Chapter 1 – 30 January 2009

January 30, 2009

Its Saturday noon here and all the monks have gone off to a lunch offering at a home in the next village. The family offers them lunch and the monks chant blessings in return. So I’m alone in the temple compound and am nominally in charge. It’s a good thing all the villagers are napping because I wouldn’t be of much help to them.

I had running water in my second floor bath this morning so I did my first load of laundry in the bathroom sink and hung it out to dry. Hope the rain holds off until evening. Despite the heat of the sun on the black plastic water tanks, my gravity fed shower was very, very cold. But I’m thankful for having it back in service. The first 2 days I had to take a bucket shower from a 5 gallon bucket that had been thoughtfully left for my arrival. Am now acclimated to the heat and humidity (as long as I don’t move too fast).

The first couple of days were hectic. 13 hours from Seattle to Taipei just in time to catch my next 4 hour flight to Singapore. Went into town to meet with one of my sponsors and my equipment supplier/tech support guy at the Singapore Buddhist Library. Then went upstairs for a 3 hour nap before heading back to the airport and another 3 ½ hour flight to Colombo. Arrived at 1:30 in the morning. Slept for 4 hours, unboxed and checked equipment and supplies until noon, ate lunch and grabbed another 2 hour nap.

I was trying to figure out how we were going to get all the equipment into the temple van when a supporter showed up in a small pickup truck. He said we could use it but we had to go that evening, not 2 days later as I had planned. So off we went for the 60 mile, 3 hour drive in the dark and rain on an overcrowded, 2-lane road. Turns out I had a very aggressive driver and we made it in 2 ½ hours with only a few more grey hairs.

Spent Thursday and Friday setting up the computer lab in the temple dining room. Got all of the equipment running and loaded all the software. I’ve got a nightmare tangle of power cords and power blocks all running off two 5 amp circuits. We’re operating on the hairy edge. Classes start on Monday morning. Three, 3 hour classes each day for 5 weeks.

As I feared, nothing had been done about the DSL phone connection. Went 5 miles to the nearest town to talk with the telephone company. We may have connectivity in 3 weeks (with some intervention from the island spirits). That means these updates will be infrequent for awhile as I have to go into town to an internet shop to send them.

It was Chinese New Years in Singapore and my friends had gone to be with family in Penang, Malaysia. I got to the Library around 2:00 but my contacts weren’t there until after 4:00. So I went next door to a hawker stall and had ‘teh tarik’ and a roti prata to hold me over until I got more airplane food. The Library is located in the Geylang district. The area is pretty seedy with old Chinese style shop house architecture. I guess the Singapore morality movement retired after they cleaned up Bugi Street. I had to fend off several ‘soiled doves’ who had started their prowl early (maybe because of the holiday).

Geylang Road is 2 lanes, one way with parking on both sides but it is very busy with traffic. Which was even more hectic as cars had to dodge the metal tubs crowding the traffic lanes in which shop owners were burning paper money, paper cars, paper tvs, etc to make sure their dead ancestors didn’t feel left out on the big family holiday.

Several flat bed trucks ran up and down the street with troops of dragon dancers headed to the next event that they had been hired for. Also a flat bed truck came through carrying a coffin, mourners, drummers and flag wavers. All the shop entrances were decorated with large red banners and dozens of potted miniature orange trees (orange looks like gold and symbolizes good wishes for prosperity). It was all strangely comforting to be back in the midst of it again. I guess I still miss it all (I lived there for 3 years).

Meals here at the temple are catch as catch can. The monks don’t eat much breakfast so they will throw some rice and left over curry together for me if a villager doesn’t bring something by. A village family will bring lunch every day which is the only real meal for the monks. They share that with me but we eat separately (but they and everybody else love to stand around and watch guests eat for some reason). I’ve gone to upper class homes in Colombo where sumptuous tables have been laid out with only one place setting (for me). They’ll wait until I’ve finished before eating. Very disconcerting.

Lunch is mostly curried everything. The 3 little monks are in charge of fixing my dinner which turns out to be rice, boiled carrots, boiled potatoes and boiled cauliflower every night. And they were doing it over a small, smoky wood fire. So I stocked up on instant noodles when I was in town and that’s now my evening meals.

I think they saw me sniffing at my rice and tea yesterday. After lunch they drained the water tank and one of the smaller villagers popped the lid off and jumped down inside with a brush. Much better now.

Better close now. I have to go to town to buy yet another power cord so I’ll send this then. More later.

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