Monday, October 13, 2014

Were we really on holiday?!?

Our National Holiday plans changed at the very last minute – again.  Instead of a fun girls’ trip in Bangkok, followed by a holiday in Sri Lanka, the Bangkok trip had to be cancelled and the Sri Lankan holiday became a half work half play adventure. Considering the alternative, staying in Beijing with kids while husband went on all work trip for two weeks, there was simply no other alternative.

We had a wonderful week in Sri Lanka. While husband worked, we relaxed on the beach and in the pool at the beautiful Mount Lavinia Hotel.  When husband got two days off, we headed down the coast to Bentota and the amazingly serene Club Villa. Sri Lanka is a wonderful holiday destination with beautiful beaches, wildlife, culture and culinary highlights. Though the roads are in great need of TLC and the traffic is manic, it is less hectic than in Beijing. Is it the warm and humid weather? I don’t know but the pace is slower and less…aggressive. And, isn’t the phrase: “Would you like some tea m’am?” just the most beautiful phrase ever? So civilized.

Local wildlife
The food is varied; we have to talk more about the food! The fruit tastes like it is supposed to, the curries and stir fries are inventive and fragrant and with an amazing breakfast dish called a ‘hopper’ – what can go wrong?! Being an island obviously the seafood is to die for; sweet succulent crabs in spicy chili sauce, giant tiger prawns doused in garlic – inventive salads and breads of various kinds to scoop up the sauces. Though in many ways similar to Indian cuisine it is slightly different, not better or worse just different and because the majority of the population is Buddhist, and therefore vegetarian, vegetables and fruits are prepared in a myriad of ways, all delicious.

Succulent chili crab

After a three and a half hour car ride through bumpy Sri Lankan villages, a smooth ride on the highway only interrupted by a huge iguana slithering across the road, another jerky canter through Colombo alleyways - made longer because the driver went to the wrong hotel to drop off husband – and the joys of kids and car sickness, we finally arrive at Colombo airport for our return flight with time to spare.

Garlicky Tiger Prawns
I don’t mind travelling alone with my children. They have been on planes since in utero and are great travellers. They do not eat (who can blame them!) and they keep themselves busy with the in-flight entertainment, iPads, books, games and sleep, and can at most times even use the bathroom without me having to come with.

I had planned it perfectly; they in two seats next to each other – window and aisle – no one to bother them, and me across the aisle in the aisle seat in a row of four.  The three seats next to me remained unoccupied until suddenly, a woman throws herself down next to me and immediately picks up the throw-up bag. Her companions, I’m assuming husband and son, settle in next to her quietly, calmly but she jitters around, looks this way and that, tears are starting to roll down her cheeks as she picks up the bag and starts to hyperventilate, violently. My kids are thankfully unaware.  I didn’t know what to do but gave her glances like: “Are you ok?” “Can I do anything for you?”.  She speaks no English, but smiled at me and declined the tissues I was offering to dry her tears. She calmed down eventually and I was tending to the kids, breaking up a stupid fight about who would get to sit closer to me and finally the flight takes off.

After a while, the lady next to me has calmed down and we make a quick stop in Mattala in the South East to exchange passengers before heading to Beijing.  As we continue, the husband and child move to two unoccupied seats on the other side of the plane leaving crazy lady and me in a row of four. She is incognito for a while but then suddenly, she throws herself down in her seat again, flipping through the inflight magazine frantically. Her companions are at this point fast asleep in their seats leaving Mrs. Whatiswrongwithyou? and me on our row of four. At this point I don’t know if she is drunk, on drugs or has a mental illness. She is very friendly to me though, offering me three seats in our row of four so that I can lie down and read my book and get some rest, but she remains jittery, erratic and unstable.

With the exception of myself and my two children and a handful or two of Sri Lankans, the plane is full of Chinese. It never ceases to amaze me how when many Chinese people travel it is like they are on a middle school class trip. They are socializing across the isles, snacking and sipping from the thermoses they have brought with them throughout the whole trip, taking part of conversations and seem to know everyone - though I know most of them are not travelling together.

When there is an alert over the sound system asking if there is a doctor or nurse on board the energy rises and everyone is looking around. Who is sick? Where is the person in need of medial assistance and privacy? They keep snacking and the sunflower seeds are flying like empty shells in a gunfight in an action movie. When the flight is not aborted nor averted they loose interest and start concentrating on the tax-free cart that is cruising up and down the aisles. Most people don’t pay attention when it rolls by; but here it’s like a party at Yashow market. Cigarettes and perfume boxes are inspected and the chatter continues? How much is this? Is it a good value? Is it cheaper elsewhere? The stewardesses and stewards have patience like I’ve never seen before and when they realize I can help with translations, a sigh of relief is visible and their whole persona relaxes.

Our holiday was exciting with visits to an elephant orphanage, releasing three-day old turtles into the ocean and surfing lessons but still – the real action happened on the plane.

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