Good Morning (Again) Colombo!

Dear Judy,      

Splashes of butter and blood met my eye when I looked through the kitchen window, just two weeks ago.  Time to put the terra cotta flower pots away in the garage.

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View from kitchen window two weeks back.  The Virginia creeper blazed up and down the fence as the morning sun buttered the landscape with gold.

                                   

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My friend Judy Starrit (centre), who lives in BeaverBank, Nova Scotia.

                                                                                               

 

 

 

 

So summer’s officially done.      

I messaged you two months ago: What can I bring you from Sri Lanka?

You replied: Send me pictures of your culture.

Puppy had the usual anxiety attack. Suitcases are a rotten omen, as far as he’s concerned.  

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Puppy hoping to halt the packing process. 

I decided to visit Dad later in the year, to avoid the hot season.   Got fried last April.

Texted Aunty Rom  (who’s not really my aunt!): I’m arriving in Colombo in two weeks. Looking forward to our morning walks.                        

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Aunty Rom, my stalwart walking companion.  This birthday card she mailed on one of our morning meanders never reached its destination.     

The familiar sense of homecoming as the plane touched down on the tarmac. I’ve spent more than half my life away from the motherland.

Sinhalese words came diffidently to my lips, then slid out with fluency. It takes my tongue a few minutes to get acclimatized.

Dad’s driver was waiting outside.  He cranked up the air conditioning.  The roads were congested, though it was still early in the morning.  

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Vijitha, Dad’s faithful driver and general factotum

 

 

A bewildering sea of highrises punctured the sky around me.

Colombo is currently the fastest growing metropolis in Asia, I’ve been told …

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The Lotus Tower (new since my last visit).  A Chinese investment.  The tallest free-standing structure in Asia.  

 

 

The Lotus Tower , dominates the skyline.

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City of Colombo growing upwards for as far as the eye can see

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Higher and higher …
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View from my friend, Angali’s balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NO LIMIT.  Sure looks like it …

Rush hour traffic is in full swing and Dad’s just waking up when we get home.  

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Dad’s home
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Dad’s halfway up. Never thought the parents would adjust so well to condo living. 

 

 

Everything’s spick and span, crisp linen in the guest room, a fresh breeze and the sun streaming in through the open balcony doors.

A resounding emptiness, though.  A sort of hollow ache  as the eye alights on an empty rocking chair, the laptop idling under a dustcloth and the vacant seat beside Dad’s easy chair in front of the  living room TV.

It’s been two and a half years.  Hard to believe.

I missed Mum’s embrace, her radiant smile.

 “How are you, my darling girl?”

Latha had prepared pol roti and katta sambol for breakfast.  

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Pol roti (coconut flatbread) and katta sambol (a fiery mixture of dried red chillis and raw onions). A carb-laden breakfast favourite.  Homecoming heaven!

Yum …

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Latha, Dad’s cook/ housekeepeer

 

 

 

 

 

Dad drove us to Independent Square in the evening to catch some fresh air.  I struggled to keep awake.  

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Independence Square, where the who’s who of Colombo go to keep fit, see and be seen

This is my Dad, Judy.                                        

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Dad enjoying a quiet moment under a banyan tree by the walking track at the old racecourse. 

He was a strikingly handsome man in his day. 

Independence Square is a great place for people-watching.  I got unobtrusively busy with my camera.

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A place for  lovers …
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… and loners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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… and quiet reflection
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Backpack and burkha
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Caption: My Shirt Made a Difference (It did.  I paused to take a picture of it)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daddy and his princess
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Secrets of childhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A moment to breathe
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Palm trees in silhouette.  Twilight shrouds Independence Square.  Time to go home for dinner. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A change of scene the next evening, when Dad headed for Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park).  An imposing statue of Queen Victoria appears to have materialized out of nowhere.

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Queen Victoria’s Statue (purloined from where it had been dumped decades ago, after independence) restored to its original spot just before the recent Commonwealth Conference. 

There’s a different ambiance in this space, besides the gnarly, mammoth trees, probably planted in Victorian times —

…  it’s the lovers cuddling beneath the colossal branches!

For as far as the eye can see …

Maybe because someone forgot to put up a sign like this one —

Tongue in cheek, of course …

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Sign set up at the old racecourse: This is a place of National Significance.  Keep Discipline

Around six o’clock, dusk begins to fall and uniformed decency police appear to guard the morals of the nation. The amorous pairs are shooed out of the park.

Don’t laugh, Judy.  I’m not fibbing – honest!

Three-wheeler tuk tuks swarm all over the city like a plague of locusts.  They are the quickest and most precarious mode of transport in this traffic-choked city. The captions adorning the bodywork often had me chuckling —

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“City Boy” — as opposed to … Country Boy?
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“Don’t touch my heart” (scroll in to see the words)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“God bless you”
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“I am strong to carry you” (I certainly hope so!)

 

 

 

 

 

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“Bad Boyz 008” (Like James Bond 007?)
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True liberty is to be A free of viceses (think they mean VICES?)
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Pirat 

 

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So why is this one stuffed into the open doorway of an empty showroom?

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The door hasn’t been installed yet, so for overnight security …

Still good old tuk tuks are the go-to mode of emergency transport, I’ve often resorted to myself.  A wild ride.  Kids find it a hoot.

Uber is the latest trend, though, and so much cheaper with heavenly airconditioned vehicles …

I was up all night for the first ten days,  Jet lag kills me.  It gets worse with the passage of time.

The early walks with Aunty Rom were my day’s highlight. 

In spite of these urgings –

and the necessary tools left lying around —

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Road sweeper’s ekel broom on the sidewalk,  leaning against a tree 
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Garbage collector’s handcart 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… and these willing workers

— the streets looked uncared for, garbage piled up in corners, picked over by crows and stray dogs.

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The instructions are pretty clear
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Check out the mess under the sign …

 

 

A disappointing regression since the government changed hands.

The supervised disposal of crow’s nests has been abadondoned, Aunty Rom tells me.

Animal rights activists or government cutbacks.  Don’t recall  …

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Mama crow guarding her nest. These raucous scavengers are becoming a problem again. 

The morning walks energized me, Judy. I began each day embracing the essence of the city with all its quirks and complexities.    

I remember this woman from last year —

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This gentle homeless woman has a puppy in her arms today.  
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This was her last year with just the one dog. (Click here : Good Morning Colombo! for story)
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Aunty Rom and me as the sun rides highter
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Dawn over Colombo city.  My favourite time of day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The homeless slumber on –

… and the dogs —

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The stray dogs – all mild and minding their own business –  have increased in numbers since I was last here.  A troubling threat of rabies.
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Abandoned coverlet and water bottle.  Someone just woke up

Vigorously cleaning business premises —

At the bus stop. To school and work –

And so the day begins –

Early morning moments –

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Beggar freshening up at public tap
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Maid going to work at the big house
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Young vagabond with electricity in his eyes …
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Dust pan and broom seller
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Newspaper delivery – motocycle and …
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… by bike. (Sarong tucked up high)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my favourite moments, captured just for you, Judy –

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Walking his employer’s dog
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Happy to pose for camera lady
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“Where’s that wife of mine? …”
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“… where the heck is she?
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Lady in red 
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“Just dropped in at the temple …”
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Jaunty three-and-a-half-legged dog …
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… pausing to check out a pile of garbage before hopping merrily on its way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Whats App, Doc?”

The streets at peace half an hour before morning mayhem breaks out –

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Peeping Tom
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Laurel and Hardy. These billboard pasters came rolling up and spilled out of a tuk tuk ..
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… and asked to pose for a second picture, pot of glue and all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Graceful lady cop
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Flock of nurses off to work
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What’s in the hand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast from the corner vendor

 

 

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“Hey, thanks for the brekkie money!”
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In a mighty hurry
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Shoolgirls packed like sardines into a private van.

Business is brisk at the food truck –

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At the corner of Dad’s street

Aunty Rom and I pass these two every  morning –

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Determined walker. This one means business, down to the nifty running shoes
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On her way to work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aunty Rom pauses to pick up her newspaper –

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A moment to chat with the vendor.  English newspaper, please.

From time to time she suprised me with a detour.  Like the time we popped in at Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine’s home and sat for a while chatting.

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Aunty Rom with Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine (not my uncle and aunt!), aunty Rom’s cousins and my cousin’s in-laws.  I met them for the first time last year when we ‘dropped in’ during one of our walks.  
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Uncle Chandi’s  lovely garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I acquired a new aunty when I took this picture last year. 

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Her name is Welai.  Met her at the corner store by the church, early one morning last April. (Click here for the story in Good Morning Colombo)

Found out later that the smiling woman was the employee of Aunty Rom’s friend, Sharmini.

Only in  Sri Lanka …

Newest aunt, Sharmini, invited us both over for breakfast one Tuesday morning. Aunty Rom and I walked over.  We’d been Facebook friends since the photo incident, and met face to face for the first time today.

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Aunty Sharmini (right) in her beautiful home (with Aunty Rom)

Warm, generous Sri Lankan hospitality …

Welai had prepared a delicious meal of pol roti, chicken curry and spicy, accompaniments. Fresh bananas for dessert.

So good …

She was all dressed up to meet us and quite overwhelmed to encounter the camera lady once again!

 

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Welai, feeling shy, in her Sunday best.  All dressed up for Aunty Rom and me

New aunty has a lovely Secret Garden.

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Aunty Sharmini and Welai at the entrance to the Secret Garden. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welai looking coy and posing in the garden wearing her regular work clothes!

 

 

The sun rode high in the sky.  Too sticky to walk.  Aunty Rom and I took a tuk tuk back home.

The next week,  Aunty Rom, New Aunty and I went to breakfast at the Commons Coffee House, steps away from new aunty Sharmini’s home.  

Scrumptious cheese toast with good friends, all because I made a random click on my I Pad …

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Singing in the rain.  Aunty Sharmini (left) and Aunty Rom outside Commons Coffee House, Cinnamon Gardens.  

 

 

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Sri Lankan Menu (Commons Coffee House)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some mornings Aunty Rom surprised me with a different route (to feed my appetite for photography), pointing out stately homes.  Many of them are commercial buildings now.

The remaining single unit homes lurk behind high fortress-type fortification walls and iron gates.

A handful old mansions still remain private residences –

… a couple of them in varying stages of disrepair.

Love how flowers and foliage create waterfalls of colour along walls and from balconies —

Destructive love language along the sidewalk …

Architecture and construction accommodate behemoth trees –

The iconic Cricket Club Café has changed locations. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the old location is for sale —

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FOR SALE proclaims this gate …

… or not!

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NOT FOR SALE declares the gate at the other end.  Didn’t notice till Aunty Rom pointed it out.  Someone can’t make up their mind!

Paradise Road Galleries on Dad’s street has been torn down –

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The rubble of Paradise Road, a classy tourist shopping spot
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Took this pic last year

 

 

 

 

 

to make way for yet another highrise.

Found time to browse at Dean the Bookman’s secondhand store – 

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Discovered Dean at the Saturday pola (farmers’ market) at Torrington Square last year.  Bought this copy of short stories by Guy de Maupassant
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A 20 volume collection of Dickens novels, over a hundered years old, on sale for Rs. 20,000 ($200 Canadian approx)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the old colonial cemetery where we buried Mum two and a half years ago, Judy.

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Kanatte Cemetary.  I never saw it as a place of beauty until now

I’ve just discovered the beauty of  the old memorial monuments.  Wonder why I’ve never noticed before. I was almost tempted to stand in the sunshine and recite Victorian elegies, surrounded by discoloured Italian marble gravestones.  Some of the sculptures are really quite exquisite.

China is pumping money into this country. Thousands of Chinese construction workers are swarming all over the city of Colombo. 

This is the future Port City, a Chinese enterprise –

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View of Port City from lighthouse.  Reclaimed land, stretching fifteen miles out into the sea, leased to China for ninety nine years. 

The ocean at Galle Face, where generations of Colombo dwellers came to relax and enjoy the fresh, salt air is gone.  The Galle Face Green where you could fly kites, buy a cone from the Alerics ice cream van and have a ride on a sad, mangy pony, barely exists anymore.  What’s left of it is all withered and brown.

Not sure how smart an idea this Port City is, politically speaking …

Slave Island is the dizziest hub of construction in the city –

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The star of them all is the Leaning Tower (Altair building).  By day …
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… and by night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka, Judy, are very much like India, with a lot less people, of course, and not as colourful.  And less dirt, I suppose.

The varied face of Colombo fascinates me –

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Working girl carrying her saree with grace
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Beggar commencing his day

 

 

 

 

 

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Woman and street dog: crossing the road in opposite directions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shoe shopping
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Cool dude!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Cheque, please!”

 

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Dapper gran’pa …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Texting and walking

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flexibilty of the Sri Lankan woman is pretty amazing …

Umbrellas, come rain or sun —

Tried my hand at rainy day photography.  Quite pleased with the outcome –

The street of my childhood grows less recognizable each time I go back.

Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen’s home is one of the few original houses in the old neighbourhood.

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Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen at their front porch. The last of the original homes.  They lived two doors down from us. She was one of Mum’s close friends.

A highrise is under construction on the premises of  #13 where my old home used to be located —

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A highrise at #13, stomping on memories of the past

I’m embarrassed to admit that lunch become another highlight of my day.  Latha excelled herself –

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Red rice and curry accompaniments.  Three meals a day, served up on Mum’s Noritake dinnerware, with linen napkins and everything.  I packed on the pounds fast!

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I miss the leisured  simplicity of life as it used to be when I was growing up.

Change is inevitable of course.  It just took longer coming to Sri Lanka …

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Sidewalk strewn with temple flowers (frangipani) before the sweepers get going
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Betel juice.  An ungenteel ‘provincial’ habit that needs to change. Red spittle on the sidewalk from chewing betel leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The old Parliament building from colonial times

 

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Colombo lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

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Galle Road in Sinhalese, Tamil and English.  The city’s main thoroughfare, leading all the way down to Galle down south

 

 

 

 

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View from the lighthouse

 

 

 

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Little Lion ice cream from Top Shelf.  Consumed copious quantities of it as a girl!

 

 

 

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New concept.  Hindu temple (golden dome visible) atop a highrise.

 

 

 

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… and Elton John!

 

 

 

 

 

Judy, have  I mentioned the research I’ve been doing towards writing a  book on Mum’s ancestry?  I chased clues all over the city.

Felt like a character in The Da Vinci Code

I spent fascinating hours with Mum’s cousins and some distant relatives I’d never met before –

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Aunties Daisy and Sybil (real aunts!), Mum’s cousins with old photograph albums. 
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Mums’ cousin, Paranidhi.  Met her for the first time.  Went back to visit twice more.  A fount of old family history and intriguing insider stories.  

 

 

 

 

Heard some incredible stories from the family archives, gathered a goldmine of information and tons of old photos.  A  mountain of notes to be transcribed. Almost wore my hand out writing in longhand as fast as it would move!

So when Daughters enquired (during a Whats App phone conversation) if I was bored, I answered: “No, I create my own adventures.  There’s a new one every day and I can barely keep up with them all!”

The plan was for Husband to fly out from Toronto and join me after two weeks. While talking on the phone before he arrived, we decided, on the spur of the moment, to visit the Jaffna peninsula together.  This area, a war zone for decades, is where our ancestors hail from. 

With only days to go and a specific cut-and-paste tour in mind, I had to figure out how to make it happen.

Then I remembered … Jungle Fowl!              

Jungle …what?                                                                           

I’ll tell you all about it in the next post. 

Until then, take care, my friend. I intentionally recorded every detail of this trip just for you, so you were sort of travelling along with me, you know.

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Judy with  her grandson, Eamon, and JOY on the windowsill
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My friend, Judy, chooses to live out her diagnosis of ALS with joy.  She is an inspiration to everyone she encounters.  Click here to read Judy’s story in Love Those Bhangra Boys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I’m thankful for you, Judy.  You inspire me to keep living out joy, because joy doesn’t depend upon external circumstances. It comes from within.  

Love always and thinking of you, my friend,

sincerely

p.s  Woke up to our first snowfall this morning.   Oh Canada …

Just got a text from Aunty Rom.  She wrote:  A few days ago, I met the dog lady.  She said the puppy had been run over.  I was happy for her, so she didn’t have to find food for another mouth. This morning, she had another, carried in a box!

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14 thoughts on “Good Morning (Again) Colombo!

  1. I really enjoyed reading this blog post.All these images from Colombo invite me to visit Sri Lanka soon.Great memories and still Colombo is beautiful although it is mix of both ugly and beauty…Also,thanks for linking to one of recipes from Food Corner.
    Have a Great Day!
    Amila

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Nali,

    Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed your words and the pics.

    I don’t recognize anything! I hope to visit SL one day with husband and kids, feel like it will be visiting a new place …

    Look forward to your next post!

    Love, Mali >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sonali, I really enjoyed this post. Many of the pictures reminded me of Jamaica when I was growing up. Loved the captions some were rather hilarious.

    Love Joan

    On 15 November 2017 at 14:41, Never 2 Old 2 Dream wrote:

    > Selina Stambi posted: “Dear Judy, Splashes of butter and blood met > my eye when I looked through the kitchen window, just two weeks ago. Time > to put the terra cotta flower pots away in the garage. > ” >

    Like

  4. Hi Sonali! I just went though the beautiful email that you sent to Judy. I am sure that Judy was so blessed by you as you took her along with you on your awesome trip home to Sri Lanka. You share (through pictures) life with so many different, beautiful, people of many different backgrounds, professions, and life styles. I loved seeing the nurses as their uniforms reminded me of the uniforms I had to wear as a nurse in the 70’s. They were almost identical to the ones I used to wear right down to the white uniforms, socks, shoes and nursing caps. I loved seeing that picture. Love you my sweet friend and may you keep blessing others just by being you! BIG HUGS, Cathy 💞

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  5. Sonali, I spent a good hour almost, going through your blog & it was so nostalgic, brought tears to my eyes. The places are all still fresh in my mind, how I saw it as a child & your walk through the areas in Colombo we grew up in, makes my heart heavy knowing it will never be the same again! Galle face is no more “green!” Such a heart break.

    You’ve done a great job, keep going Sonali! Aunty Rom is the prettiest memory I have of my Nursery days at LC !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An essay in pictures, poetic, nostalgic, stoic, realistic and gracious acceptance of change, a strange suspension of emotionality, tender and gracious. Bless you and thank you for sharing your sentimental journey and letting us live it with you. Love and hugs, Irene

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, what a great job you did of sharing your wonderful trip through all your photos. So glad you were able to have such a memorable trip, thanks for the joy of letting us see it too, Much love and hugs to you, xoxo ❤️

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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