Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sri Lanka Diaries Part I

Oh Lord what a corny title.

Its Saturday today in sunny Hikkaduwa where Kyle and I are based for the month. Its just a couple hours from Columbo and a bus ride from Galle in the South West of SriLanka. A cosy little beach town that lives for the tourist high season which ended at the end of last month so its relatively quiet here.

Got into Columbo airport which was a little scarey since we'd been Singaporean-ised. Must have looked like right idiots clutching our bags and hissing away the porters who were trying to help. I can just imagine those people who sit behind mirrored windows looking at us knowingly going - Aah. First timers.

Finally got to the other side, still guarding our bags trying to read every sign available (mind you there weren't very many), we walked right past the banks to change money since you can't get Rupees outside of SriLanka - all the while chanting LSR LSR LSR - the company we are with- trying to find their desk.

What they meant by 'sign in at the LSR desk' in the pre-departure pack that they sent us, meant 'find the guy with the carboard sign saying one of your names'. So off we went with our driver who told us that were weren't going to Galle and we were to stay in Columbo for the night in some unknown hotel (well, to us anyway) and 'someone' would come and pick us up in the morning.

All the while I was thinking. Oh GOD. Mum and dad were right I've gone and done something real stupid. Who is this man who is driving us into Columbo? And how does he know our names? que crazy eye with raised eyebrow.

So offloaded we got into a rest house on a main street in Columbo which the driver pointed out was 'next to the British Council-yes?' as though to reassure us that we were in safe hands being just on the other side of the rented British soil and in any need of help we could bang on their doors for our rations of canned Coke and Bread.

But alas as paranoia subsided, awe set in.

For the first time in my life I felt outside of home ground. Outside of things I knew and extremely awkward. So. What do you do when you feel like that? 'Wow' at everything, repeat what people say to you like this:

Driver: So we are leaving now to Hikkaduwa today.
Me: Hik-ka-du-wa
Driver: My name is Nimal. And yours?
Me: Nee-Mal? Wee-daaa-reeee
And so on.

OKay so after a little while of that I came back to my senses again and decided the quiet contemplating mode was better and just to sit and look around was the best way to approach any situation.

Today is the sixth day we've been in Srilanka, and I've finally sussed it. I don't have to be the tourist idiot, its okay to call people Uncle and Friend, and NO I'm not in Japan so i can QUIT nodding! - saw this guy at breakfast the other day doing that realised that I looked just as idiotic as he did 'nodding' a thank you in stead of saying it. They speak Ingerish here too fool.

We're working on the Kuier houses in Hikkaduwa, which are basically like perpindahan houses back home, only Orange. They're a lot nicer than the other relief houses that are being built and certainly look a lot more stable.

So I haven't gotten to moving around the breeze blocks yet, although that looks REALLY tough. We get to work at 8 in the morning and have sweat through our clothes by 815. So the painting work we've had to do for the past few days has been a welcome orientation to the project.

The first day on the site I had quite a number of visitors. Or supervisors if you'd like to call them that. Because as I was very visibly sweating half my bodyweight onto the floor they huddled around to see the foreign girl on site. Probably making notes on how much to bet on how long I'd last. Very self-consious and a little nervous I carried on with my work thinking 'well, if I'm going to look like I don't belong here I might as well act like I do' So after speeding through the painting of the entire of someone's downstairs kitchen, I proceded to whiz my way though the two upstairs bedrooms and living space and have some time in the afternoon to apply a second coat to their windows.

So after carefully whizzing around the bits of wall the guys 'told' me not to paint - they made me go back to paint them. Eh? (pause) ohhhh. Shake head means 'yes'-paint this wall you silly woman. There was I, enthusiastically nodding my head everytime they pointed at a wall and shook their heads thinking 'yeah I can do this..' when really I had no idea!

Three official days into work we have a bit of a gang going on where Kyle and Sisiaq are the leaders with ever faithful Geevaka (a.k.a Squeeky) and I as their sidekicks. I'm still aching from all 8 hours of work out a day and as I type this I'm stopping every so often to strech my fingers from the cramp. But still, I'm looking forward to getting back to work on monday and waiting for Kampong Kyle to catch fish as he sits uncle stylee by the river when we all get too hot to work.

Will get pictures on as soon as I can get my pitures on disk-soon!xxw


Post a Comment

<< Home