When our Nuwara Eliya landlady (who is also our boss) informed us (very nicely) that she was kicking us out of the Toppass Guesthouse during Sri Lankan New Years so that she could quintuple our room rate, we had no objection. A forced 10-day vacation? Not a problem; we head for the beach.
We also donâ€™t mind that weâ€™re missing Nuwara Eliya during its most rambunctious, raging week of the year. Weâ€™ll catch enough commotion when we return next week, in time for the flower show, golf and cricket tournaments, horse races, and general downtown drunken mayhem, which supposedly lasts through the end of the month.
Until then, weâ€™ll be happily relaxing on our Hikkaduwa Beach Hotel balcony; or maybe floating in the glassy Indian Ocean at its early-morning, low-tide laziest.
Weâ€™ll also be spending time with fellow volunteers, a small, informal reunion of sorts, organized by a few of our Colombo-based friends. As any of you who has lived overseas can attest, time together with similarly situated folks is crucial in maintaining oneâ€™s balance abroad. Shared meals, laughter, a few sunset Lion Lagers; itâ€™s all very nice.
Our room is large and airy, and on our first day, I have a writing desk brought up and placed in front of the wide, west-facing window. Mobile cubicle where Iâ€™ll work on the Palm Foundation website and prepare the writing workshop Iâ€™m giving next week. Internet is a problem, however â€” or more likely, a blessing. Having only a couple of slow dial-up places in town, lots of power outages, and erratic New Yearsâ€™ hours make keeping up with yâ€™all a challenge.
Itâ€™s tough to complain about a town still recovering from the tsunami (16 months ago). Hotels and shops are mostly rebuilt and functioning (at their normal state of inefficiency), but one still sees high-and-dry boats in strange places, or the restored train at the rail station, its battered passenger cars set upright and on display for morbid-minded tourists.
Overall, it is a relatively inactive week. Except for a few early-morning snorkeling expeditions below our balcony and an afternoon side-trip to the Galle Fort, we have no ambitions to explore. Just sit, read, relax, and roll in the Sri Lankan New Year with a few friends.
And now, back to it â€” while the power is still on. Happy New Year, everyone.