These are eight, random "Daily Photographs" from my personal Flickr collection.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Saturday, October 30, 2004

HOME!

Yawn!


Friday, October 29, 2004

Singapore: Day 4

We had an excellent stop over stay in Singapore on the return trip. Unfortunately Internet was unavailable and I stopped writing out a journal during these days.

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Spend a day on Sentosa Island


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Singapore: Day 3

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Take the integrated public transit to explore Singapore.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Singapore: Day 2

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Take the discounted fare if you fly Singapore Air.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Monday, October 25, 2004

Flying Away from Sri Lanka!

I cannot believe we will be leaving this evening. Things have gone much too quickly. I had thought that two months would be a sufficient amount of time, but it just isn't.


Sunday, October 24, 2004

Parting Thoughts on Dad

102404This is Jay's father. Although retired, he does provide medicinal treatment for alopecia and over the time we visited we witnessed many satisfied patients. He has some characteristics which may seem annoying but they are mostly born out of the effects of his generation and situation. Here are three reasons why I have come to respect him.

First, he has always been keenly interested in the welfare of the family. This can come across as him being too interested in money and the need to always get a bargain. He worked hard during his life but he was not always able to provide all he would have wanted. This fact only speaks to the shortcomings of the economy under which he has lived. If one wanted to prosper then it required dogged determination.

Next, although he probably ruled his house with a heavy hand, nobody suffered trauma or abuse. Being uncompromising can be a bad trait but can sometimes be attributed to a lack of knowing any other way. Again, this might be the fault of a socialization rather than a personal shortcoming.

Lastly, life has not been easy for his generation. He's lived long enough to see the departure of the British for Ceylon. The country has encountered its share of difficulties and troubles. He has worked within a system which unfortunately has included political instability and corruption in everyday life.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Tree Cutting and Power Cuts

This afternoon, so guys came to cut down some tallk but 'unproductive' coconut trees. It's better to clear them and allow new ones to grow. One guy shimmies up, cuts the top off, and a group pull the branches in an appropriate direction.

During the very first tree . . . a storm blew up. It got very dark and the wind increased. A few random leaves started blowing around. When the rain came, it was steady and hard. For the past week, evening rains kept coming a bit earlier each day.

The power stopped flowing. It's now 8:50 pm and I'm writing by the light of a kerosene lamp. The ice cream the the refrigerator is melting but I can't eat anymore! The poor dog is shivering by the front door.

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Winding Down

Lal and elder sister left later this morning to go back to Negegoda. During last night's bottle, Lal did decide that they'll come back on Sunday for our last evening here. The day was uneventful and it seemed very nice to have things get back to normal. Auntie's niece did stop for a visit. She'd had a leg removed at the knee due to diabetic complications. We're beginning to think about the four nights in Singapore now. Jay was checking the tourist board information that we picked up when coming through. That was back at the beginning of September! That sounds so long ago but feels so recent. We even reconfirmed our air tickets today. I'm going to miss the views here.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Almsgiving

Jay's mother died exactly one year ago. Some arose from bed at 5:00 am but most food had to be made right before being consumed; for example, the fruit salad, and fried fish.

By 11:00 am everything was ready and the monks arrived exactly on time at 11:30 am. The big Monk and his understudy spoke a bit, but mostly they'd come to be served lunch. There seemed to be fairly elaborate etiquette. The order and progression of the food was served by the family members:
  • soup
  • boiled vegetables
  • rice and curries
  • choice of dessert
  • king coconut water
  • coffee
  • araka nuts & beetle leaves
A relic from the temple was a representative for the Buddha and was given an offering of food. After the occasion, this uneaten food can be given away to beggars or provided to animals. Additionally, packets had been bought and wrapped for the monks. They contained sheets, towels, soap, toothpaste, toothbushes, sugar, milk powder, and tea. The head Monk received a purchased packet which cost around $US 25 and included the complete set of orange-coloured robes.

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There was a time for all of us to eat when the monks had departed. They had come and gone in a van which Jay's dad had arranged for. We cleaned up a bit and the same van came back at 3:00 pm to take us to the mother's gravesite. The family has just had some tile work done for the headstone. They burned incense and lite oil lamps. We stayed only for a brief time. At the cemetery, there was a funeral going on for a 26-year-old railroad worker who'd been hit and killed by a train.

The house is getting all back to word as I am writing this . . .


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Evening Sermon

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Lal arrived while preparations were ongoing. As well as food, the living room had to be rearranged. The furniture was temporarily stored in dad's room. A chair and table covered with white linen was prepared for the Monk. Mats were placed on the floor so we'd have a place to sit.

The Monk arrived after dark. He spoke in English for a few minutes as I was there. He's translated message was about 'merit' and Buddhism. It also contained reasons not to be sad for the loss of Jay's mother. The talk lasted on hour. A big dinner for family started after he'd left. A whole bottle of Arak was drunk too. I slid into bed late but the sisters were up til after 2:00 am getting food ready.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Neighbourhood

They're at it again -- making food that is! Jay's making a fuitcake. His sisters are preparing pickles, and a type of sweet dessert. This time the preparation is for tomorrow's dinner and Thursday's lunch. The one-year memorial for Jay's mother will take place here. There was a similar 3-month occasion that was very elaborate. This one will be smaller with just family members and a few neighbours.

Tomorrow, in preparation, a monk will come in the evening for a sermon. Then on Thursday's lunch, seven monks will come for a big almsgiving. I don't feel out-of-place here but these days promise to be a new experience. I hadn't seen Jay's mom since my 1991 visit.

On a completely different note: I walked 5.7 kilometers around the neighbourhood here. Without my GPS, I'd have been royally lost. We're only about ten miles from the international airport but the roads and paths to home are pure jungle! Once I was only 570 meters from the house but walked a way which was impossible to traverse. I had to reverse back to another road. I saw, among other things: rice paddies, a swimming hole, a temple, and a school where little kids were anxious to try out their English lessons. The shouted, "What's your name?"

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Monday, October 18, 2004

Receptions

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Earlier in the day, tuktuk driver, Lal and a neighbour came to help put up a new television antenna. Jay and his sister picked up one yesterday. The current antenna booster requires wiggling and cajoling very often now. What good is a remote control, if one has to constantly get up to adjust the booster? Jay bought it when he worked in Saudi, so it has given sufficient service.

Later in the afternoon, the family planned a huge shopping list. They will need to make a very, special meal on Thursday. Although, it could have taken place at the temple, they've decided to host the one year memorial of Jay's mother's death in the house.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Taking the Time . . .

Many hours today were spent buying and preparing food. Jay and younger sister went to the Sunday Market this morning.

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This afternoon everyone was cooking. Lots of food is needed as Jay's sister-in-law is going to work in Cyprus. This was a sudden opportunity and was not being considered even back when we all travelled to the elephant sanctuary. She is coming from Nugegoda and this house is directly on the way to the airport. Other in-laws will be coming, so there will be twelve plus the five of us.

The availability of convenience foods has exploded here since my last visit. There are individual packets and innovative packaging. I never realized the actual work involved between the tree and coconut milk for a curry! Now, however, there is instant powder that comes in boxes. Just like the allure of homemade food, doing it by hand takes a long time but is still considered the 'real way'.

As a general rule, if we spent less time saving time, we might enjoy the experiences of living life. Who wants to eat products that are untouched by human hands?


Saturday, October 16, 2004

Jungle Ducks & Other Fowl Things

When was the last time you had a complete day where you didn't have to do anything? No, I'm not talking about a day when you didn't accomplish anything. We most always have a to-do list secretly squirreled away in our minds. That list unobtrusively resides there behind all of one's thoughts.

Yet today, I had absolutely no obligations. Jay and his dad arranged for a rented van to go visit various relatives. It would be an all day affair, so I declined the offer to come along.

Instead, I enjoyed life while sitting looking at the jungle. At one point, there were at least a dozen birds with which I am not familiar. We don't have them in North America, so I cannot relay their real, English names. I will, however, describe my pet names for a few. There were black and white jungle ducks, brown and white speckled starlings, the funny birds with cowlicks, and my favourite . . . the multi-coloured, upside-down woodpecker.

Perhaps this tropical diversity is driven by the massive amount of energy that the tropics receive from sunshine.

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The Doorway to Jay's Dad's Prayer Room


Friday, October 15, 2004

An Urban Outing

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One major advantage of the location of Jay's house is the proximity to the international airport. It's also important to remember that it's within commuting distance to Colombo, the capital.

A day downtown did seeme like a lot of work although we opted to travel by luxury a/c bus. The cost was $0.35 for the 75-minute trip. Colombo is crowded but fun. It's also really big, so we stayed close to the Fort area. We bought several Singhala DVD's. We tried hard to ignore the shouting street vendors. Later, we had a quick lunch at a Moslem restaurant, took a few photos, checked email, and brought a few gifts at Laksala.

Laksala is the Sri Lankan Handicraft Store which was founded on a good idea. It was formed as a clearing house for native products. The government-owned company buys items and resells to tourists. Yet, in traditional bureaucratic style, there were twelve workers mostly doing nothing at each cash register.

We got back to Minuwangoda at 4:00 pm. Phew!


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Up .. Up .. and Away

During the night, my fever disappeared. We walked downtown, had something to eat, and got an air conditioned, express bus to Kandy. What amazing scenery! We ascended the famous winding road that quickly climbs into the mountains. The mere 75 kilometres showed a huge variety of geography which I was not expecting. The terraced rice paddies reminded me of Bali. Drier sections looked like hills in Montana. There were fir trees that reminded me of some I'd seen in Turkey. All these things in a very short distance; although, it did take two and a half hours.

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The trip continued on a different bus from Kandy to Nittambuwa Junction. We unwittingly participated in a bus race on the Colombo-Kandy Road. The highway is a bit of a raceway and live obstacle course.

We got home at 2:00 pm and the journeys are over. Well, wait .. we've got to explore Colombo tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Veddah Village

We did tea. Then, we walked downtown to find a bakery. The sky was amazingly blue so we walked to a temple exactly copied from the original found in Bodh Gaya, India. We had seen the original years ago. It was an amazing engineering project designed for people who might not make it to the Bihar province of India.

After, Jay found and asked a 3-wheel driver how much it'd cost to go to the main temple. We liked the price and it was only 2-kilometers from downtown. This place was the first of three times that Buddha visited Sri Lanka. The initial visit was to prevent a war from occurring.

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The driver was very young but knowledgeable, so we ended up hiring him to take us more than 14 kilometres to the Sri Lankan aboriginal village too. The 'original' people are darker and have very wild hair. They speak a dialect of Singhala that requires an interpreter. These people were, until very recently, subsistence hunters. Now that they've agreed not to hunt, they count on tourists and crafts to subsist. I wanted to help and agreed to buy a deer-antler ring for $US 3.50. The problem was that we only had a SR 1000 bill ($US10) and no change. Even the village store did not have that kind of cash on hand! We had to travel quite some distance to a shop in a neighbouring village to get change.

I felt a little ill this afternoon, but still managed to walk to an enormous reservoir from which our hotel was named.

Tomorrow, we'll head back towards Minuwangoda. The first part of the trip should be exciting as it's almost directly up into the mountains. There are supposed to be 18 switchbacks as one gains elevation quickly. It's the road that will bring us to Kandy again.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

We're Bus Boys Again

It was very, very dark at 5:30 am. It was too dark to shave. In fact, it was quite difficult just making sure the room was emptied of our belongings. Dawn slowly approached over the Indian Ocean. People had suggested we go to the road by 6 o'clock to make sure we catch the scheduled 6:30 am bus as it goes by. We did and it did. We road back to Monaragula but it took longer going back. Still, when getting to the familiar station there, we didn't need to wait very long.

We were quickly able to board a bus to Mahiyangana. The travel was north and a bit east towards the mountains. There is a temple to see here and there's an aboriginal village only 12 kilometres away. We will stay a few nights. A tuk-tuk guy brought us to the Soraboraweva Village Inn. It seems to be run by twelve boys. I'm writing this in a covered area in the front of our door. It's raining out . . . and the staff are working to correct an electrical fault that is preventing us from turning on the room lights.

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Bay Day

The power went out last night. The advantage to that was I didn't need to turn off the fan due to the chill. The morning had gloriously blue sky. We walked down the beach a few doors to have breakfast at the Paradise Sand Beach Hotel.

Then later, we walked a total of 5 kilometres toward the north end of the bay. Moslem boys, skipping school, were walking near the water. They wanted money, pens, or for us to take video. We told them that tourists don't carry money or pens on the beach and that our video battery was dead. Maybe they went along to school. While there, we collected some seashells for Jay's younger sister. She makes all sorts of crafts.

We went into town by tuk-tuk. Because the seats were different, it was a bit interesting as Jay got to ride 'up front' with the driver. We ate lunch in Pottuvil and brought breakfast buns for tomorrow's breakfast. The main street had very little tar, so it looked to me, like something out of a movie about the old west. It cost SR 50 into town and SR 100 back. The distance is about three kilometres.

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Jay walked the beach in the afternoon, and I was going to take a nap, but ended up swatting flies instead. Later we drank tea, watched the waves, and listened to the surf. I have to make sure that I retire at 55 in ten years!

Tomorrow, we'll head back out on a journey. We think the bus will come by at 6:00 am!


Sunday, October 10, 2004

Hang Ten, Dude!

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We checked out of the nice room and walked to the new bus station. There were some new shops set up there, so we bought mosquito coils and a bit of baby powder for me. We got on the 9:30 bus at 8:45 am as it departed from there. The road went to the left around the enormous Monoragala mountains. The scenery reminded me of Hope, BC . . . save for the fact it was tropical. The bus travelled to Arugam Bay in just two hours. So we had already checked into a hotel (which was listed in the Lonely Planet Guide) by noon.

We walked up the beach, then down past the point. I was getting red. As we went we watched some threatening storms developing. It started to rain just minutes from the Aloha Beach gate. We ate lunch and dinner at two different places in the bay. There are 47 different places on the beach, I'm told. The real wind and waves start in a few months during the east-coast monsoons. Surfers love that type of environment, so there're not too many people are around here right now.

I like this bungalow a lot. We have prime real estate in our compound as the other guests are long-term visitors and are staying cheaply. We can afford this luxury by paying a whopping $14 / night for this concrete structure with refrigerator. Too bad the electricity went out at dusk!


Saturday, October 09, 2004

There Was Room at the Inn

We walked down the hill after tea and grabbed breakfast from a bakery while waiting for a bus. None left directly from there, so we had to wait for one which was in transit and climb aboard. At 8:30 we got on -- and rather than following Route 4 -- it went south and through the dry zone. The land turned all flat and dusty. How can this country have such varying types of geography? We saw a wild elephant from the bus windows as we drove through the Uda Walawe National Park.

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We got to Monoragula at about 1:00 pm. We were back at the edge of the moutains in a small city. The place wasn't big but there was a big musical show in town that night. Even crew from one of the national TV channels was covering it. This meant that the first two places we went to check into were were full. We ended up waiting at the Victory Inn. A huge thunder storm blew in and I was ready to find any place to settle down. The guy promised us a room by 5:00 but we were all checked in a few hours before that. Luckily, the accommodation is very nice here. It's all brand new and only costs SR 850. Tomorrow, we plan to get to the east coast but we will be there several months before the surfers.


Friday, October 08, 2004

Room With a View

We headed for Ratnapura by first taking by 3-wheel to Minuwangoda at ten past eight. Then, we boarded a bus to Colombo's Petta bus stand. Busses for all big cities leave from there. Unfortunately, there's so much traffic in the capital nowadays that it takes hours to get out.

The scenery was fine and the city lovely. Literally, its name means gem city. It's known for blue sapphires, red rubies, cat's eyes, alexandrites, tourmalines, zircons, garnets, moonstones, amethysts, and topaz. We were not hunting for precious stones though.

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We walked up to a guest house and expected to pay around SR850, so we walked away when the receptionist asked for SR1500. We took a 3-wheel up to the old Rest House. This was the very spot where we'd eaten lunch on a day trip back in 1991. It is no longer run by the Ceylon Hotel Corporation, and is still $US 15 but the view is superb and this room is super-sized.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Kermit's Wrong: It's Easy Being Green

We're going to head off on our second and final journey tomorrow. We plan to swing south of the island's central mountains, through Ratnapura and onwards to the ex-hippy, surfing coast near Arugam Bay. I figured that I could take some time today just to walk around here. As mentioned previously, Jay's house is quite close to the international airport. Yet, a kilometre back from the road, one encounters jungle. There are quite a few people who live in the area but the thick tropical vegetation is what's most noticeable.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Rhythm Method

Today, I was finally in the zone. There were no plans, so I busied myself with simply enjoying my environment. I hand-washed some clothes at the well and pinned them to the clothesline. I took several showers, ate, slept, and watched Jay bake a poppy-seed cake. Did I say that I ate? I also saw a buyer with a truck come to gather excess coconuts. (The family goes through a lot of coconuts themselves, but there are extra which end up heading to the market. The price paid was SR 9.5 each.) I watched TV in Singhala and didn't understand, and I ate. When one stops watching the clock, eventually one becomes aware of natural rhythms of the day.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Errands and Email

Today we went to town at 9:30 am. Right before we were going, a big rain shower passed by. Jay's dad came too. We bought a replacement transformer for my battery charger. It's better to go 220V right into the wall now that my 120 to 240 transformer is broken. When in Minuwangoda we also mailed some postcards. Jay's dad took half the grocery list and the 3-wheel home.

We took the other half of the list and a Negombo bus. There was a Kodak place there which could print directly from my camera's media although we did have to go upstairs to their networked computer section. They were using Adobe to touch-up wedding photos and other large jobs. At one terminal, a guy had to copy 456 photos to his hard drive, arrange them into smaller section to open, and then let us choose those we wished to print. We wanted family pictures and the zoo photos to give to people here. We selected only 14 but made four copies of each.

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Next, we went to an Internet cafe. We got a letter from Ed and Shinji that H3 (Hamster 3) had passed away. It was our favourite hamster but was over two years old and that's their limit. We should have left instructions ... in case of death ... as they took the time and effort to have it cremated!

Riding back occurred just as the schools let out. Even tiny little elementary kids take ordinary public busses, so it seemed to take FOREVER to get here.


Monday, October 04, 2004

First Movement Ends

We paid our hotel bill and walked out to the Vavanyia main street for a bus at 7:45 am. On the way out the door, we gave our regards to the two, caged, baby miner birds. At quarter to nine the right bus stopped. We got two good seats although my butt is still kind of sore. It was one and a half hours back to Anaradaupura, and then the bus rushed on better road to Puttlam on the coast. Finally, we hit a super fast road to Negombo. Well actually, we went farther, as it was pouring rain and we missed getting off at the airport bus stand. We got off at a junction a bit farther south and caught a regular bus. That was followed by a walk up from the Yatiyana Junction.

Finally, we are HOME! Why does my body still feel as though it's moving?

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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Missing Madhu

We struck out for Mannar today. We left on a bus at 8:30 and for two hours we headed westward for the shore, causeway and first city on the island. There was a police presence to prevent violence after some previous trouble. We thought about going out on the island but assumed we'd never make it to the most westerly point. So, we merely walked around a bit and headed back.

Around half way (45 kilometers) there was a junction to Madhu -- a Catholic church and Christian pilgrimage point. We got off the bus, but again found the Sri Lankan military near the junction. The church area is about 14 K into a jungle area that is now controlled by the LTTE. It was open but there were no 3-wheels waiting, as all pilgrims pre-arrange for long-distance bus transportation. So, we walked back to the main road, and caught the same rickety bus back as we'd taken out there. It maxed out at about 60 KPH due to transmission vibration.

The ate at our Inn. We packed too. I guess we'll do a quick return to Minuwangoda tomorrow ending what will be an 18-day trip.

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Saturday, October 02, 2004

Second "Visa" Finished

Today it was time to leave Jaffna. Rather than finding a private van for the return, we decided to do it like the locals. We only went 142 kilometres today but due to the fact the Tamil rebels occupy and rule some territory, it was not an easy route. The road is in horrible condition as it was not maintained during the war years.

I suppose there are some advantages to bouncing along on a narrow strip of what passes for tar; namely, it becomes very easy to observe life. People were out washing at their wells. Dogs slept in the road. Unconcerned goats were munching garbage. We had time to read the UNICEF signs warning people not to venture off the road way because of unexploded landmines. We saw into the real huts of the poor people. It's all there ... right in one's face.

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A journey in North American inevitably means rolling along on an Interstate highway which was designed as limited access. They are safe but sterile. That system is designed so one should never need to drop below 100 KPH. All the exits look the same whether in desert or forest. For the jaded, I suppose from a Sri Lankan bus window the villages blend into a familiar blur of dwellings too. Yet, at least it's up close and personal.

Our first section of the trip was about an hour. This brought us to the edge of LTT territory. We had to get off that bus, go thorugh a Sri Lanka military checkpoint, then walk a half kilometre to show the Tamil guards our temporary visa from when we headed north. (I thought the Sri Lankan Consulate in Ottawa had given me a 2-month document for ALL of the country!) Next, we boarded an LTT bus and rode for the better part of 2 ½ hours. At the final point we re-entered Sri Lanka and got on a small, private bus. It should have held 35 people but more than double were crammed in.

I was happy to get to Vavuniya where were checked into the Vanni Inn at 1:15. An air-conditioned room? I have a bit of a sore thoat and am sneezing already, but the a/c room at $15 was much nicer than the one in the same building for $5.

For entertainment at sunset, from our window we watched as thousands and thousands of birds came to feast on tiny flying insects that were hatching and then being immediately devoured.


Friday, October 01, 2004

Only South from Here

Today wasn't action-packed but Jaffna isn't a tourist mecca yet. The plan was we'd go to the top of the peninsular by going to Kankesanturai. We knew there'd be a checkpoint and figured that would mean changing busses. So, we went to the bus station at 8:30 am and had to wait for the 9:00 am bus. It actually left at 9:10 am and travelled to Tellippali. That's the most northerly point we could reach as access beyond there is closed for military reasons. I thought it was strange we had to walk nearly a kilometer from the town to the checkpoint! One soldier who was guarding the post was from Minuwangoda. We had a little chat and then turned around. We got on a bus that took a different returning route and saw grapes and bananas growing commercially.

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After a take-out lunch in our 2-room hotel room, we napped. Then we took a tuk-tuk to Nathur Kandaswamy Kovil. We had to remove our shirts to go in this big, Hindu temple. Our little 3-wheel guy was the first showed us our Guest House for free, so we paid him SR 100 and tipped him an extra SR 50. We bought some grapes. This afternoon, as Jay's been occasionally doing, he called home to say hello.


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