Monday, August 13, 2007

Death and Shopping

It seems like I always spend my weekends shopping.

But not the whole weekend. I promised Aya I'd take her into town and ease her into bus riding in Colombo and also point out good shops (that I know of anyway, there are probably others I haven't found). First, she wanted to visit a prayer group. She is Buddhist and I admit ignorance, but apparently she is not the same type of Buddhist that most people here are. Thus, she must go to do a different temple. Who knew that Buddhism was like Protestantism? Anyway, this temple is way in the middle of nowhere, but remembering how scared I was when I had to take my first bus ride by myself, I told her I'd take her. Besides, the temple was near a graveyard and I figured I could while away the time in there.

Luckily, we made it to where she was meeting a Japanese contact and I walked over to the graveyard. The graveyard is divided, 1/4 for Buddhists and 3/4 for Christians. This in itself is fascinating to me, but then when you look at found the British corner next to the Anglican Church within the grounds. The Brits definitely had the most ostentatious stones. It was shocking how young everyone seemed (very few past 60) and how new all the graves seemed. Oh, and they pile people on top of each other. Not the nuns and the priests (or the Brits for that matter), but everyone else had about five to as many as 15 names on a gravestone. I did actually see a funeral and it appears they cremate everyone before burying them, thus making it much easier to put more than one person in each grave I assume. Interestingly enough, all the grave sites are dug like they buried a coffin. I didn't the gravestones you notice that the Christian stones are all in English and the Buddhist stones are all in Sinhala. All fallen military were in the Buddhist section (a couple that noted (in English, how odd) that the officer was assassinated. It did seem like most of the Christians were Sri Lankan (not just old British gravestones), but there were a large number of priests and nuns and eventually I actually stick around to ask anyone questions, so maybe some people are buried in a coffin. I do think it is telling that the graveyard is marked on the map by the designation of where the crematorium is within the grounds. In the back there were a few very simple wooden crosses marking single graves. I can't decide if this is an indication of wealth or poverty -- I mean you get the space to yourself, but it is marked with a flimsy wooded cross. Maybe when they need to bury someone else they just discard of the cross. I did find a number of stone markers that had obviously been moved and where just laying against a tree (I really wanted to take a photo, but someone walked by and I'm not really sure what the photo protocol in a cemetery is).

Anyway, all this death made me thirsty, so I found a cafe to sit in while awaiting Aya's call. Then we went to the Japanese shop. I have to say, it is fascinating how picky Aya is about certain things. For instance, only Japanese rice will do and she spent a great deal of money purchasing it at the Japanese shop. The Japanese shop is really just a room of imported Japanese things in someone's home. It is really quite ingenious as it is right around the corner from the Japanese Buddhist Society and the home owners don't have to pay someone to run it. You ring a doorbell to get in and you walk through a little Japanese library to the "store." So Aya also bought soy sauce -- I told her I had some already, but she insisted she had to have Kikoman. Apparently, the soy sauce I bought is Chinese and thus sweeter than Japanese soy sauce. Who knew?

Then we took a very round-about way to Crescat. We asked the bus driver if he went to Galle Road, which he said he did. Then they made us get out at some fairly random spot and told us to get on Bus #100. I said (very politely, I swear), "I didn't ask you to take me to another bus to Galle Road, I asked to be taken to Galle Road." This was really irritating as I knew I could catch the 177 directly to Galle Road and wouldn't have boarded this bus if he hadn't answered in the affirmative. So we walked the rest of the way to Crescat as it wasn't far enough to warrant the bus. We got to walk by the water for a bit and were yelled at by a military guy to cross the road (theme for the day).

By the time we got to Crescat we were very hungry so I took Aya downstairs to their food court. This is my new favorite place to eat lunch when in Colombo. It is cheap, there is a Southern Indian place that has masala dosa for 130 (that is less than $1.30!) and there is also a fresh juice place. So I got my dosa and Aya got Tennessee fried chicken. She asked me if there really is a Tennessee type of fried chicken. Is there, I don't really know (I think they were just riding on Kentucky Fried Chicken's coattails -- there is a KFC in Colombo).

Then we went to the supermarket in Crescat. Aya was especially impressed with how clean the merchandise was. I tried to explain that that is really only due to the fact that we were in the basement and thus there was no way for street dust to get into the store, but she is certain that it is because they dust the merchandise. I worked in a very clean grocery store in America -- we never dusted the merchandise. Now this store in Crescat sees a lot of action, so it is possible merchandise moves faster than at our little store near the office. Anyway, my big purchase of the day was a sponge (I'm way over budget, so I'm economizing until next weekend).

Then Aya wanted to check out a department store near McDonald's that was supposed to have a suitable rice cooker. I warned her that this being Sunday there was a good chance the store was closed and it was. So we do not have a rice cooker. I personally was prepared to live without one, but when she mentioned that she would buy one I offered to pitch in half. I'll use it, so it seems mean to make her pay the entire amount.

We walked to McD's from Crescat and there was a little Presidential incident on the way. They wouldn't let us leave Crescat because the Prez was apparently leaving or coming from his home. Only problem is, this is not what they told us at first. All we got was some military guy blowing his whistle and waving his arms for us to go back. I walked this route before and am used to them making me cross the street, so we crossed the street where another military guy started blowing his whistle and waving like a lunatic. Now, I want to follow the law and be accommodating, but really, you need to talk to me. Don't act like I should know what the problem is when we are on a public street I've walked down a million times (o.k. slight exaggeration there). Anyway, I finally found a military guy without a whistle who spoke English to explain the problem and we waited for five minutes for the stupid President. I swear this guy gets in my way much more than Bush or Clinton ever did.

Then we went into a Food City so that I could further impress Aya with the wealth of products available in Colombo.

And then we took the bus home. This bus ride home is why I am so, so happy to have a bike. It was once again super crowded with people standing basically on top of each other. Somehow I pushed my way into a recently abandoned seat. It is better if I sit -- I scare people with my girth and height and I think the bus ride is much more enjoyable for everyone if I hide in a chair. So that was nice, but then getting off was practically impossible. We actually started towards the door about 5 minutes before we had to get out. I just don't understand why the bus guy squishes people in and then refuses to wait for people to disembark. I had to yell three times that we were getting off.

Anyway, I made it through the weekend on budget and safe. I didn't take as many photos as I thought I would (Colombo doesn't really inspire me), but there are a few on Flickr if you are interested.

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