Thursday, February 19, 2015

2015 February 19: A Rare Perfect Day. Or, Jesus Got Our Number.

Ever have one of those rare almost-perfect days when everything seems to be going just right? when every care seems to melt away? where everything in the universe seems to perfectly aligned, for a few brief hours?

That was us today.

Steve and I awoke to a glorious gorgeous dawn.

We saw several species of birds while sitting on our top floor veranda waiting for Elanor to awake, and I was able to get this picture of a grey heron. Birds in flight are often difficult with my camera, as the shutter speed is too slow, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this.

We watched three coucals feeding behind the vacant lot next door, and I was finally able to get a fairly decent picture, something I have been trying to do since we arrived last Saturday.

At breakfast, one of the hotel workers offered to take our picture for us.

We began looking for a house, and Steve ran off to follow up on a lead given to him by the District leadership of our church here in Sri Lanka. A little while later, he came rushing into the hotel room, and very excitedly told us to come with him - the tuktuk driver was waiting to take us to the house he had looked at. Two exhausting but rewarding hours later, we had made an agreement to rent this house, a new luxury dwelling on Cemetery Road here in Negombo, close to shopping, groceries, the beach, church, restaurants, and downtown, for a very reasonable price. (More to follow when we get moved in.)

After our marathon two hour housing ordeal this morning, Elanor and I waited inside the open air lobby of our hotel while Steve paid our oh-so-patient tuktuk driver for all of the running around and waiting we had asked of him. We were chatting with the desk clerks when we heard Steve's raised voice say, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult you!" Uh oh, we thought. This did not sound good.

It turned out that Steve had offered him 100 rupees (78 cents) for his hours of work. Not wanting to insult Steve, our driver, named Jesus (pronounced with a 'j', not an 'h' sound like the Spanish), with clear disappointment in his voice, said, "I thought I would get at least 300 ($2.34)." Steve became flustered and couldn't think of the words he wanted to say in the sun addled state we were in - while the days start off at a 'cool' 25 or so degrees, the temperatures rapidly climb - and finally resorted to shoving a 1000 rupee note ($7.81) towards him while saying that he he misspoke, that he meant a thousand not a hundred and wasn't trying to insult him. Jesus protested that it was too much, and finally they got it sorted out between the two of them.

Pleased with ourselves for finding somewhere to live, we thought we would get some lunch and check out a nearby marshland for some bird watching. Jesus, our tuktuk driver from the morning, came to see if we needed to go anywhere. Now that he knows we are not trying to cheat him - plenty of tourists try to get the cheapest rates they can from some of the poorest people in the country - he was eager to help us, and gave Steve his number. He knows where our new place is, so we will likely be seeing him again and calling him if we need to take a tuktuk a longer distance.

We walked south along our street to Sha Indian Restaurant, where we had a simple lunch of rice and curried chickpeas - Elanor had shrimp, which she has learned to eat Asian style with shell and all intact. The servers were marveling over our binoculars - a luxury item in many poorer places - and were excitedly taking turns while we ate our meal. This was a second story restaurant which overlooked a garden full of trees across the street. More excellent bird pictures followed, as well as observations of just how these birds feed.

We continued south, looking for a tour company that arranges boat tours of the marshlands that we are interested in seeing. We didn't find it, but did find ourselves on the beach where Steve spent much of his time when he was here previously. (More about that later, too.) More great pictures, such as this one of a big yellow crab.

Back to the hotel for a couple of hours of rest in the blazing heat of the day. And then we went to the beach, intent upon taking a cool dip. As Elanor and I walked down the pathway, I got distracted by this Pond Heron.

Elanor ran ahead as Steve and I stopped to talk to some of our new Tamil speaking Muslim fishermen friends. Yesterday when Steve was in Colombo, they approached me at the nearby taembili (King coconut) stand, asking, 'Where is your husband, the one who speaks our language?" They were happy to see him and talk to him in Tamil. Steve glanced to where Elanor was standing near the water and then suddenly exclaimed, "There's one!" and took off running. I followed, perplexed at what was going on.

Well, while Steve and I were attempting to find out where the nomadic snake charmers he is here to study actually are, Elanor was happily talking to one of them and playing with his pet monkey! A long discussion and introductions ensued, Steve received all sorts of valuable information, an invitation to visit, and assurances that he would be quite welcome to learn whatever he wanted to from them.

We then went for an hour-long ride in a traditional outrigger fishing boat with our fishermen friends. We paid them, of course, but you know you are being accepted by a people when they start kidding around with you and joking in their language!

A sunset swim in the sunlit waters of the warm Indian Ocean was the perfect ending to such a rare day as this. May there be many more.