Monthly Archives: January 2010

peradeniya botanical garden, sigiriya, dambulla swim

The last batch of Sri Lanka photos (link is to the sixth and final Sri Lanka slide show)! Thank heavens. In the interest of completion, I can’t start on the Australia snaps until I’ve finished all the Sri Lanka photo tales.

On our way from the elephant orphanage we stopped for tea at a road house, where this adorable girl was lunching. We went on to the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, where we were descended upon by school groups who wanted to practice their English. We got stuck in a thunderstorm with school boys from an elite school in Colombo (all the above illustrated in the slide show), and chatted with a Muslim Sri Lankan selling ice creams at the refreshment stand who told us about the cruelty of the Buddhists (the majority religion in Sri Lanka). We heard this complaint from other Muslims and Hindus as well.

The next day we went north to Sigiriya, where a 5th century king had built a palace on top of a huge slab of granite. There was a big climb to see the remaining frescoes, more school children (right), and a great view. Andrea wasn’t terribly impressed by it all, but I was glad we climbed it.

We skipped some of the other sites and instead went for a swim in the river near Dambulla, which our driver recommended. There was a strong current on one side and we floated around in circles, battling out of the current back toward the rocks as not to be swept downstream. I swam in my pants and shirt as not to scandalize the locals who were there shaving, bathing, and laundering. The swim (pictured below) was the highlight of the excursion. Our driver (I’m blanking on his name) asked us not to tell the guesthouse owner he’d taken us swimming. Of course we wouldn’t.

We went back for our last night in Kandy, in our guesthouse with the great views. The next morning we took the train to Colombo and spent my last night in luxury at the Galle Face Hotel (Andrea stayed on in Sri Lanka for two more weeks, exploring the beaches between Colombo and Galle Fort. I went back to work.) The Galle Face Hotel was lovely.

My Colombo-Bangalore-London flight back was on Kingfisher. The flights were great, the food was great, the entertainment was great. I recommend them highly, though no one at JFK had heard of them or knew how to put our bags through when we left. And though the flight attendants were all stewardesses—old-fashioned, high-heeled, hyper-girly servants. On the Bangalore to London flight there were a number of bronzed, muscly, hippied-out ashtangis leaving Mysore. They made me smile. My London-NYC flight was on Virgin Atlantic, which was also quite good, though their customer service leaves something to be desired. Both airlines were light years better than my United flights from Sydney earlier this week.

That’s it! That’s the Sri Lanka saga. Did not finish it before Australia, but I finished it before launching into the Aussie photos. Coming soon.

welcome back to america

The first words spoken to me when I returned to the States were by the immigration guy in San Francisco. “New York, huh? You live there? By choice?”

Hmm. Yeah.

I marched on to baggage claim to wait 50 minutes for my bag to pop out. After a 1.5 hour delay because of “weather” in SF, we flew on to NYC. Once over the tri-state area I was flabbergasted by all the congestion. There are probably more people in the NY Metro area then the entire continent of Australia. Good word. Do they really need me here, too?

My bag arrived quickly this time. The airport was quiet as it was nearing midnight. I caught a cab for 20 miles that cost a fifth of my 10,000 mile flight to Sydney after being told that the supershuttle I’d reserved would require a 90+ minute wait. That’s the service one gets with a reservation? Sit until past 1:30am after 27hrs in transit? Welcome home. Imagine living in a place where someone can pick you up from the airport. Sigh.

When I loaded up on groceries the next night, after a few hours sleep and a full day of work, I tried to imagine someone in Australia rolling over my foot with a cart and not even looking up, much less apologizing. No. Wouldn’t happen. Yet here it’s commonplace, I grumped, as I flexed my crushed foot. At Fairway? It’s premeditated.

Some people love this and everything else about New York, but the older I get and the more I get out, I realize that it just isn’t normal, healthy, or pleasant. Unless you’re a millionaire, New York is an entirely uncivilized place to live. Yes, there are lots of nice moments. Like the MTA guy who let me in without paying because none of the vending machines were taking debit or credit cards and I needed to buy my monthly pass. And the baby seated next to me on the train home who grabbed my thumb and held it the rest of his ride, unbeknownst to his mother because of his puffy coat. But these don’t quite make up for the angry bodies pushing onto the trains and up the steps, not to mention the lack of infrastructure to handle so many people. Why weren’t the four machines taking cards anyway? One only took coins! People think they’re tough because they deal with this stuff all day. Bullshit. They’re numb. I know. It’s not a great way to be. Get out for a while and breathe. Stretch out. Relax. Ahhh.

Anyway, I get like this often, especially on return from a trip. Let’s hope I finally do something about it. And soon. Far too quickly I’ll be back to thinking it’s normal.

9465 kilometers (5881 miles)

The path from Perth to Springbrook National Park, with lots of little and big jaunts in between. I’m working on different maps, but this is the idea (care of google maps). The flags are places we stayed at least a night, or had an especially interesting experience. Though it was a lot of driving, we stopped a lot and snacked on food from the esky (wait, sudden realization. Does the aussie word “esky”, or a cooler (or ice box), which I’ve been saying daily for the last two months, derive from eskimo? Oh heavens) and drank coffee from the thermos. Our longest drive was on xmas eve, just under eight hours, from Melbourne to Canberra.