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November 12, 2004

I saw the light, and wanted to shut the curtain

From the beginning when a 300 km trip took 10 hours I
should have known that I was in for.
In our hell on wheels a cassette of 'Our Father' and 'Hail Mary' and hymns
in Sinhala was played on repeat from 2am when we left until 12.30pm when we
arrived ended in a place called Madhu. It's a tiny little place just inside
the LTTE controlled zone where hundreds of thousands of catholics flock to
every year. It's the most bizarre place in the world... The shrine that they
all travel to worship from across the island is little more than a plastic
garden gnome draped in fairy lights. Its about 2ft tall and it seriously
looks like a cheap arse Christmas decoration. This place mardu has only
opened up to Sinhalese people in the last two years after
being a refugee camp for Tamils during the civil war and
so now theres this tense situation where the LTTE are still roaming the
area in full combat gear and fully armed. Except now that there is a caese
fire all they do is run after monkeys waving their semi-automatics and pick
mangos while around them thousands of catholic pilgrims are wandering about
the place busting their chops to get a glimpse at the shrine, flapping on
about loving thy fellow man and all that jazz while remnants of the 35000
Tamils who used this place as a refugee camp only two years
ago are living in no mans land, begging for money from the toight-arse
Catholics just to get by.
Being the good catholics that they were, the whole pilgrimage was all about
suffering and being complete martyr... from the hellish bus ride to the
accommodation. And all the time muttering ‘thank you jesus’. Clara and I
went with her boss, himself the epitome of martyr – only sleeping 4 hours a
night and doing routine checks of your plate to make sure there is not a
grain of rice lfet on the plate because 'one in three people are starving in
the world'
We found ourselves sleeping in the old shacks that are left over from the
refugee camp days. Luckily we were with 'the doctor' and we were white, so
got the pick of the houses – ours had running water AND a squat toilet. We
shared the house with about 15 other people and in our room on the concrete
floor in amongst the monkey shit and piss slept he the doctor, his wife,
clara and I along with the doctors mother who was thankyou jesus-ing the
whole night apart from when she was letting rip with some real stinkers.
And what I love is that I did this whole trip with my period. Yippe!! I love
having to negotiate the intricacies of bleeding continuously while only
having a squat toilet and a well to wash in.
I think my favourite part of the trip though was the priest who gave his
impromptu sermon in English – for our benefit no doubt. After channelling
the power of god through him and touching us all with the power of Jesus
(apart from me. I sat like a surly bitch at the back of the church. I'm
already blessed enough) he went on to denounce all other religions, that
only catholics have love in their homes and that's why there are so many
troubles in families because they don't believe in god. Then he said that we
weren’t all devout enough because we weren't wearing veils like our lady
mary and then, my personal favourite was when he concluded the sermon by
preaching about 'some countries in the west that have allowed the devil into
their country' because their women allow their virginity to be taken away.
And that we keep the love of god in us by keeping our virginity. Now, I'm
sure he wasn't directing that comment at anyone specifically, and I wouldn’t
like to draw conclusions, but Clara and I were the only dirty white sluts
from a Western Country in the audience. So Yeah, I was feeling the love.
And as it began, it ended. What better way to finish off a catholic
pilgrimage than with a 10 hour bus trip. On the way back those crazy
catholics sure did let their hair down. The looped tape of Hail Marys and
Our Fathers was done away with and booklets were passed around for a jolly
old Jim Reeves country and western singalong... They even sang a racy number
called Que Sera? That I found my self joining in with. It was a hoot! Then
just as I felt my inner surliness being replaced by the love and light of
god, we pulled into Colombo... I think Clara could tell she was losing me
after I made the sign of the cross getting off the bus, so she quickly
wisked me away to the Cricket Club, a boozy Australian-run restaurant in
downtown Slumbo, where we set about shutting the door on our pilgrimage and
retoxifying ourselves - I ate the Botham veggie burger with some greg
chapell chips and washed it down with a bottle of Banrock , Clara smoke half
a packet of fags and I cussed a LOT and made unnecessarily blasphemous
comments, which made me feel like my old self again.

Posted by catherine at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)