Another Few Days in the Life Here

Monday, October 8, 2018 at 11:42 (UTC+0530)

During the next few days my muscles were sore at the gym, and it was painful to remove my shirt back home for my shower, and these were good feelings, signs of progress.  Some days I would walk the mile home on the abominable road, rutted and muddy from the slow progress of road work.  But I would say a cheerful hello to various shop owners I knew, and generally it was sunny in the mornings before the thunderheads built up.

I started to ask around about used motorbikes, thinking a bike would give us more freedom, and possibly even a way to evacuate if ever some calamity struck.  I started to think about that half a year ago when curfews were imposed for several days after some mob violence broke out over on the other side of Kandy.  They shut down Facebook for the whole country for a month, and things quieted down.  But best to be prepared.

At home one of my chores was burning the trash.  Sadly there is no trash service in our neighborhood, much less any recycling.  So I put it all in a barrel out back, douse it with kerosene, and put a match to it, while saying hello to the ladies who work washing grain under a next door shed.  I hope they don't mind the smell of burning plastic.

For lunch I made myself some toast and spread it with soft "Happy Cow" cheese wedges and Vegemite I picked up in Australia, then put soft boiled egg on top.  And of course I drink hot tea, some of the best in the world here.  The clouds built up and I tried to get some writing and coding done with the windows and doors open to clear the dampness out of the house.  Finally the thunder booms, and the power often goes out.  But the laptop and the internet router both operate on battery power so I kept working merrily away.

One day the lightning hit so close that the flash lit up the room and instantly there was a crack like a giant whip and the circuit breaker tripped and the fridge stopped humming and the rain started hammering down.  Our neighbor Rohan rode up on his motorcycle, soaking, coming 30km through the rain from work.  So there are down sides to motorbikes here, too.

I fried up "snake gourd", which are green and often three feet long, for dinner one night, but I spoiled it by adding too much salt.  Karen ate it graciously, even taking a (small) second helping.  I tried to make up for my mistake by pleasantly strumming the guitar for an hour.  The next night she cooked potato and corn chowder, incredibly delicious, I think to remind me who is the better cook around here.

One day I went in to Karen's school to help fix a printer.  I had to remember the dress code of long trousers and a smart shirt, as normally I'm in shorts.  I found her with her boss and associates who were recovering from an invasion by a troop of monkeys.  A few monkeys had first gone into Karen's office and, when everyone ran over to shoo them out, some others stormed the classroom in a rear guard maneuver.  They spilled some water and almost got into some wrapped birthday cake before Mr Jayalath, with his husky voice, evicted them.

Twice this week we made the trek in to Kandy for shopping and errands.  Although it is not far as the crow flies, it takes most of an hour by road, with buses belching dark clouds of diesel smoke, and all vehicles hooting horns and jerking this way and that trying to move ahead.  So we like to take the train, which gets there in fifteen minutes.  But the problem with the train is that it is usually delayed, or on strike, and always hard to tell if a train coming in to the station is actually going to Kandy.  Our station in Peradeniya is a junction, so often trains come in one track and go out another, or even back the way they came.  We hopped into a train we were sure was ours, and out of nowhere up to our window came our friendly driver Sampath, who told us to get out quick, and sure enough, this train jerked and started rolling the wrong way.

In Kandy is Karen's favorite hair dresser, whose office is in the fancy Grand Kandyan Hotel up a hill with great views.  While she was having her hair done I went to meet our friend Heather, a Canadian, at the colonial era Royal Hotel.  They still close the bar between two and five in the afternoon, so we drank sodas and got caught up.  Heather teaches English at the British Council offices in Kandy and always has a good tale of some ridiculous situation at work or at the house she rents on her own.

Karen joined us after the hair dresser, just as the bar opened, so we had sundowner gin and tonics, and then some dinner.  Soon we were joined by Michael and Helen of the Alliance Française, which some might call a rival to the British Council, but we're all on friendly terms as expats in a strange land.  When finally we tired of ordering tall cold Lion Lager beers we called a "Pick Me", the local equivalent of Uber or Lyft.  A car picked us up, earning dirty looks from the tuk tuk drivers out front who were hoping to extort extra rupees from us.  Our driver had good tunes in the car, drove with exuberance (if recklessly), and told us about the street food business he's opening in Colombo serving chick peas covered in cheese.

That was how we got home from Kandy the first time: on our second trek, the next day, we made the mistake of trying to get home on the cheap, using one of the long distance buses that barely come to a full stop as you jump in the back door and climb into the crowd of passengers.  For half an hour I was nearly hanging out the back door, and Karen was being jostled from side to side by people pushing in and rushing out.  By the time we got to our stop we were both in a foul mood.

So the next morning, Sunday, I pampered my wife a bit, bringing her coffee in bed, followed by a fruit smoothie.  She had the chance to spend a few hours outside working in the garden, loving it despite the early rain that began to soak her.  I stayed comfy indoors with my laptop setting up a new encrypted attached storage volume on my server in Fremont, California, and then deploying a database there.  It's all part of the infrastructure behind what will be a better blog and platform for publishing stories.  And it's all good geek fun.