“I thought I had paid for everything. Not like the woman pays and pays and pays. No idea of retribution or punishment. Just exchange of values. You gave something up and got something else. Or you worked for something. You paid some way for everything that was any good.”
-Ernest Hemmingway, The Sun Also Rises
So. I have been a naughty little blogger. I apologize. I’ll do what I can to bring you up to speed.
Sri Lanka is not my favorite country, and let’s just euphemistically leave it at that. The last six weeks have taught me a lot about myself…namely, that perhaps teaching abroad is not for me. Granted, I have been told by people who have taught elsewhere that my experience/itinerary was not the norm as far as “teaching abroad” goes, but nonetheless, I’m afraid it has managed to sour the idea for me a bit. But these things are important to figure out; better I know after 6 weeks than to get locked into a year long contract and really dislike it. And of course, the last 6 weeks has been filled with ups and downs. Melissa Mike, and most recently MC’s Bro. Augustine kept me laughing and as close to sane as possible, our living arrangements were outstanding, and we did manage to make a few excursions out of the pollution and noise that is Colombo.
Our first and most memorable trip was to one of the suburbs to visit the house of the sister to one of the St. Ben’s Brothers, Bro. Augustine. Follow that? We had a really wonderful and relaxed time; good food, great company, and the famed Sri Lankan Arrack, a liqueur made from the naturally alcoholic juice of a king coconut–distilled again, just for good measure. Mike, Melissa, Brother Augustine and I sat in chair’s in the front lawn telling stories and learning to sing songs in Sinhala.
One weekend we went down south to an area called Galle, staying for the night on a beach called Hik-kaduwa (there’s almost a hiccup sound there in the middle). We went out on a glass bottom boat, but sadly most of the coral is dead due to the high occurrence of glass bottom boats.
The next weekend we organized our own trip to Udawalawe National Park. The night preceding our safari was spent at a rather questionable hotel with a total of 2 rooms (we all slept in one), but we had a good time there, despite our fears. Perhaps because of them. The next day, we woke up bright and early for a morning safari. The park has quite an assortment of wildlife- elephants, jackels, peacocks, leopards (though we didn’t see any), deer, alligators and a plethora of bird species. The biggest attraction there are the wild elephants. We were taken our in an uncovered jeep with a driver and a guide, just us five. We came first upon a small elephant family of 3. They walked right up to the jeep, which was nice, until papa elephant started making growling noises. Eventually they lost interest or decided we weren’t worth a brawl, and moved along. Next we came to a large herd. The guide explained that elephants are not dangerous in a herd because they do not feel threatened, so we were able to get very close. The morning was long and hot under the Sri Lankan sun, so I sat down as we moved across the plains. Then the jeep slowed, and Mike said, “Blair!” so I stood up quickly wondering what I’d missed. In hindsight, it would have been better to ease out of my seat, on the off chance that my attention was being called to what it was-a lone male elephant, giving us the eye. The jeep stopped, and our guide explained that these elephants are the most dangerous because they don’t have the rest of the herd around to protect them, and because of territorial issues. It starts when I bound up up out of my seat, and takes a few, fast, threatening steps towards us. Our guide waves his hat frantically and yells something in Sinhala. I have one leg out of the back of the jeep, ready to make my move. (What move? you ask. How should I know? I panicked. It was a big angry elephant, OK?) The elephant stops coming at us, but it stands there and beats it’s foot on the ground. It bellows.
“That means he’s angry,” our guide says, “very dangerous.” Yet he is smiling. The two ton, non-reasonable, upset animal is very close. It does the little mini-charge again, and again the guide yells and shakes his baseball cap at it. It stops again, staring us down. We tell our guide we’re ready to go. The jeep pulls forward, and happily Frankendumbo does not follow. The bus ride home from Udawalawe actually gave this experience a run for its money for which was more hellish to endure. We stood on a crowded, hot, musty, ancient public bus for 3 1/2 hours. I don’t know that I can really put into words how terrible this was, so I’m going to ask you to take my word for it.
The next weekend, we were asked to face elephants again. This time, they were much more hospitable because they were not wild, but at an elephant orphanage. No jeeps here, you could just walk up and pet them. I never thought I’d want to be near an elephant again, but these were pretty friendly.
I was exceedingly ready to leave Sri Lanka, and I do feel somewhat guilty, because there are people there who have come to mean a lot to me, but I was really looking forward to getting back to Thailand. Will I miss it? Parts of it. Brother Rajan, our host, was just brilliant and hilarious and completely selfless when it came to anything we needed, anything at all. Several of the other Brothers there kept me smiling too, and for that I can’t thank them enough. Time and meals with Melissa, Mike and the US Bro. Augustine were the best parts of the day. It’s very fortunate I did not have to do this alone.
Last night, I left for my plane to Bangkok. I didn’t sleep much, the flight was only about 4 hours; so when I got here, I walked into the first guesthouse that would take me a slept for a while. Eventually, I took myself out of bed, because I had several errands to run. Firstly, I was out of clothes. I went to the weekend market at Chatachuk, one of the largest outdoor markets in the world; the beating and bleeding heart of consumerism, torn from the body and plopped on the sweltering hot pavement of central Bangkok every weekend, pumping hoards of tourists and locals through endless alleys of shops selling anything the mind can conjure up at a negotiable price. I do not generally like to shop, but this place turning me into a buying machine. But 5 bucks for a skirt, I mean REALLY. I dropped off some laundry today as well, and applied for a visa to Cambodia. It should be ready on the 2nd, so I’ve booked a bus to Angkor Wat on the 3rd. Three days in Bangkok. I don’t know what I’ll do with them, and I don’t care. I love it here.