INGULFED

In Shanghai

“Busy Busy, Fucking Busy.”

Sri Lanka Part One

I left for Sri Lanka in less than perfect conditions.

The only weather reports I had seen showed thunder and lightning in Colombo every single day of our stay. Our car rental company discouraged “self driving” — and I could hear over the phone the jaws of owners of hotels, rest houses and shacks drop when I asked for directions for myself. I tuned in to news about the island’s flooding… after buying tickets.

What goes wrong is often better fodder for storytelling, I was reminded. But what about when what goes wrong epitomizes something so mundane, so completely life-unaffirming, that it denies the entire essence of “a problem”, and contradicts what it is to even be a person that has problems?

I’ve booked a hotel too early. How now can I change plans?
I’ve paid too large a transaction fee. Why do I ever listen to third-party travel agents?
My vacation days from my job that pay a salary that permits me to casually observe your (by my standards) substandard living conditions — I may not be spending them efficiently.

These are the burdens of the overprivledged. One lesson learned is that in a trip planned last minute, confirmations (of route, lodging, goals) are the enemy — if you know nothing at all, don’t ever get certain. But more importantly is that when it comes time to take a vacation, no matter how precious (in opportunity, in dollars and cents, in sense of accomplishment), we do well to learn from the message of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama — chill out, bro. It’s not an angel on my shoulder giving counsel; it’s just a guy in shorts telling me not to be a douche.

We left the Emirates on a red-eye flight for Sri Lanka, a teardrop-shaped island not free from its share of trouble. The UAE is a country that just discovered money. Sri Lanka is the opposite: money has just discovered it.

Of course that’s only true to some degree — the tourists that come to Sri Lanka are often those with less dirham on hand, thrill-seekers, surfers looking for good waves and a bargain. But the influx of western visitors has made quick work of certain spots along the coast, where the greater the number of discoverers, the less there is left worth to discover.

Still, with a letter-sized map of the country laid out on a tray table, we discussed a change of plans with a new friend — an Israeli surfer familiar with a little town in the south, not yet overrun by Western tourists with Western palates.

Why not. We ditched our poorly-researched five-day plan (and a hotel booking) for a counter-clockwise dash across the teardrop. The first stop: a surf shack at the center of several breaks in Midigama, a town so small it could hardly claim a center for itself.

That was where we buried our sandals for the first night. It wasn’t easy to get there (stay tuned), and we hadn’t bought ourselves any more time (the gods of airline scheduling had no alternatives to delay our return flight), but shelving the semblance of a to-do list made time less hostile. Instead of on the road, I spent the first afternoon in the Indian Ocean waiting for the sea to move. I sat out in the lineup with tourists, locals, and their longtime buddies. One Midigaman paddled out, vexed: “Busy busy, fucking busy.”

I looked back at the beach: Coconut palms. Sunset. Okay.


1 Comment»

  Janet Fink wrote @

Hi, Adam: Awesome photos + you’ve inspired me– a friend suggested a Sri Lanka trip for next February + your photo-blog makes me want to go !– All my best–Janet Fink


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