Sunday, January 01, 2006

Maudlin

For New Year's I made it about as far south as I'm likely to get for the rest of my travels; to the port city of Galle (pronounced gall, as in bladder). The city used to be he main port of the island for many years and was successively ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and finally the British as the various colonial powers jockeyed for supremacy over the spice trade in the Indies. Despite such an illustrious past the town is rather subdued and sleepy, with the odd tout politely offering their services and amorous couples hiding under umbrellas in the park.

The old town is surrounded by large fortifications (the largest European fort in Asia) which have saved the town on numerous occasions, most notably last year during the Boxing Day tsunami. The tsunami hit Sri Lanka very hard (over 30,000 people perished on the island) ravaging communities from Trincomalee in the northeast, to about 50km past Galle in the southwest. (I cannot begin to imagine the scale of the disaster, let alone describe it, so I recommend you read this blog-post by someone who visited the area a few weeks afterwards.) From a superficial glance (out of the train window coming down from Colombo) it looks as if things are sorting themselves out, although one can also see some families still living in temporary accommodation and many people have heart-wrenching stories of loss and suffering, most of which are genuine (although after the 3rd story about a guy needing to buy powdered milk for his polio-suffering daughter I have decided to take some of the claims with a pinch of salt).

New Year's Eve was mostly spent on the beach rediscovering why I'm not really a beach person: not much to do, salt water, and sand getting absolutely everywhere. The evening was also a bit of a damp squib, quite literally in fact, as there was a big downpour at around half past ten which doused the beachside bonfires and soaked the fireworks. It did, however, give me some time to think and reflect on the past year and the one ahead. People often ask me whether, being on such a long trip, I miss being away from home. I'd have to be a cold person not to miss my family, but there are other, perhaps trivial things that I miss as well: Sunday lunches down at the pub (bangers and mash and a couple of pints of bitter for me please) with a few good friends, and perhaps watching the football as well; my little creature comforts such as a nice, cosy bed, my computer or just vegging in front of the TV; and playing ultimate frisbee on the weekend (and perhaps going down to the pub afterwards). But I'm enjoying myself immensely out here; plus I also realise that opportunities to do what I am doing are extremely rare and that I'm unlikely to be able to embark on such an expedition again, so I'm taking full advantage of it.

2 comments:

Yann said...

Ich w├╝sche Dir ein frohes neues gesundes Jahr, mein Freund. Ich hoffe auch, du wirdst eine gute Arbeitstelle nach deinem Welttour kriegen!

Sorry for the german speech, aber ich habe keine Zeit mehr, um auf Englisch zu ├╝berlegen....:-))

Chinachick said...

Happy New Yer from me as well, Erik!
I picked up my pictures from China the other day and - maybe you don't want to hear this - I got the one where you missed any of the good symbols in the temple (wealth, luck and health), remember? But even though you missed the wall, I am sure there are more sublime things than any of the three, aren't there?
Well, with regard to me (I am supposed to be "rich"), I am still waiting for the money, but it just won't come. Too bad :( .... ;)

Wish you a good onward trip and enjoy every single day you have out there!

Many greetings,
Sabine