by Adaora Mbelu
Adaora continues on her eye-opening voyage through the her mother’s homeland, Sri Lanka.
“Ad eundum quo nemo ante” – “To boldy go where no man has gone”
I woke up to the dogs barking loud, the birds chirping and the squirrels running on the panes – basically natural noise, a break from the sound of generators and diesel engines (smile). Did I mention that the mosquitoes here feed on protein shakes? These things are muscular! The good news, though, is they don’t carry malaria, they just bite bite – a clear case of agbero wey no get power, na just mouth dem get. As big as they are, these ones aint got nothing on the tiny Nigerian mosquito that’ll hold you down for days with one bite… So yes yes, size does NOT matter (laughs)! The dogs are vegetarian too. So even with all the dangerous looking animals, I love Sri Lanka!
I got out of bed, and my mother reminded me to make my bed. Wait! I don’t do that in Nigeria… When I was younger — yes. But these days, there’s no time to do it myself. I wake up, throw my duvet around and the bed gets made before I’m back home. That doesn’t work here. You wake up, straighten your sheets, throw your pillows right, and have the bed looking like it hasn’t been slept in, and then you fold your night clothes neatly and place hemt at the foot of your bed or under your pillow — a concept that I haven’t practiced in ages. I blame it on the busy life. Anyway, I dressed my bed, and the baby looks like a million dollars. I read my Bible, said prayers and then mama summoned me to sit on the floor while she massaged my scalp with natural coconut oil — it’s supposed to stimulate my hair growth… I feel like I am 10 years old again. I did some morning crunches and push ups, and now my abdominal muscles are sore from working out.
I took a walk outside to smell the fresh air and morning flowers, something I don’t have the luxury of doing back in Lagos. Everyone has an early morning walk here – from the kids all dressed up in their uniforms walking down the street to catch the school bus to the priests walking to the Buddhist temple up the street. Everyone is walking fast, but stopping to smile at me and say hello. It doesn’t matter how busy life is, people are so warm here. Everyone wants to do something for you and everyone invites you for a meal at their house. Anyway I was enjoying my walk outside, until I saw a huge iguana lizard in the yard — a big slurpy lizard the size of my suitcase. I turned back and ran home! I should take one with me to Nigeria and give the customs officers a scare. Not to talk about a special one to keep in my car for LASTMA officers (evil grin). My mother says I should expect to see a monkey by my window soon enough. By now you must have figured that we don’t live in the city.
My aunt made me some Ceylon tea (Sri Lanka is one of the largest exporters of tea to the rest of the world). The tea tastes great, and I’m wondering – is this real? Everything here is perfect in its imperfection. Even the water in the shower is different – it’s softer, and I am not exaggerating. It feels refreshing. I enjoyed a brief chat with my uncle before he headed out on a four-hour journey to a political party meeting. He gave me a lecture on Sri Lankan politics (to be continued later).
I sat on the patio, eating some Pringles and waiting for my cousin to wake up, so we could head out first to the Indian Embassy for a visa, then for my medical examination and then to the city. Rather random thought, but lest I forget to mention, Sri Lankans drink. A lot, and I mean a LOT. Alcohol is like water here. Rice and Remy Martin or Chivas for breakfast is not uncommon.
Another Random thought: you have to book an appointment to do almost anything in Sri Lanka. There are hardly any walk-ins for anything. The most frustrating thing thus far is trying to get my Blackberry activated. I’ve been everywhere, but finally I got hold of one person who sent me to the Mobitel head office to get my BB sorted. I got there and they requested for my passport. Oh well, I will be back tomorrow. Clearly, there is no Blackberry craze here. Can somebody say ODD! My mother is against my Blackberry habit and so she is not helping at all.
Today I saw my first Mercedes Benz here. I’d been looking out, and finally a Benz just breezed through. Toyota literally owns the car market here – every other car is a Toyota! We got pulled over by a Policewoman (yes, woman) and the driver told her I was Nigerian. She was extra nice, and our driver explained that because it’s a tourist country, the law enforcement officers are very courteous to foreigners. Technically I am not a foreigner but I enjoy the extra love so bring it on!
Lunch! Lunch! Sri Lanka is food heaven, quote me on that. We had a buffet at Cinnamon Grand Hotel (formerly called “Oberoi”) There’s a beautiful view. They have cuttle fish, prawn cocktail platter, lamb, pork chops, lobster, beef, chicken, crab, rice, pasta, naan, mention what you wanna eat and they’ve got it all! There’s nO pounded yam and egusi though. Dessert is insane. After the long walk through the city, I am about to scatter this food. Hungry is an understatement. I am famished. The customer service is awesome, from the door man, to the waiter, the manager, the toilet cleaner – everyone is courteous and friendly. But of course when there’s water and electricity 24 hours every day we’d all smile, no? It makes me want to scream. Naija when we go get there???