Settling in, November 3, 2005


The fun continues --the other night's dinner was at a south Indian restaurant where we had paneer masala with tamarind gravy and okra curry. Yum! This morning we had string hoppers, garlic curry and seeni sambol (sweet onions with curry leaves) all washed down with cups of piping hot Ceylon tea.

In the newspaper, we read an article about ramadan (ending soon), which included "...Mohammed (PBUH)..." which we figure means "Peace Be Upon Him! There are lots of acronyms and abbreviations used here which are baffling. We'll come to understand them in good time, we suppose. The Sri Lankan newspapers are remarkably partisan -- one has full coverage of everything by members of the ruling party, while the other is chock full of articles praising the opposition. That does seem fairer than the US, where virtually no media really speaks to the likes of us! Liberal media? Hardly. We've been checking out the "Crooks and Liars" website for video clips of TV coverage of the Wilson/Plame outing and such like, and none of the hosts, except Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, have a clue that the dirty work and the lies are for real and intentional and that they go all the way to the top.

The other day, while Visakha connected to the internet through the Queen's Hotel wireless connection in the lobby, Ken ventured into town to investigate shopping possibilities and procedures. He found many small shops selling cell phones (a priority), but he wondered how much success he would have discussing the advantages of various systmes or companies (In the US, we have Verizon, Sprint/Nextel, and Cingular, just to name a few, and somewhat the same here.), or to find out whether or not we could use the Motorola phones we brought from the US. There seemed to be no shops on the main streets near the hotel selling stoves and refrigerators.

Then he noticed a large shop, with a glass front, that looked something like a miniature J+P (Japan) or Circuit City (US), with many company names (Toshiba and Singer were two recognizable) listed on marque hanging over the door. He went in, asked about refrigerators, and was directed upstairs,where there were many models, priced about $400. Next he asked about cookers and was shown three models, one with three gas burners, one electric, and an electric oven; another with three gas burners, one electric, and a gas oven; and a third with four gas burners and a gas oven (Singer). He asked and learned that indeed gas is cheaper to use than electric. Prices ranged from $260 to $400, with the all-gas model being the cheapest.

Encouraged by this success in communication, he asked about stereos, DVD players and TVs. CD systems ALL have double cassette decks (a surprise after learning in Radio Shack just before leaving that NO systems in the US now have cassette players attached). The clerk assured him that all of them also could record CD, to which his response was, "Why did we bother sending our CD recorder?" A second clerk corrected that NONE of them recorded CD. As for DVD players, there were several models, but only one assured "Multi-system" capability. For each model, Ken asked for the manual, and the clerk promptly produced it. A close reading confirmed that none of the systems would play DVDs from regions other than region 3 (We think USA is region 1, and region 3 is India and Sri Lanka.) In a phone conversation, Ken was informed that the manuals were wrong. the clerk, who turned out to be one of the managers, suggested we bring in a DVD to try. (We did, and it worked in at least one machine, so maybe. . .)

In the end we decided on a Whirlpool refrigerator (small for American standards, but very big according to our landlady) and an all gas cooker made by Indecit, an Italian company. The label says, "Made in Europe." They are in place. The LP cylinder and hose will be delivered tomorrow, along with a blender, a toaster, a water filter pot with spigot, a steam iron (for Lily to use), and UPS protectors for our computers. (see below)

Today we learned that high-speed internet from the telephone company is expensive. For one-third to one-sixth the price we can get dial-up. ISPNet, the dial-up company is also the official representative for IBM, which will take care of the warranty on our computers. The Manager warned Ken that the support service for Sri Lanka Telecom high-speed is VERY BAD. We shall see.

Visakha's durable, clever, useful three-wheeled bicycle seemed like just the ticket here. With its battery-powered assists for going up the hills, we thought it would be very useful. Sri Lanka is nothing like Burma when it comes to traffic, however, and we suddenly realized that there are NO bicycles on the roads anywhere. People either walk or they take tuk tuks. There must be a message in this somewhere. It must be too dangerous for bikes and so mine is going to sit in the garage for the time-being. From the house, we can use our cell phones to call a tuk tuk to the gate and get to the BPS for a very reasonable buck and a half.

We'll be boiling water and filtering it after it cools. We've got a blender now so Lily can make us hoppers (she'll have to *dry-grind* the rice to make the dough to make the hoppers ...

We have met the BPS editor, Ven. Nyanatusita, who is from Holland and stays at the Forest Hermitage, in the middle of a National Park. The path there is rugged, even for a three-wheeler, and we had to get special permission to take a vehicle in. Lots of huge trees, thick rattan vines, and troops of monkeys. The monkeys sometimes manage to get into the upper windows of the hermitage and wreak havok. Naughty, noisy monkeys! Ven. Nyanatusita has already given us a job! Designing the cover of a reprint of "The Life of the Buddha" using one of our photos. We're excited by the challenge.

Ven. Nyanatusita Ven. Upatissa

We've also met Ven. Upatissa, who was an IT expert in Silicon Valley before he became a monk. He's going to have a special technical class which should teach us a lot! We've done newsletters before, but making books (not in the gambling sense) is a whole 'nother matter.

Our *landlady* Savithri has been very helpful. She introduced us to Lily, a very cheerful Sinhalese woman living nearby. Lily will cook for us, clean, shop, do laundry and odds and ends. She speaks some English and is very keen to learn some international recipes. She is delighted to have a part-time job help her to pay off a bank loan. We feel very lucky indeed.

Our cell phones have already been invaluable for being in touch not only with each other as we carry-out our separate tasks around town, but also with the BPS office and the monks. Last night Ken programmed his and was reminded at four o'clock today that it was "Teatime"!

Before we left Flint, our dear friend Joy, for whom we've worked for the past couple of years, went into the hospital. She had fallen, but with no broken bones. Initially, she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, then it was pneumonia, and suddenly we learned that she was in ICU on a ventilator. Just before we left, we spent an afternoon with her step-son Jim, going through mail, ordering George's medications, checking on the auto-pay accounts, and up-dating Jim. We called just before we boarded the plane to Detroit but there was still no change. Happily, we just learned that she's finally recovering, but she'll have to be discharged to a nursing home to regain her strength. We are so relieved at that news.

A bolt of out of the blue, though, was the news that our friend and financial advisor Chuck Andler had a heart attack and died. Before we transferred responsibility of BRC-USA to the new directors and prepared to leave the US we spent a lot of time with Chuck, anticipating all sorts of complications and tying up all the loose ends we could think of. Over the years Chuck shared in much of our personal life. We discussed our plans and hopes with him and valued his opinions about many things, not just investments! He was only in his 50s, so we expected him to be there after we were gone. As a matter of fact, from Bangkok we sent him our will, witnessed by Julie and Moon, in all confidence that he would manage everything with our executor. He told us many wonderful stories about his daughters and his grandsons. His late aunt was a great character. He had known my mother very well, and we could certainly relate to his anecdotes about his own elderly mother. He loved sea shells, and we always took him back something special from our tropical travels. So suddenly Chuck was gone! Anicca. We must gratefully acknowledge Jean Munro's help in conveying our condolences and donating to the Genesee County Humane Society in Chuck's memory. Chuck loved cats and had a houseful. How we're going to miss him!

Chuck Andler

Now we're thinking about having a house blessing after we get completely moved in. Please let us know if we're writing too much for you to read, and we'll be happy to take you off the list.

With metta,

Visakha and Ken

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