And that’s why I have to go out. I’m scheduled for Sinhalese lessons today, with Rosemary teaching, and Michele and I as students. Rosemary teaches the missionaries either before or after us, and she teaches them at the church, so it’s off to the church I go.
I’ll tell you later how it goes.
And Fahim says he’s pretty sure the bus strike is over. Doesn’t know for a fact – hasn’t been watching news lately. But he’s pretty sure anyway.
The guy must think he’s a psychic or something.
So no phone calls cancelling, Mervin came over at 10:20 – Fahim called him from work. I tell him I’m going to the church, but I need a kit card for the cell phone first. He doesn’t understand “kit card”, but when I hold up the cell phone and say pay card, he understands perfectly. He asks which cell phone company, I tell him, and off we go.
We get to the Mobitel store, and I ask him to come in with me in case they don’t understand me. He agrees, but he’s several paces behind me. I walk in the door, and there’s a customer sitting down talking to a salesperson. The store, you must know, is about eight feet wide and six or seven feet deep with a glass case about two feet deep separating customer from salesperson. Yep, that cramped. Cell phones and accessories are shown in the display case and hanging on the wall.
Both salesperson and customer look at me. I hold up the cell phone and say ‘Kit card”. The salesperson understands perfectly, and asks me if I want 400 Rupees or 1000 Rupees. I settle for 400 Rupees. He gives me the card, and on the front of it, it very clearly says “Kit” – Keep In Touch. Okay, that makes it REAL easy to tell I have the right card. Thanks.
I leave, hop in the trishaw, and Mervin continues on our way. Meanwhile, I crack open the packaging, scratch off the back part where the code is, and enter in the serial number into my phone – and voila! I now have 400 Rupees to my credit. I can use my cell phone again.
And that’s when I notice the battery level.
It’s in the red. I might have a few seconds of cell use, I might have a few hours. Why, oh why, didn’t I check it? Why do I forget and allow it to run dead before I charge it? Silly me.
All of a sudden, we’re stuck in a major traffic jam. I really seriously mean major. It took us about twenty minutes to get through the North American equivalent of two blocks. Turns out that we were going past a Sri Lankan school, one that only the locals go to, and today is the start of holidays. But no, it wasn’t after school yesterday, it was as of 10:30 am, this morning, or somewhere thereabouts. So all these little junior Sri Lankans in blue uniforms (most other school uniforms at local schools are all white – don’t know why this one was blue) are being picked up by mom, dad, or driver, and going home, and we have to go through that traffic.
See, the kids are starting Christmas holidays today.
Yeah. No kidding. Plus there are the O levels now for the rest of the month. Most schools here are on the British system. Leftover from British occupation.
Well, we left with enough time to spare – I allowed for communication problems getting cell phone card – so I arrived at the church on time. So, okay.
We arrive at the church, and I tell Mervin to pick me up at twelve. At first, he thinks I said two, so we clarify, and yeah, he’ll be back at twelve. This is one perfect reason for me to learn Sinhalese.
Michele’s already there, and of course Rosemary is as well – she’s at the tail end of a Sinhalese session with the missionaries. When she’s done, Michele and I go in and start in on learning Sinhalese. At one point, the branch president walks by and is surprised to see us. We ask him how he’s doing – in Sinhalese. “ko-ho-ma-da?” He responds, “hon-dai.” He’s enjoying this. I can tell.
Our lesson lasts for about an hour, and first off, we learn all the pronouns. Then we learn some future tense verb conjugations – which are really not difficult to conjugate – there are two forms, one for I/we, the other for everything else. Cool. Make my life easier.
It’s interesting writing it all down phonetically in a way that, in theory, I’ll remember later. Michele suggests getting a phonemic listing so we can both write these things down properly in a structured way. I agree – it sounds like a great idea.
We let out late – because the missionaries before us let out late – and Mervin was in the guard shack talking to the guard. Now that I see him walking to the trishaw, I realize he’s much taller than I had previously thought – I’d only ever seen him sitting down before.
On the way home, I take pictures. Oh come on, didn’t you see that coming? And guess what? There’s more on cows.
But first, I’m gonna tell you about one intersection – a fairly major one – we were at where it seemed like everyone was honking.
How much have I previously said on the use of horns and honking here? That much, eh? Okay. Well, here’s a quick lesson. Everybody uses horns. Usually, it’s more a “here I’m coming – get out of my way” or in the case of corners, “I’m approaching this intersection, anyone else there?” The intersections have next to no visibility, there are no yield or stop signs – anywhere – and I really do mean anywhere – that I’ve ever seen. Who has the right of way? Whoever’s driving the biggest vehicle, I suppose. Or whoever has more guts or gumption, perhaps. Something like that. When you’re talking about these vehicles approaching small intersection, such as my neighborhood, there’s so little visibility that you’d have to stop your car and inch forward to see if anyone was there. Ya can’t see around these tall eight foot fences. So everyone honks instead. Just a short tap, usually.
So I was surprised to be at this intersection where EVERYONE it seemed was honking. Not short little taps, but long loud blows. Our side of traffic. We had a red light. The opposing traffic kept going and going, and finally, our side just pushed its way through, including Mervin. We still had a red light. Massive honking. More massive honking. As we were fighting our way through, other vehicles who had the right of way by virtue of a green light were still going and honking at us because we were going when we shouldn’t be. Mervin waves his fist, looks all angry, and starts yelling something to the other drivers who are getting pissed off at him.
We clear the intersection, then he turns around with a huge grin, probably to make sure I knew he wasn’t really angry at all. I asked him if the light wasn’t working properly. Yes, exactly. Yeah, okay. Cars in Canada do the same thing when the light stays red for that long. Of course they do. What else?
This next is a picture of a park. Raised and fenced in. I think I’ve mentioned it before, oh, months ago. There are no gates, no steps. So if ya want in, ya gotta climb in. When we passed by today, there were two young women sitting on one of the benches chatting away.
Can you say “blatant advertising”? FYI Fahim says Exide is a brand name and it’s probably for batteries. Oh, and I was actually photographing it because this is a “hotel and bake house”, but you can only see, on the left side of the photo, “ake house”, so that’s what the rest of the sign that you can’t see says.
Pay telephones in Sri Lanka. Unbelievably, there are a few of them kicking around. Not tonnes and tonnes, but some, anyway.
Some stores are basically a cage with a person inside. If you want to buy something from such a shop, you can’t go inside. You tell them what you want, and they get it for you.
These are pictures of a fairly common occurrence here – road side stalls or shops. Remember, no zoning laws means setting up your shop absolutely anywhere you want. Using whatever materials you have available to put a roof over your head. This last one, with sheets and sheets of corrugated metal for a roof and the green and blue tarps, really was open for business. You’ll notice that, to the left of the green tarp, there is a white surface with a few things on top of it. They looked to me – from the angle I was at before I shot the picture, which allowed me to see a lot more than you can, unfortunately for you – to be loose food items, like spices, or perhaps herbal medicines. Something like that.