Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Lots of sun, too little fun, just work!

Labourers here get a lot more than fishermen on average. A day’s work fetches 600 Rupees, 1200 for a skilled builder. That’s about £3.50 a day and £7 per day respectively. Let’s put it into perspective, a cheap guesthouse in Kalkudah, my one for example, costs about 800 Rupees a night. Plusher hotels in this village are about 2,500 rupees, way beyond the means of any of the local workers. A labourer can’t afford to stay one night in the cheapest guesthouse for his day’s wage. How does that compare with back home? Not very well really, even a builder’s labourer should earn over £50 a day, more than enough for a cheap hotel/guesthouse. It goes to show the difference between life on the east coast and the average, employed, worker in Colombo. Folk from there visit this side of the island and rarely stay at the cheap places, they think little of paying the higher end of the market. Without showing a bias it must be acknowledged that many of the occupants of Colombo could never afford to visit over here, certainly not rent a room. (Photo: Rhoshi, with Husband and Elspeth - Newland guesthouse, Kalkudah, Sri Lanka)

Walked really close to a Brahimy Eagle on the beach today, it was sitting atop a wooden post above the surf. They are about the size of a buzzard, white heads and underbody, what I’ve previously referred to as fish eagles. It’s the type I got a photo of the other week, its on a previous blog entry, they are reasonably common along the beach. In fact, unlike Uppuveli, there are a variety of seabirds and other avian species here. Not exactly a profusion, but much better than further north. Crows are still the dominant birds, as always the damned things are everywhere, and they’re too intelligent by half. They gang up on other birds, even other animals, I’ve seen them trying to scare off a cow from some food waste. Also they were mobbing a couple of smaller birds, as three of them fended off the parents another tried to make off with their young. If it hadn’t been for human interception they would have succeeded. (Photo: A horny Toad - Kalkuda, Sri Lanka)

How do you fare against the single mindedness of youth? It doesn’t prove easy to break through an impenetrable wall. A young Austrian guy has turned up, a nice enough bloke, but obviously very straight laced. He’s just graduated from Uni, an economist, and is on a whistle stop tour of India and Sri Lanka for wks. At first I thought what’s the point, more there’d be more time spent travelling than actually visiting, and I became more flabbergasted when he explained it will be his last chance to take such a break. Once he starts his new job he’ll be restricted to only short breaks for his working life. He took in a few places in India, flying between cities and taking tours to specific sites, and has now come to finish off here. My first thoughts were how much more tiring than relaxing it sounded, though he is young, he has the energy to cover the distance. When he returns home it’s to his first job as an Endowment policy manager for his university. It was funny, our conversation started with questions about what I was doing. In my usual manner I rattled off my current situation, my immediate plans for worldwide adventure and scorn for a pointless existence in mindless work. Only then did I question him, realising as he explained his situation that he was unlikely to appreciate the life that lay before me. Though he did agree with the ethic of not working purely for money, he equated his job as ethically pure. Managing the pension plans for university workers. I can see his point, but fail to see how he could possibly give over his life to such mundane, boring shite. Poor lad, I think he’s a staid sort of guy who may well never realise, or even wish to question how easily he has succumbed to a life of monotonous servitude; but I hope I’m wrong. (Photo: Fishermen sorting the nets - Valaichchennai lagoon, Sri Lanka)

And how wrong I can be! Assumptions had been made about arranged marriages; whilst they may be the norm in Hindu society, they are not exclusive. The guesthouse owners young son and his wife, Rhoshi, chose their marriage, despite attempts to arrange another for them. She had a marriage arranged with an Australian Sri Lankan, but wanted to marry Runi’s son instead. I’m unsure of the difficulties she face, yet she succeeded in her wishes. So it isn’t impossible! I must point out how strong a character she is, not in a domineering way, she knows her place within Hindu society, yet she has a way of gentle insistence, that leaves her husband powerless. It’s lovely to watch the dynamics between them, they are obviously so in love, and so happy with life. Unfortunately I have no other recent, arranged, marriages to compare it with. Very different from Runi himself; who’s married to his brother’s daughter, his niece. They married at 19yrs and 17yrs respectively, he’s now 51yrs. So after 32yrs of marriage, are they happy together? They seem content enough with life, they get on with it, without fuss or apparent upset. Though in all honesty, if I hadn’t been told I couldn’t have guessed which of the kitchen workers was his wife, there are no outward signs that they are actually married. She is invariably the woman who serves the food, unless debilitated by her diabetes. Perhaps this is what distinguishes her from the others, maybe this is the role of the dominant female. There is never any physical contact publically, of course there wouldn’t be within their culture. Though there is an obvious closeness to the young couple, there is never anything that could be construed as sexual contact in public. Mind you, they do slope off into the vacant rooms together as convenient times of the day. Ah, young love, it’s so sweet seeing them sat together, her picking carefully through his hair, removing any undesirable objects. (Photos: In the garden - Newland guesthouse, Kalkudah, Sri Lanka)

I know in some cultures there are problems for women when having their periods. This is one of them, Rhoshi was having her period so couldn’t go to the temple for the Hindu festival last month. Neither could she stand outside whilst the parade passed, it was taboo. I’ve known orthodox Jews disgusted at the thought of a menstruating woman even touching them. So it’s not uncommon in other cultures for women to be considered unclean whilst having their periods; let’s face it, males have a big enough problem over this in our supposedly advanced culture. Not that I’ve read the various holy books of our world’s religions, but I’d be surprised if the make a point of declaring women dirty, untouchable whilst menstruating. Personally, I can’t quite get my head round it! Yeah, it’s a bit messy; but unclean, something unwholesome? Get real guys, we’re not living in the dark ages anymore, this is the 21st CENTURY!

Now for a last quick report, a sick one. Many families are forced to live in very basic huts made of nothing but branches and palm fronds. But don't worry, if you join in the studies of the lord, at the Evangelising college you get your own modern bungalow, courtesy of the Methodist Church. Is that sick or what? (Photo: Methodist Evangelising college - Kalkudah, Sri Lanka)

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