Saturday, August 4, 2007

President, Smezident

So as I write this I'm being kept captive in my house. O.k. not exactly true, but almost.

Today, unbeknownst to me, the President of Sri Lanka decided to visit Boralesgamuwa. Not necessarily Boralesgamuwa per say, but the large Buddhist temple that is near my house. Unfortunately, due to the fact that apparently the President's detail men and the police are idiots, they chose to land his fancy helicopters in the cricket field right outside my house. Now you are probably thinking, well sure, a cricket field is probably a good place to land a helicopter. Well, you'd be right, except that just as far from the temple as my house, is the freakin' Air Force Base! Yes, the President could have landed at the Air Force Base and gone to the temple just as easily. And the fact that I know this, but apparently the government of Sri Lanka doesn't is quite scary.

Anyway, I'm jumping ahead. First, we have to start with this eerie feeling I had this morning that I should leave the house by 10 a.m. I don't know why, but I just had this feeling that I needed to get out. I did get up at 8 so I could go with Upul to get my bike fixed (it is all done and it rides very smoothly!), but I was home by 9 and wasn't ready to venture out. I had a cup of coffee, cut up my papaya, thought about what I needed to do. 10 a.m. rolled around and I was still puttering. Then there was a knock at the door. A police officer was there, he wanted to see our balcony. So I took him up (he actually wanted to get to our third floor, but it is locked and I do not have the key). Then he stayed. I said, "Excuse me, but I'm leaving now and so you must go." Aya was home too, but also leaving and she felt the same way. I'm sorry, I don't care if you are police and my position would not change if I were in the U.S., you don't stay in my house without me there if I don't know you. He didn't really understand this. I went down to our security guard (not Anthony, I'm worried they may have fired him for sleeping on the job) so that he could get the police man to leave.

The problem is, we live directly in front of the cricket field. I mean, we have the best view, if I do say so myself. Still, there are other balconies and really, they provided no warning. Finally our security guard called his office to call whoever hired him and discuss the problem. I don't know why I don't have Mr. Aruna's number, but I must remember to get it on Monday. Magically, Mr. Aruna appeared. He had not been called, he actually came to get Aya (she left for Ampara). I told him how I felt about the situation and he totally agreed with me. He said he'd stay at the house until he could find someone else to stay there. I'm o.k. with Sewalanka staff staying in the house as I know them and even if I don't, I know who to tell if something is missing.

So anyway, I got to leave this morning. I went to Crescat because I was told they had locally made natural peanut butter and really good locally made spaghetti sauce. They do and they also had (drum roll please) the easy to heat up papadams that you can get in Giant! Not exactly the same, but really close. This is exciting because it is Indian style, Sri Lankan papdams are more like fried wontons without anything in them. You know, I really talk about food a lot.

Then I decided that since I saved so much money on not having to buy a bike, that I could support the arts and buy a couple of paintings to brighten up my room. Local artists try to sell paintings near the park and there were a few I really liked, so I decided to go for it. I walked up and down the street looking and asking how much and walking away as it was too much. I had my mind set that I was allowed to spend 2000 lkr (about $20) each on two painting as that was still less than I'd have spent on a bike. Everyone was quoting 3-4000, which is reasonable, but I had already decided how much I should spend. I do feel a little bad about this, but since there is no tourism at the moment, I knew I could get them to go down. I got my two favorite for the price I wanted. Of course, everything can't go as planned, I had to pay 500 lkr for the tuk home. Gasoline prices have skyrocketed as of late (thank you Pres. Bush and President
Mahinda Rajapaksa), and thus transport is going up. Two weeks ago I took the same tuk ride for 400 lkr.

By the way, bike repair here is super cheap. I got my back tube replaced and a thorough check- up on my bike and it cost 200 lkr. That is a little less than $2. I can't get a tube for that price. Speaking of my bike. I love it. It is technically a mountain bike, but it doesn't have any suspension, just giant tires. It does have gears (yeah!, the bike I looked at was a fixed gear) and the breaks work wonderfully. I can't wait to ride it.

After I picked up my bike, I rode it back to the house. The cops didn't want to let me down my street, but I kept yelling, "I live here." I mean seriously, if they are going to use my house against my will, they should let me go home. There was no sign of helicopters in the air and I'm a freakin' foreigner (they are only worried about the Tamil Tigers). So finally a senior level guy let me down my road. Then maybe 20 feet from my door they tried to stop me again. At this point I was yelling because there were so many of them telling me I couldn't go. "My house is right there, that is my security guard there telling me to come in." Still, "no miss, you must go away for five minutes." "But I'm so close, just let me go." I wanted to tell them to get their people off my land and get out of my face if they aren't going to let me go home, but I held strong and just kept repeating, "that's my house." Finally, reason sunk in and they let me enter.
About 5 minutes after they allowed me to return to my home, helicopters were heard above. Enormous clouds of dust could be seen swirling over the cement wall out front and the helicopters landed. I assume the President was whisked off to the temple at that point, but I was so pissed off, I wasn't about to watch.

So now I'm in my house. There are two policemen on my balcony (that I honestly have never been on!) another five in my front yard. I can't count how many on the street, but lets just say, I have a feeling there are no police anywhere else in this city. They are still here because the President will return home (I really hope he is staying somewhere in the country, because if not, he just took a helicopter to go about 6 miles -- I passed his house today when I was out shopping) via my yard.

Probably the funniest moment today when Mr. Aruna said, "They are worried because we have a situation in Sri Lanka, something you don't have to worry about in the States." I looked at him with a bit of shock and then he corrected himself, "I mean, our problem is internal and your problem isn't, really." Then I laughed. It was funny to me.

I wasn't going to write anything today. I was going to let you all catch up, but this was too good. Sorry. I'd take photos of the gaggle of people all over my house, but it is illegal to photograph policemen. I think I've already made a bad name for myself with the cops here, I don't think I'll risk getting arrested.

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