Saturday, 4 December, 2010
Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
I spent our plane ride to Sri Lanka dwelling on a missed opportunity – why did I not broach the subject of pen pals with Saleem? He hasn’t even seen the moles on my legs yet. I realise that if you didn’t read the last blog, that sounds incredibly confusing and weird. In short, I made a friend in India that enjoys looking at my moles – nope, even with a brief explanation that will never sound normal.
Where’s the best place to go when one has a broken heart due to a lost friendship? KFC, of course. There is nothing more comforting than a big bucket of greasy, heart-attack chicken! Therefore, that was exactly the first place I went to after we dropped off our bags. Ruby wasn’t feeling very well, so she decided to stay in the hostel and rest.
I know what you’re thinking, you’re abroad in a country with the most luscious fruit in the world and you’re going to KFC – what the hell is wrong with you, man?! Well, if that is the case for you, then you have simply never lost a Saleem!
So, the reason I chose to go to KFC has been established, but why on earth would I want to write about it? Well, because this was like no other KFC I had ever been to. For starters, there was a nightclub section of the restaurant, which was filled with sweaty bodies bashing into each other over extremely loud drum and bass music – even a bunch of staff members were a part of the rave!
Never has a job at KFC seemed so appealing. In the UK when you ask a young child what they want to be when they grow up, most will say a footballer or fire fighter. I’m guessing 90% of Sri Lankan children reply with a member of staff at KFC. Your customer service role requires you to rave for money!
The downside was that the music was so loud, it made it difficult for the lady serving me and I to communicate – it took us about ten minutes to complete the order. It was then that I thought working alongside a rave may not be as perfect as I initially thought.
Well, until I saw the same woman that took my order, bouncing around and head bopping over with the nutters on the dance floor shortly after our conversation. I soon noticed that they take it in turns to leave the party and take an order each time a new customer arrives. Their boss was either on holiday and they were taking the absolute piss or they had the greatest manager in the world!
The following day, Ruby was feeling much better and we decided to wander around a street market in Colombo. The colours of the fruits there were so shiny and bright, it was as if I had never left the disco lights of KFC behind me. Honestly, this fruit was so colourful that it looked like it had been painted – it was beautiful. Not to mention, my insides probably appreciated the incoming mangoes more than the previous day’s greasy chicken.
This place wasn’t short of crafty salesman though – the alert workers had some very savvy bargaining techniques. My personal favourite strategy came from a man with an earring. Why mention his earring? Well, because that was the whole driving force behind his pitch. He pointed to his earring with excitement, he then pointed to mine and then back to his own, before saying, “You must come into my shop now.”
I almost did as well, there was a part of me that admired how brash, original and simply outrageous his method was. I mean, was he hoping that I’d excitedly respond with, “Wow! We both have earrings! We are basically identical! You must give me five of your most expensive bags immediately!”
Sadly, I didn’t need a bag. Otherwise, who knows, twinny may have secured himself a sale.
Our stay in Colombo was kept pretty brief, and before long we were in Hikkaduwa – a chilled out, tranquil seaside town, which is full of hippies and surfers.
Hikkaduwa was also one of the sections within the country that was hit the hardest by the 2004 tsunami – the disaster had a devastating effect on Sri Lanka, with an estimated five thousand bodies still yet to even be accounted for.
It’s hard to fully understand what those involved went through and each local you speak to will usually reflect on the damaging impact of the tsunami – even if the previous content of conversation didn’t correlate; and as you would expect, many of the stories can be greatly distressing.
However, my sympathy lessens when people begin to demean the seriousness of the flood by using a story to ensure themselves a big tip.
There were times when I really wanted to say something along the lines of, “Call me a cynic, but is your dad really dead? The guy next to you looks like an older version of you, while the surname on both your name tags reads Victim. Here’s a tip, improve your story.” But, apparently it’s immoral to call someone’s bluff on a dead loved one, so you can’t really question their tale.
My favourite tsunami story – favourite? Crikey?! That sounds bad, doesn’t it? Perhaps afterwards I’ll share my top ten public executions with you. Animated! That’s a more appropriate word, I’ll go with that. The most animated tsunami account came courtesy of a gentleman called Mike, an English hippy born in the 1950’s. He loves this place so much that he returns every winter.
Ok, well anyway, here it is, Mike’s tsunami story.
It was Christmas, and therefore, a good excuse for a party. Mike had been knocking back red wine all day, along with plenty of other substances, which are probably unnecessary to mention by name.
On a side note, Mike must have reiterating that he was high three or four times, at this point, before continuing with his story.
He then went on to share his experience of the day in its entirety. The silly sod told us that he had spent his morning goading his pal, who couldn’t surf due to the calmness of the sea – if karma is real, this is it’s most brutal example.
As he told us, many, many times, he was high, and apparently, an unstable mind and a tsunami don’t interweave overly well. It can sometimes be difficult to separate a hallucination with a great big deadly wave.
This lunatic was ignoring all of the warning signs, to the point of splashing around in water that now came up to his waist in the hotel lobby. The dude thought he was tripping out, and loving it.
A few hours later, a less drunk Mike answered his phone to be informed that a huge wave was moments away – this made him crap himself and leg it. It’s a good job his high had worn off, otherwise I envisage him on his mate’s surfboard trying to hang ten. What a ludicrous story!