I’ll keep this short as it’s been a long day.
The thing about this blog, is that you get how I’m feeling at the moment of writing: emotion in the raw, you might say.
I didn’t turn my light out until 11 last night and woke unduly, and undesirably, early at 5:00 for some reason. I’ve got a tame tuk-tuk driver who collects me at 7am at the bottom of the hotel road and whisks me off to work. He is reliable, called Ben, pleasantly likeable as Bens tend to be and charges me 350/ to town or school. As usual, he got me to school by 7:15. On my way past Madam’s office, she called out to ask if she could give me relief classes and I pointed out my timetable had been emptied for Fridays, so I was available all day and I installed myself in the staffroom, awaiting instructions.
And I sat there, unused, until 1:30 when school closed: 6 hours with not a single class.
I noticed the way the ladies were all in variations on white: the younger the wearer, the wider and more colourful the variation. I did get a chance to chat to a couple of colleagues: an unfeasibly young and glamorous English teacher (daughter of a diplomat, formative years in Kenya, excellent English, graduated in 2013 with degree in Eng Lit from New Delhi, quoting WB Yeats, bursting with personality…). I would think she’s a great asset to the school, and not just for the male staff! I also chatted to a nice guy who teaches Art. He showed me some of the kids’ work, which was excellent: there seemed to be more theory than I associate with Art, but I’m way out of touch.
At 1:30 we all trooped out to a hired bus and off we went on a 45minute or so journey. Behind us was a second bus with pupils in it: there must have been about 100 of us all told. The road changed from being “carpeted” (tarmac) to hard-core, then earth and we eventually arrived in low-altitude tea plantations and at a house in the jungle. We filed into the house, viewed the corpse on the bed, joined the other guests and tucked into a free lunch of rice and spicy stuff: spicy fish, spicy prawns, spicy beef, spicy vegetables… We ate with our hands.
The Buddhist monks who were already there when we arrived were joined by about 10 monklings, aged between about 10 and 16. They were led in by a guy with some sort of brass horn-shaped instrument which sounded as though it had both a reed and a limited tonal range. He was followed by a drummer and the monklets brought up the rear.
As all the speeches were in Sinhala, I can tell you nothing about their content other than to say they were long and interspersed by chanting. It was interesting, but palled after a bit. Monks spoke, family members spoke and Madam said a few words.
Then the body was brought out – now in a rather imposing-looking coffin, the pall bearers walking on cloth sheets that had been laid down for the purpose, the musicians at it again – and put into the back of a white estate car / hearse with a flashing orange light on the top. The car had been unable to get very close to the house because the narrow track through the jungle was steep and muddy and he’d got a bit skew-wiff reversing into the bargain.
It’s just my style – you may find it wearing – to be a bit ironic, acerbic? I don’t know the word. However, it was a touching ceremony. The elderly widow was in floods of tears, especially as the coffin was carried out; the son – teacher in the school – was crying too, as were several other folk I couldn’t identify. All in all, it was – for me – an interesting cultural experience. It was also very, very humid and hot. And long. For the record, I did check if I could take photos and in fact lots of people did, so I didn’t feel I was intruding.
We got back in our coach and returned to school. I hopped on a bus to the town, bought some EGB and bottled water, then hailed a tuk-tuk. I have some video which I may try to post in the next few days.
(Several expletives deleted)
He had no idea where he was going. Once again, we stopped every few minutes to ask other tuk-tuk drivers: he was unable to read the address on the card, probably not helped by my accent and increasing irritation. At the start, he’d quoted 500/- and I’d beaten him down to 400/-, but he started claiming it was such a long way, he should get more. I eventually snapped and said something along the lines of “I’m a visitor, you live in Galle and drive a tuk-tuk: you should know where to go! But if you had gone the way I pointed out, we’d not be driving out here.” With any luck he didn’t understand, though I suspect my tone would have given him some inkling. He was unhappy to “only” get 500/-, but tough!
When I entered my room, I had a swarm (slight exaggeration) of ants attracted by my pineapple. I dealt with them by ignoring one of the five precepts. I’ll never make it as a Buddhist.
Off to Colombo tomorrow to extend my visa. I suspect it may be another long day. Incidentally, now that I’m carrying an umbrella around, it’s stopped raining. Just saying, like.
That’s my lot and I feel the better for it and an EGB.