Dan and I took our last train journey together from Galle to Colombo (he is going to Kuala Lumpur to get his visa for China!) The ride was pretty typical and bitter sweet because I knew another goodbye was coming. Dan became such a great friend and crutch for me. He is one of the best listeners and most passionate and talented musicians I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I only imagine great things are in store for that boy. I am over all the goodbyes. Within 10 minutes of being on my own I had been given 4 phone numbers of local guys and asked on several dinner dates. If only it was this easy back home ;) naturally I politely, then firmly refused all advances. I headed off to the YWCA for a cheap room that was close to the train station but was disappointed to learn it was full due to a conference. The lady at the desk gave me an address of a friend that I could stay with. So once again I headed off to stay in a home stay (aka the guest room of a strangers house)
. it was a grimy little place with moldy rooms and bed bugs, but the price, location and family made it ok. I had dinner with everyone (grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, 2 children, 2 employees and a mystery woman) it was so great! I can't wait to cook done of it back home with the spices I've procured. I took off to watch the sunset on Colombo's "lawn" which is indeed a long narrow lawn above the beach. It was,originally cleared out by the Dutch to keep their cannons. The area was full of locals our for a picnic, flying kites, first dates and more. It reminded me of my last sunset in Thailand with Derek. Except the sky erupted in a violent combination of crimson and violet. There are food vendors everywhere selling various snacks, I noticed a significant increase in the amount of woman out which was probably due to the large police presence. The city had erected a series of large screens at one end that had a projection of the South Africa Sri Lanka cricket game. It was a great atmosphere, especially because Sri Lanka won. I really do enjoy Sri Lanka but for some reason (or combination of reasons probably including; mosquitoes, heat, tick hard mattresses, never ending prayers etc...) I have yet to have a solid nights sleep and it's staring to wear on me especially because traveling from point a to point b is so physically and emotionally demanding. So after less than 3 hours of sleep I awoke and decided to try my hand at getting public transport to the train station. There is something so satisfying about being able to make it to a destination on your own accord. I had to take two buses but I made it. It costs me 10 rupees or 10 cents (a tuk tuk is 200 rupees). I got on my early morning train up north and have had a lot of time to digest the South culture and this is what I have come up with.
Sri Lanka is a country full of colour. The land is green, the sky blue, the people are dressed in beautiful saris, woman carry around multi coloured umbrellas everywhere (for protection from the sun), tuk tuks come in every color under the sun and are decked out with fake flowers and tassels
. Dogs roam the streets in friendly packs that seem to love following me (which I am more than ok with), elephants and monkeys roam free range in the country side. The Trains are a main form of transportation for everyone. you snooze you loose is the name of the game when it comes to getting seats. As soon as the train pulls I'm there is a mad rush of people pushing and shoving to get one of the coveted limited seats. Being white has it's advantages as I am usually given a seat by the train police, but it's shirt lived as there is always a senior, pregnant lady or someone clearly in need of a seat to give it up for. Locals walk through the carts every few minutes selling various "short eats" and drinks. One of the advantages of being in third class over second or first is you get all the snacks at local fare not tourist price. The buses are not like those of every other country, picture a battered OC transport bus as crowded as the 95 during rush hour, now add no AC no seats double the amount of people and add blaring Indian music. These bus rides have become quite an emotional undertaking. It takes a lot of mental energy to get on and survive these trips. All personal space and comfort is gone and there is no rhyme or reason as to how much it should cost. When there is no sitting room on the bus new comers will plop their bags or children into the lap of a sitting person. No words are exchanged, it's just something that is done. It makes frequent "stops" (aka it slows down just enough for people to jump on and off, about every 10 to 15 min) just like a city bus. Refrigeration doesn't seem to be a thing here so expect your drinks warm (unless you pay a refrigeration fee) and food room temperature. Men ride around on bikes with homemade ice cream in their baskets which besides rice may be the only food without spice in it, even the bread and cookies are spicy. Lizards the size of crocodiles roam the canals and streets looking for cats and dogs to eat. Children are picked up from school by their parent(s) at noon, the uniform is the same throughout the country. Boys wear blue shorts, white collared shirts and a tie in the schools colours with black while the girls wear a white skirt, shirt and a tie in the schools colours, white socks and shoes with their hair short or tied in braided pig tails with satin ribbon matching the tie. No one stays in their house (probably because it's too dam hot and humid), community is a huge thing. Locals wear white on Sundays and when visiting temples. Cricket is not just a sport it is a way of life. And it us played anywhere and everywhere at any time. Traffic is directly (mostly) by traffic cops and running water is not common. Every stream, Brooke and river will be virtually guaranteed to have at least knew family of bathers present in it. From as far as I can tell each family bathed separately with males and females having separate areas. They also bath in "bathing clothes". Woman are very subservient, they do not go anywhere alone, they are obedient, beautiful and quiet. unlike the woman in Myanmar who also never were alone they give off the air that they are baby makers and raisers. I think that is,why western woman are harassed by the local men. Come 5 pm it's rare to see any local female in the street.
The people are so friendly even though most have been through hell and back between the long lasting civil war and tsunami.