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Helen’s Birthday!

January 26, 2008

Tom – I was supposed to again work on the Wittenberg connection problems at the university but I have lost patience.  I spent most of the day at home doing my Power Point presentation from scratch.  It won’t be fancy but I should be able to cover my bases.

Breakfast overlooking the Indian Ocean

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Helen – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!!  We decided that today we would not go into the university so I thought it would be a “nothing new to write home about day.”  Wrong!!

First – someone stole my boogie board!!!  Boy was I mad this morning when we went out for our walk and found someone had taken it from inside our gated back/beach yard.  I hope that they enjoy it and you know that I will be watching to see if someone is using it!!

Second – also on our walk we noticed a little old lady with a big bag of something on her head.  She was walking toward the east rock headland for our beach (it is a natural rock area).  When we made our second round we noticed she was sitting in the water with her long skirt all wet digging for something and moving these rocks around.  We walked up closer and she begins talking to us but of course we can’t understand a word.  Tom assumes that she needs some help, so he starts to gather some rocks from another area and she motions him “NO,NO.”  It seems that she is burying coconut shells in the mud and then piles rocks on them so the water won’t take them away.  Tom was going into another cache.  After she finished burying the shells, she went to another area and started digging up shells which she had buried days before.  These were pretty black looking and decomposed.  She ripped the bark off then took the fiber bundle and pounded it with a stick on a rock until it separated and spread apart.  Then she took this and washed it in the water to get all the dirt out and laid it next to the bag to take home.  Ok, now that I knew what she was doing, I just jumped right in there and started washing the fiber bundles, wringing them out, and piling them up on the rocks.  The second round I had the job of stripping off the barks and washing the fiber bundles.  She then showed me how she twisted the fibers to make rope and indicated that the rest of the fibers would be made into brooms.  While I was working, Tom went back to the house for the camera (first morning he didn’t bring it with him) and she kept talking to me like we were best friends.  A man that we met on the beach a few days ago walked over to us and he translated for me.  I told her I would see her in a few days.

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Local reef fisherman, floats on his inner tube and nets fish, crabs, etc.

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Third – I forgot to mention that yesterday on our walk we saw a fishing boat come up on shore.  There were several men waiting for them because they needed help pulling the boat up on the shore.  We stopped to see what they caught and Tom took their picture then we helped them with the boat.  It was really heavy because it was wood and it had an outdoor motor on the back.  They offered to sell us a fish for $2 or $4 for a kilo…since we didn’t know what kind of fish it was, we declined.  A lot of the fish caught are only good for curries or stewing, not for grilling.

Fourth – Kamala (surrogate landlady), a young newly ordained English teacher for translation, accompanied by a workman came to do some required chores.  The workman was to fix the toilet that wouldn’t flush, to install a hot water system for one bathroom, and fix the fan in the dining area which only had 1 speed, very slow.  The shower situation got a little tricky.  Most of the bathrooms have a little hot water tank in the bathroom and you put on the switch about 10 minutes before you need hot water.  Remember we have three bathrooms, two that are enclosed and one that has no ceiling (just a few wooden slates across the top).  You can guess which one has the only electrical outlet.  We said, we didn’t think it was a good idea to put the hot water in there, because during the rainy season who will want to take a shower in that bathroom??  They said that the owner specifically said that was the correct one.  They called him back and worked it out.  Are you ready for the solution???  They put in another shower head in the covered part of the bathroom, but now the water will splash over the sink, toilet and the whole floor will get wet.  You got it, no shower curtain over there and the shower stall still remains.

Fifth – this fellow was also supposed to fix the ceiling light by the front door so that when you come into the house you have light.  He replaced the bulb and then we discovered that it blinks on when someone rings the doorbell.  Can’t people hear the bell?  Do they need a light to signal it as well??

Sixth – I decided that our beach needed an environmental clean-up.  I cleaned up the plastic bags, plastic ice cream spoons, toothbrushes (we often see the villagers brushing their teeth on the beach, go figure) paper, and just general debris.  When I got close to our wall, I found a long; I mean long, snake skin.  It really freaked me out!!!

Seventh – we decided to go swimming again and noticed that there were lots of boys and girls down at one end of the beach.  First we thought that they we pulling the fishing nets in…when Tom checked it out, seems they were from the university having an initiation ritual from one of the departments.  Girls and boys were fully clothed, playing with a ball in the waves, throwing each other into the waves, burying people in the sand and throwing sand all over one another.

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Eighth – I walked over to the hotel to have a look.  Renata (Polish) and her husband, Bobby (Sri Lankan) who live in Switzerland have just finished building the hotel.  I mentioned it was too bad that we didn’t meet a few days earlier and missed the party.  She replied, yes it was.  They didn’t send out invitations, just told everyone to come over and we should have just stopped in.  Anyway, this hotel is really nice…the rooms are quite large, each with a private bath, big windows overlooking the ocean because they are on a hill, and comfortable new mattresses (this is really unusual).  The lobby is an outdoor area under a roof, as is the restaurant area.  One balcony will be having a billiards table, and eventually there will be a Jacuzzi on the rooftop.  Bobby’s brother Luke will be taking care of the hotel when they are in Zurich.  The rooms are now renting for $20/night…remember that I told you that some of the top hotels in Colombo were renting for $75-80/night.  They plan to bring in tourists from Switzerland.  About half the cost of flying in from the U.S.

Ninth – We needed to go back into town to grocery shop and see when Mass was for tomorrow morning.  The Food City was packed and the parking area isn’t very large.  We noticed a policeman in the lot when we arrived and thought he was for security.  When we came out, he was directing traffic in the parking lot and telling you how and where to park.  OK, they really needed it with the three-wheelers, motorcycles and cars all trying to squeeze in there.

Tenth and Last – Tom took me out for dinner in the little restaurant next door to the hotel and behind our house.  We had asked them to cook for us earlier in the day: wanting grilled fish (rockfish which has lots of meat and few bones), vegetable rice, and potato curry.  It was delicious.  The fish was not grilled but steamed in foil and nicely seasoned.  We brought our own beer and as I am writing this, Tom is sleeping on the bed in the study.  I had a great day but really missed my family and friends on my day!!

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