(written last…

(written last night)

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).

Ashok and Mandy are lovely and so gracious; their friend who was visiting whose name I am blanking on (Dilani?) seemed really nice too. When I arrived, they immediately did their best to make me feel at home, and I felt so much at home that not only did I drink two cups of their tea and eat two pieces of chocolate cake (what a nice thing to be offered at 10 a.m., so deliciously indulgent), but after four hours of fascinating conversation about writing and life and politics and culture, they ended up asking me to stay to lunch. So sweet! Kiri bath (milk rice) and fish curry and something spicy -- luna miris sambol, maybe? With a bit more kiri bath and jaggery to finish the meal, and some perfectly ripe slices of pineapple. Mmm So glad I went; it was such a nice morning. I didn't want to leave, and I hope we can stay in touch.

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.

8 thoughts on “(written last…”

  1. Mary Anne, I think the photos you posted for this entry didn’t load quite correctly – at least when I looked at this entry early Saturday morning (Chicago time) in place of the photos were boxes with x’s…

    Definitely sounds like a wonderful home…

    have you tried calling Arthur C. Clarke’s foundation or his publishers?

    Hope your trip gets better.. if it helps, you missed weather here in Chiago today which caused a SNOW out for the Cubs… though the “snow” was really basically mostly rain… still only in Chicago…


  2. MaryAnne
    I am filled with curiosity after reading so many entries…what ARE stringhoppers? (I imagine a cross between a grasshopper and a jalapeno popper)

  3. Stringhoppers are usually a breakfast or dinner food. it’s made by pressing dough/paste through a thin sieve (i can’t really explain this as well as i should) onto a wicker mat while you move the sieve in circles. the result is steamed and eaten with curry, or you put a mixture of grated coconut and honey into the middle before steaming and eaten as dessert

    Recipe here
    Crappy pic here

  4. forgot to add a small note that Mary Anne has actually been spending a lot of time in Colpetty. that is the area of colombo that my office is in.

    colpetty (or colombo 3) is an upscale area of colombo that is rapidly undergoing commercialisation. originally this was the area of the top people in colombo. the only place that is more “upper crust” is Cinnamon Gardens (or colombo 7)

    even now in col 3 you can see the classy old houses, some of which are preserved as dwellings, some which have been refurbished as offices. unfortunately, with colombo becoming more crowded by the day, most people are heading for the suburbs. but even now the cost of land here is obscenely high.

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