Sunday, January 31, 2010

Six months on

Things have been a hard ride, the lows have been dangerously low. But I’ve kicked some habits and fought back. I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing or where I’m going but I know over the last six months I’ve experienced things I’ve dreamt of my whole life, not just the portion in exile. Five Yala trips, leopards and more leopards, Wasgamuwa where I stared yet another leopard eye to eye and swam in the Mahaweli, Kalpitiya to see dolphins, six dives with barracuda and scorpion fish and this weekend what was an epic, epic camping trip to Gal Oya. Rain, raging rivers, mud and some of the most jaw droppingly beautiful jungles I have ever seen in my life. Dramatic rock drops and savannah jungles, four wheel drive kicking in and ant bites, one of the best times of my life.

Things won’t be a smooth sail from here, life is hard wherever you are but my heart is in the dry zone and at home. Batticoloa, Sinharaja, Mirissa, Yala and hopefully more Wasgamuwa and Gal Oya here I come. Fingers crossed maybe even Horton Plains.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Suba Anagathayak Akon

Sitting at dive center waiting to head off in the boat. One of the students rolls up ready for his class. As usual these days the conversation drifts off to politics.

Ah Mahinda’s won, I’m so happy.

Oh (me being non-committal)

Now Akon’s going to be here!

…eh? (somewhat confused by the rapid change in subject)

Well since Mahinda won

…EH? (much, much more confused)

Well he’s going to have a concert in Hambantota, if Sarath won he said he was not going to come but will now since Mahinda won!

……(that’s me being speechless)

And I thought I had heard everything this election

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Quote for January

"It looks pretty deep there and there's a lot more water than I thought would be there"
Pissu Perera's sage observation on being confronted with the Indian Ocean off Patanangala.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


It was unnerving, the dark blue underneath and the bright blue up above as I bobbed in the waves alone. The last I had seen of my dive buddies were bubbles receding in the depths as I swore at myself through the regulator. I’m pretty competent most of the time, so pressing the inflator button instead of the deflator button was a ridiculously stupid thing to do and I shot up at a much faster rate than the prescribed 18m/minute. I’m fucking lucky I didn’t get the bends, or blow a lung out, though for the latter I’m still keeping a wary eye out.

For isolation though, there are fewer more unnerving moments I’ve had than then, alone in the vast Indian Ocean, with no boat in sight apart from the big liners on the horizon. Waves slapping up against me as I looked around for the boat and waved at anything that seemed promising. Looking down into the 21 meters below me, I couldn't even see the bubbles from my hidden dive buddies, though with the strong current I had no idea how far away I had drifted in those few moments. Thankfully the boatman managed to see my waving arms and I clambered on, shame faced and feeling extremely stupid. The only solution is to dive more, at least 20 more dives before the season fizzles out in March.

More blue yonder here I come.

Monday, January 11, 2010

(Not) Leaving on a Jet Plane

My first season as a ‘patriate’ with the ‘ex’ most definitely left behind. It was busy as well, the family emergency necessitating pretty much the whole of the foreign side of the family being down, cousin K and aunt C being two of my favourite people in the family. N was down as the token member of the boys, with the associated nights drinking and Yala trips ensuing.

And now they’ve all left. It’s a strange feeling I tell you. I woke up on Saturday, the day N was leaving and I felt the keening loss of another friend leaving. D, S, N…everybody leaves and that’s the truth. I wonder how the family, the friends had felt every time I left, the UK, Sri Lanka, San Francisco, Los Angeles, over and over again.

I think it’s easier to leave than be left behind. The former act has an active component, a control component that simply doesn’t exist for the latter. You sort of feel like that dog running along the car as your family leaves you behind, not knowing when you will see them again. I’ve had friends who’ve left and never come back, I’ve left family to lose them. It’s a strange feeling not to be leaving, a good, sad feeling.

Monday, January 4, 2010

End of the decade

I remember ’99 December vividly. The heat after the cold of London, the green after the grey. The new friends, CP and S who are more than family now, and R being there with his terrible hairstyle, akkis were thin and sexy, J was down and DJ’ing at the Blue where a bottle cost a measly four grand. Life was fresh and young then and I was all about the partying. Hand brake turns on Havelock Road and B looking ridiculously cute. I look like I was 12 in those pictures a life time ago as do most of the crew. Most of the crew who now, for better or worse have fallen apart. Some like C and CP having kids, the others like M just disappeared into the wind, unheard from for half a decade. The stories will live on though and we trot them out everytime when the remnants meet up, the clutch slipping at Galle Face roundabout at 2am, the unfortunate toilet incident, etc, etc.

Ten years on and I’ve come to the end of an era. New Years Eve this time was spent with N, a 12 year old bottle of Mendis and some random but interesting acquaintances in the middle of the jungle. Cicidas whirred, while we played chicken with elephants on the way to the room at Yala Village. Rapidly warming ginger beers and arracks in hand, we recounted the incredible leopard sightings of the day, the almost sightings of our childhoods. I was thinking a year has wrought incredible change, but the decade much more so. I never thought I would celebrate 31st night watching elephants wrestle in the moonlight, away from the City, the music, the girls but I did and I have never felt so complete.

As the drunken texts poured in and the clock struck midnight, there were no fireworks. Just the sound of the ocean on the dunes and the rustle of the nighttime jungle.

It was perhaps the best way to end the year. To remind myself why I moved back, what part of my soul was missing all these years. The jungles, the heat, the sandy tracks and the fresh pug prints. For awhile I thought I was trying to capture something I lost over 20 years ago and who knows maybe I am. But I think I’m just writing a new chapter in my life. It’s not the finality I was searching for but I’ve come to realize that doesn’t exist. It’s been an interesting journey across a couple of continents over the last decade and an especially difficult one over the last year but I am looking forward to the present as it slowly transforms into the future.

I hope everyone had a great end to the year and a content year to come.