INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for sri lanka

Carrots in a Cage — جزر في قفص

Sri Lanka Part Five

Sri Lanka Part 4
Sri Lanka Part 3
Sri Lanka Part 2
Sri Lanka Part 1

Yala National Park is not fun. It may have once been fun, but it is certainly not now, and I’m mad at everyone Google found that tried to convince me otherwise. Except, actually, now that I’ve followed their bad advice, I wouldn’t redo it all any differently.

It is supposed to be one of Sri Lanka’s prime destinations for wildlife spotting — thousands of kilometers of open area where majestic island creatures roam, discoverable only from the back of a hired Jeep. Buffalo, leopards, beautiful wild elephant — Yala is your gateway to a personal, personalized experience with Sri Lanka’s wild fauna. Yours and five-hundred other tourists, in six-hundred jeeps, making every breath feel like sucking from the back of an exhaust pipe.

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Tall Buddhas, Orange Coconuts, and People Talking

Sri Lanka Part Four

Sri Lanka Part 3
Sri Lanka Part 2
Sri Lanka Part 1

We left the island’s south-south-west coast a little before one o’clock with our only goal to make it to any hotel in Tissamaharama (Tissa, for short) outside Yala National Park before five the next morning. It was the one real event we had planned (read: paid out the nose for, in advance) — a hired Jeep to take us into Sri Lanka’s most famous nature preserve where elephants and monkeys and buffalo and leopards roamed free. We had only 200 kilometers to go and easy directions: keep ocean on right.

Heading out of Midigama, we passed the fishermen perched in their traditional fish-hunting post, baking in the sun and waiting to spear fish in the water. And slowly but surely, traffic on the roads eased. After we passed the bold-on-the-map town of Matara, the pressure of the capital seemed to dwindle — our lightly battered Nissan cruised at fifty or sixty kph. The roads still had curves in places the land didn’t, but at least driving no longer felt like fighting off the evil Empire in the assault on the Death Star in the first Star Wars.

Click, listen and read the next ¶

In a park near Tagalle stands a stone Buddha hundreds of feet tall. Cows graze nearby and visitors bring flowers to lay in offering. Camera in hand, it was more than impossible to blend in. Even in a sarong, even standing silently in meditation, our faces did not fall in the very narrow spectrum of local looks. I had no idea whether or not my picture-taking or my stupid, loud plaid shorts (I bought them in your country!) were offending anyone’s spiritual sensibilities. I didn’t know the customs — how could I? So, I tried to tell myself, anxiety doesn’t help anyone. And neither does worrying about when we’re going to get somewhere. The giant statue served as a reminder — don’t stress!. With the smell of incense and birdsong in the air, the jingle of a passing ice cream truck made one thing very clear: anxiety is culturally insensitive.

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Fool of a Tuk-Tuk, or The Carma Sutra

Sri Lanka Part Two

You drive like a local is everywhere both curse and compliment, a label given to one that has just saved a life or nearly lost one (or both). To earn such damnation/praise in Sri Lanka, a driver must adopt all of the English sentiments toward the left side of the road while rejecting every ounce of their trademark restraint, propriety, and unexcitability.

Almost every road in the country is two-lane (one in each direction), always curvier than topographically necessary, and rarely with room for central Asian third-laning between your lane and oncoming traffic. Passing has got to be fully committal, usually before a blind curve and with no shoulder for aborted missions. Honk honk.

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“Busy Busy, Fucking Busy.”

Sri Lanka Part One

I left for Sri Lanka in less than perfect conditions.

The only weather reports I had seen showed thunder and lightning in Colombo every single day of our stay. Our car rental company discouraged “self driving” — and I could hear over the phone the jaws of owners of hotels, rest houses and shacks drop when I asked for directions for myself. I tuned in to news about the island’s flooding… after buying tickets.
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