Sunday, April 28, 2013

Getting Things Done Here

Another random blog post.

Well. I just want to write a brief post titled, ‘how to get things done in Sri Lanka.’  I’ve noticed it’s a little different than how it’s normally done in the states. 

1.     Booking hotels:
Booking hotels here has been considerably easier than I thought it would be.  It definitely helps that most hotel owners speak English, although the Brits definitely screwed a lot of other things up (you know with that whole colonialism thing for starters…), it’s nice that English is still the go to medium language between tourists and locals (and to another extent, Tamil and Sinhala,  but that’s a whole other post worth topic…) Secondly, I have to say, I’ve become very reliant on my PDF lonely planet that I downloaded to my iphone.  It’s easy to whip out when I’m in a hurry and looks a lot less conspicuous that carrying around a hard copy of a guidebook (although having an iphone here feels a little excessive too, although I’ve seen a fair amount of Sri Lankans with iphones).  Basically, I’ve booked four hotels myself and one homestay in the past month, and my friends have had similar experiences, and I’ve called the day before or the day of for all of them, while this isn’t completely new for me, given how last minute my family at home travels.  One caveat though, restaurants and good food aren’t always available, so plan that ahead of time, contrary to home…

2.     Meeting the right people:
I think I’ve realized the longer I’m here, things in this country happen best when they happen by chance.  I know this an absurdly vague sentence and might not make a lot of sense to anyone but me.  However, I’m convinced.  When I’ve been here I’ve realized that the more I try to get things to happen, albeit usually in a timely manner, the less likely things will go smoothly.  BUT, if I just kind of skate by and decide things in a little bit of an indecisive manner, things have been working out great for me! Which I guess is perfect for me, as I am infamously indecisive (read: I won’t pick a place to eat dinner unless physically forced or bribed). 
For example, planning independent study.  I started really freaking out about independent study this week.  Before that, I figured I had enough cushion that I would be able to singly handedly plan the perfect independent study and creatively bring everything together.  And then this week, I knew I would never be able to do anything and I would independent study, and then I would fail study abroad and then I would never be able to do anything, ever.  After frantically emailing several people and then finding the most-perfect NGO that I could work with, and then never hearing back from then, and then repeating this process. I just said what ever, well technically my director said whatever, do want you want to do, let them figure you out later… I tentatively scheduled a trip to Pottuvil, because I read in Lonelyplanet that they have some cool mangrove lagoons, and that mangroves were pretty cool.  It was Thursday at this point, I woke up that morning with the feeling that I was going to travel so I packed a couple days of clothing and toiletries that morning, and I booked a hotel on Thursday night for Monaragala, a town about ¾ the way to Pottuvil, and then another beach-side hotel in Arugam Bay for Friday night. The librarian at ISLE, Tilak (a.k.a. awesome a.k.a. Mr. Giles-esque from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a whole other posts’ worth of material)) gave me some directions about buses.  A quick stop at the dry cleaners later, I was at the Kandy bus stop arguing with a ticket guy in very broken Sinhala about whether or not their was an inner city bus to Monaragala.
      A note on intercity buses, as often as people try to tell me otherwise, I’m convinced intercity buses don’t exist.  For those of you who don’t have to pleasure of using foreign public transportation, intercity buses are these magically buses that only stop at the larger towns along a given route, rather than stopping at every intersection to pick up the many carry a large bag of coconuts, not that I am opposed to taking coconut on the bus, I just wish that when people said there was going to be an intercity bus, that there actually is an intercity bus…

Back to the story.  Well basically on Friday I showed up in Pottuvil and asked the nice hotel owner at the Arugam Bay Surf Resort helped me make a reservation with the Hiddiyapuram Fishermen’s Cooperative to tour the lagoons.  Upon returning the hotel, a Sri Lankan sitting down asked be about my Sinhala alphabet bag that I bought at Paradise Road in Colombo.  I told him that I could in fact speak Sinhala, and write at a the level of a very young child.  Then he tells me he that he is a senior lecturer at the university in Pottuvil in the Science Faculty and that if I need help I can email him.  All I can say about this, SCORE!

But we will see, he sounded enthusiastic about helping me get situated in Pottuvil for independent study.
Moral of this absurdly length anecdote, stuff happens when you go with the flow, contrary to popular belief.

A side note:
The standard interaction with Sri Lankans

S.L.  What’s your country?
Me: America, but I am living in Kandy now, I’m a student at Peradeniya University. 
S.L. What’s your subject.
Me: I study Sinhala, environmental stud~
S.L. Why are you studying Sinhala?
Me: I don’t know, that ‘s a good question.

S.L. (in Sinhala to everyone around them): This girl can speak Sinhala!

Another one
Me (in Sinhala): Excuse me, where is …?
S.L. (in English): What did you say?

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