Wednesday, November 27, 2013

food, horses, and tuktuks

We hung around the pool yesterday afternoon, just hanging out with our friend Ginger. I've never seen such a strange horse; she stood next to Marc and me as we sat in the lounge chairs, and when we went to the pool, she just kept standing there, as if she were waiting for us. She put her cheek next to Marc's and just kept it there, and then she rested it on top of his head for a long time. I was in the chair reading while Marc kept swimming, and she stood behind my chair and started bopping her head to the left of my head, over the top to the right, over the top to the left, over the top to the right, over and over and over in a rhythm. She'd whack me on top of my head with her bony jaw and she just wouldn't stop. Occasionally she'd rest on top of my head. She just wouldn't leave us, and finally one of the staff lured her away with a piece of bread. It was so funny.

We hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us into Tangalle for dinner, at the Cactus Lounge. It's not much more than a little shack on the beach with tables stuck in the sand, but it's the best restaurant in Tangalle and we were excited to eat there. The owner asked us how we'd heard of his place -- TripAdvisor, he asked? We asked about lobster and he said we had to order that a day in advance so he has it fresh. He said, "If you like my food, maybe you will come back," and I loved him for that. His food, not the food. I ordered grilled prawns and Marc got mixed grill, with a fish steak, baby octopus, calamari, and prawns. The meal came with a plate of baby shoestring fried potatoes, the best EVER, and a salad of cabbage, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. It was an amazing meal, all the way around.

you can't imagine how great these were

tuk-tuking it into town

always a close call with traffic!

considering the menu at Cactus Lounge -- a lovely view!

lots of delicious food for us

perfect crunchy salad, and so fresh

The road from our hotel into Tangalle is paved in short spurts, with much longer sections of dirt road pocked with holes and giant ruts, so it was a little rough in spots and slow going. Our tuk-tuk driver was a handsome young man who took the rough patches with great care and slow speed; he was constantly passed by other tuk-tuk drivers who weren't apparently worried about the road. Marc and I figured that since one of the very few complaints about our hotel is the rough road into Tangalle, the hotel owners caution the tuk-tuk drivers to take the trip slowly -- and those other speedier tuk-tuk drivers aren't carrying guests of our hotel. It was fun going so slowly, getting to watch the life going on as we passed by. Small markets with young people standing around, people walking somewhere in the dark, other people walking from Tangalle into the countryside carrying bags of chips and other food.

My already-limited affection for the peacocks is wearing thin after a night of listening to it shriek and scream. Bastard peacock. :)

noisy thing, shrieking like a woman being murdered

We were up by 6:15 this morning and since we'd ordered breakfast at 7:30, we decided to take a walk to the beach. It's quite a stunning beach, and so empty of people, always.

Marc's, mine, and a dog's footprints in the sand

someone built this little fort

Marc on the morning beach

rock outcroppings

the rock pool, with striated rocks, and crawling with crabs

For breakfast this morning, instead of ordering the traditional Sri Lankan feast we tried another specialty: chili eggs with bacon curry. It was delicious -- the egg slightly runny, on top of a thick piece of toast, with chilis poached into the egg. The bacon curry was interesting, not quite what we thought (though I don't think we had a very clear idea of what to expect). It wasn't fried, exactly; it was just like bacon with curry sauce on it. It was good, but we decided we'd go back to the traditional Sri Lankan feast breakfast tomorrow.

chili eggs with bacon curry and coconut sambol

The young men who work here are soft-spoken and sweet. This morning our waiter asked if we were from London. Usually, when we travel and people ask where we're from, all we need to say is New York City and they know that place. Here, though, they look at us with deep confusion, it doesn't register. Saying United States doesn't always register either; we have to say America. It's always funny trying to figure out how to answer the question, but this is the first time New York City hasn't meant a damn thing. Our waiter is from "up country," he said, and he asked if we'd been there -- he said he missed it. We told him where we were going and he seemed to understand us but I'm not actually sure he did.

There is something very subtle my pronunciation must miss. Most of the time, for instance, if I say kotthu roti people will eventually guess what I mean. They'll say it back to me and it sounds to me like we're saying the same thing but we clearly aren't. Sometimes I'll say it and the person just looks at me blankly. My Texan mouth must be unable to make (and my ear to hear) the different diphthongs required to pronounce the words so they are intelligible.

Our plan for the day is to take a tuk-tuk into town and do some poking around, a little shopping, some planning, and then have dinner. In the afternoon we'll swim, I'm sure. The weather has been outstanding, although it bears no relationship to the weather reports we see online. In fact, it's the opposite. The skies have been blue, with a few white clouds the last few days and online it'll say cloudy and overcast with rain. Today it says few clouds, but instead the skies are dark and heavy, no blue to be seen. So we'll see.

A few years ago we spent Thanksgiving Day at Angkor Wat, and it was the most unusual Thanksgiving I'd ever spent at that point. But returning home in early December, after missing Thanksgiving at home, left me caught off guard by the holidays -- they seemed to just whoosh by before I realized what was going on. I wonder if it'll be the same this year, since once again we're missing Thanksgiving at home; it seems to mark the beginning of the holiday season in a way I didn't realize. But it's ok. Thanksgiving in Sri Lanka is pretty wonderful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends at home in America, and love to all of you.

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