Colombo was what I expected Colombia to be like. I'm not really sure why I got that connection, but it may have been the soldiers and checkpoints at the airport!! I also didn't expect Colombia to be as prosperous as it was, what with my South East Asia background. Before I came, I knew/had heard of Adam's Peak and World's End (but really, I thought they were the same thing, so I don't know if it counts). I knew about the beaches and diving and the Tsunami of course. I knew probably more than most about the LTTE (internal ethnic rebel group), but didn't really know details. I'd even been to Colombo in transit (on my way to Kenya via Dubai, 1998), though to be honest, I remember more about another expat in Manila talking about her transit in Delhi than I remember about Colombo (she whinged about how the lovely people at Delhi airport came onto the plane and using a metal detector homed in on the gold rings in her suitcase and made them miraculously disappear).
Sitting on national airlines is so interesting! The stewardesses are (usually) the REAL people (the real beauties, and of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder). I noticed unusual skull shapes, dark skin and lovely wholesome features. The men are also interesting. I'm always interested/annoyed to discover how they chat (i.e. are they being friendly or trying to pick me up). The nouveau rich one who sat next to me with his daughter (the other side had VERY bad B.O.) only wanted to talk about cricket! That was when he wasn't standing up during take off to click pictures of his daughter with his mobile phone!
Three things I learned on the plane (from the airline magazine)! They make lace!! There are stork-like fisherman in the south (men fish from stakes-very picturesque at sunset). They make tea! Well, I'm sure you're saying, "Of course, duh, Natalya!" and really, I did know this before, but it's one thing to know, and another to apply that knowledge. The last thing I realized (made the connection), was that it's right next to the Maldives. If anyone knows her world-map geography, it's me, but again, connections!! And Camilla is right now sailing from there to the Red Sea, so of course I was surprised it was so close.
An easy arrival at the airport, and it was a pretty fancy, recently-done-up place (a big indicator!!). The duty-free was also a big teller. It was a walk through mall, except the mall had stores of everything. I always feel like I should buy in cases like these because I've lived in places where this type of duty free was always a must-visit. I often have to wonder what it's like to be a local at times like this. What's it like to often sit in that transit lounge, what's it like to come down those stairs jet-lagged or with a ton of hand-carry luggage (a frequent occurrence for me!). As I moved through, I took a turn and thought I'd gone the wrong way--there were no crowds, well, no people at all!!
It was a cross between Myanmar and Manila... not quite up to the over-perfection of manicured glitziness that is Bangkok. Cars were older. There were no street lights. Roads were decent. I like that hand-painted number-plate! Things have been allowed to fade a little. There are wires that little bit askew (in bunches of at least 10). Signs are less ritzy, less perfect. Ah, an old bus in many colors--that's familiar. No malls, no lights. What's that? Rain!! After the obnoxiously stifling heat in Bangkok it's refreshing, but I am glad it's outside! Tint on the windows--that reminds me: on Wednesday, Aung was telling me on the bus home from school that apparently that's how you can tell who's someone special in Yangon (they have "stickers" on the windows; it just took me a while to figure out what "stickers" meant!).
My pre-conceived notions of the south-Asian continent were dashed: where were the vibrant colors and more important, where were all the people? Shock of all shocks--it's orderly and quite quaint! No Indian crowds, yet this island the size of Ireland has 20 million. There was no sign of extreme poverty (although I'm sure someone coming from Europe or the West would disagree, but I'm coming from Burma!). I'm sure it's there, however!
With its simple 1 lane highway and one to three story houses, well, this could be NZ! But wait! Where to park! And what's that? A tuk-tuk! We (NZ) would also have space between the buildings (and between the buildings and the road) and nice manicured lawns. The parking barriers--what a traffic hazzard!
But I was more than excited! This is what makes my soul sing! I needed my new-country fix. After all, the last was Colombia and that was last June! I need to get my pristine money (a collection). I need an opportunity to make constant annoying connections to places I've lived. Somehow, Sri Lanka is exotic. Why? Who knows? Well, it's obviously fascinating or I wouldn't be here.