Today was my last day in Colombo (tomorrow, I’m heading to “the field”). I was meant to be gone yesterday, but there was that whole kerfuffle with the Indian embassy. Fiona, and any other BUiLDers/micro THINKers reading, I am happy to tell you that today’s visa application was much more successful, the smartly dressed, shoeless man behind the counter said my application was “perfect, 100% OK.”
So, that done, on to last minute pre “the field” shopping. I head to Majestic City (one of the dingy western-style shopping centers in town, with low ceilings and small, illegitimate looking shops) looking for the Canon camera store. You see, I want some spare batteries to take with me, so that I would be prepared for the likely situation that one would die right as I was about to take a killer photo.
The Canon “Authorized Retailer” looked dodgy, and sold Canon branded batteries that looked nothing like the one I already had. I decided to go to a shop called Micro Centre, which sold legitimately illegitimate batteries which had gotten decent reviews online. They gave me a good price, and they were happy to deliver the batteries to work (Dehiwala), so I thought, “sweet,” and I bought 3 of them, and boy was I excited to get them delivered. More on that soon.
The day was young, and most of the work I had to do in preparation for Mannar was done (reading all the agreements and correspondences to try make sense of the structure of the project before I headed into the place and made a fool of myself), so I headed in the general direction of Dehiwala on a serene stroll, almost getting run over a couple of times, but I was used to it already, so it was time to just enjoy the sun and walk. I strolled past the Colombo Design School and saw the coolest poster ever, “trailblazing trishaws” – I was totally going to buy it but it turned out to be an exhibit. I am hoping the artist writes me back so I can convince her to part ways from her awesome poster (red, a back-to-the-future-esque set of blazing tire tracks, a swerving trishaw: awesome).
Into the office: the last few moments of preparation. I meet the person who I thought was going to take me to the bus station, but turned out to be coming to Mannar with me, and who happens to be my room-mate now, in the bed next door in the dodgy guest house I am staying in. I help the kids of the family downstairs practice their English a little and try to prepare my list of questions for the Mannar office and the beneficiaries. These pre-made lists never really end up being used, but they are helpful in that they help me gauge what gaps in our information need to be plugged on my short stay in Mannar (3-5 days, depending on how much work needs to get done).
By this time, I am eager to head home to see the family before I head off. But when Micro City said they would get the package to my workplace in the early afternoon, no later than 3, they must have been on a different clock to me. It is 5:15 pm, I am exhausted after many frantic phone calls, thinking I had been duped, the owner of the place trying to reassure me, for 2 hours, that the driver was “5 minutes away”. I walk to the corner, get the package, pay in the most cold manner I can muster and walk upstairs to tweet angrily about the experience, the first annoying thing to happen to me in Sri Lanka. As an aside, BOYCOT MICRO CITY.
It is getting late, so I head home for the last dinner before I go. Tangatchi is praying, and her voice fills the home: a melody in a city that is otherwise almost all cacophony. Thampi (Janahan) is home from a day of study: he is busy trying to achieve his management diploma. Auntie is cooking and Uncle is having a physio session with someone who seems to be a family friend.
I want to just collapse on the bed and call it a night, but my bus leaves at 10:00 pm and I have to stay awake. I pack my bags, leaving all my Danish winter clothes at the family’s home, and sit down for dinner. In my honor, there is pasta for dinner. Not curry. Pasta. Amazing. It is delicious and I scoop down plates full, topping off the meal, as usual, with a thin-skinned squat but absolutely sweet banana.
But it is only now 7:30, and I will miss this family, so I plop down on the couch to watch the Tamil version of home and away with the family. Melodramatic, colorful, village based. Blows the Australian version out of the water. Janahan shows me a funny faux English, famous Tamil song. Not sure of the name, but totally keen to download it. He then shows me clips of what I can only assume is the Tamil “American Pie” – the Three Idiots. Hilarious. Electrocuting bullies, dating the dean’s daughter, getting drunk in class, can’t wait to watch the full two and a half hours of it (still way short for a Bollywood movie, which often don’t even fit on to one DVD).
It is time to go, and I am hardly able to keep my eyes open. I get dropped off at the bus stop, and, to my surprise, my buddy jumps onto the “AC Bus” (fancy bus with midnight Bollywood music and alternately boiling then freezing temperature due to a dodgy air con unit – I almost prefer the dodgy intercity government buses) with me.
As soon as I sit down, before the sweaty, large man comes to take the seat next to me I am fast asleep. A ten hour bus ride and I will be in Mannar – Rice Mill country in the wet season!
[photo’s to come as internet improves]