Chapter 2 – 31 January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chapter 2

Just got back from sending the first email. Surprise! Found a man from the telephone company waiting. After checking out the area he says we’ll have aDSL connection within 6 days! We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

I may have to modify my routine. When I want a hot shower in the morning, the water is cold. When I was looking forward to a cooling mid-afternoon shower a bit ago, the water was hot from setting in the black plastic storage tank in the blazing sun all afternoon.

I thought I must have dropped a crumb on the floor and it had started to mold but as I went to clean it up I saw the edges were moving. Hundreds, if not thousands, of the world’s smallest ants had found the tiniest crumb and were busy carrying it away. The only reason I saw them was because so many were crowded in a spot about the size of a pencil eraser. I’ll have to be more careful. Now I see them crawling in and out of my keyboard. The ones on the notebook screen are the most disconcerting. I keep going back to correct spelling errors only to discover it was a tiny ant distorting the character.

After my 4 days in the hospital here last year with cellulitis, I’m keeping a close watch on any nicks in my skin. It gets an instant lathering of topical antibiotic.

My windows have large gaps (which I’ve taped over) and there is lattice work between the top of the windows and the ceiling with openings big enough for monkeys to crawl through, let alone mosquitoes! So I bought some plastic mesh in town and a couple of the village boys taped it up for me. There was enough left over for maybe one more room. I see it now over the lattice in the chief monk’s room.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

It’s busy here on Sunday mornings. The Sunday school classes were assembled in the courtyard chanting the morning ritual at 0700. Later there was a ceremony to honor senior students advancing to the next level. Any ceremony here involves lots of pageantry and children performing traditional dances. One of the photos is of a dance representing the courts of the ancient kingdoms of 1000 years ago and another is a dance representing the aboriginal culture going back many thousands of years before that. Note the little boy dressed as a grey monkey dancing amongst the forest people. There is also a photo of the Sunday school teachers (three of which are my students).

Finally got a class schedule together that everyone can live with. Classes start in the morning.

A bureaucrat from the Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms stopped by to see me today on his way back to Colombo (his family home is not too far away from here). He invited me to go with him to Trincomali on the east coast to see some of the reconstruction projects there. If I have time at the end of the project I just might do it. When I was there 2 years ago there was still fighting around the outskirts of the city. In the city, there were occasional suicide bombings and shootings from 2 man motorcycle hit teams. But the situation has been reasonably peaceful there for over a year now.

I think some of the little ants crawled in bed with me last night as I had about a hundred little bites on one arm. It’s hard to believe they can take a bite of anything with what must be their miniscule mouths. I’ll try to sleep with the overhead fan on tonight. It only has one speed though — VERY fast. It’s hard for them to get a purchase on me when the wind blows them around. But, it’s like trying to sleep in the midst of a helicopter downdraft. It also hangs very low and I have to be careful that I don’t lose a hand when I’m putting my shirt on.

Monday, February 02, 2009

So much for the fan idea. It was impossible to sleep. So I got up, moved my bed away from the walls, shook out the covering, and made sure it didn’t hang on the floor. No new bites this morning. I think I confused them for awhile. The tile in my bathroom comes up the wall about 5 feet and leaves a ¼ inch ledge around the perimeter. They use this as the super highway to transit the bathroom. This gives a great observation point as I brush my teeth. Proportional to their size, I would estimate their speed at what would be about 70 mph for a human. As they race back and forth, they touch heads for a millisecond to transmit directions to the food source and then race off again. The trail seems to end behind the bathroom mirror. I’m hesitant to look behind it.

Since this a Buddhist temple, nothing is killed here. Not the ants, nor the tree frog that spent the first night sitting on the curtain rod over my bed. The second morning, when I went to take a shower, I found him perched on the shower head. I was able to trap him there in a plastic bag as he miscalculated and jumped into the bag instead of over it. I released him out the window. I leave the geckos free reign of the room as they take care of the few mosquitoes that get past my perimeter defenses.

When I arrived at the Colombo airport last week it was 1:20 in the morning and I was met by the #2 monk from Bellanwila temple (my main support base here). Normally, because of the high respect given to the clergy, the monk would ride in the front seat. But they often insist on giving it up to a foreign guest. So there is the usual to and fro. “No, no. You take the front.”  “No, No. Please, you take it.”

But after dark it is understood that the monk will take the front seat. During the daylight, a gringo visible in the front seat is often enough to get waved through the police check points. But at night all it takes is for the monk or the driver to reach up and switch on the overhead reading light. The light bouncing off the monk’s robes fill the otherwise pitch black interior with a bright orange glow that can be seen through the front window from some distance. This results in an immediate “wave by” past the guns and barricades at the many police checkpoints from the airport and through the city.

At 0500 the 3 novice monks (two aged 12 and one 16) start their chores: building a fire, watering the plants, washing robes, etc. Then they sweep all the sand in the compound.

I have to go now. It’s 0730 and some kind of breakfast curry is waiting for me. I may have a chance to get into town later today to send this.

More later,

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