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October 20, 2006

do i bang on about this too much? I think so...

Every time I open my mouth (or unfurl my fingers in front of the keyboard) these days I seem to want to bang on about the ongoing, never-ending, protracted, messy conflict that has wrapped itself lazily around this country. While I think of something more positive and diverse to say about the world, let me just say this one last thing on the subject….

I spoke to my mum last night. She had watched the evening news and saw a segment about the port and tourist town of Galle that got a hiding on Wednesday courtesy of a suicide bomber masquerading as a fisherman.

“Oh, it’s really getting close to home now isn’t it? Terrible that civilian areas are being targeted isn’t it?” she said.

I didn’t know where to start! Her daughters’ home had been rather close to ‘it’ for months now and if anyone thinks that the North and East are just full of bunt-out old cars, un-used dirt tracks and a few elephants nosing through rubbish dumps, I can assure you there most definitely are civilians here, except now most of them are living a very uncivilised existence in tents and under tarpaulins in displaced people camps, getting food rations two weeks at a time and hoping a water bowser will come to fill the empty tanks.

But I can understand how she could say that. Yes, the conflict is getting close to the home of government and the place where all the foreign journalists are holed up and yes, the areas that are being targeted are full of civilians that haven’t seen this kind of trouble since the cease fire and yes, it is terrible.

What is also terrible is the full and unrelenting reprisal attacks that we saw here in the east over the last two days. From 6.00am both mornings I could hear the morning air crack apart with heavy thuds as shells hit their target and last night the sky lit up every few minutes with muzzled shells being discharged over the lagoon into, what I can assure you, are most certainly civilian areas despite the fact they are under the control of a party other than the Government (Damn! The fear mongerers and conspiracy theorists have gotten to me - can’t even bring myself to type their name in my lowly blog site…). At 2.00am a late monsoon fell into town and I woke in a sweat to hear the sick symphony of thunder, heavy rain, dogs barking, crackly tamil music and artillery pounding the earth somewhere off in the distance.

It’s no wonder a country in the swing of a civil conflict is so frustrated socially, politically, economically. Who’s got time for roads and hospitals and education and poverty reduction when there’s a war to win? I mean, I can’t even find something else to write about in my blog site…

Posted by catherine at 3:40 PM | Comments (1)

October 18, 2006

what's your drug?

Living in a country that has a loose understanding of the word ‘ceasefire’ is, I have decided, like living with a drug addict trying to kick the habit.

There’s the cheating and stealing and lying (“I SO did not blow up that Navy convoy! I don’t know what you’re taking about!). There’s the extreme mood swings (“What? I can’t believe you think it’s excessive to rain down artillery on a refugee camp three nights in a row.”). There’s the selfishness (“No food or water or shelter you say? Hmm, I could give you access into those areas to distribute relief items, but then again I could just have a cup of tea instead.”) And of course there is the outright, infuriating denial (“We are NOT in a state of war! We signed a cease fire agreement in 2002, you know? We are SO in a state of peace damn it!”)

The problem, like with any addict, is that this violence in Sri Lanka has become a dirty little habit that’s hard to break. Any sign of tension or conflict and its ‘get out your RPG, Kaffir jet, armored tank, artillery shells, AK-47s - anything - and blow the fuck out of what ever has bothered you.’ Scratch that itch. Don’t think. Don’t talk. Just do what you have always done - react and retalliate

So off she goes to another rehab session in Geneva next week, but after a bloody week of daily aerial attacks, suicide bombs and street fighting, I’m afraid my poor friend just isn’t ready to kick the habit yet.

Posted by catherine at 2:43 PM | Comments (1)

October 16, 2006

when a little love gives a lotta problems...

My friend suddenly stopped coming to work one day. I asked where she had gone, but everyone just muttered about a ‘problem’ and looked at the floor. The problem, her problem now, is that she was found to be having a ‘love affair’ (so the secret- revealer called it) with a boy at work - and when I say love affair, I mean they exchanged glances and text messages and occasionally brushed arms when they passed one another. News got back to her mother and she is now sitting and sobbing in her bedroom, forbidden from leaving the house, returning to work or even making a phone call. She will sit in her house until her rushed arranged marriage to a more suitable suitor (one that has a visa for another country) can be finalised.

She told me that her life has been ruined and the reputation of her family damaged, “All this because I loved a boy Catherine.”

I think about the random French boy I locked lips with the other night who walked me home at 5.00am along the empty, all-seeing streets of this town and it seems so unfair. Sure, I don’t feel too good about my drunken dalliances, but at least my life isn’t ruined. I get to leave the house in the morning, make phone calls to who ever I like and no doubt have many more of these nights.

No one wants to mess with another culture, a different way of life. I love that this place is other and different and suprises me everyday. But I can’t help feeling kinda sad that the next time I will see my friend, she will be hitched to to stranger she doesn’t love with a ring so tight on her finger there will be no getting it off for the rest of her life.

Posted by catherine at 9:38 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2006

see how she runs.

In this strange place, I have started doing some things that for me, are also very strange. With a curry belly under construction and a life that is work-sleep-eat, plus the occasional boozy balmy night thrown in when yet another person leaves town, I have started jogging. It is my new hobby. I even bought a new pair of shoes for the occasion. I take my new hobby very, very seriously.

The temple down the road has just purchased a new sound system that they like to test out every morning at 5.30am. It’s a very clear sound I have to say, and it’s a very useful alarm clock. I am now, by default, a morning person.

I jump out of bed, pull on some black cotton-lycra-mix clothes, my new pair of jogging shoes, push in some headphones and off I go down the street. Past the old lady at the end of the road making breakfast, along side some girls with their long black braids and super white uniforms riding bicycles on their way to school and dart through some stray cows that have wandered onto the road.

I make a left at the broken temple on to the road that runs along side the lagoon. The fisherman are just waking up and rubbing their eyes, untangling their nets and loading their canoes. I can see across to the other side of the lagoon to the Riveria guest house where I first stayed when I arrived here and where I have been many times since to eat fresh crab curry and drink iron-gut local gin. The sky is pink and new and the place seems almost peaceful. The kids are awake and running around some half constructed houses in their underpants. Sometimes they scuttle away as I run past, but sometimes they giggle and wave. I always wave back and think, ‘fuck! I can’t believe those houses aren’t finished yet. Hey sorry kids…’

By the time I get to the Merlin Office and turn right, I’m struggling to keep running. My face is red. I look a sight. My steps are small. I keep my eye on the small bridge and the stinking pile of rubbish at the bend ahead. Once I pass that I just have to get to the shop on the corner that sells fresh bread and I’m on my last stretch.

I get to the end of the road and turn right onto the main road. There’s more traffic now and I have to compete with old men ambling along, the motorbikes, the tuk-tuks and the cars. This is the ugly part of my new hobby. The road is dusty and dirty and the sun is getting angry. I make it to the big temple on the corner and turn left, back down the street I came. Back past the old lady, who is eating breakfast by now, and into the lane that my house is on.

I fall through the gates. Drink some water. Drag myself up the stair and stand under a cold shower until the rest of the house wakes up and needs to use the bathroom.

I sit and eat some cereal that I carried in my damn bag all the way over here, look out the window and congratulate myself on my new hobby that, for half an hour (or 45 minutes if I’m a bit boozy and have to walk some of the way) makes me think this place is a peaceful, pretty little fishing village.

Posted by catherine at 5:54 PM | Comments (2)