Archive for September, 2008

The Video from the TreeHouse Buddy Arrives

Posted in Sri Lanka on September 30, 2008 by degrazier

I am not so computer savvy, so this took me awhile – and I still couldn’t figure it out on wordpress. This video was taken as Mishka, his buddy Samantha and I were sitting lakeside having a bottle of Arrack. Mishka was infatuated with the camera’s video setting and seeing himself (he should be on American Idol at some point – Sri Lankan Idol I mean). It is a bit lengthy, but Mishka gives a dance as well. Just click on “Mishka”:

8/20 – Random People Notes

Posted in Sri Lanka on September 29, 2008 by degrazier

A hotel room to the right – beautifully designed.

SRI LANKAN NEWS COMMENTATORS are the worst I have ever seen. Between one girl looking down at her notepad for 95% of the time, being able to see the reflection of her figure on the TV screen camera left, and her partner who was not speaking to the camera while constantly shifting her eyes, the program easily entertained. Even if I did understand the Singhalese language they spoke, I would not have been able to focus on what they were talking about.

Music videos. At first I thought I was watching parodies of sorts. Then I realized that all of the videos were not for jestering, but sincere. Wow (I thought). But then something happened. The dance moves not in sync, the interesting backdrops, the 80s hair styles and clothing to match started to make sense. I began to love the intoxicating images and pride of the Sri Lankan Style.

I have heard from a few local people that it is not uncommon for someone to kill themselves if they cannot be with the one they love. This includes teenagers in puppy love. Life is just not worth living. And the stories about couples jumping off of the cliffs of Trinco Fortress together fly out here as well. These people must really know how to love. I will keep my love senses on high alert so I can pick up some tips.

Not only are they sincerely over dramatic here, they claim to have one of the world’s highest alcoholism rates along with the suicide rate being ranked in the top ten worldwide.

But on the other side of the coin, or actually perhaps the alcoholism rate is involved on this: I have never seen so many smiles from people. Even hint at a person here that you are about to smile and you will be greeted with a brilliant flash of white teeth. Or of red teeth due to the beetle (tobacco product, like dip) they are chewing. Or no teeth.

But all the same, these people do not try to hide their happiness. But why then are they ranked so high in the world with suicide and alcoholism? I have read that there is some Aboriginal bloodline in the ethnicity mix – this would be a convenient answer. Aborigines, much like the American Native Indians, lack an enzyme that breaks down alcohol upon consumption. For this their bodies are drunk quickly, and are much more susceptible to falling prey to its addiction.

And I feel compelled to be honest – I have been on this prosperous island for 8 days now, and can count the amount of pretty girls I have seen on one hand, maybe with a finger or two from the other one. That surprises me. Maybe they are hiding out somewhere and I won’t find them until back in Colombo in the night scene? Although Natasha says the pretty ones get off the island and into other countries. I still have my doubts – but it is now easier to focus on other nuances of the society I guess right?

Cricket Calls

Posted in Sri Lanka on September 27, 2008 by degrazier

We paid about $2.50 to get into a match between India and Sri Lanka – this is a serious rivalry, to say the least. The crowd was full of music, flags, and energy. I think I saw four women in the times spent at the match– can you say male-dominated day?

Thoughts of the cricket times: these guys throw like pansies. I played baseball in high school, wasn’t anything too special, but I repeatedly had the thought flashing in my head, “I can take these guys.” OK, maybe I voiced this a few times to my friends as well…only to receive polite smiles and a quick change of conversation.

The people in the crowd were openly united together – friends and strangers alike. I was handed a Sri Lankan flag, and later I began waving it around with both hands yelling, “Are we worried?” as goes the chant. This is recited when a team is being beaten, and can hopefully come back from the deficit. Sri Lanka got killed – my chanting did not help, but not for lack of energy.

Speaking with three boys sitting down in the bleachers (the ones that let me use their flag), one of them pointed to their friend at the end and clearly asked, “My friend is beautiful yes?” Sure, I am stumped sometimes, but it has been awhile since I really had no idea what was going on in a conversation. I have no problem being around homosexuals, or heterosexuals for that matter, but I just did not understand why this 13 year old was asking me if his male 13 year old friend was beautiful. Interesting though. Not sure how to answer I smiled, lamely chuckled in a muffled manner, handed back the flag, and continued learning about the game I could own if given the shot.

The closest boy asked me the question about the beauty of the boy farthest from him. Wait- oh I get it now. I am a bit slow. Look at his hand placement. This could get me started on how I still don’t quite get the people on this prosperous island. But that is another story…on to the next.

Those Meetings That Mean More

Posted in Sri Lanka on September 26, 2008 by degrazier

My friends I travelled with (Jay and Natasha – not so sure why I just mentioned their names now and not before?) and I decided to stay at the Ella Adventure Park hotel. Rather than do any adventures around the sleeping grounds, we spent time in the common area. Beautifully built in treated wood, this area basically said, “Stay here, you guest. Do not leave on a hike. Hang out for a bit.” OK.

We met an English family (two sons 7 and 10, mother and father) the first night during dinner, and it took all of 10 minutes to be invited over to their table for some drinks and stories. The make-up of the fam: the mother was the lively party personality, the youngest son was a mellow (he actually slept the whole night at the dinner table, so he had to be mellow by description), the other son who showed his acting skills, his singing talents (sang “You’re Beautiful” with a brilliant tone- even nailing the line with “you’re F***ing beautiful to his parents approvals”), and the wise and experienced father.

Jasper decided to mess up his hair like mine.  The look works better for him - clearly.

Jasper decided to mess up his hair like mine. The look works better for him - clearly.

The dad turned out to be a internet guru who started a medical site and then sold it. He decided to retire for a year and be with his family – good man. But the insights were truly golden. A few of the memories and quotes: “Leadership is behavior”, Landmark Forum which turned Jasper (the outgoing actor/singer) into his boistrous self from a shy personality, and in general the dynamics of the family – especially how they took the piss out of their own kids. Classic.
part of the common area with the game board

part of the common area with the game board

The next day I was writing in my journal and reading in the common area, and fell into conversation with a lady whose son and husband were off trekking through all the adventures that I was being too lazy not to partake in. She ended the conversation with saying how she wished she had travelled when she was younger – sorry to hear that from her, but glad to know that I am on the road already.

This 24-hour period was full of learning from the family, and from the random mother as well. Have you ever met someone that just made sense for the time in your life? Well, these people and what they said fit that bill. It was a sincere pleasure to learn with them and get their respective perspectives. Enough of this…onto more of the trip.

The Tea Factory Hotel

Posted in Sri Lanka on September 25, 2008 by degrazier

No other hotel on the Sri Lanka trip will make its own entry. But I would be doing a disservice to myself and you if I didn’t give some of the views and thoughts on this tea factory turned brilliant hotel. The Tea Factory made me rethink my “hostels are so much better than hotels” inclination.

This is an old tea factory completely remodeled for fine dining and comfortable sleeping times. Walking in feels like embarking

See how I felt as though we were on the water?

See how I felt as though we were on the water?

on a cruise – 90% of the time (roughly) I felt as though I were in a boat.

In 1867 a Scotsman named James Taylor came to Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) and within a decade changed the coffee focus to a tea country. Today the tea industry still flourishes in Sri Lanka. Wait though, I don’t want to get into the history anymore than that. Check this view out from my room one evening:

Bottomline, if you are ever in the tea country of Sri Lanka do not miss staying at this place. I have never been in a hotel before where I felt everything was worth it.

Posted in Sri Lanka on September 25, 2008 by degrazier

OK, just one more photo – The Tea Factory beckons more.

Safari Siesta

Posted in Sri Lanka on September 24, 2008 by degrazier

I love animals as much as the next guy or girl – grew up with dogs and cats.  They love me, I love them.  Wildlife fascinates me as well.  I easily choose the National Geographic HD channel over “Everybody Loves Raymond” – most times anyways.

So enter the safari morning, starting at 5AM, at Yala National Park.  A group of 7 hopped in the back of a jeep truck to sit in the open aired rear section.  Let’s get to the point: I wasn’t too impressed.  Perhaps I was expecting the footage from the Nat Geo shows I had seen before?  Either way though, driving around for three hours to catch a 30 second glimpse of a leopard didn’t yell at me, “This is fantastic!”  Although for my friends and others it was – I guess I might just be a bit different.  So on that note, I want to share with you my favorite picture of the morning:

This might be my favorite safari photo -it’s enchanting and disorienting everytime I look at it.  Picture me sitting in the very rear of the jeep truck snapping pictures of the road…in the national park with wildlife to the left and right yelling at me to take their photos.  “Are you going to take our picture or what?” I can hear the monkeys grunting.

We did see some beautiful animals, and it was a must to go on a safari in Sri Lanka.  I am very grateful for the times.  And this encounter as well with a sneaky creature:

“You idiot safari tourists can’t find me.  I am a master in deception and can’t be found when I want to blend in.  Go back home.”

I am not going to throw out more animal shots – you can see better ones on the Discovery Channel.