Aqui the men and women admire desire
and never get tired of each other
~Pedro Pietri, Puerto Rican Obituary
Aqui the men and women admire desire
and never get tired of each other
~Pedro Pietri, Puerto Rican Obituary
for more of London: CLICK!
My gawd, I’m using an advert in the tube to illustrate “love stories.” Is that what it’s come to?
No, not at all. I do like photos in subways and metros, and if I used photos of couples that I visited while in the UK, I’m sure they would not be pleased, as I aim to tell their stories. Lots of good love stories on this trip. And though my city gets a bad rap when it comes to love (“men there treat women as if they’re mobile phones, always looking for the next toy, never appreciating what they have in front of them”), while I was away, one friend eloped and another engaged. Not that matrimony and love are synonymous, but that these women have not been mistaken for androids by the men that love them (New Yorkers all). See? You don’t have to cross the pond. ;)
“She took the pen carefully and looked at it, twirling it around slowly as she did so. Then she wrote her name in the registrar’s entries of death book on the anointed line. She looked as if she was praying as she wrote. He looked over to see if her writing was as lovely as he was expecting it to be. It was; she had a beautiful hand.
_____The woman smiled at him. The intimacy between them had been like love. Mohammad would miss her. She said, “Thank you,” to him. She put the certificate and official papers in the Please Do Not Bend envelope that she had brought with her. She paid the fee for her own copy of the death certificate which she looked at before putting it away, as if to check if everything was all right.”
— excerpt from Trumpet by Jackie Kay
Photo: Book in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Book: Beautiful novel read on trip by Scottish writer Jackie Kay.
Giulia’s translation of the bit written on a planter on a street somewhere between Euston Station (leaving Alys) and Cornhill Street (meeting Tom) in London:
I’m back! What a lovely trip. I’ve never really wandered around London before on my own. Always I’ve been there on my way somewhere else (well, I guess that’s true this time, too), with someone who knows it better than me. I liked it more this time. The juxtaposition of new and old architecture is pleasing.
I stayed with an artist friend whose apartment building is in the Arsenal/Emirates Stadium complex (which is both strange and excellent) and had some time to wander about before and after Scotland, plus a short trip to Brighton/Worthing to see old Lithu friends.
My flight back was easy. Even enjoyable. I read 170 pages of a lovely book, Trumpet, by Jackie Kay. I have not read that much in one sitting in over fifteen years, I bet. Since home, I’ve read only about 30 to and fro on the subway. Snail’s pace.
Stories to write. Love stories. I hope I get to them sooner than usual.
This feels like a pivotal moment. I feel raw. I have always had my fingers in too many pots, and at this moment they are coming together, if only a little bit and in a symbolic way. I’m finally there. I’ve finally reached August 8, 2004 in the archives (representative photo at left), which was a big day in my life, one I’ve intended to write about for seven years. I mention it once in awhile because it has much to do with my understanding of people and life. I’m not sure I can explain it, so I keep putting it off.
I got here, to the eighth, the day my beautiful new computer arrived, so gorgeous I cannot believe it. So these photos will not be edited between crashes of my six-year old macbook, which slowed me down tremendously. I started editing the Center Kenes photos this morning. And now I’m there.
The writing and editing is also difficult because it involves Guka. Our friendship began to unravel during this trip, and we were already tense. Maybe that partly inspired my little revelation about humanity and relationship, but it’s still painful.
And my old friend left today. He was my houseguest for a week and a total gentleman. I’m easily annoyed, especially with people in my space, and he didn’t disturb me a bit. I loved having him. Largely because I felt appreciated and supported. His timing was perfect.
But now I am sad. Left to sink into my melancholy a bit, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’ve been thinking about old friendships, I guess because I’ve been seeing old friends. I tried to write about Danchik last week, after he (and Pasha, picture below) entertained me through a rough spot one Sunday at Coney, way out west where the beach is decent. But I’m not sure I can explain our relationship, either. He breaks a lot of rules as far as not being an ass goes. But he owns up to it totally, doesn’t pretend to be otherwise, and at the end of the day, he’s there for me. (I wouldn’t tell him that though. He’d be annoyed.) This is more than I can say for most people. People who pretend to be good or talk a nice game around it, but aren’t there when the going gets difficult. For a day.
So, I accept Danchik for who he is. He makes me laugh and takes me out of myself. He can be a jerk, and he knows it.
He went to Odessa last weekend to chase some girl. That will not have a happy ending, but it will be fun for a time, and that’s all the depth some people can muster. And that’s fine.
If you’re honest.
Well, there. I wrote a bit about Danchik. I didn’t include the hard-to-explain stuff, the quintessentially Danchik stuff. His declaration that he keeps a beautiful-but-boring girl around he doesn’t much like because sometimes you just need some company, a pretty face. “I am an asshole. She is an idiot. What can you do?”
But, as you see, he’s honest. Most people do this sort of thing, in one way or another, but they don’t admit it. And so start the problems.
I’ve not gotten to August 8th. Or to old friendships. Why they feel comfortable, but also confining. Perhaps I’ll be as prolific tomorrow.
I told the story of this particular tour the other day, in which Valery’s bus broke down. While tagging photos in Lightroom just now, this image popped up when I moused over its folder in the catalog. I love trucks. I love transport in general. Yesterday, I was talking to fellow photog, Arnis, about how distinctly cars date photos. Looking at my photo archive, I realize that it does vary vastly in different countries. I remember how amused I was by all the old American cars from the 70s driven in Iran in 2000.
I’m suffering a crisis of quantity over quality. I want less.
And so, The Global Hook-Up Party: How to have a sexytime-no-strings-attached-two-day-affair through couchsurfing. Or not. It is true that the last two posts were building up to this. Because even in my worst moods, my heartbroken moments, my deep despair, T’s words will pop into my mind, and I laugh. You will, too. That’s the point of all this. His pickup rewrite is simple, yet hilarious and amazing. My point is not to be schooly, as T has suggested. Though I can see how a guy might find it so.
A few weeks ago, I received this couchsurfing request (I cut a bit for length):
The cool morning breeze across my face as I ride my bike downhill¦ The howling of jackals in the deserts of Eastern Oregon¦ Writing, the sensuous movement of the pen upon paper, letters forming into words, sentences and ideas¦ Playing as a football goalie, diving across the goal to turn the ball away¦ Joining with others in peace and environmental groups, trying to restore some balance and justice¦ The touch of a loved one’s hand¦ These are some of the things that I love and that provide my life with joy and light.
I will be in NYC [for two nights] and would love to meet you, and be hosted if possible….I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London
and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.
I am…a university teacher in the department. Writing and editing essays and books about these subjects is also an important part of my being. [One would think he'd take a moment to edit his correspondence. But evidently not so important.]
If you have the time and inclination, let us meet for coffee, an art show, a hike, a concert, a bike spin, prepare a meal together, or whatever the spirits and our imaginations inspire.
My CS profile has no recent photo but I would be happy to send one (as an attachment I can only send it to a non CS address.)
Oh dear. No, I’m not interested in a photo of your 49-year-old self. Not at all. In fact, I’m grossed out. T and I have discussed fairly thoroughly the nature of couchsurfing, and this “request” does seem to land on his side of the argument (that of the global hookup party). I shared the request with him:
A (me): I got this from a couchsurfer. It’s so gross. What else is there to say? [see above]
It probably works most of the time.
Say: “climb down, yo.”
A: “I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.”
is that like a mashup or mistaken cut and paste?
T: i think it’s just barmy writing yo. few people are able to write articulately.
Something like that. It comes easy. People are morons. I don’t know why I can’t function in this world when it’s the rest of the world that is moronic.
A: [Gales of laughter.] Agreed.
Most of my friends feel this way. It’s almost shocking how T’s quick edit instantly changes the para from swarmy to thoughtful. It’s really just not that hard. But giving the behavior of (many) guys both online and in person, it seems that it is. Why is that?
If you didn’t read the last post, this post is a continuation. It can also stand alone. It’s the second in a series about online personality and relationship.
I had a nice surprise today when I saw that Owl, a blog friend, had posted a favorite part of a favorite poem, T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I posted almost the same lines years back. It’s one of the few books I own (everything else from the NYPL, thanks).
I’ve never met Owl, but we’re bloggers, over-thinkers (in recovery, maybe), and ashtangis. She warms my heart just as a personal friend would. I made my first website in 1995, and within that year made friends through the web. It’s not so strange to me. As with anything, I employ discretion.
It was also in 1995, before my first solo international trip, that I joined an organization called Servas. “Servas hosts offer hospitality to approved travellers of every ethnicity, creed and nationality. Through Servas, travellers have opportunities to meet hosts, their families and friends, and join in their everyday life (excerpted from their website).” They weren’t online at the time. There was an application, a fee, and an interview. Once approved, I received a book of hosts for the countries where I was traveling. All this through the US mail. It was great fun. Through it, and a book called People to People, I met friends in Europe I have to this day, including a Lithuanian family I take for my own. (The photos are, top to botttom, of Dad Myrius in their living room, with his son Regimantas behind him, Mom Regina making bulviniai blynai, and Regimantas visiting NYC years later.)
Servas is online now, but it’s been eclipsed by Couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing is for those interested in “Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time.” Very few have heard of Servas, but most travelers and youngsters know of Couchsurfing. I first heard about it through Anya, an in-the-flesh friend I met through the internet (about seven years ago via a harvard listserv on central asia, or siberia, or something). An anthropologist and intrepid traveler, I don’t think Anya has couchsurfed, but she talked about a male friend at Columbia U. who liked to host people with great frequency, particularly young girls. Later I heard about it from other people who said that it was used largely to find a free place to stay. My first impressions were not great—certainly not ambassadorial—but I did sign up before my long trip to Australia, and met some people before I left New York. Like Servas, many couchsurfing hosts prefer to meet others for drinks or to show them their home town rather than to host them. This I did, and still do on occasion. I’ve met some great people. But really, for most, inviting anyone to stay in her home is a bit fraught. To invite perfect strangers? Who has the time?
One’s attitude to this, like most social networking sites, can be a litmus test of personality. There are really lovely people on the site looking to meet locals where they travel, like I was sixteen years ago. Now? I don’t know. My travel style has changed, and I tend to go to places I already know people. If lovely people contact me, I do like to meet them, certainly. These people send a message about themselves and what they related to in my profile—i.e. why we might enjoying meeting one another. Oh yes, like a dating site, there are profiles, which does cause confusion (conflation) for some. There are others just looking for a free place to crash. They write carbon-copy form letters about themselves and seem not to have troubled themselves to read their potential host’s profile. These people I ignore. And there are others still who give the site the reputation that Anya’s friend lends it. Why T likes to call couchsurfing “The Global Hookup Party.” This we will talk about more. Next time.
I’m not much for social connectivity on the web. Well, it’s quality, not quantity that I enjoy, in social media as with most everything else. I have made some great connections over the years (in fact, I’m sitting at home, which used to be Anya’s. She moved to Michigan. I met her years ago (six?) through an anthro listserv). Last week, a flickr contact, cityNnature, posted this photo (left) of her Farsi studies. Beautiful! Check out her images. She makes Detroit look gorgeous.
This week, another flickr contact, insideowl, posted her Sanskrit studies (below). They don’t know each other, or their photo posts, though they both live in Michigan (I’ve never been to MI. No, wait, once as a child I think we went to Dearborn. I vaguely remember the old cars). Well, I think Ideowl still lives in MI. She seems to be all ashtanga in Mysore, India for awhile now. (Yes, that’s jealousy you detect.)
I just did a little search for a pic by cityNnature, and she has a shot of herself doing yoga. Of course. Of course she does yoga. We three do not know each other and most likely never will. But we have enough in common that we bump into each other on the web and connect. This, as well as finding and maintaining old friendships, is what I love most about the social nonsense of the web. The serendipity.
Our web lives seem so beautiful and easy. cityNnature’s home looks to die for and it seems she has time for nothing but making beautiful photos and studying Farsi, the language of poetry. Insideowl is in one amazing locale after the next, waxing poetic and beauty. I ran into someone the other day who thought I was abroad, because of the images I’ve been posting on flickr (from 11 years back). But we present this way because we have to. It’s not meant to be an escape from the quotidien, but an honor of the beauty in it. What’s the wisdom of venting the struggles, the ugliness, and the pain? Well, yes, plenty, but it’s hidden in poetry to protect others, ourselves, and situations. To protect our quotidian—which might not even deserve or need our protection.
Both of the images remind me a bit of this photo I took years ago in one of my favorite places in the world, Lyabi Haus, the fountain in the middle of Bukhara. I’m not practicing scripts but am journaling the tour guide life (which later turned into posts). The boy in the background, at right, is Jafar, who Ulugbek tells me is now, 11 years later, the ladies’ man of Bukhara.
No, I’m not in Oz. Only in the archive. I’ve finally made it to the 2009-2010 Australia trip. Only one year left! And who isn’t burning for an update? Today I’m on December 15, 2009: Cactus Beach, Eastern Nullarbor, SA, image 8,263. Wow. What a country.
While I admit I’m never thrilled about the cold, NYC is especially pretty and festive this time of year, and I’m glad it’s still my home. Editing the Australia photos confirms that—though it was an amazing trip in a truly stunning country (with the weirdest, coolest animals in the world).
Going through the photos makes me want to tell the stories, of course. The scenery is so stunning and gorgeous. Once again, I’m looking back to tell stories about trips in the past, because I didn’t want to spend too much time on the computer while traveling, and because I didn’t have time when I got back. Time does give interesting perspective, though. On a 5,881 mile road trip, you can be sure there are fantastic tales.
Few Australians make that trip across the Nullarbor, and many think it’s crazy (particularly in a 1997 Holden Commodore station wagon, affectionately known as Green Dragon). For all the traveling Aussies seem to do in the world, many don’t see much of their own country. Strange, but I certainly didn’t mind the pristine, empty beaches. So beautiful.
Update: I made it to December 17, 2009! The birthday of not one, but two great-nephews (HB Porter & Isaac!). I’m stopping for now on image 8360, one year ago today, with the realization that I did not shoot at all on the stretch in South Australia from Port Augusta, down the B82, with its cute towns, to Adelaide, over to the Great Ocean Road, where I picked up on December 20th.
A few weeks ago while I waited for my mani/pedi to dry, I grabbed O Magazine (Oprah’s) off the top of the pile and flipped the pages. I stopped on an interview with Akronite Chrissie Hynde, who, at 59, is still rocking. She’s amazing. There was a photo of her in this excellent t-shirt, which I decided at first sight I had to have. So, nails dry and at home, a lengthy internet search ensued. Somehow I found her in this brilliant video she made of Akron, to “Break Up the Concrete.” That’s the t-shirt.
This is gorgeous. Chrissie hits the best of Akron, much of which has been there for decades. Among my faves are Luigi’s, which was (is?) the only place in Akron to get a bite in til 4am (a delicious bite, I might add), and the Sojourner Truth historical marker, which marks where she gave her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at a Universalist Church in 1851. And, my God, Chrissie’s car. My maternal grandmother had similar wheels when I was little. A Grand Torino, in red (at right). Notice the made-in-Akron B.F. Goodrich tires. My paternal grandmother worked there (Goodrich) on an assembly line and they paid her retirement and prescriptions (she had a $1 co-pay. I deny all stories that I took advantage of our identical names and had birth control pills filled for $1. Flatly deny. They knew us both at the pharmacy anyway, because, before I left, we often went together to get her groceries and scripts) until she died at age 95 in 1999. Imagine that from a corporation of today?
Yes, though it’s been a long time, I’m originally from Akron. And why yes, I still love Lebron (Heat rah!). Most Akronites do. It’s the Clevelanders he has driven to pyromania. At least, the few I’ve surveyed. One of the many things I appreciate about LeBron is that when I answer, “Akron,” the first thing mentioned is no longer Alcoholics Anonymous or rubber. Regarding the Miami Heat, I would be the last person to blame a man for getting the hell out of dodge, especially to a town with better weather. It’s amazing he didn’t do it sooner.
It’s not just Chrissie and Lebron. Jim Jarmusch, a Columbia grad, is from Akron. His dad worked for Goodrich, too. Not on the line, though. And DEVO, of “Whip It” fame. They first played out at a Kent State Arts Festival when I was a few months old. Yes, Akronites are a bit quirky.
If I get any comments or emails about my mani/pedi and “Ain’t I a Woman” in the same post, I will crack you upside the head. Even if we don’t, I pretend we live in a society that allows us to define ourselves as women precisely as we like. You will not burst that bubble, so don’t try.
I’ve now archived (and keyworded) 1670 photos. My bum hurts from sitting. I’ve barely begun. I remembered and located an excel file full of info about my shoots in 1999-2000, so I have detailed dates. I love that, though it’s more info to key in. I took this photo ten years ago Thursday (May 6). This pontoon bridge leads up to (what remains of the) Aral Sea, from Urgench, in Uzbekistan. That’s where we were headed. The light there is always this harsh and flat. Oh, what a land.
The last installment of “I <3 NY.” For better or worse (…richer or poorer?), life here is like nowhere else.
♥ Samad’s Gourmet. On Broadway between 111th and 112th, Hikmat and Wassim run a great little deli with fantastic wraps, muffins, and coffee. Their excellent baba and hummous are made with tahini they bring in from Lebanon. The two friends are always good for a chat and seem to know half their customers, which inspires a loyalty strong enough to keep some of us away from the neighborhood bully, West Side Market, across the street.
♥ Galleries. I don’t have favorites, I just love that there is always something to see. I think that I might see less because I know something is always there (if you are in a smaller place, you make sure to see what you can, when you can). My friend, Peter, blogs about what he wants to see and where, so if your interested in what to see now, check him out. Above: Matthew Marks. (Okay, Sasha Wolf Gallery is great for photography).
♥ My favorite museum is the Guggenheim (pictured above in grainy cell phone snap). I love the sloping gallery and have seen some amazing exhibitions there. Cai Guo-Qiang and Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle come to mind (heavens, was that eight years ago? I loved that). The Metropolitan Museum of Art is worthy of years of exploration, and the rooftop cafe/bar offers great views of the park. After reading the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (by E. L. Konigsburg) as a child, the Met has been a beloved place. Yes, the Natural History Musem. Who’s coming to the silk road thing with me? Yes, the Rubin Museum. It’s such an incredibly beautiful space with great shindigs on Friday nights. MoMA? I’ve never loved MoMA. Part of it is the crowds, as the only time I truly enjoyed it was an empty night on the eve of a holiday. And part of it is that I’m partial to staring at pretty things.
♥ Cold, fresh snow air. I don’t like cold winds, but I love do love the smell and crispness of the air when it snows. And when it’s so cold that few people are out crowding the streets. The Swedes like to say, “There’s no bad weather. Only bad clothing.” Bundle up and go play!
♥ New York Moments. #1 comes last. They pop up everywhere if you let them. Moments with strangers on the subway when you both observe some third-party behavioral silliness or transgression and you lock eyes understandingly, made all the more intimate by the fact that such communication is generally forbidden. Moments when you overhear snippets that make you giggle out loud (a bit less special now given the curious popularity of the mobile phone. This device has made these snippets entirely too frequent and at times, cumbersome. Alas, I do celebrate that they do not yet work underground).
Further: Stumbling on a tag scrawling your best friend’s nickname. Spotting the silhouette of a guy in a top hat, who’s singing opera while pacing underneath a bridge in the park. Admiring the outfit of a lady at lunch who has very interesting ideas about how to accouter herself (e.g. above @Caviarteria), whilst you bemoan that the people who have money in this city so seldom have the taste or creativity to know how to use it properly. A man dining with his bulldog. The erroneous number of carbs in bagels, mushrooms, cream of wheat, and jello scribbled on a MTA trashcan in silver pen. Superman strapped to the grill of a delivery van. I could make a slide show of favorite NY moments captured on film, and perhaps I will. For now, a set of my favorite NY images are up on flickr. It features a NY moment or two.
I hope you had fun with these posts and got a sense of why I love this place. If you have questions or comments, or want to share why you <3 NY, do drop a line or make a comment.
I’ll post superman tomorrow.
This installment gets into favorite treks, neighborhoods, and a few sites. I’ll add photos tonight, as (surprise!) I’m having troubles accessing them through scancafe. (The box of images and DVDs was returned today. I’ll see them tonight!)
♥ Coney Island to Brighton Beach. This walk is one of my favorites. I drag friends out here and show them Coney (pictured above), then take them down the boardwalk to Little Odessa, where Russians (and other ex-Soviets) have made their home. In the winter, the old ladies sit on benches in their furs and kvetch about their children. In the summer, everyone frolics in the sea, while Russo-Brooklyn’s finest drink beers in the boardwalk cafés, e.g. Tatiana, and stare. Then it’s to some bookstores and shops on Brighton Beach Avenue, and lunch or dinner at Gina’s Cafe or Cafe Glechik. Neither have great food, but Gina’s has that post-Soviet wanna-be-hip cafe ambiance that will make a traveler nostalgic, and Glechik is typical heavy Russian fare. It’s BYO, so grab $2 Baltika beers in the Pakistani Deli next door. The neighborhood feels more like the ex-Soviet Union than Russia does, because the immigrants have hung on to what feels like home, for better or worse. If you’re seeking the Russian gangster experience, head for one of the restaurant nightclubs, like Odessa or National (pictured below). The dancing, costumes, and shows are totally over the top. Это здорово. Bring lots of cash. Far too many born and bred New Yorkers have not had this experience. What a shame.
♥ Astoria. In 1999-2000, I lived on 33rd Ave, near 29th St and Broadway in Astoria. I loved it there. Astoria is known for its Greek community, but also has lots of Eastern Europeans (especially Bosnians) and Egyptians, which makes for a lively stroll through the neighborhood. There are great Greek cafes and lots of good Thai, Egyptian, and Colombian places. A favorite is Uncle George’s, on Broadway, a grungy Greek taverna open 24/7. No coffee is served. Neither is breakfast. Just the regular, greasy, lamb-laden menu all around the clock. (Touristy? How many “fodor’s-lugging tourists” trek out to Queens?) They serve extremely garlicky fare, with cheap carafes of house wine. The food is certainly not refined, but the experience is very Astoria, and good fun. Another favorite Euro-Astoria experience: Zlata Praha, for Slovak and Czech food and décor.
♥ On at least one occasion I walked from Astoria to Jackson Heights, to get a feel for Queens. I also adore Jackson Heights, though I recommend taking the train over walking. Some Indian friends refuse to go because it’s “dirty,” but I love the trip out to eat, shop, and enjoy. The main strip is full of South Asian restaurants, sari boutiques, jewelry stores (gold, lots of gold), music shops, and sweet stalls. There’s a huge grocery store, Patel Brothers, with great bargains on rice, spices, tiger biscuits, you name it. My favorite restaurant closed, so try your luck where you may.
♥ Staten Island Ferry to Little Sri Lanka. This is a more recent favorite. The Staten Island Ferry is delightful. I take visitors on it at least four times a year. It was always a bit of a drag in Staten Island, because the turnaround often meant an annoying wait in a nasty room, but the terminals have been refurbished on both sides, making the journey more pleasant. And I’ve found San Rasa, a Sri Lankan restaurant that’s a 10-minute walk from the Ferry. There’s a Sri Lankan neighborhood with more groceries and restaurants a further 10-minute walk up Victory Street (around Cebra St). That makes for a long return, so I usually stick with San Rasa. If you want to try Sri Lankan food, which well-prepared is amazing, without the trek, Sigiri in the East Village is worth a visit. Both are B.Y.O.
♥ Fort Tryon Park/Cloisters. If you want a break from the city but can’t make it out of town, take the A train up to Fort Tryon Park. The gardens have faded over the last few years, but the views of the Hudson River and the Palisades are stunning, and the air feels cleaner here than further downtown. The Cloisters (part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) are a quiet, gorgeous escape from the bustle of Manhattan. There are plenty of cafes around for lunch—New Leaf in the park, and a few on 187th Street. Or grab some sandwiches at Frank’s Market and have a picnic in the park.
Okay, long enough. The third and last part of “I <3 NY” will mention the obligatory NY cultural faves as well as our biggest draw, NY moments.
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.