Sri Lanka, the Upswing

As Brendan wrote in his last post, our transition to Sri Lanka has not been without bumps. His post omitted what I recall as some of the more salient details:

  • the unidentifiable bone Coco found in the grilled cheese sandwich she ordered at our first lunch;
  • the record breaking sunburns Holly and Phoebe endured after our first day of surfing, notwithstanding liberal coatings of “SPF 60,” which I’m now convinced was as counterfeit as the “Northface” jackets we bought in Darjeeling;
  • William’s mountains of mosquito bites, which he plausibly attributes to the general infrequency of hot showers necessary to fullt remove his 15 year old grime.

But on our trip, as in life, the downs are inevitably followed by ups, lots of them in fact.  And of course those bear mention too.

We found a beautiful bungalow, right on the beach, with an actual swing that’s perfect for sunrise and sunset.

The swell that our online surf forecast Magic Seaweed kept promising finally arrived.  And with it came big, fat, chunky waves that let all of us progress to the next level in our surfing.  Even Phoebe rode the white water, though sadly I only got this after the fact shot. (The waves didn’t wash off the cat whiskers Holly painted on both her little sisters to demonstrate just how much she wants a kitten for Christmas…)

We had the joy of getting to know Rafa, our Brazilian surf coach, whose quiet patience brought out the best in all of us.

Thanks to Rafa imparting his surf stoke, I got to watch William paddle out to the line up for one of Sri Lanka’s famous righthanders.  Seeing W catch that huge wave for the first time, then cut back and forth across its green face as the crashing white water followed closely behind him, is something I’ll never forget.

At the tail end of the ride, after the wave had long since petered out.

We found our way to much better Sri Lankan food.  Here, a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast, so good after Dawn Patrol on the surf break.

We also finally found ourselves a Christmas tree.  As shown above, it could obviously use some help.  But at least it exists.

And finally a huge highlight that happened just yesterday: Holly and Brendan completed their first expedition as PADI certified scuba divers.  I am so proud of them both, but especially of Holly who worked really hard, completing her practice dives in an ice cold, murky Maryland quarry the weekend before we left so she could dive on our trip. Fair to say that the Indian Ocean was a major step up.

William and I were both sidelined from diving by surfing-induced swimmers ear. We had fun anyway, cheering on Holly and Brendan and snorkeling with Phoebe, Coco, and school after school of beautiful fish plus a gigantic green sea turtle.

More amazing Sri Lankan adventures are yet to come. Later this morning, we set off for Udawalawe National Park, home to more than 200 wild elephants.  We’ll do a trail ride to see them this evening then sleep in a safari tent tonight.
Right now, though, its 7am and I’m sitting in the outdoor ER waiting room of the Galle Southern Hospital.  That swimmers ear is not getting any better and kept me up most of the night.  At dawn, Brendan wisely decided I should get it fixed before we head north from the more tourist friendly coast.

I’m a bit groggy and my ear really hurts. But it’s a very minor blip in the upswing of our time in Sri Lanka.  For sure, we’ll swing the other way again before long. But right now I’m feeling incredibly grateful, even for this interesting ER experience which is a good reminder of all of the blessings we so often take for granted. This morning I know, even if I sometimes need reminding, just how lucky I am.


About 5:15 this evening, local time, a call to prayer rang out from the mosque here in Weligama.  The sound crossed the coastal road and its line of fish stalls and coconut palms, and headed toward the sunset over Weligama Bay. At sea level, I stood chest-deep in the surf, holding Phoebe as we played Up-and-Over in the waves of a newly arrived swell.  An eagerly-anticipated swell after three days of six-inch surf. To our left, a beefy Russian dude paddled his heart out (unsuccessfully) in the hopes of catching a medium-sized wave, while a feisty blonde bolt of Surfer Girl breezed by. I’m proud to report that it was Holly, showing up that Russian, and that she topped it all off with a few soft steps up and down her board.  Viva America! I wish I had a photo.

So we’ve made it to Sri Lanka, the Resplendent Isle.  Anywhere would require a bit of an adjustment after six weeks in India, and adjust we have done. The first few days haven’t exactly gone according to plan, mostly due to lack of a plan.

We arrived at two AM to an apartment that weren’t even close to going to work, especially for two weeks. The rooms were like two furnitureless low-security prison cells, in a facility mostly housing pasty twenty-something Brits on an international mission to party. We also hadn’t really given much thought to how we would be passing our time in this new country, aside from an hour or two of surfing each day. Morale ebbed and parental tension flowed as we scrambled for a plan B, residentially speaking, failing in the meanwhile to come up with any other agenda for our Ceylonese adventure. That, dear reader, is a recipe for trouble.

As Alex and I have learned on this trip, lack of a plan, and lack of daily structure, can be murder.  We’d like to think that our four charming and well-adjusted little people have learned from these travels that life isn’t always fun and games and gelato and elephant farms. The fact is, they have learned it, but it doesn’t keep the grump factor from escalating when we don’t have a satisfactory answer to What Are We Doing Next. They’re used to that question being answered primarily by school and sports, and we, in our wisdom, decided to travel the globe, in part, to see what happens when that’s all taken away. Such wisdom.

Back to the matters most closely at hand – Alex crushed an emergency airbnb negotiation and got us into a very affordable beach house and we’ve settled into a routine of surf, school, siesta, kottu roti, and the odd cultural experience.  There’s talk of finally dusting off our PADI cards for some underwater adventure.  There’s even talk of renting our very own tuk-tuk, once we confirm that it won’t land us in a Sri Lankan jail for operating without a license.  We had a great road trip last night to Galle, the local port city whose Dutch colonial ramparts withstood the 2004 tsunami (the rest of this coastline was basically destroyed).

^^^ That’s the Coco we all like to see, and I hope the frowny one pictured up above won’t be too frequent a visitor to the Isle of Serendipity. I should mention that she and William held their own quite nicely among the Russians in the lineup this evening, too. More of that to come, I have no doubt.