Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Candles, Chaos and Ceilidhs

Had one of my "I hate Sri Lanka" days recently. We have regular power cuts (one whole day a week) something to do with repairs to a substation or something. I gather from people who live in our suburb, that it is a permanent feature of life here. The news papers, in a surprisingly efficient way, publish when your power cut day will be (sometimes) so you can plan your day round no fans, no a/c, no fridge, oven, iron etc. Only they published the wrong days......we knew ours was coming up on the 25th . Surprise surprise therefore when the power went off at 9.45 on the 18th. It stayed off till 9.30 pm a 12 hr one. A personal best I think. So I managed to cook by candlelight, we have 2 gas burners, and wash up by candle light.

We also discovered the cover of darkness brings out the cockroaches. I felt something run over my (bare) toes, and sure enough, not content with having a gecko fall onto my forehead from a cupboard, I now had a cockroach running over my feet whilst trying to wash up in near darkness.

Still, having had coffee with a friend in a garden the previous week only to hear the gardener found a snake in their garden that very lunchtime, (still haven't caught it) I am always thankful for any wildlife encounter that is not a snake.

Then on Sat afternoon, it was the St Andrew's church bazaar, quite a vicar of Dibley time- warp affair it has to be admitted, but nevertheless our 6 yr old was very keen to attend and pick up some bargains at the white elephant stall, hook a few ducks in the paddling pool and guess the number of sweets in the jar. I had offered to bake cookies and cakes for the Sun Schl stall so we just had to be there. However the Colombo police, in time honoured fashion, had other plans. They had decided to do one of their "100%" checks which is exactly what it sounds like .

EVERYONE, using every route into Colombo, is stopped and checked, bringing everything to a grinding halt. I know, because I tried all 3 routes from our suburb. M was so irate I suggested he get out of the car and get a tuk tuk home. He did. Suffice to say it took us 1 hr 45 min to get to the church. It's 8 km (5 miles away)

My son was in tears in the back saying he was going to miss everything and I was trying to explain what was going on. Not easy to get inside the mind of the Colombo police force I can tell you, and than translate it for a 6 yr old. Civil war yes, terrorism in Colombo yes, but they (so I have now been told) often do this on a Saturday (obviously haven't been trained in "the element of surprise Cato" at Inspector Cluseau's Police academy) They are SO predictable, and only checked INTO Colombo, so you could (if a terrorist with a bomb in your tuk tuk) just turn round and go home (unless you have cakes to take to a church bazaar) so I guess it IS a deterrent at least.

But it was IMMENSELY frustrating. The hours we spend sitting in traffic, encountering rd blocks, police checks etc etc.

However this week we have had a very un-Sri Lankan time, though probably what is typical for many ex-pats living a certain lifestyle. And we had a really good time! On Thurs we went to a performance by the creative arts students at OSC, followed by a reception for a former OSC creative arts teacher who died in a terrorist bomb attack in Qatar. There, the school principal came up to chat to me, and we had a long conversation where it cropped up I was a teacher, and he asked if I missed it, and invited me to do some supply teaching in the school. I then went to chat to the primary head as he is my son's principal, he also asked if I missed the teaching and suggested I do some supply there. So that was great.

Then last night we did a very-ex-pat thing and went to the St Andrews Caledonian Ball (well I AM 3/8 Scottish.) It was nice because we knew about 10 couples there from church or school, and the 'Chieftain' of the Society is our pastor (we go to a Scots Kirk) and the vice chieftain is the principal of our son's school who I talked to the night before at the play. I did, I admit, feel like Cinderella going to the ball. Only our 4th evening out in 10 mths so hardly surprising. (Yes I am still counting them) And I certainly did have a ball!

There was a pipe and drummer there (flown in from Scotland!) who were fab, we had the procession of a haggis, a toast to the haggis, a toast to St Andrew, the Queen, the president and people of Sri Lanka, I think Uncle Tom Cobbley was in there somewhere too. And a ceilidh of course. We had haggis, tatties and neeps as one of the courses, (except they had put it on the menu but then couldn't find any neeps, so it was turnip-less) and oatcakes with cheese afterwards but otherwise a 'normal' menu.

The British High commissioner gave a hilarious speech and then we found ourselves in a set with him and his wife doing the most complicated "flowers of Edinburgh" dance I've ever done, which turned out to be equally laughter inducing. I think that's what I like about country dancing, it's a lot funnier than a disco, and people dont take themselves as seriously, even if they are the British High commissioner.

All the proceeds of the ball go to Sri Lankan charities and they have a raffle and a prize based on your ball ticket number. And I won a flight to Singapore! I heard my ball ticket number and leapt up, whereupon M pulled me down again saying no it's not you, it's the raffle tickets. No one was sure and they kept calling it. SO in the end after this rather farcical push me-pull you tussle with M, I just got up and went forward , (it was My ticket.) whereupon the vice chieftain (also the principal of our son's school) said "well done J" which was nice that he remembered me. I was just So excited that I had won ANYTHING! 1st time ever. Clever marketing too, because either I go alone, or we have to buy THREE more tickets to take the family, and then pay for accommodation etc once there.

It's also been a great wk for our son. His class elected him to be their primary student council rep. He has had a training day, and his teacher who ran the training said he absolutely loved it, and is taking it very seriously. She felt he wd be great and it suited the way his mind worked. He was so chuffed and it's a good tangible reminder to him that his class mates like him, because he still struggles with the whole friendship issue and drifts from one group to the next, but that is mainly because the girls keep telling him he can't join in their games. And he gravitates towards girls more than boys.

This would explain why on his Christmas list he wrote 'girl wig' I asked why. He said so he could join in the girls' games as they keep telling him "only girls allowed"......... He was utterly serious.

Our 2 yr old is up to her usual 2 yr old stuff. We followed a trail of hair round the house last w/e. She had cut a huge wodge out of it from her crown, so she now has a tufty bit sticking up in the middle of her head, and a slight bald patch........... I also caught her trying to cut thru M's speaker cable, and cut a hole in the mattress, all with her v blunt (fortunately) children's scissors (now under lock and key, I keep forgetting she can climb...)

She also felt-penned on the walls, emptied her wardrobe of all its contents, licked the nozzle of the ant killer liquid, tried to remove a door lock with a screw driver, and pushed small beads up her nose. Honestly why is it always the same things? Makes you wonder if there's a two yr olds' manual on "Making Mischief". Chapter headings including Wreaking Havoc, Cutting Hair and Other Banned Materials, Drawing on Things, Consuming Poisons, Ruining Mum's Make Up, Sticking Small Objects up the Nose etc etc.

I'm just wondering what the next chapter is......... I hope there isn't a Volume Two.

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