Where do the rupees go, family matters … A big girl’s party?

July 27, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Posted in Food, Friends, Life, Travel | 1 Comment
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I receive an allowance of 90,000 rupees per 3 months, which roughly works out at 1,000 per day to cover food, electric, water, phone bill, top up for mobile, toiletries and household stuff. On my way home today I did some shopping so thought I’d share with you what I spend

 50.00   For an hour at the internet

 40.00   A fax

520.00 hard ware shop 6 plastic coat hangers, 4 candles and lighter, 4 light bulbs, a bucket

120.00 fruit stall, 10 small bananas. Large water melon, an avocado

56.00 co op veg stall onions, okra=ladies fingers

465.00 co-op, hand wash, raisins, dates, peanuts and Bombay mix (treats!!)

60.00 tri Shaw -I was laden down and it was raining about 1 ½ km

1255.00 total rupees with the current exchange rate work out to equal £5.90.

So over the daily allowance but those household items are not a regular purchase but have to be bought , (neither are the treats but I was going on a 5 hour bus journey  where every shares stuff)Some days I don’t spend a rupee so I do manage  . The treats of weekends at the coast, clothes or a trip to Colombo, come out of my savings.

I love going to the market I have a couple of fave stalls where they know me, at the co-op (New initiative) you can pick you own veg they still smile when I buy small amounts, the other customers are shopping for families. It is so much nicer than the UK where I’d be forced to purchase pre packed produce in the big supermarkets  and often waste some as it would go off before I could eat it. I buy fruit and veg every couple of days.

There are loads of hard ware shops, I’m not talking B&Q, but they all carry a  wide range of  goods ranging from plastic imported from China, to clay cooking pots made locally, bulbs, candles ,elastic, crayons and VIM( powder used to wash the grease off your plates as most folk only have  a cold tap to wash up )It  doesn’t  seem to matter where you shop, locally the prices only vary by one or two rupees(Colombo is a different matter)The other type of shop is the bakery cum biscuit shop, the SL equivalent of Mc vites is Munchee, they have a wide selection of biscuits that in my little village every shop (or Kaddy) sells .You can usually purchase any thing from a cigarette, to a broom with cashew nuts and yoghurt in between. I have found the best thing to do no matter what size or disorganised it may seem, go in and look as if they don’t have what you want or you cant see it, the one down the road might and you may find something more interesting to try!

The utilities have recently gone up, water on a meter, actually not had a bill, the leccky averaging about 800 a month, telephone (mob) 1000, landline depends if I’ve phoned home aver 1-2000 per month again it is all relative. I’m aware of the rising food and living costs around the world I’m by no means pleading poverty, thought you’d like to know how it is for me.

           

Recently I’ve   heard from family and friends  via emails /text/letter/phone what’s they’ve  been up to which is great especially the photo’s( thanks keep ‘em coming).There’s been  Katie, my nieces first holy communion  in Galway, Faye my god daughter also made hers in Manchester, Jakey my nephew had his 2nd birthday  and Ted(Denise’s son) celebrated his 17th last week .All family do’s that I would have attended if I’d been in the UK( and invited obviously)…hey don’t worry it’s not going to be  a tear jerker, but I must admit I felt a bit home sick, not to be at these events ,you know how I enjoy a get together !Yes ok you’ve sussed me out  what I’m really thinking of and missing is a glass or 3 of chilled white wine, and the food of course!

Here in SL there is a big emphasis on the family, they do party and celebrate  the usual family occasions (see blog entry “new kid on the block”)and for traditional reasons  as well.

Helen invited me to attend  the gym owners daughters party  “ how old is she “ I asked,  to be informed it was not her birthday, but a party to celebrate the start of her menstruation!  It is SL tradition when a girl enters this stage of her life, she is off school for a week, kept in her room away from the male members of the family or friends. She is attended to by her mum and female family members and she is not allowed to bathe. At the given auspicious time she is assisted to bathe, her hair is washed and attended to, she is given a whole new outfit, shoes and jewellery included, to wear for when her guests arrive later that evening. She sits and receives her guests and their gifts, once every body assembles the music starts. The men start on the alcohol, the caterers serve the amazing buffet(rice and curry of course!) when the women have eaten the DJ gets going and the dancing starts!

It was a really lovely evening, everybody was again so welcoming. I could chat a little more confidently than the last time, I had a little boogie  to the Hindee tunes and ate far too much. As the night came to a close ,I watched a 7 year old  girl who had danced all night long in her purple party frock collapse in to her dads arms, I  remember thinking  I didn’t feel as home sick any more thanks to the “Big girls Party”…

Travels with my sis…

July 12, 2008 at 10:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Well my sister Rosie popped over from Hong Kong like you do, for a 4 day break in Sri Lanka. I was of course  very excited  at the thought of seeing a family member, seeing other parts of SL and of course the goodies she would bring! I arrived at the Beach Hotel in Negombo  ( 15mins from the airport )in plenty of time to make use of the  hotel facilities. Rosie was due to arrive at midnight. She had rung to inform me that, when she had arrived at the Cathy Pacific desk to check in she was informed that as she did not have a full page empty in her passport, there may be a problem with SL immigration??? she had been asked to sign a disclaimer…! I made some enquiries this end and was reassured that there would not be a problem the stamp was not a huge one , however Cathy Pacific had just left that nagging doubt what if… Rosie prepared for all occasions asked me to bring my passport just in case, if they refused her entry ,I was to get the next flight to Bangkok and have the weekend there instead ,so as I sipped my gin and tonic in the bath I contemplated my win win situation!

Anyway she waltzed through  the arrivals lounge the seasoned traveller that she is,there was nay problem at all.  As she unpacked we drank Stella and ate galaxy chocolate don’t you just love duty free! In her case there was  some DVD box sets some I was not familiar with but hey I am not fussed these days, tahini  (sesame seed paste vital for making hummus cant get it here)insect repellent, and of course gin and vodka ,oh yes a bottle of  bubbly(Tattinger  dahlings!)sorted… we slept soundly!

After a swim we enjoyed a fantastic brekky including beans on toast (haven’t had proper toast since leaving the UK)we travelled to Pinnewala to the elephant orphanage( see an earlier blog for details) and then on to the Kandy area. It was fantastic to be in the hill country, my recent ventures out and about in SL have been to the beach areas which are fab, but I am a country girl at heart! On route we stopped of at a tea factory ,as it was late we had the manager show us around, it was most informative and really hot. The temp to be endured by the workers  was generated by the driers ,we were assured they took breaks and rotated their place in the production line?!From here we travelled through to Kandy  which according to my copy Rough guide “is situated amidst precipitous green hills at the heart of the island”. We headed for the Villa Rosa hotel a couple of km west of the town, it was a fantastic location nestled in the hillside over looking the Mahaweli  Ganga(river)if you are thinking of visiting SL ,I highly recommend a visit, check it out on www.villarosa-kandy.com

Kandy itself is steeped in Sinhalese tradition and its unique cultural heritage is apparent everywhere, music, dance and architecture it is also home to the countrys most important shrine the Temple of the Tooth which is where we spent Saturday  morning accompanied by our guide Gammage. He was full of knowledge and anecdotes his English was very good, his photography needs a bit of practise or was that my new camera! From there we proceeded to Dambulla. I forgot to mention I had booked a car and driver for the trip which is the done thing over here. You hire a vehicle and driver for your trip he stays at the same hotels in the staff quarters and will drive where ever agreed on booking. These drivers have their favourite places where they get a bit of commission for bringing tourists. We gave into Saraths persuasion to visit a spice garden, and left feeling very relaxed having recieved a free head, neck and leg massage. As it was low season the student s practised on us using Ayurvedic preparations.

Next stop was the Kandalama Hotel on the edge of the Kandalama lake,one of the countrys most famous hotels, ranking among one of the finest works of Geoffrey Bawa ( I visited his home on return from Unawatuna see previous blog entry  Oh to be beside the seaside..also www.aitkenspenceholidays.com for more info) Here we enjoyed the pools (Rosie made it to the gym)and again fantastic SL cuisine. It was great just to just chill forget about work to spend time chatting or not ,and to enjoy this another very beautiful part of  the island of SL.Interestingly Rosie commented that I walked slower these days …must be getting into SL pace not such a bed thing hey?

Sunday morn dawned,it found us well rested ready to make the most of the cool of the day as we  were to climb Sigiryia- Lion Rock ,which was declared a world heritage site in 1982. It is a remarkable archeological site making it is one of SL’s memorable single attraction by its dramatic setting, as the Rough guide states “the spectacular citadel of SIGIRYIA  rises sheer and impregnable out of the denuded plains of the dry zone, towering 200 m above the surrounding country side” I couldn’t have put it better myself! I  have been known to suffer from a bit of veritigo ( remember St Pauls Cathedral Denise, Montserrat Barcelona, John- Sydney Harbour Bridge Alistair???) so as I approached, I did wonder would I be adding Rosie and Sigiryia to my list of throwing a wobbler at a great height? I said nowt to Rosie as she led the way up the narrow rusting stair well ,she was taking her time I enquired of her well  being, to see  in front of her an elderly tiny wee Sri Lankan lady, bare footed  slowly making her ascent,I stopped fretting and got on with minding my step! Wow it was worth it, what a breathtaking view at the top, to consider the Royal Palace that had stood here years before, the foundations remain today,amazing really fascinating!How on earth they manged to build such a place.You certainly would not want to forget anything at the shops thats for sure!The desent is a bit precarious but we made it without difficulty! A slow walk around the gardens we returned to the hotel for what I think was a well earned beer and lunch. After the mornings efforts we spent the afternoon catching a few rays by the pool playing cards, both listening to our ipods and singing out of tune It was great just to chill I had to keep pinching myself(catholic guilt creeps in ..)should I really be enjoying myself I’m out here volunteering,rosie put me straight, it was her treat to me all I was to do was to enjoy! Later that evening we received a call from reception  confirming we were staying  a second night, would we like to be upgraded to a room with a Jacuzzi bath  – I ask you …is the Pope a…? Crack open that fizz sis was my reply !

On Monday headed back towards Colombo, we made a flying visit to Mulleriyawa Unit 2 as my colleagues were really keen to meet Rosie. Bless her, not keen on hospitals at the best of times she coped very well with the inquisitive looks and touches from the women, their environment, and the questions re her marital status from the staff. Finishing the short visit we popped into my office the sight of the bare walls, desk covered with a sheet, the 2 chairs with vase of plastic flowers(they are compulsory in SL they love ‘em), she gave me a big hug and whispered that she was really proud of me… dewy eyed we retreated to the car and on to the Pink Palace where the landlord and his wife were there to greet us they were lovely. The tour completed  we headed off to collect Podi who was to joined us for dinner at the Galle Face Hotel where we savoured the delicious buffet, it was then time for Rosie to depart for the airport.

 As I said this was a short break in SL for Rosie, it was a LUXURY mini break for moi! I had spent 4 great days in the company of my sis, seen more of this beautiful amazing island that is my home for the next 21 months and enjoyed fabulous food and facilities, lucky me hey? I returned to work fully rested  and raring to go… to my diary, who and when is the next visitor due?

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