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Friend-Friends and Other Observations

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Confusing slang, seat-snatching monks, bizarre Spanish phrases, indecipherable head bobbles… all just part of learning to live with a new culture! These are some of our favorite quirks and misunderstandings from three months in Sri Lanka.

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Friend-Friends

“You and you, you are brothers, no?” No, we’re not brothers. “Ah, you are friends?” Yes, that’s right! “But you are Germany and you are USA?” Yes. “Strange. You are friends for much time?” Yes, almost ten years now. “Ah.”

“AH!” Sudden understanding floods her eyes, which now take on a slightly mischievous glint. “I see. You are friend-friends.” Haha, yes. That’s exactly right. We’re friend-friends.

We’ve heard the term three separate times now, arrived at in exactly the same roundabout way, and always delivered with the same knowing, conspiratorial tone. “Friend-friends”. I suppose I like it better than “life partners”.

Calling Rosa Parks

Sri Lanka’s ubiquitous orange-robed Buddhist monks play an important role in the island’s cultural, political and social life. But they’re not always as peaceful as you might expect — the monks are the most virulently nationalistic faction in Sri Lanka, and directly responsible for much of the ethnic strife that’s long plagued the island.

Still, they’re highly venerated members of Sri Lankan society. So much so, that they’re given priority seating on any bus. The first two seats, right behind the driver, are reserved for clergy. Anyone seated there will immediately stand up when a monk boards the bus. We’ve been dumbfounded by this obligatory show of reverence ever since our arrival. Once, I saw a hobbled old man stand up for a child monk of around fifteen years. Without a thought, the kid sat down with that beatific expression of holy serenity, while the bent old man grasped in vain for the overhead bar.

Note to any Sri Lankan monks visiting the USA: Don’t try this in America! Expecting someone to relinquish their bus seat, because (according to your beliefs) they’re supposed to respect you… yeah, we don’t go for that.

Packing Light

We’ve taken loads of local transport during our months in Sri Lanka. Long-distance buses and trains which are almost always full with people traveling between cities over five hours apart. But always, always we are the only ones with any sort of luggage. It’s absolutely baffling. Nobody brings anything larger than a half-full rucksack … and if so, it’s just a bag of onions or coconuts.

Once, after we had traveled from Jaffna to Trincomalee, the woman seated in front of me asked for help with her burlap sack of onions. She disembarked and signaled that she wanted me to hoist the sack out the bus door and onto the top of her head. After feeling the weight of that giant sack — at least 30 kilos — I said “nope”. No way was I going to be responsible for breaking this old lady’s neck! But she was adamant, and I had to concede that her neck did look curiously powerful. So, I gathered my strength and swung the sack out the bus door, [plop] onto the top of her head. And off she trotted.

Hello?

If you’re white, walking down the streets of any Sri Lankan city can be a real hassle. “Hello! Sir? Tuk-tuk sir? Hello? Where are you going?” The barrage of questions is relentless and you can either ignore them, or respond politely ad nauseum. But eventually, you’re going to get frustrated.

So it’s unfortunate that “Hello?” is the standard telephone greeting here. More than once, I’ve heard a pointed “Hello?” behind me on the street, and spun around with a frustrated sigh, “What?! What do you want?! Leave me al… oh. You’re just answering your cell phone. Sorry! Please, proceed”.

Disculpen!

Yes, the word “sorry” is one we’ve had to learn in every country! “Entschuldigung” in Germany, “scusa” in Italy, and: “disculpen” in Spain. I was surprised to hear that last word frequently here in Sri Lanka. Little kids would spot us on the street and run up with palms outstretched, then bizarrely shout out “Disculpen!” What?! “Bon-bons? Money? The foreign coin? Disculpen?”

It took us at least three weeks to realize that the greedy brats weren’t just suddenly being polite in Spanish. That would be cute and unexpected. What they actually want is “the school pen”.

The Head Bobble

“Could I have a bottle of water?” Head-bobble. “Oh, you don’t have any water?” Head-bobble. “You do?” Head-bobble. “Ah, you’re already trying to hand me the water?” Head-bobble. “Okay, thank you! Goodbye!” Head-bobble.

Oh, the Sri Lanka head bobble. This confounded me for at least a week after our arrival. It means “yes”, or “I agree”, or “I understand what you’re saying”. They do it in India, too, and it’s basically used to convey positivity. But to us, it looks like “no” — though it’s not really a shake of the head. More, a swivel from side to side.

We’ve gotten accustomed to it, and Jürgen has actually caught me bobbling my own head when talking with people. I can’t help it; I’m a sponge.

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April 30, 2012 at 11:50 am Comments (7)

Tap that Toddy

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Coconut Water

We had seen toddy tappers at work a few times, high up in the palm trees around Jaffna and Trincomalee, collecting the liquid of coconut flowers into plastic jugs. The toddy can later can be distilled into arrack, but is one of the country’s favorite drinks even in its unprocessed state. And for nearly three months, we had traveled throughout Sri Lanka without ever trying it. We were being derelict!

Toddy

The toddy is non-alcoholic when first tapped, but ferments quickly and must be drunk on the same day (and is at its best in the morning). Plus, you can only find it in local “toddy taverns”. All of this makes landing a bottle a tricky prospect for tourists. We ended up having to talk a local into hunting some down for us.

Our toddy had been poured into an old water bottle, looked like cloudy urine and tasted like cider, but somehow yeasty. Or cheesy. Yes, it tasted like liquidy, yeasty cheese cider. It’s a common sensation to feel the still-active toddy fermenting inside your belly. I’m not sure whether that’s what was happening to me, but I definitely felt something going on down there, hours after we had stopped drinking.

Apparently, the best toddy comes from the north, where it’s culled from the spiky Palmyra palm trees. Maybe that would have been better, but I can’t imagine that any toddy is going to find its way into my list of favorite drinks. It was still fun to try, but anyone with a sensitive stomach will want to stay far away.

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Toddy
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April 30, 2012 at 9:41 am Comments (2)

Sri Lanka Reading List

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Every time we head to a new location, we’ll hunt down novels which are set there. Books help satisfy our curiosity about the place, and deepen our understanding of its culture. Here’s what we’ve been reading during our three months in Sri Lanka.

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
Running In The Family

Michael Ondaatje, also the author of The English Patient, is Sri Lanka’s most famous novelist. A Burgher, Ondaatje left Sri Lanka when he was just 11, and recounts the experience of returning in this wonderful, lyrical book. Stories of his ancestry mix fact and fiction, poetry and prose, as we follow Ondaatje both into his past and around the island. It’s a book I’ve returned to again and again, as we made our own way through Sri Lanka.

Book Link: Running in the Family

The Fountains of Paradise by Arther C. Clarke
Fountains of Paradise

The celebrated science fiction author spent his final years in Sri Lanka, both because he loved the island and because he felt the need to escape the anti-gay prejudice of his native England. His regard for the country shines through brightly in The Fountains of Paradise which is set in a slightly fictionalized version of Sri Lanka called “Trapobane”. Sigiriya and Adam’s Peak also receive aliases, and play a major part in this beloved sci-fi tale about building an elevator into space.

Book Link: Fountains of Paradise

The Village in the Jungle by Leonard Woolf
Village in the Jungle

Want a laugh? Then stay far away from this depressing tale of life in the jungles of Sri Lanka! Leonard Woolf spent years in the Ceylon Civil Service and wrote this harrowing novel about a village called Beddigama after returning to England (where he would later marry a young woman named Virginia). His fictional village doesn’t have it easy, and neither do readers. A fascinating and brutally honest depiction of life in the jungle, Woolf’s novel has earned a status in Sri Lanka (if not in the rest of the world) as a treasured classic.

Book Link: Village in the Jungle

Stories from the History of Ceylon for Children by Marie Musæus-Higgens
History-of-Ceylon

Yes, yes: “for children”. I was also holding a heavy, 600-page tome of Sri Lankan history for adults, but opted for the kiddie stories. And I’m glad I did! This book, originally written in 1910 to help elucidate the history of their country to young girls in school, recounts the most famous Sri Lankan legends. If you’re going to visit a lot of temples and historical places, I could almost call this book required reading. You’re unlikely to find a more comprehensive or easy-to-digest collection of stories.

Book Link: Stories from the History of Ceylon for Children

Madol Doova by Martin Wickramasinghe
Madol-Doova

We found the Martin Wickramasinghe’s house and folk museum surprisingly entertaining, so I decided to see if the same would hold true for one of his novels. This small book took me about a couple hours to read. It’s about two trouble-making kids from a rural village and their mischievous escapades. Eventually, they leave town and set up residence on an island named Madol Doova, thought to be infested by cobras and ghosts. It’s a fun coming-of-age story, ripe with Sinhalese customs and terms — there’s even a useful glossary at the back for words like “Mala yaka” (deadly devil) and “Mahttaya” (Sinhala equivalent of mister).

Book Link: Madol Doova

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April 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm Comments (2)

The Martin Wickramasinghe Museum

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One of our first mornings in Galle, we took a bus to Alanthgama with the intention of seeing stilt fisherman — one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic images. But whether it was due to the stormy seas, the time of day, or the recently completed New Year’s festivities, the stilts were unoccupied. Foiled! Now what would we do?

“It says here that the Martin Wickramasinghe Museum is nearby.”
“Martin Wickra-what?!”
“No clue. Some author.”

Martin-Wickramasinghe-House

We were only going because there was nothing else to do, and were in solid agreement that house-museum of an author we’d never heard of couldn’t possibly be the slightest bit interesting. But how wrong we were!

The museum is split into a couple sections. The cabin where Mr. Wickramasinghe grew up has been preserved and contains original furniture, pictures of the author receiving awards and a thorough chronicle of his life. Wickramasinghe (May 1890 – July 1976) was one of the cultural lights of colonial Ceylon, and one of the few writers of any prominence who chose Sinhalese as his primary language. He was fascinated by the culture of his island and worked tirelessly to both nurture and promote it.

One of his projects was a Sri Lankan Folk Museum, which we visited after touring the cabin. The museum is deceptively large, with a fascinating collection of the tools, masks, fashions and utensils of Sri Lanka’s past. Nearly every item was described in both English and Sinhalese. My favorites were a set of antiquated board games, and the recreation of an amazing 7th century Monsoon Furnace uncovered near Ratnapura.

I already knew that the early Sinhalese were considered ancient masters of engineering for their irrigation projects, but this really blew my mind. They had set up west-facing iron-smelting furnaces to capture the winds of the yearly monsoons. Modern engineers scoffed at the idea, until recreating it themselves. The monsoon winds are steady and strong enough to produce high-quality iron, and the furnaces generated up to ten tons annually.

The Martin Wickramasinghe Museum was an unexpected highlight. It was crowded with Sri Lankan families, but we were the only foreigners present. That’s a shame — tickets are only 200 rupees per person, and the exhibits provide an unforgettable glimpse into the island’s culture.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map
Galle Hotels

Martin-Wickramasinghe-Desk
Temple-Triacle
Wagon-Sri-Lanka
Very-Old-Sri-Lankan-Kitchen
Cocunut-Sekkuwa
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April 26, 2012 at 3:19 am Comments (3)

The Temple Town of Kataragama

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A major center of Sri Lankan pilgrimage for Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists, Kataragama is a normally sleepy village which completely transforms every evening when a riotous spectacle of color, fire, music and worship gets underway.

Waiting Kataragama

We planned on taking the bus from Ella to Kataragama, but the tuk-tuk driver taking us to the station offered such an unbelievable price for the entire 2.5 hour journey, we couldn’t say no. Sampath had a brand new, comfy, large tuk-tuk, which he drove safely and sanely — a rare combination! We talked a lot during the trip. He’s a big fan of American wrestling, and forced me to promise that I would get him John Cena’s email address (reasoning, I think, that we’re both Americans and likely to know each other). Sampath had been a soldier for twelve years, and was the most genial driver we could have hoped for. If you’re in Ella and need a tuk-tuk for a long haul, he’s worth hunting down.

Our Tuk Tuk Driver
Sampath the Man! Mr. Cena, if you’re reading, contact us for his email address

We arrived in Kataragama at 1pm and while Sampath went straight to the temple to pay his respects, we checked into our hotel: the Ceybank Rest. Though intended for Ceybank employees, they also rent rooms to travelers, and we can recommend it. Not only were the rooms cheap, clean and comfortable, but the vegetarian rice & curry buffet dinner was fantastic, and cost just 250 rupees per person.

Kataragama is a strange town, existing almost entirely for the benefit of pilgrims. Most of the town’s shops only sell offerings for the gods. I tried to buy a coconut from one of the vendors without realizing it was part of a fruit platter meant for Buddha.

The sacred precinct is large and contains nods to all of Sri Lanka’s major religions. We first visited a green mosque and then a small Hindu Kovil dedicated to Shiva. To the north, we found a stupa and a statue of Dutugemunu. The centerpiece of the complex, though, was the Maha Vihara: a set of Buddhist temples in a round enclosure. As the sun disappeared, we joined a crowd gathered around the door of the Kataragama temple and got ready for the puja (the gods’ feeding hour). The number of other people wasn’t overwhelming, but this was a rainy Monday night, immediately following a holiday weekend. Usually, it’s a crush.

Eventually the bells began to ring, and temple doors opened. A parade of pilgrims marched in, presenting plates of fruit to Kataragama. This blue-skinned multi-armed deity is actually Hindu, but has long been worshiped by Buddhists as one of the island’s principal guardians. The puja ceremony was a confusing mish-mash of activity, and I had very little idea what was going on around me. Monks bringing pillows to the gods. People consulting a shaman in the Ganesh temple. Coconuts being lit on fire, then smashed against stones. Then, worshipers eating the offering fruits after Kataragama had had his fill. Especially with the light rain and mind-shaking droning of the bells, it was a surreal experience.

I wish we could have timed our visit for one of the island’s poya days, because that must be a gathering to behold. But regardless, Kataragama provided a unique look into a fascinating bit of culture.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map
Sampath the Tuk-Tuk Driver can be contacted here: sampath_wa@yahoo.com

Insect Shield T-Shirt

Kataragama Flood
Good Luck Banana Stand
Vishnu-Buddha
Good-Luck-License-Plates
Muslim-Temple-Kataragama
Muslim in Kataragama
Only For Muslim Prayers
3-in-One-Palm-Tree-Wonder
Doctor Monkey
Sri Lanka Thunder
Fire Dragon
Cricket Religion
Bucket Flower
Offering Flowers
Temple Cows
Storm Dagoba
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Elephant-Tissue
Buddhist Fountain
Kataragama-2012
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Kataragam-Cock
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Good-Times-Kataragama
Handsome Hindu Monk
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/Reflecting-Stones
Dinner Is Ready
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Face-of-Kataragama
Holding Flames
Golden-Gate-Kataragama
Waiting-For-Buddha
Security Peacock
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April 20, 2012 at 10:24 am Comments (3)

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year Sri Lanka Song

Sri Lankan New Year, that is. The holiday, which brings normal life on the island to a complete stop for two full days, is observed on either the 13th or 14th of April, depending on astrological calculations.

Amazing Clouds Sri Lanka

Unlike the Western holiday, there is no sharp division between the “old” and “new” years — no strike of midnight. Instead, as the sun passes from the house of Pisces to that of Aries, there’s a period of around twelve hours which belong to neither the old, nor the new year. During this unaligned nonagathe, or neutral period, Sri Lankans try and refrain from all activity. It’s believed that any pursuit will be fruitless.

During a long walk we took this afternoon, it seemed that the only one doing any work was Mother Nature. On the edges of a thick cloud layer approaching the sea were wispy, colorful rainbow clouds. The earth’s way of wishing Sri Lanka a happy holiday, perhaps.

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Magical Nature
Rainbow Clouds
Sri Lanka New Years
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April 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm Comment (1)

Let’s Go Surfin’ Now at Arugam Bay

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Hostels in Sri Lanka

A laid-back village on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, Arugam Bay is one of the best places in the world for surfing, and has been a favorite of the long-term community for decades. Thanks to the steady presence of chilled-out expats, the town has a cool, low-key vibe which we’ve not seen anywhere else on the island. Great restaurants serving a variety of cuisine, comfy beach-side lodging, hip lounges, a happy mix of foreigners and locals… and of course, incredible waves.

Surfing Together

Although we’re not surfers, we enjoyed the way of life here so much that we stayed for five days. The restaurants alone were worth the extended stopover. Our favorite was the Siam Lounge, owned by a Dutch guy who’s been here since 1977 (and looks exactly like a Dutch guy who’s lived in a Sri Lankan surf town for 34 years) and his Thai wife. The upper-floor lounge area serves potent German-style brews and delicious Thai cuisine, while a 60s-heavy soundtrack accompanies surf-dude highlights playing in a loop on a projection screen. After so many nights spent scarfing down rice and curry in dingy restaurants while Sinhalese pop squealed from cheap speakers, the Siam Lounge was paradise.

Our last couple nights were spent in a beach-side cabin, complete with hammock and deck mattress. We should have tried surfing, but this was our vacation. After two months spent running around Sri Lanka, we didn’t want to do anything except turn our brains off and lounge around.

But although we couldn’t be bothered to get on boards, we did take a trip to Whiskey Point to watch surfers ply their trade. This was during the off-season, but the waves were still decent — they come all the way from Antarctica to crash on Arugam Bay’s shores, with no other landmass to impede them. We had fun watching the guys and girls catch the waves, and I felt a pinch of envy. Next time I’m at Arugam Bay, I’ll try it out.

Location of Arugam Bay on our Map
Learn To Surf

Arugam Bay Happy Place
Dream Beach
How To Surf
Surfing in Arugam Bay
Camel Toe
Beach Hut Sri Lanka
Beach Arugam Bay
Dog Beach
Dream Beach Sri Lanka
Green Sand Banks
Dead Coral Sri Lanka
Over Fishing Sri Lanka
I love Arugam Bay
Happy Panda Arugam Bay
Tropicana Beach Hotel Arugam Bay
Tsunami Hotel Arugam Bay
Rock View Arugam Bay
Rock-View-Cabanas
Arugam Bay Blog
Shell Shop Sri Lanka
Hippie Beach Sri Lanka
Samanthas-Arugam-Bay-Sri-Lanka
Alternative-Lifestyle-Sri-Lanka
Beach Hut Sri Lanka
Wild Wild West Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Breakfast we had in Arugam Bay:

Sri Lanka Breakfast
Sri Lankan Breakfast
Sri Lankan Surfer
Surf Design
Surf Culture Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Art
Sunset Watch Dog
Siam-Lounge-Arugam-Bay
Smoking Weed Arugam Bay
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April 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm Comments (3)

The Kanniyai Hot Wells and Velgam Vihara

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Hotels in Trincomalee

After a few days spent recharging our batteries on Uppuveli Beach, we were ready for some sight-seeing. Luckily, we didn’t have to go far. A tuk-tuk driver agreed to take us on a 500 rupee round-trip tour of two great spots near Trincomalee: the Kanniyai Hot Wells and the Velgam Vihara, which is an ancient monastery set near a picturesque lake.

Hot Springs Sri Lanka

Tha Kanniyai Hot Wells are likely to disappoint any pleasure-seekers hoping to submerge themselves in a large spring. This isn’t Iceland. Kanniyai is a place of Buddhist worship where the faithful come to buy trinkets, venerate Buddha and douse themselves with buckets of naturally warm spring water.

The wells are exactly that: wells. You grab a bucket, dunk it in the water, and drench yourself. It’s a lot of fun, especially with the presence of locals urging you on. We had a blast, engaging people in conversation and taking impromptu lessons in proper dousing by a couple of concerned ladies. I had made a major faux-pax at first, washing my head over the well, which allowed the water to run off my face back into the pool. Uncool, and it got me reprimanded.

A bit further north is the beautiful Periya Kulam, a large artificial lake set in a forest, with small islands and vestiges of Hindu worship spotted around it. Just to the west of the lake, we found the Velgam Vihara — the remains of a Buddhist monastery from the 2nd century. The ruins here are gorgeous, especially given their off-the-beaten-track location.

Velgam-Vihara

Monks are still active at Velgam Vihara in an adjacent modern temple. One of them ushered us into a makeshift museum dedicated to a brutal 2000 LTTE bomb attack. After having admired such ancient beauty, this was an unexpected and sickening jolt back to reality. Photos of dead children and piles of mutilated corpses lined the walls, and brought me close to vomiting. We pushed a little donation money into the monk’s outstretched hands and left.

Together, Velgam Vihara and the hot springs make for a great day trip away from the beaches of Trinco. Find a tuk-tuk and agree on a price. The 500 rupees ($4) which our guy charged us was way too little, and we gave him a nice tip once we got back. A small price to pay for such a surprisingly fun excursion.

Location of the Kanniyai Hot Wells
Location of Velgam Vihara
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More Pics from Kanniyai
Party Time Sri Lanka
Heisse-Quellen-Trincomalee
Hot Spring Corner
Bucket Boy
Trincomalee Hot Springs
Sacred-Water-Sri-Lanka
Washing Face Sri Lanka
More Pics from Velgam Vihara
Velgam-Vihara-Tank
Velgam-Vihara-Buddha
Things To Do Trincomalee
Swing Stairs
Buddha Bomb
Buddhist Heart
Sinhala Waffle Maker
Trincomalee-Ruins
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April 7, 2012 at 1:19 pm Comments (2)

Inquisitive, Curious Sri Lanka

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Want to quickly gather together a massive group of Sri Lankans? Get into a car wreck. Want to play Twenty Questions with a Sri Lankan? Walk down the street. There isn’t a culture on Earth more nosy or curious than Sri Lanka’s. At least, I hope not!

Sri Lankan Spectators

This really only applies to Sri Lankan men. Women basically leave you alone… but the guys! They want to know everything about you, and they’re not afraid to ask. “Where are you from? What is your name? Why are you here? You like Sri Lanka? How long you stay? What is your hotel? You want a banana? Why not? Why don’t you want a banana? What are you looking for? Where are you going?”

The questions come rapid fire, one after the other, and I’ve gotten so used to the drill that I spurt out my answers without even thinking. USA. Mike. Vacation. Yes. Three Months. A guesthouse. No. I just don’t. I don’t know I just don’t. Nothing. Just walking.

Sometimes, when I’ve been forced to run the Sri Lankan Interrogation Gauntlet multiple times within a span of minutes, I’ll protect my sanity by getting surreal: Japan. Hiroshi. Spying. Meh. Forever. Your House. No. I’m allergic. All us Japanese are allergic to bananas. A pot of gold. Probably hell.

Often, these questions are the prelude to a scam, but you can never be sure until you’ve completed the course and the final question is “You have foreign coins?” or, “You want a massage?” Most of the time, your inquisitor is just genuinely curious about you, so you keep shining your toothiest Western smile and respond as cheerfully as possible. Until he starts talking about a “special price for jeep safari”.

The curiosity extends to all aspects of Sri Lankan life. If there’s been a car accident, or an argument has broken out between a shop owner and a policeman, the neighborhood comes a-runnin’. Action! Within minutes, a gossiping gaggle of gawkers has bunched together on the sidewalk. Frustrating, since it prevents our own rubbernecking. We’ll kind of stand around on the outside of the group, trying to figure out what’s going on, until one of the guys notices us and starts in with the questions… “Where are you from?”

The curiosity of the people was off-putting at first, but we’re becoming used to it. I’ve even started to feel a little hurt when I meet a Sri Lankan who doesn’t pepper me with questions. What, I’m not interesting enough for you? Aren’t you dying to know why I don’t want your bananas?!

Travel Insurance For Sri Lanka

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March 31, 2012 at 8:40 am Comments (3)

Rules of the Road

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Good morning, class, and welcome to Advanced Sri Lankan Driving. I’ll be your substitute instructor today, as Mr. Pinnaduwa was fatally injured in a brutal head-on crash last night. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Good-Luck-Driving-In-Sri-Lanka
Lesson One: Honking

Before starting the engine, make sure to test your car’s horn. It’s your most important weapon and strongest defense, and you’ll be making frequent use of it. Let’s review the three most important uses of the horn.

1. When approaching intersections. Honking your horn immediately before reaching an intersection allows you to sail through without slowing down.
2. When passing cyclists. By alerting the cyclist to your presence, you minimize the chance of collision. Your proximity to the cyclist when you honk, and the strength of your horn, are important factors in determining how far to the left he will lurch. A loud, perfectly-timed honk can even cause the cyclist to fall from his bike, off the road, which is the safest place for him to be, anyway. (This also applies to pedestrians).
3. All other times. Using your horn to say “hello” to buddies is safer than leaning out your window. Use it to express annoyance. When in gridlock, keep the horn pressed. When rounding curves, honk your horn. Use it to jam along to the beat of the song blaring from the radio.
Lesson Two: Overtaking

Not only will it get you there faster, but passing other cars is one of the joys of driving. What’s more, it’s absolutely safe to do, in almost any situation.

Exercise: You’re driving a tuk-tuk, and stuck behind a row of three school buses. A jeep is heading towards you in the opposite lane. There’s a 30% chance you could pass the first school bus, a 15% chance of passing the second, and a 5% chance of overtaking the third. What do you do?
Solution: You pass all three. This is a trick question, and most students will have answered “pass two”. The general rule of the Sri Lankan road does state that you should pass if there’s a 10% chance of success. But this exercise said that you were in a tuk-tuk, which of course means you always pass. The “10%” rule is also waived for people with dominant attitudes and/or powerful cars.
Lesson Three: Painted Lines

Not often, but every once in awhile, you’ll see white painted lines in the road. What do these mean? Ah, this is a real mystery! The fact is, these lines have no meaning and you should ignore them. There’s disagreement as to whether they’re purely decorative, or serve some as-yet-unknown purpose. At any rate, they are annoyances which should be completely disregarded.

Thanks for your attention, class, and enjoy the weekend. Next week we’ll concentrate on the “Always Accelerating” method of driving, and examine why the “wrong” lane is usually the “right” lane to be in.

What To Do: Mosquito Bites!

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March 15, 2012 at 6:48 am Comments (3)

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Friend-Friends and Other Observations
Confusing slang, seat-snatching monks, bizarre Spanish phrases, indecipherable head bobbles... all just part of learning to live with a new culture! These are some of our favorite quirks and misunderstandings from three months in Sri Lanka.
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