Monday, 16 August 2010

Festival time in Kalkudah

A whole host of beasties have been keeping me amused, not least the Squadrons of Dragonflys hovering over the scrub by the beach, shining iridescent bronze in the sun. Apart from the ubiquitous lizards, I have a tree frog residing in my bathroom, he isn't brightly coloured so I assume isn't poisonous. maybe I should give it a lick and check. Flying beetles or a real gas, though a bit freaky when they land on you, even when you get used to them. More often than not, they fly headlong into whatever happens to get in their way, bounce off and lay helpless on their backs, they are such clumsy flyers. If bouncing onto anything soft they immediately hook in their barbed claws, not painful, but unpleasant all the same. They come all sizes, some longer than an inch (2.5cm for you youngsters), they seem to careen around totally out of control. And then there was the Scorpion, spotted by Runi, the guesthouse owner, just as it was trying to scuttle into my room. Including legs it was the size of my palm, not deadly, but if stung would involve a trip to the hospital.I can't say I agreed with the action but it was squashed, after we all took photos of it. Poor thing! (Photos: 1] The Scorpion king; 2-7] Local Hindu Festival - Newland guesthouse, Kalkudah, Sri Lanka)

1 week’s gone by and little has happened, another chapter of my book finished , another turn around of tourists in the guesthouse. All pretty much par for the course! Last night I realised that I’ve hardly set foot outside the guesthouse for the last week. Was it my imagination or have I even started going pale, well that won’t do. Got up early, had breakfast and set off on a bicycle ride to elephant rock. Buggered if could see any rock that resembled an elephant, but did find a nice quiet spot to lay on the rocks and sunbathe. And now I definitely don’t look pale, but I’m in a strange mood. Not depressed or upset, just sort of flat, lacking motivation for even the most basic of things. I’m not unduly worried, I’m getting used to it. Life isn’t amazingly exciting, though it’s not terrible either. Maybe I should get a frigging grip and stop whining, most people seem to think I’ve got life on a plate at the moment. The trouble is, I’m not making too much of it. Why haven’t I got off my arse and started something more worthwhile? All I’m doing is dabbling, not really plunging headlong into anything. Maybe I need to get it into perspective; I have managed to rebuild my bike, which took from February to June. It’s now ready to travel again, quite where I’m still dithering about. I’ve taken the chance to acquaint myself with travelling on horseback; I’ve booked an 18 day horse trip through Rajastan, culminating at the Pushgar camel fair. That’ll give me the chance to decide whether I’m up for a prolonged journey by horse. Where? Most likely South America, though Mongolia and China loom large in my thoughts, either by horse or bike. Trouble is, too many choices, and I’m still not sure what restrictions I’m faced with. I don’t think I now face physical restrictions, whatever extent my injuries could hinder me, is not something I’m willing to contemplate. They won’t improve any further, and I’m not about to let them stop me doing what the hell I want. I’m giving myself until Christmas, then a decision must be made, ready for departure in spring. I’m reluctant to consider a winter in the UK, it makes my bones ache so much. But I do need to have a base to organize this next adventure from, I’ve had enough of casually gallivanting all over the place.

This last week has been a Tamil festival week, culminating in a big parade and ritual cleansing on the beach. It’s the biggest event here for the time of year, great to see so many happy faces. Kalkudah is still proving to be a delightful place to be, even though I’ve been here three weeks every walk or bike ride is accompanied by a constant stream of folk waving and calling out welcomes to me. How can you get fed up with such friendliness? My heart really goes out to the Tamil population, they never fail to make me feel special. There is rarely the barb of financial benefit behind their friendship. People are genuinely pleased to see me here, without needing to profit from my presence. That means a lot to me, I’m more than a walking wallet. And to be honest, there are so few places left in this world where I go that people’s eyes do not ring up with dollar signs at the sight of me. Whether this will change, I don’t know. I have a feeling it will in time, especially when the tourist hoards start pouring in, it’ll be a shame but is normally inevitable.

And now to balance up the reports I write of this island’s recent history! A word or two, about the Tamil tigers. Freedom fighters, or terrorists? Well they were certainly fighting for the rights and freedom of the Tamil population, but at what cost? Murder and persecution of anyone who refused to help them? Supposedly it didn’t matter whether you collaborated or not with the government forces, unless you actively supported the Tigers your life was in serious jeopardy. Each family were expected to provide at least one soldier towards the cause, child soldiers of 14 yrs were not supposed to be uncommon. In the latter days of the war, inter faction atrocities occurred, especially between the north and east Tamils. Locals were expected to provide financial aid to the cause, with-holding such aid was unacceptable. Stories don’t always tally, soldiers supposedly carried cyanide capsules round their necks, few were captured alive. This doesn’t seem like the actions of forcible recruitment to me, mind you, faced with torture and depravities in the hands of the SLA maybe death would be more acceptable, even for the most unwilling recruit.

Development of resort hotels is well under way, this has become more apparent in the last couple of weeks, I counted three new hotel complexes under construction today. They weren’t there two weeks ago, and they are all within the 300 metre limit imposed by the, less than honest, president Rajapakse. A better understanding had been gained though, while land-grabbing has been going on, a lot of beach fronted land has been sold willingly by locals. Put simply, many are too afraid to re-inhabit their land, purely because of another tsunami. Though others have sold out because of the government exclusion zone. Like most situations it is complex, there is a mix of deceit and fear, not all created by the corrupt government. One thing is obvious though, promises made to foreign governments in return for aid are far from being fulfilled. No families are being helped by the Sri Lankan government, if you were unlucky enough to miss out on the NGO houses, there seems little chance of being re-housed.

1 comment:

kat said...

hi les, fantastic your style of writing. Wow-strong views about the average teacher though..sounds like your man was a classic perv. however myself and all my teacher friends are huge fans of the kids we teach and devote sooo much of our free time to planiing etc. Billie goes to bed at 9pm and i am up til midnight most week days. It seems a shame to make that generalisation.....happy travels. kait from Rachub x