Monday, September 24, 2007

Tropical Fatigue

It's been a tiring sort of day. One the Tropics are all too good at. I must remember to choose my battles. Though actually I think I would choose these two again.

I took 18 beer bottles back to the shop today. These have been building up for months I hasten to add. You get money back for returned bottles. You also get money off your next carton of beers. However, I confused the issue by bringing back 18 bottles but only purchasing 12 more. I asked the cashier to give me the extra as money off the bill. This created consternation. A lady in a sari was summoned. This indicated she was more important than the girl on the till who wore a uniform of trousers. Then a man in a tie was called over. A few bag packers came over just to join in the fun.

I kept explaining that the money back was for the empty bottles, and wasn't dependent on me buying more beer. The newly bought beer in my trolley was counted and recounted, my till receipt was studied and passed round. One more person came over and was consulted. Eventually it was grudgingly agreed that indeed I was owed cash back for 6 bottles. Oh victory was sweet. I have never succeeded at this before. I have always backed down and just bought more beer! And it only took 4 people to make that decision....

In general In Sri Lanka, a few shops seem to have cottoned on to the idea that vouchers are a good marketing device, but you feel like a petty criminal actually producing one of these and claiming the discount. they are minutely examined (for forgeries I assume??)It always involves summoning several other shop assistants and invariably the manager to ok it. When I did this with a voucher for 50% off a hair cut, they came back, and raised the original quote by 2oo Rupees before knocking half off!

It is also well nigh impossible to get an exchange and certainly you don't get a refund anywhere for anything in Sri Lanka. Unheard of, even if, as happened to us, a book was faulty and had pages missing. It was our own silly fault I imagine for not checking every page in the book before purchasing.

I also had a run in with our next door neighbour, our landlord's father-in-law. He is possibly the most objectionable man I have ever met. He treats anyone who works for him as sub-human. he is rude to everyone, shouts at everyone, is mean spirited, even shout s at OUR househelp, Maheswary, and scolds her for things that are nothing to do with him. She is very good though and just says "I feel sorry for him, there is something wrong in his head"

His 'live-in' gardener does our garden for us, but he docks what we pay the gardener out of his monthly salary. Even though the gardener does it in his own time. In the 18mths we have been here, he has got through 5 gardeners, and the current one says he wants to leave. It is irresistible not to draw Oscar Wilde's conclusion (in paraphrase): to lose one gardener is unfortunate, but to lose 5 is certainly careless. And that's just it he couldn't care less. About anyone.

He came round once when I was out (it's always when I am out, to intimidate Maheswary) and announced to her that as he had fertilised and watered our rambutan tree, (ie the gardener had when doing our garden) he was entitled to the fruit. He then ordered her to pick him 30. This was my househelper, on my time, in my garden! The problem is he gave the house to his daughter as her dowry. But he has never really let go of it. He wanders into our garden to check things sometimes. He accused me of complaining when I enquired of our landlord where our curry bush had gone. It had been uprooted when we were away. He told me it was dead. Maheswary had picked curry leaves the morning before it was pulled up....

When we go away he phones Maheswary every day asking her where we are, what she is doing. He tells her to leave the gate open so he can get into the garden etc. He tells her off for opening the gate too fast, for arriving too late to put the rubbish out. etc . She is a feisty Tamil. She stands up to him. His response is "These people, think they are all superior because they are working for ex-pats" he describes any of his gardeners or staff as 'these people'. Nice.

On this occasion he asked her why we always kept the gate closed, and complained the gardener couldn't get in. He wanted the gardener to come in and fertilise a tree. I have always said he could knock on the gate. and he does. He said to Maheswary, "it's not as if they have any gold or jewellery to steal is it?" So I wrote him a very polite note back explaining that we kept it closed to keep out unwanted vistors... explaining we have all our french windows open, I am not alway sin, adn Maheswary may be upstairs. We have also had a lot of people begging or selling things, or sussing out the house, then running away. He of course was livid that Maheswary had told us what he had said. She always does, it's very enlightening.

He phoned me up, told me to be quiet and listen, to let him finish . I did, then I put my case clearly. He accused me of behaving in a way unfitting to Sri Lanka. Well it's true I used no form of bribery, exercised my freedom of speech, I didn't lie, I didn't threaten and I certainly didn't use personal abuse as a weapon of attack. So no place for me in the government then. Many of these are common in everyday life here too. You only have to read the Sri Lankan independent paper. They bewail it too, so I'm not being xenophobic.

I was reading in a book about Asia about a condition called 'tropical fatigue', in long term ex-pats in the Tropics, caused by lack of mental rest, the climate, the demands of daily life in a different culture, and excessive alcohol intake. All I need to do is drink a bit more and there, I have a diagnosis.

3 comments:

Iota said...

People pointing out typos is very irritating, but I have spotted a lovely one, so I hope you don't mind. "I'm not alway sin".

GM said...

There you are struggling for the money back on some beer bottles. How different from one part of Sri Lanka's elite - the BBC carries a story about a £10,000 dessert in one exclusive Sri Lankan hotel! -
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7016289.stm

Your husband wasn't the aid worker quoted was he?!!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Hey no worries, I am pretty dyspraxic when it comes to typing, and despite checking always miss a few. And when a post is short on laughs, they can always help.....

GM. Can't believe it was AN AID WORKER?? A politician much more likely. Have to say that's impressive. You wd be hard pushed to find £10,000 of goods & services to SPEND it on here, but of course our ever resourceful president managed it effortlessly it seemed. He bought his son an Aston Martin!! And it wasn't even his birthday....?? To appreciate the true irony of such an unsubtly corrupt gesture, you have to live here and use the roads. There are no motorways, the rds are full of potholes, cows, carts, stray dogs and far too much traffic. I have never gone over 80km/h. Mostly you do 40km/hr. An Aston Martin in Sri Lanka, wd be like owning a race horse on one of the (smaller) Maldivian atolls. I mean the president could have made his point about his status with a Lotus Elan or maybe even an Audi TT. There are only 2 Ferraris in the whole of Sri Lanka. Still that's politics here for you...