Tuesday, 18 May 2010
School days are 07:30 to 13:30, or 12:30 if you're a junior. That means kids are setting off at seven or even six-thirty. Many walk past my door. This morning I spotted a father taking his daughter on his bicycle. She sat side-saddle on the crossbar holding a big umbrella over them while he pedalled slowly along. Since she was dressed in white and the umbrella was cane-handled: it looked most genteel! Yep, the kids' uniforms are mostly white and they wear it every day, unlike Kovalam, India, where it was reserved for Wednesdays only. It looks very smart but is it practical, I wonder! The older boys wear trousers, the younger ones shorts, and the girls wear skirts which come just below the knee - no more and no less.
I have a shower, shave and breakfast, and maybe wash a bucket of laundry, and then set off for work. It's about fifteen minutes to town and then a further five to 201/B Matara Road. I aim to get through the town before eight because that's when the National Anthem is blasted out and everything grinds to a halt. Police, in their brown uniforms, are positioned all around the centre and ensure that everyone stops where they are: buses, cars, cyclists, trucks, pedestrians, everyone. I've been caught out once or twice but will now dive into a cafe for a cuppa or, if I'm nearly out of the area, pretend I can't hear it and keep walking. It goes on for what seems an eternity but is probably five minutes; it sounds quite tuneless but then it's difficult to judge from the distorted din.
I've been visiting the Perlyn Hotel most mornings for my 'curry and rice' lunch packet. It's pretty basic food but fills a hole. However, one of the reasons to go there and nowhere else is the girl behind the counter - she has this sweet, embarrassed, shy, smile when I come in. All the other staff tease her but she bravely perseveres and giggles and beams at me. It's difficult to say how old she is, perhaps 17, perhaps 30, but her smile kick-starts my day!
I've found that there's a bakery just across the road from the Perlyn and I'll get a couple of plain buns or filled rolls there to have later. The prices are all marked on the cabinets so it's one of the few places I feel I'm not paying over the odds because of my skin colour. And it's all freshly baked and tasty.
Then it's off up Matara Road. There'll be more police stationed along the way, often in groups, and some stationed outside the President's House. Tangalle is his home town, you see. The building is behind a dark green wall and not visible from the road so I've no idea how large or grand it is. It's possibly the family home rather than his personal residence - I don't know for sure. Anyway, there will be both policemen and policewomen, again in brown, the men wearing trousers or shorts, and the women skirts, some of which come above the knee! Perhaps it's so they can run faster! Many of the officers have badges and service ribbons dripping off them, and many carry guns. Apparently they are much despised though I've had no problems so far.
I pass two statutes on the way, one with inordinately large hands, both with fingers raised in some commanding show of personality. Who they are I have yet to discover! Then it's into the office. I'll be first there so I get to unpadlock the roller-shutter door. The trapped heat will then hit me so it's a case of nipping up the stairs, unlocking the door and quickly switching the a/c on before I melt!
Posted by Clive at 10:27