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On a Mission

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

Yesterday, I was on a mission.

Good things can come from going to travel shows. At the recent Daily Telegraph Travel & Adventure Show in Kensington, I hung out at the desk of a company that organises tours to some of the most spectacular whalewatching destinations on the planet. Of course I could not afford to go on one of the trips, but I spent some time talking to the woman running the stall. Soon I brought up East Sri Lanka—not so long ago one of the most promising destinations and now devastated by the tsunami. Whalewatch tourism would be an enormous boost to the affected communities, not to mention provide vital support to cash-stripped researchers. I launched into a mini-lecture while the woman listened slightly startled but with growing enthusiasm, then she pushed a pen and paper across the desk. I scribbled some notes and a few days later an email from the company’s founder landed in my inbox; inviting me to a meeting in Brighton.
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Saved by the Cat

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

Our mates are OK!

John e-mailed them on Monday which I though futile because, although they now have internet access in the house in Negombo, that would be the last place they would be.

But they replied. It turns out that the cat, Gizmo, has a tail infection so S & A stayed at the house over Christmas to administer his medication and mother him. Otherwise they would have gone to a beach resort along the southern or eastern shore and, as S succinctly put it: “we would be dead. —Saved by the cat!”


Sri Lanka: The Situation in the East

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

At last news has begun to trickle through about the situation along Sri Lanka’s East coast—and it looks bad.
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Killer Tsunamis

Monday, December 27th, 2004

One of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded hit the Indian Ocean on Sunday morning. At 9 am local time, without any warning, Sri Lanka was pounded by a series of Tsunamis.

I am trying to get my head around this, but I can’t. Names and faces keep flashing before my eyes: Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Arugam Bay, Tangalla, Weligama, Mirissa…

The Harbour Master, the people at the ‘French Garden’, the owner of the ‘Arugam Bay Hillton’, Raja, Lalith’s beach hut (at least he should have been on his Christmas break—hopefully!)

The shanty towns on the beaches around Trincomalee, the fishermen in their huts around the villages, the schoolchildren of Muttur.

Our mates are down there now. They should have been in Kandy for Christmas but who knows, maybe they decided to be a bit more adventurous this year. They have arranged to hire a car for a month and maybe decided on Christmas at the beach after I have been raving about the east coast. We don’t know, of course. Over a million people are cut off.

Our last supper

Monday, November 8th, 2004

This completes the Sri Lanka travelogue— just in time for my Portugal trip 🙂 It’s only a little holiday, but I hope that a few quirky things will happen to give me new story leads, so watch this space.

Time for our last supper. We took the bikes and cycled past the bus station back to the bridge over the lagoon. Just past the bridge was the ‘New Rest House’ where we had spent some pleasant evenings with S and A. We felt we needed some old-fashioned hospitality to console us on our last evening.
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The Toddy Tavern

Sunday, November 7th, 2004

There was one thing left to do.

I had only come across a single toddy tavern anywhere near where I was staying and that had been in Trincomalee. Even there it had been quite a way out of town. I had not wanted to walk out there in the heat of the day and certainly not after dark (there are drawbacks to being a single female traveller). I had however seen several toddy signs from the bus to Colombo. It was hot and it would be a bother, but I felt that a visit to a toddy tavern was a must. John chickened out.
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Impending departure

Saturday, November 6th, 2004

Our impending departure was hanging over me like a shadow. I cried a little when we drove back to Negombo on the following evening. The house was dark and abandoned. John and I were together, but we felt alone.
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On campus (3) — of lechers and scorpions

Friday, November 5th, 2004

In the morning I felt better. It was like awakening from a bad dream. I hugged John and we lost each other in a kiss. Sex was out of the question. Jungle sounds filtered through the windows and from the kitchen came more domestic clattering noises — we would be overheard. We held each other tight for a while, hearts pounding.
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On campus (2) — bookish interlude

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

Back at the library, it turned out that my trusty student friend had checked the entire Loris contents list for articles on marine mammals, saving me a lot of time.
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On campus (1)

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

Any idea of further travel was out of the question. Irrespective of the fact that we only had a few days left, I was still feeling decidedly shaky and strange. Once again, I took 10 mg of Seroxat, which made me sweat profusely. But I was determined to put the day to good use. Equipped with two full water bottles, I followed John to the department. The students greeted him enthusiastically despite, or perhaps because, of the two hour turorial he had subjected them to on the previous day when one unfortunate fellow had asked a maths question.
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