844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Naked Negombo (Western Province, Sri Lanka)

For a revised version of this post, go here.

So here I am in Sri Lanka. I came here on a whim because.... well, because that is what I do. My impression thus far is mixed. When I arrived I was fairly stoked to be here but my enthusiasm has been tempered just a tad. I went straight from the airport to a motorcycle/car rental shop where I procured a Honda dirt bike. 250ccs of pure adrenaline. Well, not exactly. They do have 400cc and 650cc but price and gas efficiency steered me to a smaller engine. Turns out gas is quite expensive here (somewhere in the neighborhood of four bucks a gallon). Also, I’m kind of a pussy.

My first day went well. Got a bike, a SIM card for my phone, a decent room, and a partridge in a pare tree. I had a good vibe about the owner of the bike shop and he seemed willing to help me out every step of the way (meaning I can call him whenever I need assistance). My only dilemma was trying to figure out whether to head south or north to start.

My second day was not so propitious. I decided to spend an extra day in Negombo (a town situated by the sea not far from the airport) in order to make sure the bike did not exhibit any major flaws. So after breakfast I went for a spin into town just for shits and giggles. There was a dearth of giggles. What I saw down by the water where the fisherman keep their boats and sell their catch at the market was uber depressing. It is the kind of abject poverty that really kicks you in the gut. Dejected faces, garbage strewn beaches, piles of fish skeletons, ramshackle houses, filthy sea water, and the foul stench of rotting sea life to name a few of the highlights. To see people living in such a state is not so easy to digest. It is no secret that Sri Lanka is poor but the foreknowledge is insufficient preparation. If a sight like that does not affect you then perhaps it is time to examine the depth of your humanity.

As one drives through the scene it is hard not feel a bit helpless with a healthy dose of hopeless sprinkled on top. I thought about taking photos but sometimes it is difficult to take out my camera in that situation. It feels a little like exploitation. And what must they think of me while I drive around on a motorcycle worth more than their house wearing a rain jacket that could probably feed their family for a week or more. What does one do with that? Sell everything you own and give the money to charity? Leave the first world behind and dedicate your life to helping people that live in such dire circumstances?

And what do you with the realization that you are just not strong enough to do either? How many lives could I save if I emptied my bank account and gave it all to a trustworthy organization that would make efficient use of the money? Is it our duty to basically bring ourselves down to the same level economically of those we are trying to help? How much personal responsibility do we really have? And how much of the onus of care should we place upon governments, like that of Sri Lanka? I do not know.

The cost of living in Sri Lanka is expensive by developing world standards. I’ve already mentioned the gas but just about everything is taxed heavily. Vehicles, food, household goods, etc. An SUV here sells anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000. Not many Sri Lankans are going to splurge for a Land Rover but you can apply this import tax hike across the board. And where does the money go? Admittedly, I have not verified this but I have a feeling that the cost of fighting an active insurgency might well play a major role. I have spent a fair amount of time speaking with the gentleman at the bike shop and he has shed light on many facets of everyday life. Don’t get me wrong, talking to one Sri Lankan business man does not an expert make but my instincts tell me much of what he shared is not far from the mark.

This brings me to the next reason day two was less than agreeable. The gentleman who I rented my motorcycle from sent a driver to pick me up at the airport and bring me to his shop. When I arrived I asked the driver where I could purchase a SIM card for my cell phone. He graciously brought me to a shop across the street. He was also gracious enough to screw me royally. As it turns out a card should cost around five dollars. I ended up paying fifteen. He took five as a commission and gave the rest to the dealer. How did I let this happen? At the time it did seem a little steep but I figured he worked for the guy I was about to rent a motorcycle from for a month so maybe that was the going rate. He wouldn’t screw me, would he? I guess the driver has a habit of doing this. I found out when I asked the rental guy how much I should pay for a SIM card. When I learned the truth I marched across the street and gave the dealer a polite 'WTF?' It was then I learned of the commission and that I received the tourist price. I had a nice conversation with the rental guy and he told me he did not know his driver did this (Reaaaaaalllllly....). He phoned him in front of me and the driver admitted his indiscretion. He was pissed off at the cell phone dealer for telling me the truth. So much for an apology.

The motorcycle had only one key so I drove around searching for a key cutter (local term) to have some extras made. I deemed it prudent in the face of my chronic absent-mindedness. I found a guy and made the mistake of not asking about the price first. Bend over and have another. I found out later I paid about triple the price. Just to punctuate my idiocy I also got screwed on a t-shirt. Did I want to buy a t-shirt? Negative. The shop owner pointed me towards the key cutter so I decided to make a purchase out of gratitude. The shirt set me back about ten dollars, not an obscene amount but still about double the normal price. The funny part is I told him I was going to check around and if he gave me a fair price I would come back and purchase two more. I assume he is not holding his breath.

Do I deserve sympathy? Not one iota. I know better and the fault is mine but still. I don’t mind paying more than a local but not triple the price. I went back to the key cutter and let him know that I knew that he knew he screwed me. Bet he learned his lesson. Yes, I know I am a tool. It is going to be my new policy to return to the sight of the screwing (when possible) and force the assailant to look me in the eye. It may sound petty but I am actually trying to help them by explaining that tourists do not particularly enjoy getting shafted and that in the long run they are better off not going for the max every time. I had a nice long discussion with my rental guy about the whole issue. I pointed out that when one of his employees does this it reflects badly upon him. He readily agreed but explained that there was little he could do as drivers were in short supply (not that I would want the guy to lose his job).

So therein lies the conflict. The people here are poor. They live off commissions. They are just trying to survive, to better themselves. The money I lost means a hell of a lot more to them then it does to me. Maybe I should just stick it in my pipe and smoke it. But here is the thing: it’s not the money, it’s the deception and the consequences of constantly having to watch your back, haggle, argue, struggle, so on and so forth. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth and makes you not want to trust anyone. I hate feeling like that and I do not want it to color my opinion of this place. Unfortunately, I am human and find it difficult to avoid letting it bother me. And it bothers me that it bothers me. Perhaps, I should have a little cheese with my wine.

I stopped at a temple today and saw what I can only describe as a 20ft cartoon Buddha above what appears to be a big cartoon lion’s mouth forming the entrance to the temple. I wish I had an explanation but the guidebook has zilch and the Buddhist pilgrims worshiping while I was there spoke no English.

Tomorrow I head north and know not what to expect. There is a national park I want to visit but it may be off limits to civilians. I guess it played a part in the recent hostilities so it could very well be closed. Land mines might be an issue. Then again maybe not. A local informed me today that it was open. We shall see. If not I’ll move on to the next stop. I would very much like to visit upper north of the country (the city of Jaffna in particular) but I have no idea if I will be allowed through the numerous military check points. I have read that if you take public transport (i.e. a bus) you will be allowed through but anyone in a private vehicle needs special permission. The north and parts of the east were heavily contested throughout the conflict. In fact much of the north was at times under the total control of the LTTE (otherwise known as the Tamil Tigers). Apparently, the city of Kilinochchi is pretty much in ruins. Chances are I will not get to see any of it but who the hell knows. Only one way to find out.

When I arrived at an internet cafe an employee relinquished his computer so I might use it. There were two Internet Explorer windows minimized, pregnantwishes.net (yes, its exactly what you think) and bravoteens.com (right again). The browser history contained pleasebangmywife.com and petsex.com (they both appeared when I typed 'p' into the address box). Or how about barbarianmovies.com or tamilsex.com? Seriously?

Sexual repression is powerful thing. We all have carnal desires but petsex.com? For the love of everything holy! In an internet cafe? Get a grip man. Why am I sharing? Because I feel dirty and I should not a have to suffer alone.

I took this picture on the beach. Is it the perfect condom billboard or what?

Basic Sinhalese


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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim