Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sixty-Four Degrees

To pick up where we left off last time....

We got our Suburban fixed (well, sort of - Dad reports today that it's not running again), got everything packed, and headed for St. John's for the night on Wednesday. The two little dogs knew something was up, as they both refused to leave my side during the trip. The snow started coming on as we finished up some last minute items. And the baleful look of my Shih-Poo as Mom and Dad pulled away from the hotel broke my heart. They drove our truck back to their place in a wintry blast all the way to Whitbourne, where it suddenly turned into a beautiful evening for a drive. Poor little Essie (my first dog, named Essex after my first new car, a Dodge SX) cried all Thursday because he missed his momma.

With yet another snowstorm forecast for Thursday morning, we were relieved to see clear skies when we awoke at 5 am to go to the airport. As we walked into the lobby a scant thirty minutes later, the heavens opened and we were in whiteout conditions. By the time we got to the airport, just five minutes later, all incoming flights had been cancelled, and our flight was scheduled to be the last one to leave.

And leave we did! Although, admittedly, it was more than a little disconcerting to be in 70 km / hour winds, with snow whipping everywhere at -31 C, and snowplows clearing the runway in front of the plane as we took off!

With all of the opposition we had faced while getting ready for this adventure, it was no surprise to be given this one last kick as we left for warmer climes.

In the meantime, my husband (who claims to be an introvert and anti-social) happily spent an hour at the gate chatting with former Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Beaton Tulk about politics, books, the oil industry, finance, Kevin King's back country cabin, Mr. Tulk's 76 year old house that he and his wife bought and restored in Musgravetown, and my first-cousin-once-removed Eli who is a good friend of his and whom Steve spent a day this past summer helping to put up a fence around a cemetery where many of my ancestors are buried - part of yet another cemetery restoration project envisioned by my great-uncle Sim who is celebrating his 91st birthday today! Our many hours long stop-over in Newark also saw my husband happily chatting away with the guys at the pizza stand in the airport food court - in Spanish, Sinhala, and Tamil.

The flight from Newark to Mumbai was an uneventful but long fourteen hours. It was rather strange in some ways, because we left on Thursday, but were flying east, so we had an extremely short day and landed in Mumbai shortly before midnight on Friday. It did give one pause for thought as we flew over Afghanistan, grateful to be flying at over 30 000 feet. But the sunset high in the air over Pakistan was truly spectacular - there is no word to describe the colour of where the saffron and cobalt of a Middle Eastern sunset meet as the sun is just sinking below the horizon. And one doesn't often hear this about airline food...but it was incredible. Curried chickpea wraps for snacking, some sort of crunchy grain salad and cauliflower curry for supper, mini samosas with sweet chutney and curried sago for breakfast.

The airport in Mumbai was incredible - the terminal has been completely renovated and now doubles as one of the pre-eminent museums in India, with 3 kms of exhibits! And, unlike American, Canadian, and other Western airports, photography is encouraged. With ancient and modern arts and crafts, frescoes, and archeological displays, it is truly breathtaking.

While wandering around and exploring all there was to see, I happened to stroll down a side hall in search of 'the facilities'. As I passed by a huge open double-door leading to a florescent sterile tube shaped corridor that apparently runs around the entire outside perimeter of the shopping, duty-free, and display area, I caught a glimpse of a large man with Asian features being held and forcibly removed of his jacket and backpack by three security officers. Needless to say, I did not stick around to see how this ended.

A couple of hours later we were on the final leg of our journey - Mumbai to Colombo - where again, the airline food was delicious - a spiced pancake with a vegetable korma and fruit salad (the one thing I did not like was a piece of fruit found in the fruit salad which tasted the way I imagine socks that have been worn for far too long in old hiking boots would taste), and Moong Dal for snacking. (This treat reminded me of a student I once taught who was supposed to be autistic and had been placed in my hard-to-serve regional autistic program. While trying to find some way to reach him, I visited him and his family at their home, where I discovered that he was a very different person at home than at school. While he obviously did have some intellectual delay, he could communicate just fine with his family, showed all sorts of social skills that he did not display at school, and did not have many of the repetitive behaviours that were his hallmark while in the classroom. After speaking at length with his huge extended family, I determined that the boy could not speak or understand English, but spoke Urdu at a child's level, and that Dal was his favourite food. I started bringing Dal to school to share with him whenever he became agitated, and miraculously, many of his autistic behaviours disappeared, and he was later moved to a program that better fit his needs as an ESL learner with intellectual delay, rather than an autistic program.)

At 5 am we landed, and quickly made our way through customs and immigration, found our driver (named Walleterad), and marveled at the beauty of a Sri Lankan early morning in 33 degree weather.

Of course, there was a mix-up at the hotel where we were supposed to be staying (are you surprised? given the nature of our trip to this point, we certainly weren't!) and our reservation had been lost. The owner of the hotel was very apologetic, especially after he learned that I am Canadian. He lived in Calgary for several years and loves Canada, but it was too cold for him although his wife loves it! First they lived in England, but it was too expensive, then Arizona where he loved the weather but it was a terrible place to raise children, then on to Calgary which was great for his children and he even considered buying some farmland, before deciding to move back to Sri Lanka, "the most beautiful and best place in the world!"

Fortunately, however, his son and daughter-in-law or daughter and son-in-law (it was a little confusing to follow) own a hotel across the street from his establishment, and Steve quickly arranged for us to stay there.

And so, here we are - from a North Atlantic blizzard to Sri Lankan humidity. And only 64 degrees change in the temperature!