Saturday, December 26, 2009

Scorpions, reindeer and underage drinking: all in a weeks work.

First things first, I have officially had my very first pina colada and it was everything I expected it to be and more. This is worth documenting because I have been looking forward to that pina colada for years now.

The entire Rubesh clan (except for Kristian who is a stickler when it comes to alcohol) plus Steph traipsed up to the bar for a drink on the last night of our beach spell, which was received very well by Nicky who cockily waved about his own Bailys class with suave confidence. Pastor Ted A. Rubesh’s one comment?

“Good. We’re getting him started young.”

Going back in time a little here, the few days before our stint at the coast were full of activities of the tourist sort. We visited the Botanical Gardens (which were apparently the pleasure gardens of the last king of Sri Lanka, King Sri Vikrama Rajasingha) and had a wonderful time “ooooohing” and “aaaaaahing” at glorious arrays of orchids, poisonous snappers, rare trees and bats.

Childhood story time. Apparently, when I was little, I was met with a flock of schoolgirls, in this exact garden, who all decided that this strange, foreign baby would be interesting to pick up. Despite the crying, my stubborn streak kicked in and I turned on my heel and took off through the flowerbeds as fast as my little legs could manage…tailed closely by the grabbing, yelling, running flock. Where were my parents? Laughing. The entire time. Did they think to rescue me? No. I do not remember this childhood nightmare, but I am reminded of it every time we visit that garden by my dear father, who has never quite gotten over the incident himself.

The gardens are also full of prime hide-away spots for kanoodling couples avoiding the prying eyes of protective parents and wagging tongues (no pun intended). They are everywhere. They are like the plague. Thankfully, we had our own couple this time, so we didn't feel quite as out of place despite the fact that they weren't quite as schmoozy.

The next trip was a spontaneous undertaking wherein the family packed in the car and bumbled off to the town of Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya is “tea country” you see, and for any visitor to Sri Lanka, “tea country” is a must. It takes about two and a half hours and three thousand hairpin bends (give or take a few) and there you are, in the most gorgeous tea in the world. Its cooler up in them hills (occasionally even requiring a sweatshirt, would you believe) and so was the main stomping grounds for the old colonial Brits. Consequently, Nuwara Elya boasts golf courses, gardens, horse race tracks, tea bungalows and an abundance of little holes in the wall selling winter gear.

On the way up we made our traditional stop at Labookelie Tea Estate, where we took Steph on a jaunt through the tea factory and then sat ourselves down in the lovely little garden of the tea -house and took mid-morning tea in white china.

The Rubesh clan, unfortunately, is not exactly favorable to a sophisticated, quite atmosphere, and I don’t think the staff appreciated our poking and prodding of their decorative reindeer. It cannot be denied though that we have fun together (the reindeer looked evil anyway).

Moving forward once more, returning from the beach proved to be a massive excitement caused by none other than one of my favorite people on this earth: Melissa Wimalarathne. Melis and I have gone through laughs, tears, Geography class, rainforests, oceans, plays, swimming meets, sleep overs, sports meets and all the drama that goes on in a girls life between the ages of 11 and 21. She is the best and getting to see her after two and a half years has been one of the highlights of this trip! When she called and proposed lunch, it wasn’t even a question. The plan was Buddhini, Melissa and I meet up at the grocery store and head out to the restaurant of choice thereafter. So there we were yelling our heads off in the middle of the grocery store, when a certain Ms. Christina Peter emerged from the ice-cream isle with the coolness of a cucumber salad. I could do nothing but stand there and gape at her with mouth open and thoughts racing. What the heck. Chris made up the third of our trio at school and is another favorite. She is scarily intelligent, funny, blunt, organized to a fault and was supposed to be in Germany visiting her parents as a break from med school. Instead, she decided without a word to anyone to fly down to the motherland and cause the shock of our lives to occur.

Buddhini, Melissa and that order.

We were complete, and it was humorously appropriate that our friends 21st birthday party had a “back to school” theme going on. We celebrated Kavindha’s one-and-twenty in an old tea factory with about a hundred other people, enough food to feed a small nation, and a top-notch DJ - good times. One is bound to have a good time when one manages to cram roughly ten √©clairs down ones throat…the sugar high is unavoidable.

On that note, folks, I'm off for a round of coffee with the ma. Two hours of sleep calls that necessary.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sea Side Stories

The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out.
~Annie Dillard

It is a good day when:

  • Your littlest brother returns from India and you get to see him after six months.
  • Your first act of parliament as a newly reunited family is to order a large hot and spicy chicken pizza from Pizza Hut. This brand of pizza does not exist anywhere else on the globe and this, simply put, is a shame because it is terrific.
  • You see the Indian Ocean after two and a half years…and get to swim in it.
  • It is 95 degrees outside and the said ocean is at your disposal at any given moment of the day.

Indeed friends, Nicky is here. He has magically grown like the fabled beanstalk on crack and now towers roughly a foot above me. Wonderful. Gangly and goofy, he saunters about at 6’2”, so is pretty much the same except stretched out. Boarding school food is not helping this effect much in the skinniness department, and so the goal of this Christmas break is to fatten him up from status of spliced toothpick to status of pencil, at least.

Hebron is proving to be a little bit of a challenge for him. He misses his friends at home a lot and the freedom factor gets a little old. There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel…the sky seems to be showing signs of clearing.

“I got into the play Steph!” he excitedly told me on the drive to the beach and the theatre major in me was ecstatic.

“That’s so great! Tell me about it! Are you excited about the part?” I gushed as any big sister is supposed to.

“Well yea…” and then with increasing enthusiasm, “and I have a hot wife! Half French, half English…yea…”


What the heck happened to the kid whose most afeared punishment was to be sat next to a girl during math class?

...that, apparently. Handsome, yes?

Two little boys just ran by me in matching sponge bob outfits. Remarkable.

After that smooth little segway, I am going to carry on describing for you the joy that is the Sri Lankan coast.

We have been down here about three days now and it is baking hot…with just enough sea breeze to keep one from feeling like one has been unceremoniously shoved into a pizza oven. My ipod has chosen to play for me “Baby its cold outside” which is humoring me just a little. The ocean is about the temperature of perfectly balanced bath, the pool a strategically placed oasis located right between hotel lawn and beach, so one can sit in its refreshing expanse and keep an eye on the goings-on on both sides of the spectrum. People-watching at such places offers endless opportunities for entertainment.

I have made significant progress on creating for myself a virtual swimsuit….should I choose to run around in the buff at any time, the worst people could say from a distance would be “white’s really not her color...” That said, I have no immediate plans to test this theory out. Especially seeing as the beach is positively festooned with beach boys who have not a care in the world but surfing, making snide remarks about tourist women and volleyball. If anyone is in the need for an ego fix, here is the place to make an appearance. I don’t think I’ve ever been called “a nice lady” so many times in my life. I found this particularly congenial when they took it upon themselves to inform me of this after a two mile run along the beach. Nothing like being called “a nice lady” when one resembles an over ripe tomato next in line for the puree machine.

Along that stream of thought, allow me to issue a small piece of advice…if you have not run in a significant while and are then struck with the romanticized idea that a run along the beach in the setting sun would make a picturesque re-entry to your work-out regime, stop yourself if you value a pain-free existence. Experience is a harsh teacher and a bow-legged cowboy stomp does not compliment a bikini very well.

Three extensive buffets a day are also not overly complementary to a bikini, but here is where we decide we don’t really care as much as we previously had thought, and that’s what sarongs are for anyway. Bottomless chocolate mousse is not a thing to be taken lightly. Thank goodness they have water aerobics scheduled at 11 AM every morning for those who have adopted this concept a tad too eagerly. This session always ends with an animated interpretive dance to “The roof is on fire” which involves a significant amount of clapping and hollering and waving about. It is sure to get the blood moving, no doubt.

On that note, I’m going to go see about getting my own blood moving…whether that’ll be accomplished via swim in the sea or pina colada, I have yet to decide. Maybe ocean followed by pina colada. Decision made.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

There may or may not be a spider in my bed...

Ayubowan to you and good morning.

Finally, after four days of rain, clouds, rain, thunder, lightning, rain and more rain the sun has, at long last, decided to grace us with its presents. It is currently 85 degrees, a slight breeze is ruffling the tops of palm trees and blue sky abounds. Perf.

Monday was Monday. A combination of sleep deprivation and awful weather is not conducive to a good mood and I nearly gave in to the temptation of being a slightly pathetic Christmas grouch. This plan was vetoed however, by a call from one of my besties, Peronie, a swim in a thunderstorm and a festive bout of Christmas cookie baking with my dear mother and Steph (Kristians girlfriend we're talking here, just to clarify that I am, in fact, not talking about myself in the third person) with a mix of Point of Grace, Amy Grant and John Legend playing backup. We thereafter made our way to Trinity Chapel for my old high school's annual carol service. This was very pleasant and we have now solidly established that Kristian has grown and I have not. Meeting old teachers consisted of a respectful kiss on both cheeks (this is the Sri Lankan handshake) and “Kristian, darling, my, you have gotten so tall” followed by looking down at me, slight pause and then “Just the same.”

The last two days have dawned gloriously sunny, with dad, who is, in general, too chipper in the morning for his own good, happily waking us up at 7 to power walk around the block. Power walking around the block is one thing when it is 50 degrees outside and flat. It is something else when it is 80 degrees and about as flat as the rockies. No matter, the ensuing exhaustion was put to rights by good coffee and recovery was quick.

Upon our principal’s request, we visited our old stomping grounds: Colombo International School, Kandy – premise for many a childhood tale of cutting class to hop three-wheelers into town, stints in detention and shop lifting from the tuck shop. Upon entering his office, I was met with the unexpected but absolutely wonderful sight of none other than my dear old classmates Nicholas and Buddhini. We stood there staring blankly at each other for a second trying to comprehend the situation and then a robust reunion ensued. We went to the closing assembly, revisited our old classrooms, sat around wasting time in the library (just like old times!), watched a staff vs. students cricket match and bought chocolate milk from the tuck. I now realize why I have the immune system of a rock...the good Lord only knows how many bacteria were swimming around in that bottle. It’s probably what makes it the best chocolate milk in the world.

That afternoon was kicked off with a high-spirited reunion with of my dearest friends Zaynab, to the tune of Backstreets Back blaring through the halls of Kandy’s new city centre. Fueled by this favorite childhood dance number, the yells were perhaps louder than were necessary and security was alerted much to our dismay. As they approached however, we made our stealthy get away, met up with a bunch of other friends and escaped to the Casamara hotel where we took our afternoon tea at their roof top caf√©. Truly, it was an eventful afternoon.

Dancing. If I had a few shreds less common sense and didn’t enjoy school as much as I do, I would pack my bags, move to Argentina and become a dancer. As it stands however, salsaing at dance class is the next best thing and thankfully, it comes pretty dang close. What with attempting to gracefully switch between Quickstep, Cha-cha, Sarrock, Jive and Salsa, and pretending to remember a Cha-cha routine we learned years ago, my body just about attained the shape of a pretzel. I think the last time I sweated that much was climbing Mt. St. Helens.

There was something alive on my foot. It is now gone which means it is now on my bed…which is fittingly sporting a safari-print comforter. I am going to go investigate because I can think of many things I would rather wake up to than a gecko or a spider of astronomical size.

Never a dull moment.

I would love for you to meet:

Peronie Stefel

Buddhini Wagasooriya

Madhawa Ranathunga

Zaynab Zubair (showing you the real way to drink tea :-)

The city of Kandy

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Curry, Coconuts and Coffee: We made it...

Dear Reader,

After 6 hours of car ride, 2 delayed flights, 21 hours of plane, 4 hours of layover, 3 lost suitcases, 1 tea stop and several near-fatal collisions with ancient buses, mangy dogs and the occasional cow, our bedraggled party arrived at the gates of the Rubesh residence in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Praise be to God.

Firstly, I thought my life had come to a shaky end half way across Northern India. I was woken up from an awkwardly positioned nap by the violent shaking of the plane, pitch blackness outside my window and the blinking, beeping sound of the seat belt sign. My very first thought was that the apocalypse was finally upon us but then seeing as turbulence was probably a more viable explanation, I went with option B. When the shaking didn't stop but in fact got worse, I began reasoning with myself and decided that death would be but a 20 minute deal, at worst, and about 19 minutes and 58 seconds of those 20 would be spent free falling, and haven't I always wanted to go sky diving? I promptly resumed my nap thereafter and did not awaken until the next joggle that was touch down.

Secondly, I have decided that sometime before I die, I'm going to write a book on all the creative ways one can pass the time in an airplane. In the past I have drawn, written, read...the usual. One time, I documented and took pictures of the sleeping patterns of passengers and their reactions to flash (snorting, turning over and smacking of the lips were favorites). I realize that this is creepy. This time I indulged in trashy celebrity magazines (I learned all about Tiger Woods affair and that two-tone neon lips are in), drank wine and did cross words, watched Alladin (right before we landed in Abu Dhabi...I figured it was appropriate) and spent a goodly amount of time trying to figure out what exactly was in my rather elaborate salad. Needless to say, I did not try it.

Bandaranayaka International Airport (go ahead, say it out loud, you know you want to) is a case of its very own. It was all decked out for yuletide festivities and Kenny G's christmas CD was apparently on repeat...I know this because we spent roughly three hours going through customs and I heard "Away in a Manger" played in expert sax about four times.

(allow me to just pause to say I was nearly run into by a bat. It ran into the window instead.)

What an odd feeling it was, stepping out of the airport amidst throngs of bustling, completely disorganized people, singhala, tamil, urudhu and english all being spoken at the same time, honking traffic and, palm trees...and wait, what? it even!

It's amazing really, what hours on the plane will go in one end, squirrel away up there for a few hours (or days in this case) and come out the other end in a different world. After two and a half years, I was reintroduced to beautiful stretches of paddy fields, sleeping under mosquito nets, geckos, coconut-trees, impossibly narrow roads, even more impossibly insane driving (the law seems thoroughly arbitrary in this department. They didn't even bother fitting our car with seat belts) and the epitome of good, spicy curry. It's good to be back.

Highlights of the last two days:
  • Seeing the rents...I have missed my moms hugs and my dad's never failing sense of humor.
  • Eating pol sambol that was so spicy it made me tear up...for reals.
  • Going to dance class and reconfirming to myself that jive is not my forte. I had an absolute blast none the less (dancing with Madhawa makes me look acceptable and my dance instructor's knack for similis still kills me every time he opens his mouth),
  • Taking pictures of our little sunday school kids in the christmas play this morning, singing gustily and slightly off tune.
  • A full-fledged monsoon down pour.
  • Being informed by little Kevin, very solemnly, that he was now five, and when aaki (big sister) was here last he was just three.
  • Drinking Sri Lankan milk coffee (one part coffee, two parts milk, two parts sugar)
  • Napping with the windows open.
Indeed, life is a wonderful thing. Especially since our suitcases arrived and we now have swimsuits to go raid the pool in tomorrow morn.