bare with me for numerous reasons… that these will be posted after the fact is one…and that the typing will be bad due to time and computer restraints…that said…i go forth…

sitting on the uppermost floor of the topaz hotel betrays my dueling sides. at once i am struck by the extravagence of the surroundings. we are nestled at the top of awinding hill – the view out here on the patio – mountain breeze to cool for my long sleeve shirt – i can see kandy (the city). the pool lights directly below me are tinted blue through the water – but all around me – sprialing out from this point are the lights of homes and businesses – a world i’ve not been privy to from this high perch.

but down below, navigating the croded streets littered with brillinat saris and flea ridden dogs, i am no more a part of the scene than wen high above it. i am an object of speculation. “where is she from?” and people wonder and stare. some ask as if the asking were the point and not my answer.

on my way to dinner i heard what sounded like prayers. it was unfamilar, maybe buddhist or hindu chanting, maybe lead by one of the orange clad, shaven monks. later, maybe 15 minutes, it sounded like the muslim call to prayer. what strikes me here, having read of the civil war raging intermitenly since 1983 and the recent – precarious – peace, is the absence of turmoil. new to the country i may not have adjusted my sight to see the scars inner turmoil creates, because from here the air of tolerance permeates everything…buddha statues perched on most streets walked down by women covered from head to ankle in colorful cloth beside shops selling brass. mosques beside temples beside churches. it doesn’t feel temporary or forced. it doesn’t look damaged- not like mozambique six years after the fact with frelimo still staining walls and buildings still nursing their cement scars.

my nose is at once assaulted and carressed by kandy. the acrid stench of buring garbage- smoldering plastic lingering low- with diesel fumes and garbage rotting softly in the streets. the gentle wafting of guava – invisible but so aapparent, orange blossoms and the freshness of mountin rain. curry…the constant underlying of curry that is probably already escaping my own pores as i have eaten curry at least once (usually twice) a day since my arrival.

touts, as they are called, have adjusted (it is the only fitting term) my perceptipon of the country. the instant befriending of those foreign – a mile and some semblance of english in a world that is evertyhing but – they are unrequested consultants…some more helpful than others.

our first full day in kandywe met our first tout. a slight man insdie the tooth relic temple, just beyond sight of a a sign that clearly stated “no unlicensed guides within”, sideled up to us. we looked lost – unsure of what to do – what would be impolite or even where we could go. “would lyou like someone to explain?” and we despeartely did. already akward from purchasing -what we viewed as the requiste flowers- (water lillies despite an abundance of orange blossoms and lotus) i’d almost been hoodwinked as the vendor earnestly told me Rs 150. i hesitated only because i’d heard my friend quoted Rs. 20. in hindsight i should have taken my business to one of the other carts eager to do business. but in a flurry to get in and mybe an ucnonscoious knowldege that i was fair game to whoever got me first – i handed him my quivilant of 20 cents and headed to the entrance. since the 1998 bombing that destroyed part of the temple and its roof, secuity has become more intense. as such, we were greeted by a guard who wanded eachof us and our bags. as would become the theme of our trip – she asked ruby if she was sri lankan and marveled at how sri lankan she looked. for my part she was much more intersted in my hari. i watched her eyes trail it after she wanded me and her gaze lingered there even as i turned to say thank you and walk away.

anyway, we met our “tout” after that. by then eager to experince sri lanka we followed him about as he explined the religious rites performed in the temple – on to the alter of sorts – past the artifacts used anually for the festivbal we will miss by 1 day and up to the are where the tooth is housed. back down again and outside to the cocunt oil lamps buring and monkeys racing between devotees. there ruby tried to slip him a tip – which he pointedly explained was inadequate. a snd attempt proved satisfactory and he smiled and moved on.

later, after lingering for an hour so that we could see the thrice dailyceremnoy -complete with drumming and the opening of big metal doors and the offereing of heaps of flowers- ruby spotted him waving at us from what appeard to be a very important perch. white suit on- red sash – holding two big medal doors.even then he beckoned us closer and urged us to go upstairs so that we could view the tooth -rather the outermost of the 7 gold boxes that house the tooth. and pushed in with a multitude of believers, fieldtripping students and tourists we followed the line past an open window and and did indeed see the box. i can’t help but wonder if the tooth -stolen from siddartha’s funer pyre – is still there. needless to say, he was a pleasant tout- i dare not use the term and instead think of him as guide. he would not be the norm.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply