These small images link to photographs found in my currently-active Flickr album.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Food, Glorious Food ...

Day 44 - Back at home, in the 1950s, food conglomerates somewhat successfully made food preparation seem like unnecessary drudgery. At the time, modern cooking became all about ease of preparation. Open a can of this and add it to this packet, and voila, dinner was ready. That is surely not what happens here for most Sri Lankans.

Food is highly complex here, sometimes using a cupboard of spices and fresh ingredients to create a single dish. When local curries are served, the tastes can be extraordinarily rich and the various blends, of what we'd consider exotic spices, work to form a deep network of resonating flavours and aromas. There are even dozens of different kinds of rice from which to choose.

All morning Jay and his sisters were preparing meals for neighbours. The Minuwangoda house is mostly surrounded by neighbours who celebrate Christmas, so the traditions surrounding food are amplified at this time of year. The surrounding area is rural and people know and look out for each other. It is surely not uncommon for folks to think of their neighbours when it comes to food.

These were huge bowls with special rice lining the bottoms. Each is carefully crafted to give as a gift. For example, fish and only halal chicken meat were used for a Moslem family. There were dropped off in time for lunch but the food can be served as dinner if kept in the fridge.

Making Food for Neighbours

Of course, it didn't stop there, desserts were packed for each home as well. Traditional Sri Lankan fruit salad includes mango, papaya, and pineapple as the main fruit. Also, raisins and cashews and essences are added. His elder made broken jello for the containers which are lent and returned.

Making Food for Neighbours

It was all unannounced when the sisters went to neighbours to deliver the meals. I'm sure that over the next few days, we will get all kinds of delicious things to eat as surprise packages too. Now, I'm finally beginning to understand the importance of home-cooked food in Jay's upbringing.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Droning On About the Weather and Drones

Day 43 - I call Canada home but green grass is often the norm during the winters where we live. Some people erroneously imagine a uniform five meters of snow across the northern nation during winter. The high temperature in New Westminster, BC is forecast to be around 6°C (43°F) today.

This is still a little too cool to be comfortable and is one reason, we spend winters away now. We retired early five years ago and we run away for five months a year. Today, in Minuwangoda, Sri Lanka the temperature reached 31°C (88°F). In fact, it will match that spot on the mercury every day this week.

Yes, It's December.

Oh oh. When I start bragging about the warm winter weather I'm experiencing, I have a cousin living in Maine who gets his feathers all ruffled. He is already an old man but finds himself years and years away from retirement. So, Rodney, let me change the subject.

Just to prove how little distances mean in this age of the Internet, I took a my test for a Canadian basic drone licence a few hours ago.

There's a new category of mini-drone weighing under 250 grams that do not require licensing. I am keen on owning one. I'll probably order a DJI Mavic Mini so it'll be waiting when we return to Canada in the spring.

Today, I reckoned I might as well spend CA $10 and a little time on the Transport Canada website choosing enough correct multiple-choice questions to get certified. In that way, I would be able to operate a drone up to 25 kg.

I passed the test but it was tough and took me 50 minutes. I spent my whole teaching career administering tests. I found taking one ... sort of ... well ... sucked!

For Just CA $10

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Tropics

Day 42 - I took a 360° image yesterday at the Varana Buddhist Temple and kicked myself for not trying to create them more often. Google calls them Photo Spheres and provides a way to take them with either the Google Camera or Street View apps. I've got a half dozen or so on Google Maps which have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. In public places, one feels kind of silly matching up all the dots and pointing one's cell phone in every direction. Yet once an image is saved, it seems worth the effort, well at least sometimes!

360° Minuwangoda Front Driveway

Today, we did little but stick around the house. I decided to try another and, as usual, I found lining up the shot was not very easy. Distortions are common, especially when objects are not far from the phone. I'm not really pleased with the one above. But hey, it's better than if I'd not tried at all.

Today the weather was quite nice, not too humid. There were no late afternoon showers. The temperature reached its typical 31°C which converts to nearly 88°F. Such is life in the tropics!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Poya Day

Day 41 - The day of the full moon is special in Sri Lanka. It is a civil and bank holiday. Many Sri Lankan Buddhists observe the day by visiting a temple. Last night we ordered a driver and van to pick us up this morning so we could discover three temples in the Gampaha area. Sri Lanka is dotted with temples and ancient religious places all over the island. Often, they are at sites with hills or special geography. Although today's temples are only about 25 km from the house, Jay and his sisters had seldom if ever visited them, certainly never all in one day.

We rented through PickMe and chose to pay for 6 hours and 60 kilometers. The driver would wait at each location and then bring us back to the house. The cost would be a bit over US$ 18.00, which works out to less than $5 each. Jay had calculated that would be enough time and distance. Our driver was a tad late but the day worked out well. There was enough climbing so that I know we will all have sore legs tomorrow!


Cave Temple


All Places Involve Climbing

Ready to Move On




The Final Temple of the Day


The Final Climb

Looking Sort of North

At the end of the third temple, we decided to get lunch. The driver brought us up to Nittambuwa, so we could go back on the Veyangoda Rd. A well-know place, Sashas, is on that road and a good place to get rice and curry buffet.

We got home about a half-hour early and we had travelled 60.76 kilometers. I took a shower immediately as my shirt had been pretty sweaty during the climbing! Oh, and later, there surely was a great full moon from Minuwangoda.

Full Moon, Sri Lanka, Dec 11, 2019

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

House Maintenance

Watch Out Below

Day 40 - I never counted the coconut trees on the property. Once in a while, they have some people come to harvest. His sisters keep what they'll need and let the remainder go to market.

There certainly have been plenty of things to fix at the house. Luckily, they know the right people to have stuff done. Today, we had a new water pump put in as the original one was probably from the 1990s. The pump gets the water from the well up to a large concrete container up by the back roof of the house. The water gravity feeds to the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and outside taps. Oh, and the knob on fan control in our bedroom fan broke. So, an electrician friend of Nazier replaced that as well.

Putting in New Pump for Water Supply

I really am letting myself relax here. We are napping for more than an hour each afternoon and still manage 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night. In fact, my MiBand reports some of the best sleep I've ever recorded.

Monday, December 09, 2019

11 Hours and 43 Minutes of Daylight

Day 39 - I read an article that tried to prove scientifically why time seems to go faster as one ages. The findings said it is due to the slowing perceptual abilities in human anatomy. We are able to sample our environment increasingly less quickly. This, in turn, automatically increases our sense of time passing.

I was wondering how we could have possibly been here for over five weeks already!

Evenings Come Early
Dec 9, 2019
Sunrise: 6:11 a.m.
Sunset: 5:54 p.m.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Based in Minuwangoda Again

Minuwangoda Home

We're Returned to MinuwangodaDay 38 - Jay's sisters wanted to do some cooking before we returned to Minuwangoda. All the packets were bundled to carry. We called for a PickMe Flexi vehicle and used the expressway to come back here. We went right to the airport and backtracked a few extra kilometers to avoid the congestion of the Sunday market in downtown Minuwangoda.

It is nice having the flexibility of two houses while here. Being in Nugegoda puts us closer to Colombo and all the hustle and bustle. Coming back here to the shady, rural house provides a calmer environment. We were back in a little over one hour because of the light, Sunday traffic and the use of the toll road.

In the afternoon, I started thinking about summer purchases to add to my wish list. I think it is now, finally, about time to get into drones. Wow, wouldn't one be fun here! I could inspect the growing coconuts and get a great view of the entire neighbhourhood from way up there!

Holy Stone HS720 Foldable GPS Drone

I've been interested in the new category of adult toy for about a decade but never enough to actually start serious research. Now that the early adopters have driven down the price, and the technology has matured, I'm sure I can confidently spend a bit of excess cash. Get ready for a spring order, Amazon Canada.

If any of you are drone hobbyists or experts on middle-range products, I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Change of Plans

Day 37 - We went to Wellawatte for some Rio Ice Cream, although it didn't turn out to be a very nice morning.

Rio Ice Cream, Wellawatte

Looks Like Rain

In fact, rather than walking on the beach and then heading to Colombo by train, we changed our plans. We took a PickMe Flexi vehicle to the Majestic City Shopping Mall.

Galle Road in the Rain

Majestic City, Colombo

We took in the Christmas decorations and walked to the food court. Rather than eating there, we bought some takeaway rice and curry, picked up some groceries, and spent 45 minutes getting back to the Nugegoda home in Saturday traffic.

Brother and Sisters

Chicken Rice and Curry Takeaway

Friday, December 06, 2019

Jubilee Post

Day 36 - On the 20th of June 1887, Queen Victoria was sitting on the throne of an industrious, burgeoning empire. In her 50 years as Queen, she had rebuilt the monarchy and was, at that point in time, overseeing the most powerful nation on the globe.

I found a copy of this world map published in time for her Golden Jubilee. I found it at the website of the Cornell University Library in a category labelled PERSUASIVE CARTOGRAPHY: The PJ Mode Collection. (You should be able to open it in a new window by clicking. You may enjoy taking a closer look at the excellent image.)

Imperial Federation Map of the World
Imperial Federation Map of the World
Showing the Extent of the British Empire in 1886

If one zooms in, he/she can clearly see the importance of Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, although a speck compared to India to the north. British administrators in Ceylon, as a commemoration for Victoria's 50 years on the throne, erected a tiny post at the end of a highway. Jubilee post sits about a half kilometer from where I'm typing this in Nuguegoda.

The post is pretty much ignored now and the marble has been painted an unimpressive white. One errant bus could easily demolish it. It is a bit sad that it garners so little attention being such an important historical, world marker.

Therefore, perhaps it's fitting that as I tried to snap a photo today in Nugegoda, a 3-wheel rounded the circle at breakneck speed and blocked my view of the Jubilee Post.

Jubilee Post (is Behind the 3-Wheel)

Thursday, December 05, 2019

A Nano is a No-no!

Day 35 - Traffic is pretty awful in Colombo. Nowadays, it takes forever to go anywhere. The streets are full of all sorts of vehicles going every which way without looking, much less signaling.

Jay's younger sister wanted to see an ear and throat specialist at a private hospital. She's had the feeling that there's constantly something in her throat, which is irksome, obviously.

Rather than his sisters taking a 3-wheel, we decided to order a small, Flexi-sized vehicle via the PickMe app and go along for the ride. Usually, this selection gets us one of the small Suzuki vehicles. Today we ordered at the Nawaloka Hospital in Columbo 2 to return to the Nugegoda house. This older Tata Nano showed up.

Early Tata Nano

I remember reading about them a decade ago when the Indian Tata conglomerate started producing them. The original models were designed to sell for around US $2000. I think with the poor performance of the Indian rupee, the cost is still about the same.

The inside was large enough for the four of us; although, the three in the back must not have had a lot of wiggle room. I took the suicide seat which was scarier than ever when I noticed the thickness of the passenger side door was about 3 cm. I'm pretty sure the car didn't have any airbags. Most concerning was the fact we got the polite driver from hell to get us home. I wrote this, we must have made it!

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Almsgiving Day

The Outside Grounds

Day 34 - I think Jay's sisters were up before 4:00 am. There surely was a lot of work which went into preparing the necessary items for the almsgiving lunch for five monks. Buddhists in Sri Lanka have important memorials for relatives. They usually occur on the death anniversary. Today, Jay and his sisters did almsgiving for Jay's dad who died three years ago yesterday. Also, elder sister's husband died the same year. The siblings also remembered their mother who passed away 16 years ago.

Food Offering

We took a van to a small temple beside the canal in Havelock Town at about 10:30 am to set up the special lunch. Jay's elder sister and husband had a strong connection with the head monk at the Sugathadharshanaramaya Buddhist Temple.

Near a Canal

First, they dedicated a small tray of each kind of food with a monk. There was prayer and offering for this food to the benefit of the Buddha. Often these small gifts are later left for the benefit of animals. After, we returned to the room where all the food had been set up.

Temple Older Monk

The head monk gave a short sermon. Jay and his sisters sat on a mat and during one portion and poured water into a bowl that overflowed. After that, they served lunch to the monks offering them the bowls one at a time. There is a practiced order to the selections offered. If a monk didn't care for a particular item, he'd just politely indicate by covering his larger bowl.

Overflowing Water

Serving Lunch to the Monks

All the dishes were cleared. As well as food, we had brought along gifts. The large set includes eight things a monk needs and was presented to the elder monk. Also, material for new robes was placed in front of the five monks in attendance.

String Tieing

A small sermon by the elder monk commenced. All held a string that passed for each to hold including Jay and his sisters. When things wrapped up, each received a tied piece of that string which they will wear on their wrists for a while.

The almsgiving was a nice way to remember those who we have lost. Since my dad also passed away this year, it gave me a time to reflect on all these people had done to foster and encourage the life we live today.

Looking at the Water

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Cat and I Had a Lot in Common

Day 33 - Everybody in the house is washing or cutting fruit, or has food cooking on the gas burners, or their heads in the fridge. Tomorrow, we're hosting an almsgiving in memory of Jay's father and brother-in-law. This involves making all the food for the Buddhist monks involved. That is why Jay and his two sisters are so busy.

Big Sleeping Furball

I find myself more like the old, house cat here. Today, the only thing he managed was to occasionally get up, stretch, and then decide to flop down on his other side.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Waiting and 3-Wheels

Day 32 - We spent quite a big portion of the day riding around and even more waiting.

Our Driver

Firstly, we went to renew our visas. The large, new Department of Immigration & Emigration is not far away. Battaramulla is around twenty minutes from the Nugegoda house. We went after nine by taking a PickMe 3-wheel. One of our credit cards is dotted with rideshare charges which are mostly around CA $1.50 or less.

Visa Extension Day

The process has improved over the years but still seemed designed for maximum employment rather than maximum service. The nice surroundings made the 2-hour wait tolerable. We now can stay here until February 3rd but already have flights for the Kuala Lumpur portion of our winter vacation on the last day of January 2020.

We wanted to walk a little, so we went to the new marshland park near Parliament Junction. This area was nice and is apparently very busy during the evenings.

Heading Back

Marshland Park

Something's Fishy


We returned home in time for lunch. As Jay's sisters had been out buying a lot of food for a special almsgiving day, they bought back some rice and curry packets. These are the prime Sri Lankan comfort food and are available everywhere for between CA $1 and $2. A lot of people grab them for lunch. They always contain more rice than one person, unless they are a sumo wrestler, should eat.

After a nap, we went to a huge, modern, private hospital about 20 minutes from here in the opposite direction. Jay had a 5:10 PM appointment to see a general physician. Jay shaves his head but since being here, we noticed a rather large bump on his skull behind one ear. Lanka Hospital is shiny and efficient. It is designed to compete with the government system for those who can afford higher fees, but I expect it also caters to medical tourism. His doctor was going to be late but the hospital texted us about it, although we'd already left.

The doctor Jay saw first wrote prescriptions for some antibiotics which is just what I read on the Internet. He will also get a little blood work done. If after a couple of weeks, it hasn't cleared up, he can get a scan. I'm impressed with the professional services offered.

Lanka Hospital

We left the hospital after it was dark and rather than waiting for a PickMe tuk-tuk, we grabbed a metered 3-wheel outside of the hospital. Because he figured he could get away with it, the driver started taking us in the wrong direction for a very long ride. We yelled at him and made him stop. We gave just a little bit of cash, not what was on the meter. We scolded him and completed our ride through the PickMe app.

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