Dullsville, SL

Weather-wise, today (Sunday) has followed what seems to be a pattern: the morning and afternoon have been hot, dry and sunny; then it clouded over and by 5pm the rain is on in intermittent heavy showers. Whether these will merge into longer periods remains to be seen.

In terms of activity, it’s been very dull as I decided on a day of being house-bound. There have been one or two excitements though. I saw a cat: the interest from this was not the rekindling of some warm memory of the beast at home, but from this being the first cat I can recall seeing on this trip. Dogs abound. They are almost exclusively honey-coloured, possibly with some grubby white, in this part of the world and so similar in build that one can walk past a dormant, unmoving animal and think seconds later, on seeing a dog approaching from in front of you: “How did it do that?” Cats seem much rarer, or perhaps they just skulk in the shade.

I also watched a young monkey for a while, not close enough to justify getting the camera out but fun to watch as it studiously pulled leaves off a tree and stuffed them into its mouth.

Probably the highlight was the business with the loo roll. Last night I asked Amjit for a new toilet roll and he said “Yes” in an uncomprehending sort of way, so I wasn’t surprised nothing along those lines was forthcoming. I hadn’t completely run out and besides there’s the “fire hose”. It’s come to a pretty pass when I start posting pictures of my toilet, but it features the foresaid hygiene equipment which is very common in toilets in this chunk of the world. I’ll spare you the details but at bottom it’s very effective though I don’t think it would suit a Scottish climate.

This is really scraping the bottom - of the barrel

This is really scraping the bottom – of the barrel

However, the more observant of you will have spotted a new loo roll, so I’d better get back to that. My question to myself was how to explain to Amjit what I needed: true, I could wait until Sera’s family came back from the wedding in a few days’ time, one of them would re-equip me and in the meantime I could easily rely solely on water pressure. Nevertheless, I pondered the problem: my drawing skills are poor and I soon rejected mime as a mode of expression. The answer, of course, was obvious: armed with the unwrapped inner I went to find Amjit and thus a prosaic little problem was solved.

What absolute drivel.

I’ve been thinking recently about the increased mobility there is these days. I’m not referring to refugees, but to voluntary movement. Of course there are countries where this doesn’t hold true, but let’s leave them aside for the moment. I mentioned the lads in P2/3 the other day: Azry is a local lad, son of the school’s office manager, and his dad works in Dubai; Zakhar is Ukrainian, and Russian Fedor’s parents have stopped in SL long enough to make it worthwhile sending him to school, but they’re off to Bali at the end of the term. This sort of story is repeated with several other pupils in the school, though fewer than last year. The question is how this impacts on the kids. Do the wide-ranging experiences, living in other cultures, climate, likely growth in self reliance and many other undoubted benefits compensate for the inevitable danger of rootlessness, breaks in educational continuity, having long-term friends? But there’s also the point that the children may well experience a wealthier lifestyle than if the family had stayed put.

Daniel, our diving instructor – I can say that word with hardly a frisson of embarrassment today – is Czech. He had been working as a cargo boat captain on his own rented ship, plying some of the main European rivers – the Danube and the Elbe were mentioned – shifting bulk liquids, but wanted a change. Now he travels the world from dive site to dive site as an instructor: he fancies the Maldives or the Red Sea next. He admitted that when he is older – I’d say he’s in his mid-thirties – he can always go back to the shipping business. Most of the “European” staff at the dive centre are birds of passage.

Even Menan has travelled. I’m not referring to his escaping the fighting in the civil war, but to later when he spent a few years working in Dubai as an electrician. At some point yesterday, I asked him about the training he received for his job – boat-handling etc. – but he replied there had been none as his family, which comes from a Tamil area, had been fishermen for generations. He also had started out as a fisherman, but thought the job too dangerous and gave it up. Even now, he works in the south at Unawatuna while his wife and little boy are in Nilaveli on the north east of the island. The upside is that the dive company split their year between Unawatuna and… Nilaveli, so he has half the year at home. As an aside: I asked whether his wife worked, given they have a four year old, but he replied she has just finished a degree in Business Administration and is waiting for the results: they reckoned it was a good way of combining childcare and self-improvement. It can’t have been easy for her.

Benefits I used to tout to the kids I took to The Gambia were: a wider world view, increased empathy for others, seeing that despite differences of culture, religion, skin colour etc. people the world over have the same hopes and fears, the same ambitions, the same basic needs. I’m afraid that is going to be even more important in the years ahead: the news being full of Trumpery with its attendant dangerous implications at both personal and international level.  In case that first sentence sounds as though I’m some sort of angel, I can assure you that I can be more narrow minded, non-empathetic and intolerant than most of you: just ask Sonia.

Those intermittent showers have now merged into wall-to-wall rain. The design of most domestic buildings in Sri Lanka very sensibly features an over-hanging roof: I can go out my door and walk along to the kitchen, one room up from here, in almost complete dryness. The only danger – and it’s a significant one – is that the tiled walkway becomes lethally slippery and there’s not much to hang on to. But I think I deserve a cup of coffee now.



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