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January 30, 2006

When is it time to worry?

I think it’s time to worry when you have no where left to go and buy your lunch and are forced to throw together a mish mash of food to bring to work with you that even a first year, first-time-living-out-of-home student would be ashamed of.

Let me explain.

Firstly, I was being driven to work early one morning. I had just cruised by ‘Sunshine’, one of the passable food joints in town, when a grenade exploded behind us. Fuckers. Really shattered my early morning serenity. And that of the three Sri Lankan Army personnel injured in the attack no doubt. I jumped like a girl, and swore like a sailor - I have already cemented myself as a potty mouth, so this particular yelp of ‘fuck’ was not altogether unexpected, or unwarranted I should add. My driver calmly and deftly maneuvered the car out of the area and turned down the road to our office. I looked behind me to see the early street scene shatter and run for the side streets while a cloud of dirt and dust and cow shit filled the sky.
Later that same day, just as goodbyes were being said and computers switched off, the windows of my office rattled. Everyone briefly suspended their bag packing in mid-air and then, without speaking, we all decided to pretend it was just a big lorry rattling by on the road in front of us. On the drive home, I realise that the window rattling is partly to do with a lorry, but not in the way we all hoped it would be. As a lorry full of Army personnel was driving by Sri Krishna, my other lunch hangout that makes a wonderfully greasy, spicy masala dosai, a claymore that was attached to a nearby tree was remotely detonated. 5 people were killed, including some civilians and 20 more were injured.

And so while I am learning to trust these streets again where the attacks took place, I am forced to resort to pre-packed lunches in a town where finding a tin of tuna or a jar of olives hiding on the dusty shelf of the local co-op is a big deal.

Posted by catherine at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

January 9, 2006

My two cents worth on the flavour of the month

I’m liking the current theme ‘round these parts of resolutions for the New Year. I’m a big fan of setting little challenges for myself. Mine seem to come on a more daily basis though. Yesterday I tried not to drink and swear like a sailor. And I succeeded. This was prompted by the night before where I drank and swore like a sailor. These small challenges make success easier to come by for me.

Today I am trying to shake my self of residual feelings of Catholic Guilt left hanging around by 12 years at a Catholic School and a long family history of Catholic Guilt. This includes not feeling bad about being blasphemous, even though I am in a work place full of very devout Christians. So, I WILL NOT feel bad for the rest of the day about saying “Holy Fuck” (again) in the van after a near miss with a motorbike.

Posted by catherine at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

January 8, 2006

I went for a walk today along the road that runs the length of the beach behind the guest house where I am staying. It sounds lovely and peaceful and has all the makings of a pleasant way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. But I felt uneasy, there was something not quite right about the beach today…

The things that I noticed as I was walking weren’t strange or new to me, I’ve seen them everyday - the houses left half standing or half the Hindu temple jutting out of the sand. The people living in tents and cobbled together, tin-sheet shacks along the edge of the road. The makeshift graves and the flutter of white prayer flags. The eerie silence of a place filled with people, punctuated only by the battery-starved jingle of the Jolly Ice-Cream Van.

And I realised that was exactly what was wrong with the beach today. It looked like the tsunami came a week ago, not a year ago. Buildings have been left to stand exactly where they fell. People are only just pulling the pieces of their lives together. The wounds are still fresh and the place is still waiting to fill with life again.

Posted by catherine at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

January 3, 2006

My new home

A Grenade was just thrown at the District Hospital a block from my new office in Batticaloa on the East Coast of Sri Lanka. There was lots of commotion and movement in the office, but in amongst the Tamil words that are still strange and unfamiliar to my ears, the only words I understood were ‘grenade’ and ‘hospital’. Two words the English language has kindly lent to this part of the world.

In a panic, I abandoned my rice and curry and ran out the front of the office where I had seen everyone else run to. Instead of finding my colleagues in a state of flustered anxiety, I found them with big grins and small giggles jumping on their motorbikes to go and have a look.

I must have looked worried… fuck, I was worried! A grenade had just been thrown. Our Child Protection Officer came up to me and said, “Cathy, don’t be worried. This is every day what happens here. This is part of the fun. You need things to happen, otherwise every day is the same. Don’t be worried.”

So I took my rice and curry into the back room of the office. And I decided not to worry. I decided not to worry about the grenade that had just been thrown outside the hospital, or the one last week that was thrown at the place I used to get my lunch from, or the Tamil MP that was assassinated at mid-night mass on Christmas Eve.

I decided not to worry and get used to my new home, where something new happens every day.

Posted by catherine at 2:04 PM | Comments (0)