Monday, September 12, 2005

Problems with Plumbing and Remembering Sri Lanka


We have men all over the house doing security related stuff. We also have three men in the kitchen trying to fix a hot water system. It is mounted on the wall in there and drips steadily all the time, leaving large pools on the bench and floor. It has been fixed before. Now they will try a part from Italy - instead of the one from Egypt. This is obviously meant to be an improvement. This is a heavenly old house, but so heavy on maintenance. We have several dead air conditioners, and the parquet flooring upstairs which is quite new has developed undulations new our doorway - perhaps linked to the flood when the hose came off the toilet while we were away.


We spent our first day in Sri Lanka in Columbo with my lovely nephew and saxophone player teacher extraordinaire, Grant, and his lovely wife Louise. She is expecting their first baby and still working long, long days in tropical heat while Grant does the 'trailing spouse' thing. People like musicians and quilters do this better than some!

I had expected it to be rather like Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia but it isn't at all. It is much smaller and sleepier, more third world and no fast freeways. It is an endearing place, friendly and intimate, with some seriously good shopping if you like glorious timber work and textiles.

My darling husband decided I needed a sapphire and I was not going to argue. We had a lovely morning shopping and I now have a beautiful blue sapphire with diamonds in white gold. The shop was amazing. I have never been wildly interested in jewels but it would be easy to go that way in Sri Lanka. Did you know that basically sapphires and rubies are the same thing - corundum? They had wonderful 'tennis' bracelets with a rainbow of gems, lime to yellow to gold to orange then reds and purples and blues and deeper greens that ran the length of the bracelet and all were corundum. And did you know that tourmalines come in a rich and wonderful range of pinks, reds and deep olive greens?

Columbo, Sri Lanka Columbo, Sri Lanka

In the afternoon we went out to a really beautiful Buddhist temple and I will just talk about that with photos! Click on one of the photos below for a whole set of photos of Colombo and the Buddhist temple. In this set, the first temple pictures are a Hindu temple that we stopped to photograph on the way. After that - the Buddhist temple.
Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka

It was seriously hot - even after Tehran. I had taken to carrying a small handtowel for heavy-duty brow-mopping.

One short story though. There are crows everywhere in Columbo. They tend to crowd around the Buddhist temples as people always arrive with lots of flowers, and the crows sometimes eat the centres of the big lotus flowers. These are exquisite - pure white with that luminous green in the shadows of the petals, always limpid with splashed water and drooping softly on the marble and stone surfaces. Sometimes they bring the most amazing deep rose or blue-purple ones too and these are even more stunning. They are heaped, with jasmine, in front of the Buddhas and symbolic, as they open in the morning, and die at night when they close forever, representative of the Buddha's life. Attendants remove older flowers regularly to make way for the newer gifts, taking away the most fragrant garbage bags you could hope to see or smell. Some flowers, especially those in pots of water, are left longer.

One crow was obviously thirsty. We watched as he balanced on the rim of a big blue pot and tried to reach down to the water inside. He was obviously not successful. He tilted his head on the side - for all the world as if he was considering the problem. Then he took off and circled the pot. He landed on the stone surface beside it, then jumped onto it with his wings beating. I thought he was taking off again - but no - he was rocking the pot. After a minute over it went - and he drank his fill from the water just inside the pot lying on the ground, now nicely accessable.

Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Grant also introduced us to King coconuts - large golden coconuts that sell everywhere at the side of the road. For about a quarter the coast of a can of Coke you can have the top lopped off and a straw inserted. It is lighter than most coconut milk I have drunk - almost as clear as water, slightly nutty, slightly sweet, almost salty and cool and delicious. It is absolutely thirst quenching and it occurred to me that it must be the perfect electrolyte drink - a bit of salt and sugar. How clever that in such a sweaty place nature provides such a perfect drink in such copious quantities. In some places they took an extra slice off the coating of the nut to make a flat scoop 'spoon'. When you finish drinking they slice the whole thing open with one slash of a lethal looking knife (it would make Crocodile Dundee's knife look like a Swiss Army Blade) and offer it back to you to scoop out the rather gelatinous coconut form inside. The curve of the scoop exactly fits the inside of the shell.


Blogger Sarah Ann Smith said...

Hi Jenny...

I just had to laugh out loud. I promise you, life in ANY country's foreign service is a lot more humorous after you have retired (said Sarah from the comfort of post-F.S. life in Maine, USA). Your old-house tales of woe sound like Gabon, Bolivia, the post and fill in the blank!

But the memories also are the best of life abroad. Oddly enough, I sometimes (gasp) even think of going back when the kids are grown for just five more years on the visa line...enough to up the pension from pittance to full pension. (Hubby retired, I resigned after 15 years to stay in the US and raise the kids.) And by the time the kids are grown if I actually do go back, I won't care about being promoted! Thanks for sharing, cheers, Sarah

8:01 am  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,
Just loved the crow story and would dearly love to be able to photograph those lotus flowers for my quilting. Yesterday a group of us quilters went to the NGA to view the Rajah quilt which was on display along with several others of the same era. They were just wonderful and fascinating. Today the sun is shining but there is a cold wind, the max. is expected to be around 12o.

10:47 am  
Blogger Jack Smith said...

What a pity I couldn't meet you in Iran.
I couldn't read your notes for a while so I was not aware of your travel plan to Iran.
Anyway, they were some nice piece of notes about Iran and esp Isfahan.

4:25 pm  

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