Slowly and carefully Sri Lanka and me are catching up. After the rough and challenging trick school of Colombo, thank you for this lesson, truly, feeling arbitrary unwelcome, abandoned the idle awareness of the last weeks, months in Southeast Asia, I learn to play game. And I play it with amusement. I still smile cynical, rocking my understanding, remembering my second tuk tuk ride in Colombo. “Don´t trust anyone on Sri Lanka.” A second later the driver and his company, and there is always a mate, blocking they way out of the tuk tuk´s cabine, tried to rip me off, as blank as their rudeness and unscrupulousness allowed – and I suppose there is no limit when it comes to a union of greed and stupidity, charging not less than 15 times the regular price. And as if this is not enough, he asked me to support and complete his compilation of foreign bills, “I don´t have a 20 € bill. Can you give me, only small money for you.” If they see a spark of insecurity, fear or hesitating doubtfulness in your eyes, and they see it if you want or not, your are fucked, just fucked. But anyway, as I said and as you know, there are fuckers are all around the world.
So. I am now a player too, be aware, scumbags!
From Fort, the main railroad station in Colombo, we jumped on the train to Kandy. We? Jose, a pleasant company from the Philippines, whom I met at the hostel, a marathon man, a experienced traveler, sort of senior and a bemused but amusing guy, asking every ten meters for the way, even if there is no way to get lost. My first company for the next two days. Well done. Thank you, Jose. We waited at the station for the very local 2nd and 3rd class train to Kandy, which is named the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, the main hub, from where to explore the heritages and wilderness. The trains are usually as I have seen so far packed. In Europe you would call it train surfing, on Sri Lanka taking the train. Jose´s jaw dropped, eyes bloated. He turned to me. I knew what he was intend to say. “I told you, it´s cheap, like you said, but don´t expect a seat.” “Oh my god.” His standard comment, with a lovely undertone of humor. So I laughed. We exchanged the 2nd class tickets, ended up 1st class, AC and TV. I didn´t mind. I don´t need to proof myself anymore, traveling from A to B as local, mostly barely doable, as possible, arriving completely soaked with sweat from your tiny space neighbours and your back a roadkill. There is a point you realize it is not worth to, not for your traveler ego and not for you backpacking pride. This kind of pride is heavy enough anyway. So we enjoyed the cool ride, the view and the comfort up to the mountainous Kandy district. Kandy itself reminds me to Italy, with its lake and the river twirling around, the climate, fresh air, less humid, nearly cold at night. With its flying foxes, monkeys, huge lizards, momma spitting old women, black diesel puff and blow – sort of Italy, if you narrow your eyes, your just shut them. It´s a busy town, the capital, trading center, melting pot and touristic hub. Seems like hundreds of buses crossing and jamming the roads all day long, far up and down in any hilly direction. So we did the tourist attraction. Visiting the marvellous Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic, the Royal Botanical Garden, hiking some hills, enjoying the rainy and misty view, more Buddhas, more entrance fees, more disturbing the believers, praying and being blessed. If I wouldn´t feel that bad, meaning ignorant, I would have passed all of it. Another temple? Staring with an artifical interest at monks and their daily boring life of a lemming. Being watched by monks, guards and other tourists, asking me if they can shoot a picture of me. Temples. Religion. Reading descriptions, name of kings and queens, conquerors and other loathsome morons… I admit, it is a matter of knowledge, my lack of knowledge to put them in a bigger picture, to judge them not randomly but basically. I need people. I need to watch them, to smell them, their excrements, for an incremental approach to empathy and sympathy. It needs time, more efforts, awareness and patience, but finally it is far more rewarding than dates and names, which I will not keep anyway.
Sri Lanka offers me something… had already dismembered my emotional mayhem. I keep it open, weeping. It´s a dark place, mystical on the surface, behind – I sticked my hand through and cried my eyes out. Slowly we catch up, Sri Lanka, we still have enough time to discover our obscurity, you, with your army of crows, me, with my black inked vulnerability.
Finishing my entry with a laugh, I lost my cap today, clipped at my shorts to dry, pouring rain today. – My cover, talking about vulnerability, at least it hides a part of my dubious appereance. I felt suddenly naked even I didn´t wear at. I must have been less then 5 meters walk after I realized my loss. I went back, no cap. “Hello my friend, where are you from?” One of the numerous persons of interest involving me in a chat, playing the game – don´t trust, remember. “Oh your cap. I found 1000 rupee bill in the morning on the sidewalk. A woman lost it. It didn´t belong to me. Your cap is gone. Same like everywhere.” He was a beggar. Beautiful face, life carved in bony flesh. “Not true,” I think of Myanmar or Cambodia, “but probably the cap is gone, yes.” We had a chat, we said goodbye. Less than 15 minutes later I passed the same corner again, the center of Kandy is quite compressed around central market. Pouring rain again, elephants and monkeys. The dogs here are too chilled. The cats, haven´t seen one yet. A seller was covering with plastic his stall, with my cap on his head. I was sure he saw me loosing it, and not only him. “My friend, my cap fits you perfectly, ha?” And at the drop of MY hat, “Take it.” That´s it? – I laughed and left. Oh my Sri Lanka.