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Antiques, Tsunami Damage and Chanting

February 22, 2008

Tom – Left Colombo at 6am to minimize road hazards.  We stopped at about four Antique shops in the area of Balapitiya.  Helen has been considering buying some items (e.g. spice chest, rice chest, cabinet, babies cradle, etc.) and filling a small container to ship home.  Preliminary estimates on shipping costs appear to be prohibitive.  I took some pictures of tsunami damage as we drove down the coast.  It has been a little over three years since that event but the destruction is still evident in many areas.

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A local fisherman gave us a brief summary of the tsunami

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We had planned to stay one night at a hotel in Hikkaduwa and SCUBA dive/snorkel in the Marine NP.  However, the dive instructors at the Poseidon Diving Station told us that storms had stirred up the sea and visibility was very poor.  So, we canceled our reservation and started driving back to Matara.  Just south of Galle, we stopped for lunch at the Sri Gemunu Beach Resort in Unawatuna.  We shared meals of grilled tuna and calamari while sitting at a table under palm trees right at the edge of a short rocky beach next to a small bay where the stilt fisherman fish.  It was beautiful!

Entering Matara

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When we arrived “home” we found Kenji cleaning the pond in the rain.  It seems he spent far more time raking and burning leaves and cleaning the pond than we had anticipated.  Though he did an excellent job wadding in and cleaning the pond we didn’t direct him to do so because we feel it is the owner’s (Mr. VJ) responsibility and he has not been very cooperative.  Anyway, Kenji had good intentions so I gave him an extra 1000 rupees (total of 3000 rupees or about $28) for his 6 days work.  Now Kenji was still not happy because his other employer (Hiki) had cut his salary in half because he was also working for us.  Our understanding was that he would work full time for Hiki and would work at our house when finished there.  He asked for a three way meeting at the Reggae Bar that evening to discuss the matter.  I expressed my view at that time and Kenji felt satisfied with compensation from us but I don’t know what he was able to work out with Hiki.

Kanthi had invited us to a Buddhist service at the university in the evening.  It started at 9pm.  We arrived about 9:30 and heard the sermon being broadcast on loud speakers all across campus.  We parked the car below the large Buddha statue; which is at the center of campus between the library and administration building, and hiked up the hill (lined with coconut oil lamps) under Buddhist banners.  Students outside a large auditorium encouraged us to enter.  So we took off our shoes, entered and sat on the concrete floor (no seats in the room).  There were about 300 students and 20 faculty/staff in attendance.  The front of the room had a sort of hut that had been constructed with coconut leaves and there were 8-10 monks inside.  The eldest was doing the sermon which continued for another half hour.  At about 10pm other monks started chanting prayers and the audience responded.  This was followed by the entrance of 4 drummers and a horn player (like a snake charmer sound) who responded to the chants with the playing of their instruments.  This was followed by more chants and increasing audience participation.  We were told that the chanting would continue until 9am the following morning.  We arrived back home at about 11pm – long day!      

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