Sunday, December 1, 2013

they only have indoor voices

One thing we have noticed, everywhere we've gone in Sri Lanka so far, is that the people are extraordinarily soft-spoken. Their quiet voices go along with their drawn-inward presences; the people we have met have been uniformly warm and friendly, smiling and connecting, it's just that there is something self-contained about them in the loveliest way. Perhaps it's because they are Buddhists, I have no idea. But it's a pleasure to need to lean in a little bit to interact with them, a pleasure to listen for their words.

We arrived in Galle yesterday afternoon after another long, winding trip along the coast. The road is a series of S and C curves, tight ones, and a lot of stopping and starting, slowing and passing. It's been a great many years since I've been carsick, but that trip did it to me in both directions. It is a beautiful drive otherwise, through a series of small villages and urban cities, like Matara. As you drive along the ocean, it's quite common to see this:

it's an ingenious way to fish in the surf -- stilts as far as you can see
in both directions (this one isn't my picture -- we were driving too fast!)

Galle is quite a beautiful city, and one in which the Dutch colonial period is visible everywhere. The fort was built by the Dutch, beginning in 1663, and it occupies most of the promontory that forms the older part of Galle. The fort a World Heritage Site and it's really quite beautiful and lived in and on. After we checked into our room -- SO different from our hotel in Tangalle, this is just a room in a guesthouse -- we headed to the wall to watch the sunset, and to watch the people.

While we did see some western tourists, the place seemed full of people who live here, playing cricket and walking along the wall to do what we were doing, to enjoy the sunset. As we sat on the wall, several pairs of young people sat down next to us, and they seemed to be enjoying being there together. The young man and woman right next to me kept taking photos of each other, and then they'd each form half a heart with their hands and put them together, and take a photo of the sunset through the heart of their hands. They were just so beautiful, so sweet with each other. There were women wearing gorgeous and bright colored saris, a group of elderly women walking together, families out for the late afternoon, and what was notable to us was that the tourists were unfriendly, unsmiling, but the Sri Lankan people smiled at us. Really strange.

But the setting was so beautiful.

the sound of the cricket bat is so specific

part of the wall

a crumbling old building

the white Galle lighthouse

sunset, so beautiful

sunset, so very beautiful

gorgeously colored tuk-tuks

incredibly beautiful, this place

an orange-robed Buddhist monk at the temple
After the sun set, we found a little restaurant we'd read about, Lucky Fort, and enjoyed the next in a string of wonderful Sri Lankan dinners, this one with TEN curries:  pineapple, dhal, eggplant, jackfruit, sweet potato, pumpkin, kankun leaves, green bean, radish, fried fish, and of course papadam. The restaurant was a few little tables in front of someone's home, and the mother made the food while her son served it. When we told him to tell his mother how much we enjoyed her food, he lit up and ran into the house to bring her to us. It was quite adorable.

Today we'll poke around Galle, wind our way through the streets, see what there is to see, and have a low-key day here. Tomorrow we're taking a tuk-tuk back along the winding road to nearby Mirissa, where we'll go out on a boat to see blue whales and sperm whales....if we're lucky. I think if I were to see either or both, I might just die of happiness right on the spot. Fingers crossed.

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