Return to Sri Lanka

Monday, July 16, 2018 at 09:53 (UTC+0530)

It was so hard to lift my head from the pillow after a late night having farewell drinks with the lads. Lee rallied like a trooper, whipping together a breakfast fry-up, and then carting me off to the airport. I felt sad, waving goodbye. Ah the great sad distances between all of us!

My flight to Singapore was delayed, and for a bizarre reason: a flight attendant had just been married and changed her name and security wasn't letting her through without updated paperwork. So we had to wait an hour until a backup flight attendant could be rushed out of bed and onto our international flight.

The onboard wifi didn't work, my seat would not recline, and the flight map kept rebooting and then got stuck showing our plane just off the coast of Australia. Not a good show, Qantas: wonder what other systems were failing on that old 737?

At Singapore I was back to the tropics: steam came from vents in the cabin as we collected our things to deplane. Changi airport feels like the height of civilization, with the latest products sold in clean shops, carpeted floors that reduce the aggravating echo of airports, even an information machine that scans your boarding pass and displays a video of the path you need to take to your gate. I sat down to fish and chips and a beer in a sports bar and used the free wifi to catch up on email.

My flight back to Sri Lanka was also late taking off and had its own bizarre circumstance: for some reason instead of the direct route across the sea we had to stay close to land, flying up the Malay peninsula nearly to Bangkok, then veering west across a strip of Myanmar and over to the coast of India. We came south from there, the lurid glow of enormous cities on the night horizon. Two hours late we landed in Colombo and I descended the stairs into the warm, humid midnight.

Even at this late hour masses of travelers crowded into the immigration area where disinterested officials compared passport photos to faces and flipped roughly through the pages looking for a visa. I strode through the duty free area that, compared to Singapore's, looked like a neighborhood garage sale. Wearily I watched for my new piece of luggage to emerge on the baggage claim conveyor belt. The customs officials were more interested in telling each other jokes than seeing if I might be smuggling. Finally through the system, I was quickly pounced upon by a taxi hawker and I took his slightly inflated late night price for the half hour trip to Negombo.

The taxi driver was a young fellow wanting to practice English and tell me about Buddhism. It really is a religion of peace, he said, though most practitioners are just Buddhist in name, not in deeds. Same with Christians, I said. I gave him an extra 500 rupees when he dropped me at Hotel J. He said he would use it to do good.

At last I was in my room with a private shower and a double bed all to myself, only a sheet needed for warmth, and I was sound asleep before I could count to ten.