Tag: traveling

Out behind the chicken coop: a story from my Sri Lankan homestay

Out behind the chicken coop: a story from my Sri Lankan homestay

I’d like to ask them about the war, but I can’t. Besides, we’ve been advised not to talk politics with anyone. A 30-year civil war is complex and divisive. It’s better to steer clear.

At the moment I’m most interested in where the bathroom is. Someone must have gone, but being in the presence of half the neighbourhood, I haven’t noticed. I’m hoping to see someone drift away, maybe to the back of the property, and deduce where to go, like Nancy Drew might have done.

Instead I resemble a cult leader, with a handful of flowers, linen pants and a group of loyal child followers.

Flowers 2 (1 of 1)

 

Stop. Reverse that. I am following the children; they are not following me. I look around and wonder how things have changed in the past decade, but I don’t even have my bearings in the present.

There’s a small white building behind the chicken coop. It may be the bathroom. It’s getting dark and I hardly want to go wandering in the woods to investigate. I don’t even know what to be afraid of.

(OK, I do, it’s spiders.)

I can hold it. I’ll be fine. It’s not dire.

Before moving here, I read books about Sri Lanka. I wanted to understand where I was coming to, especially with a long war less than a decade in the past. But I do not feel prepared.

When my coworkers dropped me off in the jungle with a family who didn’t speak English I was terrified. The family was smiling, my boss told me I could call her, but the wide valley of not-knowing was all I could think about.

It probably sounds strange, given that I flew for more than 20 hours to come and live here. I’ve survived a huntsman spider encounter, food poisoning and crossing the streets of Colombo in rush hour. But nothing has frightened me quite like my impending night in the jungle.

The family I’m staying with has a snug little brick house with cows in the yard. In the morning, I’ll get photos to show Ryan’s family.

Cow 1 (1 of 1)

As I sit with the children, one or the other will disappear and come back washed and changed into nice clothing. I feel sticky, sweaty and dusty. I consider trying to ask where I can wash. It will probably be near the washroom.

The matriarch of the family motions for me to bring my camera and get into a tuk-tuk with her and four children. We drive off into the dark night. I’m guessing this isn’t the way to the bathroom. Everyone’s dressed far too nicely.

Out of the black evening shine Buddhas and a white dagoba. Monks are chanting as we get out of the trishaw and walk toward the temple.

We place flowers at each statue. We fill small metal cups with oil and light cotton wicks. The matriarch prays. It’s beautiful. So lovely that I don’t lift my camera, I just watch and follow along behind the children.

When we climb the steps to the largest Buddha, one little girl suggests I take a photo. So I do.

Buddha 1 (1 of 1)

Then we go to the monk. He blesses the children and ties a white string on each person’s wrist for protection and good health (I will find this ironic two days later when I spend four hours throwing up in a van on my way back to Colombo).

We head back to the house and they make me a feast. I’m not to help in the kitchen. I know nothing about anything in this place and I would not be helpful.

Then there is curry. Such delicious curry. *

Now I need to go to the bathroom. No more guessing. No more worrying that they might not understand and I’ll have to awkwardly pantomime squatting.

I hope for the best and simply say, “Washroom?”

The matriarch takes me out to an outhouse with a squatter toilet behind the chicken coop, as I expected. The mystery is solved. I’m no Nancy Drew—she probably would have just asked.

 

* I’ve decided retrospectively that this cannot possibly be what made me sick. It was delicious, their hospitality was extensive and I refuse to accept it.

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The great Canadian bucket list

-Celebrating Canada Day in a foreign country is a fun and interesting experience. I will gladly share what it’s like in Sri Lanka, once I’ve gone through it.

In advance of that, I am sharing a Canadian bucket list, stolen from a Facebook friend’s post and adapted as necessary. For example, getting divorced is not on my bucket list, though being able to get divorced is a freedom I have and appreciate, as a Canadian.

Also, some of these things have very little to do with Canada, but what-the-hey, the list came from Facebook and I like it. I’m also looking for additions, so please add in the comments!

I may not be able to check anything off while I’m in Sri Lanka, but it will give me tons to look forward to on my return.

  • Fired a Gun
  • Been to USA
  • Been to Hawaii, specifically
  • Been to Europe
  • Been to Montreal 
  • Been to Ottawa
  • Visited the Yukon
  • Visited Mexico 
  • Driven through the Rockies
  • Flown in a helicopter
  • Been on a cruise
  • Served on a jury (been called twice and excused twice)
  • Been in a movie
  • Been to Toronto 
  • Been to Vancouver
  • Been to the Maritimes
  • Played in a band 
  • Sang karaoke 
  • Caught a snowflake on your tongue
  • Licked a frozen pole (might sit this one out)
  • Been sledding on big hill
  • Been downhill skiing
  • Been water skiing
  • Rode on a motorcycle
  • Jumped out of a plane
  • Been to a drive-in movie
  • (Rode) Seen a wild elephant (You shouldn’t ride elephantst!)
  • Been on TV 
  • Been in newspaper
  • Been scuba diving 
  • Rode on a dog sled 
  • Driven an ATV 
  • Eaten oysters.
  • Eaten fresh maritime lobster
  • Played pond hockey
  • Been to West Edmonton Mall 
  • Seen the Northern Lights
  • Been to a Powwow  
  • Been to the Calgary Stampede
  • Been to a hockey game
  • Have gone ice fishing
  • Been to the CN Tower 
  • Rode the gondola in Banff 
Waiting for Ryan at the villa

Waiting for Ryan at the villa

I turn the air conditioning on. Then I get cold and turn it off. I open the back door. It’s humid. My mosquito bites itch. I go upstairs. The Internet says I can treat the bites with toothpaste. I don’t try it.

I read  Austin Clarke to try and get a feel for Barbados. The book is absorbing, but ends up mostly being set in Toronto–in winter. I go back downstairs and look longingly at the rum smoothie sitting in the fridge. I resist the urge to day-drink alone.

I’m sitting in the villa and waiting for Ryan.

As a kid I’d tell my mom I wanted to be able to ride my bike anywhere on my own. She’d ask me where I wanted to go and I could never answer.

I wanted to ride my bike down Pine Street, through Beavis Terrace and down the bridge on Armstrong. I wanted to ride up to the agricultural school. I wanted to ride to Tracy’s house, on the highway to Quebec. I wanted to visit my cousins on the other side of town and play hide-and-seek. I wanted to eat cookies with Grandmere. I wanted to go to the beach with the best playground in town.

I didn’t want to start with a destination in mind though. I longed for the freedom of being alone and making all of the choices.

So it’s been a surprise to me that I’ve mostly stayed inside this week. I want to see all of Barbados, but I want to see it with Ryan. I’m waiting for him at the villa.

My adult life has been all about doing things on my own. I went away to school far away from my family and close friends. I moved to another country. I moved to Ottawa. When my parents made suggestions about my life choices, I ignored them. When well-meaning friends told me to “get my life together” I stopped keeping in touch.

In each place, I wandered in museums, parks and malls alone. I ate out by myself. Then I met new friends and shared life-changing moments within days, weeks or months of meeting them. I learned you can have deep friendship with or without years of history together.

I have wonderful memories. But always choosing the path alone means you have good stories with few corroborators.

No one else in my day-to-day life knows who Rick McGhie is. No one hates Le Kimchi for not serving galbi the way they did in Arts Centre. No one has watched me have a freak out in a monkey forest. No one knows how friendships can be cemented by large, blue balloons that don’t fit in taxis. No one has drunk a sojito in The Park. For the most part, no one knows why I’d avoid any bar called Amigos.

So I sit in the pool. I do reading for my master’s. I write notes. I watch geckos. I make more coffee and sandwiches.

It was supposed to rain but it’s a beautiful day. I can see the sun just beyond the red leaves. For the first time, I want to make my choices with someone.

I wait for Ryan at the villa.