poitu varam

THE CHRONICLES OF A FLEDGLING MISSIONARY CALLED JOLLYBEGGAR "i still gaze fondly at all of the pictures, drink ginger beer, bunch my food, listen to punjabi dj tunes, play my dholki, wear my sarong (around the house only because in canada it is still really uncommon for a man to wear a wraparound skirt in public) and speak way too much of the differences between east and west..."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

the road less travelled

august 21: day 12: sunday (part 2)

around lunchtime, i realized that it had already been a full day since the batticaloan luncheon grenade had gone off the day before. still hadn't heard if anyone had claimed responsibility... it would be hard to say what had wreaked more havoc on this place- the tsunami or the civil war... both had contributed to the arrested development of this beautiful place.

you could tell that almost everything that existed there had been quite progressive when it was built, but also that that was a long time ago. now it was a land of stark contrasts.

even breathing here is a rich experience: at any given time you can be ambushed by air so thick and rich and heavy that you can hardly take it in- sometimes it's good rich, other times it's just heavy rich. i remember saying how i couldn't wait to taste the air here... little did i realized it was going to be quite so literal.

midride, we stopped in a lush, shaded roadside attraction for some coconuts.

the guy serving us was pretty amazing with his mini machete. however, al tried to joke with him about being careful to not cut his fingers off or something and spent nearly five minutes trying to explain the joke. priceless.

interesting the things you'll notice driving through a city... one day i spied a kid with an amazing black and gold john lennon t-shirt; today it was that smiling buddha on the hill again- by day you can see that buddha is flanked by radio towers that were not visible at night... so much for mystical unions- even buddha rides the airwaves in search of a common vibration that will unite us all.

jollybeggar and the whistling driver

i was sitting eating my coconut when i happened to glance over onto a side table where i spied some doughnuts... (mmm- don't bother... sri lankan doughnuts look like cake numnums, but they don't taste any good. i had one the night before in batticaloa and was disappointed to discover no sweetness whatsoever- just more spice and heat.)

it's like the clubhouse sandwich i had a couple days earlier while listening to the cars chattering in the streets of kandy- pure tasteless garbage. they do eastern well, but the western stuff falls short... had to wonder if that's how sri lankans and other asians feel about the canadian or american versions of their quisine.

on the road, al and i were talking about music and somehow dylan and the travelling wilburies came up... he said (as if to 'stump' me with a little-known band) 'have you heard of the flying willoughbies?'

we saw many more soldiers on the road from batticaloa than the road to it. along with the regular military outposts with their manned gun turrets and the checkpoints with stern-faced young men holding semi-automatic weapons,

there were trucks full of soldiers and large groups of soldiers walking along the road side poking around with long contraptions that looked like those things you use to scoop your golf ball out of a water trap. however, these soldiers were not looking for golf balls or empty ginger beer bottles, they were combing the roadsides for mines that may have been placed there in the darkness of the night before.

there was not a lot of traffic- the military activity tends to discourage travel, which is probably the idea...

still, lorries full of straw, bicycles laden with sticks and carts with fresh new bricks were met regularly on their way towards tsunami-affected cities and towns.

our driver had taken to whistling- no discernable tune really, just whistling. the whistling stopped momentarily as we watched a bus come around a corner, passing an auto at high speed only to wildly swerve to miss the oncoming vehicle which was just ahead of us... careening back into it's own lane caused a major sway which was then corrected to swing the thing the other way. i thought for sure she was gonna roll, full of passengers and all... but it didn't, and our driver resumed his whistling- business as usual.


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