independence in Sri Lanka is on the 4th of February (1948) so no holiday today for us, unfortunately. Although yesterday we had Poya, which is a Buddhist public holiday.

I saw the most peculiar flower, I think, the other day.

My first thought was, “that can’t be real!”

At first I mistook it for some birds on a branch, but it was most definitely part of the tree. I have no idea what it’s called or even if it is a flower or maybe it’s a fruit. If anyone is familiar with the species, I’d love to know.

Galle

Well, that was a bit longer than the delay I was expecting. The internet was cooperating and this time it was actually due to other stuff that kept coming up.

We took a visit to Galle (pronounced Gaul in English or Gal-le in Sinhalese) taking the highway. And when I say, “the highway”, I quite literally mean the highway since at the moment, it’s the country’s only one. There are more planned and under construction.

Apologies for the rubbish quality photos. I took these with a cheap camcorder.

All the distances are in Kilometers and the names are in Sinhalese, Tamil and of course English. Note the E01 as in the first expressway.

On the way, I saw something that I thought I’d never see on a Sri Lankan highway.

That’s more than 62 MPH!

Mind you there are no posted limits on  inland roads and only some city roads have limits posted. Though that hasn’t stopped people from exceeding Mach 1 on a regular basis on both. Did I mention driving in Sri Lanka is frightening?

You can tell the country is really moving forward by the amount of new construction going on, especially in terms of public projects and private housing. And we have some examples of those public displays of progress.

I think this is a dove.

All steel tube construction and impossible to ignore. Pretty clear what the message is… We’re soaring!

There was also a victory arch of sorts. Though, considering it was built after the civil war ended (1984 – 2009) and the top is adorned with a blossoming flower, I think the message here is that it’s a “peace arch”.

We’re strong, united and peaceful. Or so seems.

One of the nice things about living on an island is that you’re not too far off from the beach from most locations.

These days most of Sri Lanka is pockmarked with ads that play on popular culture. Movies music etc… And I’m sure none of these had any sort of corporate approval since the whole country has a pretty relaxed attitude to piracy and plagiarism.

Having used Dialog internet on my last trip and half of this one, I can most certainly assure you that it most certainly is not!

And of course, there’s the variety that make absolutely no sense.

This ad makes about as much sense as watching Elvis Presley riding a unicycle in a Bigfoot costume while reciting the Vagina Monologues… backwards… in Swahili.

We then came across the old fort of Galle. This was first built during the Portuguese occupation (1505 – 1658), extended during the Dutch occupation (1658 – 1798) and then the British occupation (which itself lasted until 1948) and, sadly, has better construction than some of the newer structures I’ve seen going up. Then again, these were built to repel invaders, not just rain and mice.

AEOLUS BASTION
Called ca. 1725 ‘Nieuwe Punt’ (New Point) ca. 1735 also ; ‘Halve Bolwerk’ (Half Bastion). The Portuguese had no defense works at all this side of Galle Fort. Five cannons were situated here in 1760.

The spot is fairly popular with couples in the area. In fact, we saw quite a few taking cover under umbrellas.

Love is in the air… Oops, busted!

There’s no beach in the area and many of the external walls directly reach the ocean since this was a defensive fort and not a resort. The steep walls have cannon ports in several spots with plenty of overlap to cover blind spots.

Children frequently play in among the wall openings. We were told they’re usually very careful, but that didn’t make watching them skip about with such a dangerous drop on the other side any easier.

Directly behind the fort is a Buddhist temple, which at one point used to be a Christian church during the occupation. The stupa (the white structure) was built among some of the church architecture (the bell tower is still intact). Sadly, most of my architecture shots were blurry and beyond recognition.

The interior shots were, once again, ruined due to my sloppy camera work. Though I did manage to pull up a few OK photos of the inside statues and paintings including the main statue of a reclining Buddha.

We took a bit of a walk down the local roads were we came across some of the gorgeous blooms. They look a bit fuzzy, but this time it’s not the camera. It’s the famously harsh daytime daze on the island. Being equatorial, Sri Lanka gets some of the brightest sunshine.

Our next stop was the Maritime Archaeology Museum. Here, I was hampered not by the Sun, my camera or my photography skill (all three were a trifecta of failure this day), but here we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the artifacts.

The artifacts were basically relics of the Portuguese presence and Arab and ancient Chinese trade and such, some of which were washed ashore during the 2004 tsunami. Cannons, bowls, tobacco pipes, vases, statues, old fishing boats etc… The rest of the town had no photo restrictions.

Dutch Reformed Church – Galle

It was really starting to get hot by the middle of the day, so we decided to call it quits for now. We can always visit here again since I’m not leaving for a bit longer. We went to the nearby Galle Fort Hotel for a bit of a breather… and some ice-cold drinks!