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July 30, 2005

It's the small things that make me love it

An old man rearranging the folds of his sarong, the daily game of karom on the corner of the the never ending building site, two girls in pristine white school uniforms - their long black hair in two plaits tied with red ribbons at the bottom - hand in hand on their way to school, the ‘mangoor’ of the street side key cutting booth scratching his crotch as he swigs from a king coconut, that same beggar looking up at the sky with an unusually content look on his face for someone who has woken up on the side of a road, the arm-around-arm young boys with their high pants calling out ‘hello lady’ in well practiced unison, three police swinging their ready-to-rumble batons by their side as they stand idle at a checkpoint, a female soldier peeking out from inside a green bunker - her AK-47 in one hand, waving with the other, a blur of colour as a silk-sareed lady darts inbetween the morning traffic, the betel nut seller with a dripping red smile - a basket atop his head filled with the bananna-leaf wrapped packets of ‘village lollies’, the fish seller pedalling his bike up and down the street calling out ‘malu!’ until he gets a bite….

Posted by catherine at 8:59 AM | Comments (1)

July 22, 2005

And then she was gone

There was some cheap local gin, cashew nuts, flying cockroaches and Party of Five playing in the background. I used to think Party of Five was kind of cool in my stoopid teenage years, but watching it this night confirmed what I had though every Friday night that I had managed to be at home to watch it - it was full of annoying overacting American child actor wankers. Just before that resolutiony bit at the end where they all let down their guard and reveal the emotional impact that the night’s episode has had on them, the end of an era came. The cab honked its horn, we had another gin and then she got in the cab.

I’ve shared more than a house with these two girls for the last year, we have been through everything together from a tsunami to men wanking on the street in front of us. I wake up and they’re there - all of us in our jocks, a look championed by me but loved by the household at large, we’ve discovered new places in Sri Lanka together, we’re inbuilt social, private and work counsellors for one another. There has not been more than a day gone past that I have not seen at least one of them. It’s a sheltered existence, we all know that, but here in amidst the drugged children used for begging, a raging class system that tolerates no gentle nudging in the direction of egalitarianism, the fall out of a tsunami that none of us could have prepared ourselves for and days that can be as annoying and persistent as the cockroaches and ants and geckos themselves - we’re all we’ve got. And now it’s the beginning of the end. Clara skipped town tonight in the back of a taxi as we ran along beside her stumbling over our gin feet and rubber thongs… But that’s just the start. In a few weeks Jill and I will execute a copycat escape to Perth via Thailand and the end of an era will be confirmed. There’s no going back.

I love that I always have new horizons in front of me, endless possibilities - I’m lucky like that. Australia lets you have that freedom. But deep down, secretly, all hush-hush, I wish she didn’t go. I liked it when she was here.

Posted by catherine at 7:38 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2005

A Ho hum Sunday in Colombo

Another Sunday in Colombo, the only day I really have time to indulge in playing with my new friend Blog, and I could not be more bored. The only English television station is playing Bold and the Beautiful. I should turn it off and save my brain, but I let it be. It’s keeping me company and I feel like if I turn it off Ridge and Bridgett will never resolve their forbidden feelings for one another. I am semi-house bound due to my troublesome digestive system reacting badly to a poorly judged Mexican meal the other night followed by suspect chips at a brothel-cum-karaoke bar that is so seedy your feet get pregnant when you go to the toilet without shoes on. Jill, who shares this apartment with me, is getting about the place in matching pink jocks and singlet. We don’t like to wear pants in this house of three girls. We prefer to trade in male company for the ease and comfort of hanging about in our underpants. The mongoose in our roof has recently given birth or taken some small creature captive which it tries to kill every night at about 4am. I can now do a fantastic impression of what a small animal being killed by a mongoose sounds like, which is good because I’ve never been good at that kind of thing. And then it comes - the break I need. A new hindi film has been found playing down the road at the grand 80’s style cinema. 4 hours of bright sarees whipping around the screen, bollywood dancing and Shah Rukn Kann’s moustache. And just like that, boredom is averted for another Sunday.

Posted by catherine at 4:50 PM | Comments (2)

July 4, 2005

What good catholic-reared girls fantasize about when they're far from home

I have been having some very disturbing and sick fantasies lately. I am walking down Beaufort Street, I stop at the lights and wait for the traffic to clear and the green man to come and do his little dance, then I cross the road and walk past the Scotto to Supa-Valu where I do a spot of shopping. That’s it! It’s sick! Goodness knows what racy, saucy things I get up to after I leave Supa-Valu. I probably go to Planet Video and rent a movie or go to the Scotto and have a beer. Sick I tell you. My yearnings have stopped being about seeing friends and family, and have now have been reduced to familiar street corners and fluro-lit, well-stocked supermarkets. I’m sick.

Posted by catherine at 6:34 PM | Comments (1)

July 2, 2005

What's mine is yours, except when you eat all my food, wear my clothes and sleep in my bed

No matter what house, or what country I have lived in, the over-staying, uninvited, annoying house guest is always the same.

They ask to stay for a few days, but set up camp for weeks, they eat all your food, drink all your fresh water (this only applies in Sri Lanka where small parasitic worms come out of your tap) and don’t contribute anything to the house hold - not even a touch of fun. As a species, they are dull, selfish and opportunistic. Many purport to be free-spirited travellers who cant be confined by the usual social norms and niceties, but don’t be fooled. It’s all just a rouse - the ultimate aim of which is to spend as little money as possible while getting fed, showered, sheltered and entertained.

I’ve tried, really I have. Being a hostess with the mostess is not something that comes naturally to me, but Lordy I do try. This year my home has been opened up to guests from all over the world on a weekly basis. And for the most part I have warmed to my role as Lady of the House and have even enjoyed sharing my space and my life in Sri Lanka with people from across the globe - especially friends and family. But YOU… the over-staying, uninvited, annoying house guest, YOU make me want to board-up, shut-up and lock-up my hostessing heart. So pick up your towels, wash your dishes, replace all the food you’ve eaten, pack your bags and fuck off to a hostel.

Posted by catherine at 6:57 PM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2005

It's all relative, maaan

Everything is relative. That I know, or am at least beginning to realise. Happiness, poverty, success, beauty. And so the other day I took and excursion on the subject of fame’s relativity. It sounds elementary, but you have to be recognised for your fame to work its powers.

If a famous person walks into a room and no one recognises them, do they still make the social pages?

Having dinner at one of Colombo’s la-di-da restaurants the other night I saw my boss walk in. But when I saw my boss, every other diner saw Sunethra Bandaranaike: the Presidents sister, whose mother was the first female President, whose father was the most loved President and who is part of the most politically powerful families in Sri Lanka. The Bandaranaike’s, the Kennedy’s of Sri Lanka, are recognised, well-connected, powerful and simultaneously loved and hated depending on who you talk to, but had she walked into a similar place in Perth she would have been a face in the crowd. Here she makes the social pages.

Posted by catherine at 6:31 PM | Comments (0)