THINGS DONE: WHO ARE YOU?
This is book 2 of the Things Done outside universe series. Disclaimers, acknowledgments, details and blame are all in book 1, ďRunning from the Sharks,Ē and Iíll use the same policy here that I use in my classes: if youíre late, get the notes from someone else :)
Itís now been a month since Sari and I have gone to ground in Sri Lanka. The trip over was horrible; I felt terrible and I had never flown through so many time zones. Talking to your friends in the Eastern Hemisphere online is not the same thing as being packed into a tin can and transported halfway across the globe. I arrived with Sari in Colombo feeling more disoriented than I ever have in my life.
And that was only the beginning. One would imagine that by this time, I would be acclimating. It doesnít feel that way.
I have no complaints about the accommodations. Devi wasnít kidding when she described the DC consular headquarters/residence as tiny compared to their home in Asia. Itís a beautiful home, with exquisite furnishings and artwork. Thereís an abundance of reading material in more languages than I could hope to recognize. Sari has been patient and gentle, even though all Iíve really wanted to do is sleep. Iím afraid I havenít been very good company for her. I wonder if Iím ever going to be.
Itís strange being in the same house with her, day in and day out. We had only begun to talk, in the most tentative of terms, of moving in with one another at some point in the indeteminate future. Weíve spent all of our nights together, and I love having her in the same bed with me, but I wasnít quite ready for waking up each morning and moving through the day together on a full-time basis.
However, ready or not, here I am.
The problem is not in getting along, or in feeling trapped. I do feel trapped, but it has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with being homesick. Life in Colombo is so different, I might as well be on Mars.
Itís the rainy season (read: monsoon). I thought the humidity in DC was terrible. I didnít have the first clue about what it really feels like to never be dry. Muladharma and Deviís house has the luxury of large, British-style showers, but it seems as though Iím just as soaked after toweling off as I am while Iím in there. I have completely eschewed suits and have taken to wearing loose, light-colored cotton shirts and pants. Iíll even wear shorts if weíre at home. I have yet to feel comfortable in these garments, although Sari says she likes the way I look in them. The house does have air conditioning, but brownouts and rolling blackouts are common in Colombo, and living in the better part of town does not exempt one from their effects. We would have them periodically in the DC area, but since we always had a backup generator and uninterruptible power supplies, it wasnít a problem.
Which brings me to yet another lament. Iíve got to get on line. I donít plan to use the local servers--theyíre horribly slow and inconsistent, and letís not mention I donít need our location found out--but in order to get to one in, say, Europe, I need to access a sturdy backbone. My attempts to do so have resulted in basically what amounted to blowing up two laptops, which were also an exercise in exhaustion to obtain. Iím not familiar nor comfortable with haggling, which is an absolute necessity here. I donít know the language, so Sari had to do the negotiating for me. Itís not that I donít trust Sari to get me the best deal; she does. I just feel ashamed, in an old-fashioned, unexplainable way, that I canít do my own work. Iím also embarrassed about slagging the laptops and feel strange spending money to get another one. Sari says Iím being ridiculous, that Muladharma would not be in the least upset over our spending our money for a new computer, and if it wasnít an adequate supply, heíd certainly give us more. It doesnít matter. Iím still not comfortable with it. And while Colombo is in many ways a beautiful city, it is also incredibly hot, and the population density makes Los Angeles seem like a ghost town. Being bumped and jostled is just a way of life here. Iíve yet to become accustomed to it.
Iím still physically a long way from how Iíd like to feel, and the climate, crowds and food seem to be working against me. Then there are the relatives.
It seems like Muladharma has a million relatives. Heís only got one older brother, the one that runs the familyís business empire. However, that brother has five children, not to mention his three sisters, who also have a bunch of kids of their own. Muladharma also has something in the neighborhood of 25 first cousins, complete with children and spouses, and I donít even want to think about how many second or third cousins. Coming from a family where I had one sister and my parents, with no real outside relatives, this is a shock to the system. I have yet to meet a family member that I did not like; they are all polite, kind, and generous. The problem is that there are so many of them, and the presence of at least half a dozen of them at any given time seems inevitable. Despite the size of the residence, I feel as if there is no privacy. When we were first here, Sari explained to them that I was unwell, and their response was to bring constant gifts of food and drink, most of which upset my already unhappy digestive tract even more. They did let me rest at first, but now that Iím getting on my feet more, more socializing is expected. Itís nothing like in the US, where turning down an invitation doesnít generally upset people. Asian social protocol is very different than what IĎm accustomed to. Family and familial obligations arenít anything like what Iíve known, though Sari is doing her best to help me figure out the puzzles. Sheís been teaching me some Sinhalese (which she claims she speaks with a Northern Indian accent) so that I can talk to people as well, though itís a very slow process.
Maybe Iíd feel better if I were more like Sari and able to speak openly about what goes on in my head, but I canít do it. Itís just not in my nature. And if I were to say it, it would sound selfish and trite, especially in view of our recent experiences. I would sound ungrateful to her and to her family, without whom I wouldnít have survived this whole disaster. My being homesick is pretty small potatoes compared to what had to be done to get us to safety, and I feel guilty about complaining, even though Iím only complaining to myself.
Muladharma and Devi have satellite TV, and with a little rigging, I could get American broadcasts, but I havenít had the energy to do so, and right now, I think it would just make me feel worse. I miss watching the ballgames with the guys, casting aspersions on the coaches and umpires, drinking beer that is not room temperature, pasting up next weekís issue and fighting about content and layout all the while, trips to Costco and Spies R Us, breakfast any time of day at Dennyís or Hugoís, functional computers and reliable connections, trying to keep the van alive, pizza delivery, late-night cheesesteaks, nonstop coffee, Snickers bars...
What I wouldnít do for a Snickers bar right now. On the few trips into the city Iíve made with Sari, I have yet to locate a Snickers bar. Some of the local sweets are interesting and probably very tasty, but nothing compares to the chewy-crunchy experience of cheap chocolate, nougat and peanuts in one package. Some European chocolates are available, but their age and provenance appeared uncertain to me, so I refrained. My stomach is not my friend right now, and Iím trying to get on good terms with it again.
A Snickers bar would take care of that. That, and some email...if I had a computer I could use. There are a few computers at the house, but Iíd rather destroy my own.
I wish I knew what Frohike, Langly and Jimmy were up to. Iím not able to connect with them at this point, at least not until I figure out how to not turn a laptop into a pile of slag. I wonder if theyíre as homesick as I am.
I donít think I can wait much longer to find out. Iíve got to get in touch with them.
Go To Chapter 2