February 16th, 2008 – by: slimbolima
Our delicious welcome dinner spread - my favorite was egg-filled toppers!
Claire is a sorority sister from Kappa Kappa Gamma Zeta Xi chapter at Yale. Since she was finishing work in India (and I was just in the neighborhood), we decided to meet up for culture in Sri Lanka and shenanigans in Thailand. She is the type of friend you may not have seen or talked to for months or years and you can catch up so quickly. Even though we're no longer in college, we don't only have college times to reminisce about...we can relate to each other in our present lives and still indulge in silliness (our "Library" series at UBR will attest to that) and/or drunkenness (refer to Thailand). We have a similar sense of humor and can see the hilarity and irony in situations. Our mutual love of bad movies and crosswords made even the downtime fun (actually we aimed for downtime). One of our favorite things to do was to watch crappy movies on Starz Movies channel, one of the few English channels in both Sri Lanka and Thailand and where B-movies go to die.
Claire at another delicious breakfast with coconut roti, Munian's specialty
Some classics include: Cruel Intentions 2, Jurassic Park 3, Rebound, Jon Tucker Must Die, XXX (the one with Vin Diesel, not porn), and Next (if I could have those 90 minutes and my upchuck reflex back - yuck to Nicolas Cage). Throughout our trip, Claire was suffering from sort of TB cough that left her in spasmodic hacking fits and the vestiges of an all-night rager en route to Sri Lanka. You know sometimes there's those people who are hacking up in an airport or crowded restaurant and you fear you're going to catch SARS...well, Claire was that girl and I was the one who had to awkwardly sit there nodding knowingly when every one would turn to see what the tornado-like sound was coming from. She was in good spirits other than the cough, which she had gotten used to living with (like chronic back pain) and it didn't bother me at all.
In fact, coming from a Chinese family, I encouraged her to "get in there and make me proud!" whenever she would disappear into the bathroom for a serious hackfest. I could also adeptly tell (from personal experience and otherwise) what kind of coughs she had, whether they were successful at getting phlegm out or not. Throughout the trip, her heavy coughing left her with killer abs and aching ribs. Laughing was often painful so she created a hand-waving motion to signal that she was laughing but physically couldn't. The whole thing just made me laugh even more and resulted in good times and pain.
Yogurt curd dessert - delish!
Before I came to Sri Lanka, I knew three things about the island nation:
1) Ceylon Tea
2) Tamil Tigers (which I learned on one embarassing day in college, was NOT a sports team), and
3) Its location near India (if you count my knowledge after I read the airline magazine en route to Sri Lanka)
Claire's mom's childhood girl friends have taken care of us (particularly Anila) and made sure we've not only been well fed and pampered but also that we've seen where the "action" is and enjoyed a bit of Sri Lankan culture and beaches.
Despite my initial concern with the political situation (and not infrequent random bombings by the Tamil Tiger insurgency group), I was able to enjoy a relatively politically but not culturally sheltered experience, most distinguished by the incredible spices (both hot and otherwise) of Sri Lanka. I have definitely increased my tolerance of hot foods, kindly guided by Anila's assurance that it was okay to decline certain foods and Romesh's strategy from the Academy of Tough Love to push through and minimize the pain by not allowing air to get into the mouth, aka not breathing. Luckily, I am a disciple of the Chinese shovel and swallow method. There was even a spicy hot tea called Samahan which did amazing things for your respiratory system and I'm pretty sure could unclog a drain. I was chastised for trying to use my knife and fork too much and encouraged to spoon it up.
Me and two of the generous aunties
I love Sri Lanka! Some things were a bit shocking like the ubiquity of soldiers with rifles and the suicidal pedestrian life (even crosswalks are gauntlets of death), but I found the unfamiliarity refreshing and exciting. Another shocking thing...the ravenous mosquitos. I somehow seem to attract every mosquito within a one-mile radius. Claire will attest to this uncanny phenomenon...I am the best insect repellent to be near: less caustic than DEET and hopefully better smelling than citronella.
Claire, Anne, and me with one of Anne's books
We spent our first few days being generously welcomed by Shanti's group of childhood friends (usually involving delicious foods) and copious amounts of sleeping and napping (I'm talking serious 2-3 hour naps in the late afternoon).
Claire was ill and I was just plain tired from traveling and warm weather always makes me drowsy. We did manage a limited amount of sightseeing, followed by heavy napping.
Anne's dinner party with distinguished Sri Lankan writers
We also had the opportunity to dine with distinguished writers at Claire's grandma's house. Like a proper dinner party with name place cards. It was great! Claire's grandma, Anne Ranasinghe, is an internationally renowned poet and a local celebrity. On top of that, she is an interesting and caring person. I enjoyed chatting about her development as a writer and about life in general.
After a few days in Colombo
, we headed south to the Unawatuna Beach Resort (UBR) to hang out at the resort's namesake beach.
Anne's (Claire's grandma) dinner place card for me. By the end of my stay, I had worked my way up to a first name basis!