Okay, so I’m feeling…

Okay, so I'm feeling better -- better enough to write you all a proper journal entry about the day of increasing pain. Let's go back three days, to April 16th. We wake up at Kandalama, have a splendid early breakfast, and hit the road by 7:30, planning to be back in Colombo by 2:00 or so. But the plans of men (and women) gang aft agley...

We swung by Sigiriya (Lion Rock) on our way -- not planning on climbing the rock, just to take a look. It was impressive, and I had to admire the 5th century King Kasyapa who decided what the heck, why not build a palace on *top* of the rock, 183 km up? 'Cause y'know, I have plenty of workers. I can force them to build me an impregnable fortress, complete with gardens, ponds, promenades, pavilions, underground and surface drainage systems -- and did I mention, 183 km up? It did pretty well by Kasyapa for 18 years, but when his half-brother Moggallan challenged him with an army, Kasyapa came down to the plains and, when he believed the battle was lost, slew himself with his own dagger. Which teaches us, children, that it's just no use building an impregnable fortress if you're not smart enough to stay inside it.

After viewing Sigiriya, we got back in the car, grateful for the air-conditioning because already by 9-ish it was getting warm. A bit later, we stopped at a wood carving shop, because I had told our driver that I was a fool for wood carvings. I was quite restrained for almost the entire time, only selecting a few small things -- and then at the last minute, the clever, persuasive people talked me into buying a gorgeous little end table I had been eyeing, six carven screens forming a hexagonal stand, and a bronze-inlaid marquetry top, all solid Sri Lankan teak, hand-carved. I'm sure I got taken. I was all pleased that they had given me a fifteen percent discount off the listed price -- but my mother says I should have bargained much harder and gotten it for half what I paid. But I truly suck at bargaining; it makes me feel guilty, as if I'm cheating people. Put it down to cultural differences. I still adore my little table.

We spent at least forty-five minutes in that shop, so now our ETA was closer to 3-ish. S'okay. Then, a while later, Sannath stopped at a gem shop he recommended. Now, I figured we'd be in and out there, just looking, since I really wasn't budgeted for or planning on buying any jewelry. But first they insisted on giving us a long and informative lecture on the different kinds of gemstones (admittedly fascinating, and we got to pick up the pretty stones with tweezers and examine them under magnifying glasses) and then they brought out the actual jewelry and oh, heck, I fell in love with a little sapphire flower pendant, which would've cost at least three times as much in the States. So I bought it. I tried to tell Kevin yesterday that it was his anniversary present to me, but he pointed out that this party we're having is already his anniversary present to me, which I'm not sure I knew, but okay. So it's a birthday present instead. But not the only one, because if I don't get anything on my actual birthday I will be sad. But the something else can be very very small. :-)

So, now we're another half-hour or so behind schedule, and of course, we didn't budget time for lunch on the road and we're starving. I hadn't been feeling well the day before, and now the pain was back, along with stomach queasiness from being so very hungry. I was ready to collapse. We ended up stopping at the same spice garden we went to before; they had a restaurant. When we tried to order, they told us it was be at least half an hour, and I wanted to give up and go. I had stopped being hungry by that point and just felt awful, but Sannath needed to eat lunch too, and it would have been rude to make him leave. When they saw my distress, the staff talked among themselves and then said they could do it in twenty minutes. Karina made me drink an orange juice, which helped, and in fifteen minutes the food arrived.

This has been an odd and common practice here, that people constantly seem to overestimate how long things will take. It makes me think of Scotty on Enterprise -- he gets his reputation as a miracle-worker by constantly telling Kirk that the engines are up to their absolute limit, and then Kirk says, "But I need more power, Scotty!" and Scotty manages to find more power because he knew all along that there was a bit more available. I much prefer this practice to people who tell you it'll be five minutes when they know damn well that it'll be fifteen, if not twenty or thirty. Though I may like the Swiss best, who tell you fifteen, and then it really is fifteen. We shared a vegetable fried rice and a fruit salad with ice cream (which latter mostly I ate, because Karina was being careful about milk products). We asked them to leave out the papaya (which we don't much like), and instead we got a little chopped apple, a little banana, and lots of avocado in our fruit salad. I was apprehensive, but it turned out to be really delicious, and I'm totally planning on making this as a dessert sometime for a dinner party. They had drenched the fruit in sugar syrup -- I think the only changes I would make would be to add some lime to the syrup, and maybe use crisp pear instead of apple. Yum. Felt much better afterwards, though we were now going to be hitting Colombo at 4, or 3:45 at the earliest. The timing was an issue not just because it was a long day and I was already tired and unwell and wanting to be lying in bed at Galle Face Hotel, but because Karina was leaving for the airport at 10 that night and had a bunch of souveneir shopping to finish in Colombo before the shops closed.

So somewhere around there, Sannath tells us that he needs to find a garage, because something's wrong with our brakes -- they're making a whistling noise. He has cleverly bought replacement brake pads while we were eating lunch. So yes, we tell him, definitely we stop at the first garage we see, because we agree that it's good to have working brakes. But it's the holiday week after New Year's, and nine out of ten places we drive by are closed. The whistling noise gets louder, and louder. Finally, as we're going down a hill on the hand brake, because the real brakes have completely given out, we see a garage that's open. We pull in, stop the engine, which turns off the AC and blasts us with heat, and Sannath goes to talk to the guy, only to discover that there's only one worker and he's in the middle of repairing a broken bus. Argh.

Karina and I wait for ten minutes, twenty, half an hour, in a van that seems to just be getting hotter and hotter. We're out of bottled water. We get out, and decide that's actually, remarkably, hotter. We get back in. We play I Spy in a vain effort to take our minds off our misery. I had been feeling better after eating, but now the heat was destroying me. Finally we ask Sannath if we can just pay him what we owe him and get some other driver to take us the last bit to Colombo while he waits for his van to be fixed. He says no, no, sorry -- there are no drivers on the road today, because of the holiday, it will be too difficult to find someone, and we sigh and say we understand. And then Sannath wanders off, and five minutes later appears again, smiling, saying that he has found us a driver. That Sri Lankan understatement again -- he didn't want to get our hopes up until he'd actually succeeded in getting us what we needed.

So we pay Sannath and thank him profusely, and head off with our new driver, who has AC, but far more pitifully powered than Sannath's van, so that after a bit we give up on it and just open all the windows and are grateful for the breeze, even if it's a hot one. And it is past five when we finally finally make it to the hotel, and it is so good to be back that I am ready to break down. And the nice men carry our bags up (I always carry my own bags, but not that day) and we go lie down and I never want to move again.

But of course, there's more shopping to be done, and quickly, so before long we're out again with a hotel taxi, stopping at Lakmedura and Paradise Road and Barefoot and finally at the Gallery cafe, a very hip and trendy sort of place where Karina has been dying to go. And I put my head down on the table to rest. And eventually she has trifle and I have jaggery ice cream, which is tasty.

We make it back to the hotel where I collapse while she packs and goes down to have dinner and comes back up bearing bread rolls for me, in case I get hungry. I am feeling terrible; sharp stabbing pains in my abdomen that won't go away. Karina makes me a makeshift hot water bottle for my tummy with a towel drenched in hot water and a plastic shopping bag, which seems to help, and then finds ibuprofen in her bag, which eventually will help more. And then she has to go to the airport, and I watch tv until I fall asleep. And it's the second day of being sick, and I don't like it. I don't like Karina leaving either, but what can you do?

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