Monday, August 24, 2009

Semi-Luxury to Nuwara Eliya

The windows opened, that’s what I believe they meant by ‘semi-luxury.’

Finding the bus for my impromptu trip to Nuwara Eliya was a task in itself on a not so bright and breezy Saturday morning. For one thing due to a night out before and a consistent lack of sleep over the last few days, my head felt like it had been rammed full off cotton wool.

I tottered around the Pettah bus stand trying rather unsuccessfully to blend into the greater Sri Lankan public whilst looking for the bus. My inquiries of Ayie, Nuwara Eliya bus eka koheda thienna (Brother, where is the bus to Nuwara Eliya) elicited rather sympathetic smiles from the various brisk looking individuals at the Kotuwa bus stand as they directed me to all four corners of the bus stand . I actually think they were being sincere in their own individual opinions of where the requisite bus was parked.

Here’s a tip to any similarly culturally misplaced, clueless individual who tries to grab an inter-city bus to one of the more remote destinations from the Pettah stand: Keep a sharp ear for your destination being called out in the staccato cries of the conductors entreating passengers to use their particular bus. It was only by hearing the sharp shout of Nuwara Eliya, as I stumbled in the direction pointed out by yet another well intentioned, possible employee of the Pettah Bus Stand, that I found my bus.

It had of course been carefully concealed as the Welimada bus which apparently was both past Nuwara Eliya and better known to the general populace than my chosen destination.

After paying the pittance of the Rs. 247 to ride to Nuwara Eliya I settled in next to rather severe looking lady in a mostly full bus. As I smiled unsurely at her and something about Nuwara Eliya mumbled (I’m not sure why I did this, it must be something to do with the current inability to handle the easiest of social situations), she looked me rather witheringly and said Welimada ta yanne and that was that. Gingerly I placed my bag on my lap and looked around at my bus compatriots. There seemed an inordinate number of children around me who looked like they would get motion sickness at the slightest vibration. Steeling myself to the thought of little children hurling over me in the near distant future I closed my eyes and leaned back against the seat to try and catch up on some sleep.

Any thoughts however of getting any rest were rapidly extinguished as what seemed like all the street peddlers in Fort poured into the bus selling everything from education booklets to mangoes to cadala by the time honoured tradition of thrusting the said materials into your face and yelling in your ear about their dubious qualities. Many people seemed to buy items simply to try and preserve their hearing. One enterprising individual even got so carried away with trying to sell his sheets of old bank notes from Sri Lanka that he seemed intent on coming half way out of Colombo with us as the bus started out on its six hour journey.

There are many adjectives that spring to mind when trying to describe my journey wending it’s way up the Kandy road and up to the hills, redolent, noisy, exciting, chaotic and indescribably screechy being some of them. I did in fact manage to fall asleep until around noon so missed a lot of the early part of the drive. The few glimpses I caught were courtesy of the lady next to me who rather stoically pushed my head to the side as I lolled in my sleep onto her personal space.

I was also woken up intermittently as being a ‘semi-luxury’ bus; various people were loaded on at what seemed like every stop possible so they could spend the better part of the trip pressing their bodily extremities onto those of us who were seated. Stoically ignoring the seemingly distracted advances of the gentleman pressing his crotch into my shoulder, I absorbed the views visible from the open window as the bus trundled on with a disconcerting screech.

It must be said that the rather distorted views available from a single bus window are anything but boring. You catch brief, tantalizing, enigmatic glimpses of the towns, people and landscapes as they whiz by and often only disembodied parts of whatever is outside. The gigantic wrinkled backside of an elephant taking a ride in a truck resolved into a side-on of him contentedly chewing on some stringy bright green leaves, hands bearing cobs of corn and other interminable edible items flashed beguilingly past the window and at one stage, two white upright PVC poles intriguingly flew by as the bus swerved around something in its path.

I won’t lie; despite the many distractions, a semi-luxury bus is probably not the most comfortable way to get to Nuwara Eliya. After a while the screech of the engine, the radio blaring and the press of humanity can get a bit overwhelming, but such a journey is certainly the most organic way to remember what Sri Lanka is and who makes up the vast majority of the country.

The school teacher manner of my seatmate was but a front as she offered to share her lunch of bread with me and placed my uneaten snacks of Maliban chocolate biscuits in what she deemed was a more respectable siri siri bag than what I already had. The children declined to throw up on me and instead rather endearingly maintained a delighted commentary of what passed outside the bus, often shedding some much needed light on the more obscure items I saw from my limited perspective of the minute window. More spectacular scenery, terraced fields, lush misty mountains and bright green tea fields fled past as the bus miraculously, despite the determined efforts of the driver both remained on the windy road and to the six hour timeframe for the journey.

s the bus rattled into Nuwara Eliya central, exactly six bone crunching hours after departing from Colombo, and I peeled myself off the chair in weary anticipation, the mind did still boggle, what exactly did a non-luxury bus ride to Nuwara Eliya entail?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


It has to be my favourite part of the old house. Up the narrow stairs into the stifling room on the third floor and out the door. The contrast between the inside of the house and the rooftop is always drastic. An inevitable breeze kicks up as you climb up the water tank cover to the absolute top of the house for a 360 panoramic view of Colombo. I’ve always loved coming up here, to see Haley’s comet as an eager kid back in the 80’s, to viewing a pink outline of Sri Pada at 5am, furtive smokes with the neighborhood gang back in the day to lighting up a good one today.

Tonight was perfect. The moon was up, scudding through the clouds. The local kottu joint echoed across Havelock Road. The chef at this noble saivar kade was quite the creative cat. To liven up the tedium of the clacking he interspersed a few baila tunes here and there to bring some rhythm to his cooking. The traffic hummed as I inhaled. And thought about the past two weeks.

The move back hasn’t gone exactly as I envisioned. In fact I’m not even sure what I envisioned back in that hazy Californian sun, now so recessed in my mind that it’s more a mirage than my reality a month ago. I think Pissu was the one who sagely advised me that things aren’t really greener on this side. Not that I expected it to be, but reality is always sobering. The issues at home are more real than ever. I’m trying to find the patience to deal with the slight manic ness, the somewhat overwhelming obsessive ness. Coping mechanisms I’m sure but it just all feels a bit mature to me to be dealing with these issues.

Issues in the crowd notwithstanding, my own personal crowd issue in as expected somewhat ambiguous. I think the lack of the usual 3 week window, impending departures and the boiler cooker atmosphere has left us both a little underwhelmed. The reality that there is time this time has left us both a bit unsure of the next step. I personally am not too fussed, the essentialness of being with her has faded. There are far too many interesting members of the female sex that I know and are out there to be known to be too tied up in this one. If it works, it works, if not…so be it. I am a bit worried though about her issues in the crowd. The potential for hurt is kind of overwhelming and I’m a bit disappointed that some people won’t compromise. I’m trusting, but my gut tells me it’s the truth.

So yes the first two weeks have been less than the complications I expected. Too many let downs to be honest, half filled balloons unceremoniously popped prematurely. But this is reality and it’s a whole better than sweating under another killer deadline, doing other people’s work and pulling their weight in the corporate drivel of the USA. Time is ticking and I’m slowly starting to get my act together. I’m quite looking forward to knuckling down, if anything for some routine and framework.

Before that though, I really hope this week jaunt to Wasgomuwa works out. And to end another muddled post, the rooftop is the best but one must take care. Today I sat tripping out in the middle of the nightly perambulation path of a couple of polecats. Reverie is fun, but nothing will snap one out of more than what appeared to be two small leopards prancing towards you. Thankfully they both absconded when I hurriedly got up before a new pair of pants was warranted. Yeah…watch out for those polecats.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I just remembered. I said I’d call. Crap. Crap. Crap. Damn these things I say at 4.30am. I should have just kept my mouth shut when I dropped her at her door. I really don’t want to call. I like my girls edgy, damaged with enough of a dark side to add some spice. She’s sweet, cute and totally wholesome. It would be like dating my aunt. I would have nothing to say. Crap.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hikka Life Lessons

Leave drama at the door, bounce when the smallest amount rears its head. Here’s the thing, I’m tired of drama. Too many people seem to revel in it, girls chasing unsuitable boys, boys chasing insecure girls and all wanting the pleasure/pain of a bad relationship. It truly baffles me that some people are so scared of singleness. I hadn’t even started with any personal baggage but somehow ended up carting everyone else’s carry ons. Trust me. There is nothing worse than borrowed angst and I ditched members of the crowd left right and center in order to avoid this.

It’s nice that A and SH haven’t changed much to this day. It may sound a bit like a broken record sometimes but then it always leads to the best of times. Some of the rest of the crew however really need to move down the evolutionary level…or is that up it? Seriously the foolishness and almost super model type (though certain lack of the looks and the right sex department) need for attention is nauseating. These guys need a harsh dose of reality soon.

Good nights are still possible, even with the idiots and the soap opera antics, just some of the boys, some drinks and good jokes.

Chemistry is a difficult thing to find. I spent the better part of a night talking to a perfectly sweet girl, walked her back to her hotel room, had a slightly nervous run in with her cousin on the way and didn’t have the slightest bit of a tingly feeling or an urge to do anything that involved a grope in the dark. Not sure if the usual suspect stalking up and down like a wounded, albeit beautiful panther the whole night, helped much either…though in retrospect it was a lost cause to begin with. Also problematic was the rather tender gastroentinal situation that was going on.

Now comes the difficult task of reigning back the interest levels without compromising feelings. My social life in the US was truly a lot simpler with four mostly male minds to deal with. My current situation is like a tense standoff somewhere in the inner regions of Mogadishu….where was I? Oh yes, chemistry is impossibly rare to find.

Last but not least is the poor judge of character I seem to provide sometimes on a special exclusive contract basis. I suppose I could provide some sort of back serving, convoluted excuse for the rather unexpected cold shoulder on Thursday night after the multitude of phone calls. At least try and make a reasonable assessment of the reason for the tardiness, instead of taking it personally and so personally enough to block out communication for the rest of the weekend. Surprisingly emo after the early morning smoke session, man the girl has issues and no desire to provide full explanations. The mind did boggle as to how much of a goldmine she would be for any aspiring psychologist. As to where this goes from here I know not. I just don’t want to be the straw that broke the camels back, hence not take things too personal myself.

By the way, the government knows not how to throw a party. The stage girls had on more clothes than I did, the public PA system was blaring fuckingkennyG and the old dudes with jittery trigger fingers on their civil defence AK47s were not the most conducive to a beach fest atmosphere. Next time try some subtle security and less puttering morality. If they could regulate the moon reflecting on the waves, some of these fuckwits would do it.

All in all the weekend was good, but it has in the objective light of the rear view mirror, too much of the sameness of the last years. I’ve moved on and in search of a different vibe now. Less destructive, more fun. Less morning, noon and night drinking, more unwinding. I will be back many times to the same old ways for the near future as that is mostly only what I know.

But things are a changing for sure.