Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Two Weeks of Catch-up + Serious Events in SL = One Long Post

So I'm back in Sri Lanka. Just in time to narrowly miss (by an entire day) a bombing on the road to the airport that killed one minister. Oh yeah, and the government is canceling the cease fire. I realize it is hard to believe that there is a cease fire, but technically there is. Canceling it means, to most of us anyway, that there will be no resolution in the near future. Oh, and 40,000 people have now been affected by floods in the east (including the villages where we have mangrove restoration projects).

Apparently, his holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb, the spiritual leader of the international Dawoodi Bohra community, is in town. My flight had a ton of people coming to town for this meeting. Sitting next to me on the Emirates flight from JFK was a very nice lady who was coming to Colombo for the first time to attend the meeting. She was alone and a little worried about getting around, but then in Dubai she found her nephew who she didn't even know was attending. Upon arrival in Colombo it was clear that the nearly 200 people obviously here for this meeting (this group of Muslims have a very unique clothing style) must have all been related because they thought nothing of cutting in front of me (one person) and then waving the other 199 people with them to the front of the line.

My flight back was uneventful, unless you count Emirates forgetting my vegetarian meal (but remembering special meals for about 50 other people, which meant a serious delay in food delivery) and then only checking one bag. Oh that is a good story. When Delta checked me in they checked my bags all the way to Colombo, but my baggage claim tags only had one number (the other number was cut off). I had to check-in with Emirates at JFK and when I did I told the woman I had two bags. She asked me if I was sure I had two because I only had one number, but I clearly had two tags and two barcodes. Instead of calling Delta to get the number for the other bag, she just decided to forget it and not tell me. When I got to the gate and was reading my boarding pass I realized it said one bag. So I went up to the desk and asked if they indeed had both of my bags on the plane. He then said I'd have to go ask Delta for the other number because otherwise they won't be able to find my bag. I asked him to try the numbers on either side of the number we had and then went to call Delta via their 1-800 number on the back of my mileage card. Why Emirates couldn't call Delta for me to obtain this information is a mystery. Anyway, number obtained I went back and confirmed it was indeed an adjacent number and both bags did arrive safely in Sri Lanka.

Thus, I am not sad that Emirates is pulling out of Sri Lanka.

My time in the U.S. was wonderful. I saw my family (especially enjoyed my little nephew who is just learning to speak and really good at making me laugh) and a large number of friends. I ate a lot of good food (I'm full just thinking about it). I even got some culture in with visits to the Hirshorn, Sackler, and the Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz exhibits at the Corcoran. So inspirational, which is good as I clearly wasn't inspired while home. In all, I believe I took 25 photos and most of those are of some friends making home brew.

Now I'm coffee and jelly belly rich (8 pounds of coffee and I think 6 packages of jb). I have some new clothes that fit and the items that were too heavy for my last trip (tripod) are now with me in Sri Lanka. What is not with me is my ATM card. Oh yeah, I have a warning for those of you in Sri Lanka or coming here -- basically don't even think about using your credit cards here. I used my debit card at Barefoot, which is supposed to be a reputable place. I only used it twice and have not used it anywhere else, but still my card number was stolen and used in Malaysia. My bank figured it out and they canceled my card and said I wouldn't be charged for the unauthorized use (these charges just showed up in my account even though I had two separate conversations with two different people confirming I would not have to pay these charges). Saturday I will be going to Barefoot to speak to the owner.


Jen K said...

Welcome back, Jessica. :)

every querying said...

well, well, well. Can a person get away with calling a blog "charming"? Dios mio! Am I charmed or what? Gotta laugh, too, at the flavor of the captions of your photos--"drummer boys" and "Half Ali" (as in a play on "aliya")--what a blog this is! 19 years ago I was a sudhu nona for a brief time in Taprobane but my feelings for the place draw me back and I am researching what it takes to be a sudhu nona and live there. I have interests akin to yours (hurrah for that fine coffee there--I loved the stuff--and dhal, kiribath, sambol--arise, vegans) and my focus is wildlife (Melursus ursinus). Dunno, had in-laws there once, so was not an absolute tourist, and so had a fortunate inside track, but do remember the change in demeanor when, in Sinhala, I would say "mage mahataya" (sp.! sp.!) when getting past the lean phalanx of uniformed officers questioning my reason for trying to enter a government building. From understandable and stern demeanor to the nodding "sure, sure" they changed, smiles beaming on their faces, and I was allowed access. As I am older now, but not decrepit, it is with measured concern I read of your...ummm....interactions or...umm...AVOIDANCE of interactions...with the males of the human species there. Though age is indeed a blessing, still, one cannot control the presumptions and assumptions of the public-at-large, so not responding will delight me (a skill honed in NYC). I am excited to read all you write and if Emirates's treatment of you (your trip back)is not atypical or Emirates Air, hallelujah indeed that they are not longer blessing the shores of The Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

I am very happy I have found your blog. It is great for me to season my fanciful pictures of life-to-be with some very unfanciful takes on the reality of being white, female, and essentially on your own in a whole 'nuther country.

Pray, do tell--what does a body do to secure an "expat" salary? What makes an expat salary so much better? Is it $$ you earn for lending skill and expertise that is consistently not found in persons born and raised and educated locally? I am certainly going to keep in touch with the news about the rate of inflation there. Hard enuf facing debts in the USA--sounds harder still to have USA debts in Sri Lanka. I have a lot of planning to do.

Anyway, MUCHOS GRACIAS! JE VOUS REMERCIE! for your blog. Keep 'em coming!

rastiadu said...

I didn't know that they had debit facilities in Sri Lanka. My credit card got compromised at House of Fashion. I suppose that's the price I ended up paying for poorly made clothing ;)

But it's a real bugger that's for sure, it's a good thing your company caught it. Cash is always the best way to go wherever possible especially since you can avoid the really poor exchange rate that the banks/credit card companies tend to give once the statement comes!