Arrival in Kandy, October 30, 2005


Friends,


Here we are in Kandy, with an address and a phone number. How did it happen so quickly, you may wonder.


Well, let's begin at the day's beginning -- a bracing swim in the pool, followed by a buffet breakfast with string hoppers and potato curry, and our first encounter with passion fruit -- we'd only known the juice before, in a carton or bottle. The fruit is somewhat slimy but delicious with a touch of sugar. Of course we enjoyed several pots of excellent Ceylon tea during the meal.


In the early afternoon we checked out of the hotel, loaded our luggage into a van and headed to Kandy. The driver was very cool and it was a calm and smooth trip. The last driver we'd had had some anger management issues. We'll be contacting Rodrigo again. (Why that name, you might wonder -- well the Portuguese were here long enough to rename most people either de Silva, or Pereira, with a Rodrigo for variety.)


The road from Colombo to Kandy is only two lanes, although the odd private bus driver may see an invisible center lane for passing, so let others beware! Unlike India, Sri Lankans don't drive with their horns and there are no cows wandering free and jamming up traffic. Also unlike India, all the people you see are neatly and nicely dressed. While we didn't see any women in extravagant silken saris, we didn't see a single person who was obviously impoverished either. Sri Lanka has less of a gap between rich and poor than anywhere else in Asia. What a welcome change that is after the States!


Along the way we noticed various things and asked questions of our driver. On one stretch, there were white net cones lining both sides of the highway and we learned that they meant that a Buddhist had died. The net cones led the way from the deceased's home to the crematorium. There were plenty of soldiers standing at attention at intersections in the cities -- on high alert because of the coming election. At one town we heard a hoarse male voice over a loudspeaker and saw a huge crowd. It was a political rally, of both the JVP and the ruling party, with both party's colors, red and blue, flying as flags and streamers.


Another section had stands and shops selling cashew nuts -- we couldn't resist! Later, there were innumerable brightly colored plastic toys hanging from lines strung between trees. There were brown and yellow giraffes, black and white dalmatians, yellow, smiling ducks, little wading pools, giant rabbits, robots, bow-legged deer, and much much more. The road was lined with all these shops competing with each other to sell hundreds and hundreds of ugly plastic dolls. Who buys all this stuff?


Then there were the pineapple kiosks with rows and rows of pineapples, priced at 20 cents each, neatly stacked. Tempting, but we passed them up this time.


As we drove along, we saw not one but two adult elephants. The first was being ridden by his mahout while the other was being walked along the road. Near Kandy there is a big elephant orphanage and there is also a great place along the Mahaoya River where elephants galore get their baths. The big temples in Kandy all have their elephants and the great Perahera Festival is led by the mightiest tusker of all, decked out in gorgeous finery, bearing the tooth relic in a howdah on his back.


Savithri, the woman who used to work at BPS, called us in Colombo and asked us to call her again after we left, and she would explain to the driver how to take a shortcut to the house she has been saving for us. About thirty miles outside Kandy, we stopped at a Spice Garden for a restroom and called. Rodrigo is from Kandy, so he knows the town very well. Savithri told him to go to the Riverdale Hotel and to call again. Very soon after entering the outskirts of Kandy, our driver turned left and began climbing up a steep road above the Mahaoya River. Along the way we even saw evidence of elephants -- dung. Our biggest concern about the house, and the main reason we hesitated to accept it sight unseen, was the worry that it was located in a very hilly area unsuitable for either biking or walking. This did not bode well. We continued climbing and silently worried that we would have to refuse the house. Finally, at what seemed nearly the top of the mountain, we arrived at the Riverdale Hotel, which was also a waiting spot for tuk-tuks. (In Sri Lanka, oddly enough, these noisy three-wheelers have the same name as in Thailand -- why is that?) We called, and Savithri directed us to continue up the road just a little. About 20 meters later, Savithri's husband met us and motioned for us to turn into a driveway and past one house to a paved courtyard in front of another. Savithri greeted us there, introduced her husband, and led us into her lovely house. It is not at all what we expected. the walls are brightly painted, each room is a different color, in bold red, yellow, blue, and green. At first this was shocking, but in the end we found it pleasing. In the center of the house is an open courtyard with a square fish pond. We sat and talked for a few minutes in a "parlor," set up at one end of a large room, the other end of which is the dining area with a lovely wooden table and chairs. She has agreed to leave almost all the furniture. The master bedroom has a beautiful wooden bed, for which she will buy a new mattress. A guest room has a small bed. Each of these rooms and a third room, which could be another guest room if we add a bed, has an attached bathroom with a walk-in shower.


In front of the pond a simple Buddhist altar rests on a pedestal. There is another room which will serve as an office. The kitchen has lots of counter space and a small table, but needs a refrigerator and a range, or "cooker" as they say here. She assures us these are very easy to purchase and have delivered. The cooker will be American style with an oven, not the Japanese style which is simply two burners which sit on the counter.


Savithri's gardener will stay on, and she will help us find a housekeeper/cook.


All of this was dependent, of course, on access and the hills. We described how we came, and she and her husband laughed. "He didn't take the shortcut," they told us. Just beyond the hotel is a tunnel, which we had seen. The other end of the tunnel is the road into the heart of the town. No hills at all. The only hill is from the hotel to the house, which is not really steep. No problem. It was decided with no further hesitation. Our address is 75 Aniwatte, Kandy, Sri Lanka. She will leave the telephone as well, and that means internet too!


From the road looking up toward our gate. Go through the gate, and turn right. From the gate looking back toward the road The inner gate
Durians growing on the tree in front of our house
Our house To get to our house, we pass in front of the house of Savithri's brother-in-law.

Savithri worked at BPS for 17 years, but her husband, who is an architect, has been living in Colombo. Now she will join him, but they will keep a small annex to our house to use when they come up to Kandy. Savithri will stay there until we get settled, so she will be able to help us arrange everything we need. We will be staying for one week in the Queens Hotel here, where the staff remember us (maybe they haven't had nearly enough guests since the tsunami -- we were sorry to learn that the Chinese restaurant in the hotel has closed). That will give us time to get the appliances and for her to get the mattress. Savithri will also have to move out some of her personal things.


When we headed to the BPS this morning, we took a three-wheeler for what we later learned was an exorbitant amount. After talking with the administrative secretary, we flagged down another three wheeler and asked him how much. Too much, we answered and when we made a counter offer he said, "That's the local price!" Right, we agreed, and we're locals now!


Last year, in a very rushed departure for Colombo with the Shan monks, we left our rice bowls and tiffin carrier in a box at the Queens, half supposing we'd never see them again. This morning the bell captain delivered the box intact to our room.


Frankly, we are pretty excited. We are enjoying the nicest room the Queens has available -- and even BBC on the telly. Still, we're keen to stop being travelers and get to work here. Things are all falling into place so easily, we are wondering whether or not it is real. We shall see and let you know, but it does seem we'll soon be ready for visitors! When can we expect you?


With metta,

Ken and Visakha


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