January 8, 2008

 TomArrived in Dubai at 12:30am.  It was as though we were there during rush hour – it was packed!  Dubai is the fastest growing city in the world.  The airport is big and new but many parts are still under construction.  We passed full size fake palm trees, big screen HD TVs everywhere, men’s mosque, women’s mosque, world food (of course Starbucks), myriad of duty free shops, fountains, musicians, etc.  But most interesting were the appearances and dress of people from all over the world, especially the Mideast and East.  Our flight left one hour late at 3:30am.  For the first half hour I could look down into the Persian Gulf and see multiple small islands covered with lights (oil facilities). 


Another night of little or no sleep, there was also an additional 3.5 hours lost (making the time difference to Ohio 10.5 hours) as we flew over the Indian Ocean.  We stopped for about an hour at the Male (Maldives) airport and arrived in Colombo at 11:30am.  I bought our maximum liquor allocation at the duty free store but that turned out to be a mistake because I found out we have commissary privileges (for $20) at the U.S. Embassy.  Our Fulbright taxi driver named Fernando was at baggage claim to greet us and take us by van into Colombo to our guesthouse.  It took us over an hour and a half because of a detour around a section of the main highway due to a terrorist bomb explosion that had just killed a government minister.


First impression of Colombo? – we were tired so nothing looked good.  Poverty, dirt, garbage is everywhere.  Traffic was like being back in Iran, really it is worse!!  Two lanes marked on the road meant at least three rows of cars going in the same direction sharing the road with dogs, cows, people, jaywalkers, bikes, motorcycles, and a new dimension – the Tri-Shaw or three-wheel motorcycle taxi that they call a Tuk-Tuk.  Everyone is weaving in and out and the center lanes play a game of “chicken,” passing into oncoming traffic until they squeeze back into their own lanes.


Irene the maid, the boy (around 70) and Ruki the owner met us at the guesthouse.  This is a big old house in what is considered an expensive area of Colombo.  We moved into our room and then were given tea in the TV room after which we laid down for a rest.  Our room is on the second floor with a bathroom right next to it and the TV room across the hall.  The hall attaches to the dining room and living room followed by a kitchen and a back second floor patio.  Ruki’s large bedroom is off the living room.  Rohana had called while we were resting.  We served as his host family when he was a student at Wittenberg.  He graduated in 1991.  I had sent a letter to his last known address and I was amazed that he had received it!  He is now 41, single, and still living with his parents but is in the process of building his own home.  He runs the procurement department for the United Nations Development Program in Sri Lanka.


It was a big day and we went to bed early.        

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