Well, I'm in a rotten mood at the moment, but for no good reason, and it shouldn't be taken as indicative of the day. Slept restlessly, but enough, in the end. Had breakfast here at the guest house, and then went to meet with Ashok Ferrey for tea, which he had graciously invited me to at his house. I wasn't familiar with Ashok's work before I arrived in Colombo, but since I've been wandering into bookstores at every opportunity, I've kept seeing copies of his collection of short stories, Colpetty People, beautifully published in a striking purple edition by a local small press. I have to admit that I'm not certain of this, but I think Colpetty is an area in Colombo.
The stories are lovely, and not confined to Colombo -- Ashok lived in Sri Lanka until he was eight, but then spent a few decades abroad before returning here to live, and the stories reflect that expatriate sensibility, both in settings and tone. Many of them have a certain gentle snarkiness that I really enjoyed, a sense of life's ironies. I hadn't read many of them before I knew that I wanted to meet the author, if possible. People keep telling me that it's perfectly fine to just call up total strangers here and introduce yourself. I can't do it. But while I would have hesitated to call Ashok up directly, I did manage to call his publishing house and ask them to forward my info to him (it helped that they'd published their phone number in the book -- I haven't tried to navigate a Sri Lankan phone directory yet).
So a day or two later, Ashok called me up and invited me to tea at his house. Oh, his house. He described it on the phone as a ramshackle old house. What it actually is is a gorgeous old mansion, and I am half in love with it. He and his wife Mandy have decorated it beautifully too -- it feels like you're stepping into a piece of history, but one that is utterly comfortable and livable. (They tell me that it served as the set for Deepa Mehta's forthcoming movie, Water, a companion to the controversial and interesting Fire and to Earth (which I haven't seen, though I liked the book it was based on).
Then at 2, I had an appointment to meet Delon Weerasinghe, who runs WriteClique.net, currently a website for Sri Lankan writers to share their work, although Delon has ambitious plans for it. We met at Barista and drank beverages and chatted, some about writing, some about life, some about politics. A few mild disagreements, lots of agreement. We talked for almost three hours, and if I hadn't been feeling exhausted, I could've happily chatted longer. Such nice people I'm meeting here.
Some frustration did follow, though. I had vaguely planned to hang out with Suchetha tonight, but I had mislaid his phone number. I tried swinging by the office, but today is the Prophet Mohammed's birthday, I think -- it's an official holiday here. Sri Lankans are very multicultural when it comes to reasons to have official holidays. Everything's closed, including the mall where Suchetha has his office. Then I remembered that he'd posted his phone number in my journal, so I came back to the guest house to look it up. In the interim, various plans had fallen apart for tomorrow -- Grace had had to go out of town for a week, so she wasn't able to serve as my native guide, and due to tomorrow's holiday (poya days), my uncle had been unable to find me the promised driver for our expedition. I was also cranky because I was hot and sweaty and the power had gone out -- apparently occasional power cuts of an hour or two are not uncommon here. So no fans! I decided that I wasn't up to dinner out, or talking to people, or a long driving expedition tomorrow, especially since Delon had told me that most of Hikkaduwa and Galle have actually been cleaned up, and that it's mostly further south and the east coast (where the wave hit three times as high) that are still in very bad shape. Suchetha, luckily, is apparently infinitely flexible and good-natured. So maybe, if I'm up to it, we'll go to the zoo tomorrow after all. We'll see.
So I was having a cranky failure to cope, and especially annoyed that it was still too early to call Kevin and complain, but I came back to my room and played Sims for fifteen minutes, and the power came back on, and the fan cooled me off, and then it started to pour rain, and I do love thunderstorms, so here I am at the end of this journal entry much more cheerful than when I started. In half an hour, there'll be some nice stringhoppers and egg curry ready for dinner at the main guest house, and in the meantime, maybe I'll just sit and listen to the rain.