Weekly Photo Challange – On the Move

One of Sri Lanka’s busy railway routes is the South bound service that links the capital Colombo with the Southern cities mainly Galle & Matara. This journey could take from 3 to 6 hours from one end to the other, depending if it’s the Inter-City train or the slower train.

This route run’s mostly parallel to the ocean and the views you get are just stunning. In the morning, you will see a calm sea that’s just so inviting. If you are traveling from down South to Colombo, you could see the fishing nets being pulled in and the days catch on the beach. The occasional jogger or those who take a morning walk might just stop in their footsteps and wave at the passing train or just keep looking on in fascination. In the evening, its nothing but the sunset with all its glory & colour that will enchant you as you go home after a long day at the office.

Sunsets as glorious as it ever could be at Mt. Lavinia

Sunsets as glorious as it ever could be at Mt. Lavinia

 

It’s one of those train journey’s I always enjoyed taking when I used to travel to office by train in the late 80’s. The breeze from the ocean always cools you while you travel, even when the train is full with everyone going to work or going home after a busy day, it’s still a lot of fun as you are so close to the beach and the smell of sea spray hits your face.

It’s a good route to take as a  lazy ride on a weekend or if you want to go down South with family or friends to have some fun on a slow train.

Unfortunately, due to its close proximity to the ocean, when the tsunami struck in 2004, it took the life of many of those who were on the trains at the time. The tracks took a while to be reconstructed and the service was resumed with warning systems placed for immediate action if a tsunami may strike again.

I am no expert on trains and always enjoyed riding and watching them go by, like these that passed while the sun was setting at Mount Lavinia recently;

Class S11 Passing Mount Lavinia

Class S11 doing the after office run towards Colombo.

Image

Riding the foot board – enjoying the view of the setting sun.

Class S11

S11’s coupled together, the long train.

Class M4 753

An old Class M4 – Coughing a cloud of smoke, but Still in service.

 

 

Dengue – The Killer we Escaped!

April was a funny month. Much was expected, but not as much as the unexpected that we got.

Dee and I flew back to home soil at the end of March for my usual hospital visit and a much delayed visit from our beloved friend Reen (Van Reen, we like to call her that due to her artistic side) from the land of the Union Jack and Fish & Chips. We were excited as the visit had been planned a few times but had to be put off due to unexpected events that took place either for us or Reen. Anyway, this time round she was visiting Sri Lanka and had already gone nuts about the Elephants long before she even knew when she would arrive.

After we arrived during the last days of March and got a few matters attended too at home, our good friend Van Reen arrived at the crack of the month of April and we were all set to cruse around, to as many places as possible so that she would get a real feel of the Island. Since this was her first visit to Asia, and as far as she had traveled from the Union Jack, we were a bit anxious if she would feel comfortable with the heat and humidity of April as it was still the dry season and the starting of the rainy season. The heat was around 33C but humidity was over 90% and Dee and I were feeling it very badly, how would Reen cope with this we wondered!!

Anyway, she was ok with the climate and it actually cooled off a bit after she arrived. She enjoyed her holiday, and as promised, the first run was to the Elephant orphanage at Pinnawela where she had the time of her life. She fed a baby elephant his afternoon meal of milk and a big girl who was pregnant a meal of fruits. She also got a chance to take a few shots with the mighty guys and see them splash around in a mostly dried up river due to the ongoing drought. I think she enjoyed her day and wants to come back to feed them again.

Cooling off in a almost dried up river

Cooling off in an almost dried up river

The pack at Play-"Let's go Camping"

The pack at Play-“Let’s go Camping”

We also drove up to Kandy (the last Kingdom of Sri Lanka), Nuwara Eliya to see the hill country and the lovely tea estates, and took her to the Indian Ocean and the lovely beach at Mount Lavinia for a wonderful evening and a glorious sunset. A drive down to Unawatuna and Galle was nice but that was where all the unexpected started to happen.

Kandy Temple - The most sacred

Kandy Temple – The most sacred place

Refreshing to the eyes,wonderful Tea.

Refreshing to the eyes,wonderful Tea.

Misty hills with Tea as far as you can see.

Misty hills with Tea as far as you can see.

Sunsets as glorious as it ever could be at Mt. Lavinia

Sunsets as glorious as it ever could be at Mount Lavinia beach.

 

Yes, that’s right, the unexpected and the never expected did happen to Dee and then to me. On the way back from Galle, Dee mentioned that she was not feeling too well and that she felt body pains. We thought that it was due to the running about we had been doing and that she was feeling too tired.

But that’s not what happened; once we returned home……..Dee came down with high fever 104F and was shivering like a leaf in a high storm. I gave her some medications and thought all will be ok by morning. But things became worse the fever never went down and she was quite restless during the night. As soon as it was morning and the neighborhood doctor was available we went to him and he gave her some immediate medication to bring down the fever and was a bit suspicious that it might be Dengue the dreaded fever that the mosquitoes bring that could be fatal if not treated under medical supervision. She had a blood test and within an hour he confirmed that it was Dengue Fever and requested that she be admitted to a hospital as soon as possible.

Dee was rushed to the hospital and admitted. She was placed under doctors supervision and given Paracetamol which is the only medication used to treat the fever. There is no medication given directly to fight the Dengue virus, but re-hydration is given in the form of saline and a mild antibiotic with paracetamol to keep the fever down.  According to the type of Dengue virus the symptoms are different and could be mild or life threatening.The blood platelets keep dropping and is monitored closely during the course of the peak period which is between 5 to 10 days. Body pains and rashes with high fever is very common.

Dee was having very bad body pains and a splitting headache. She was infected badly and was not able to eat anything as she was throwing up. Reen had to leave in the middle of all this drama as she had already booked her flight. She was very worried and we were also worried if she too had been bitten by the bloody mosquitoes .

After Dee had been in the hospital for about 24Hrs, I too was having fever and it was very, very high. On checking it was found to be 104F and I was rushed to the hospital and admitted. We were both down with the same stupid Dengue fever and sitting like sick ducks in hospital, The fever was really bad and I had a sudden black out and was transferred to the ICU for further observation. The observation ended 8 days later just two days after Dee was released from the hospital.

April was one of the worst months that we have ever gone through. We are still trying to get back on our feet as the blood platelets went down to 7 & 10 for Dee. The Doctors say it takes about 4 weeks to fully recover, but we feel its going to take a bit longer as we are still feeling really hammered.My hands still have signs of internal bleeding and the joint pains are still continuing.

Internal bleeding

Internal bleeding

Dengu

Purple from internal bleeding & rash

Thank God April has passed and May has come and silently taken me pass 45 in human years. I still feel 18……only if this stupid mosquito didn’t have us for dinner!

We are now on a mission to strike down any mosquito that is sighted…….cannot understand why a menace that is no use to any human or animal is not destroyed and cleaned off the face of earth once and for all.

Please keep your environment clean and don’t let this nasty mosquito take your life away. Please help destroy Dengue Fever for ever.

Fight Dengue

 

I Wish……..

Yes, I wish we were back in the water at Belihul Oya. Its so hot at the moment here in the Middle East (around 40C) that it feels like we are in the middle of a desert even though there isn’t one for a good 100Kms.

Oh, the cool water and the fun we had when we visited the place around June last year is just unforggetable. It was our first visit to the Rest House. We had passed the place many a times but never stopped for a dip or a meal. Now we are longing to be back in the water some day, hopefully soon. Nature at its Best, recommended for anyone for a day trip from Colombo (best is a weekday, leave a bit early around 6.30am as it takes about 2 ½ hours to get there and ample time to get soaked before lunch) .

The drive up to Balangoda and beyond is also very interesting specially after you pass Rathnapura, the open spaces, green fields, distant mountains, lonely and winding roads and the little wayside kade’s with fruits, and snacks, hmmmm…….. Sri Lanka in full glory.

The small draw back was the Rest House lunch menu. I hope they could update the menu, we love the usual rice and curry spread at Hotel Corporation or UDA Rest Houses, they are clean, tasty and the prices are very reasonable. But the rest house at Belihul Oya lacked a bit of variety, and our request for a bit of spice saw us sweating from place we could not recognize. Everybody who was feeling drowsy after the dip in the oya was now wide awake and babbling like lunatic parrots with their mouths on fire. The fruit salad which was the only thing available did little to sweeten the mouth, but we gobbled it as that was all the help we could get in our moment of pain.

We left the place around 4.00pm and was back in Colombo by 8.30pm which is a bit longer than usual if it is not raining. Anyway, it was a good trip with everyone enjoying themselves, hope to repeat it soon.

More clicks of the Trip http://www.flickr.com/photos/86008366@N00/

TOUCHDOWN

I said to myself “Welcome to loonyland” as soon as the plane made a sudden stop. I think the pilot was trying to judge where the walkway or shoot or whatever this metal corridor is called, was going to rest on the plane and he was trying hard to make sure that is was some where at least close to the door, so that we the people would be able to do our morning exercises while trying to jump onto the walkway. Anyway, no such luck he was exact and stopped at the entrance of the walkway. 

I did not have the pleasure of playing rugby while at school ( no, it has nothing to do with how I looked during my school day’s or does it have to do with the fact that I could have won the crown for Ms. Universe if they were only measuring the waist during that period of history), but I am proud to say that I have experienced the game in the form it was introduced in the late 1800 when rules were made according to each and everyone’s wish. There were no referees or linesman just only players and only one aim “push anything until you reach your goal”. 

Yes, I experience this very dangerous game each time I am on a flight from the Middle East to Colombo. The game starts as soon as the plane makes contact with the tarmac, people at the back of the plane jump off their seats (actually, its more like leaping into the air …… I wonder whether there is some high voltage on the tarmac that effects Sri Lankans…?) grab their luggage and buffalo their way to the nearest exit. They try their best to head right to the front of the plane, and would reach their destination if not for the stewards who have been trained to keep an eye on unfriendly sportsman who play this early form of rugby. If by chance you get caught in front of any of them, you will be pinned to the ground or they might just carry you all the way home….. 

After the first wave of players have left the field “D” and I make our way to the doorway and take the first breath of local hulang (air) and feel or how wonderful its to be back, then before we could enjoy the moment, we are pushed or shoved by the next guy who is trying to get to the immigration counter before us so that he could stand in the queue as long as us, but in front of us….Oh, what pleasure!! We amble along to the immigration counter while admiring the new wing of the airport. D says “It looks very much better than before, don’t you agree” and I agree wholeheartedly as it is very much better than before, but………don’t you feel we could have done better?????? Something is missing and I just cannot put my thoughts on it…I am too tired from the flight and just want to get home and take a shower and may be sleep. 

We are still trying to think why the Duty Free area is so small and looks like First Cross street, Pettah  or more precisely like the worldmarket in Fort (which I hope is still there). Why do the salesman of these outlets hang around calling customers to their shops, shouldn’t it be more up class and professional? I like how things are at the Duty Free in Dubai, I do understand we don’t have that volume of business as Dubai Duty Free, but I feel a more professional attitude could be maintained  as this is the First impression a visitor gets about Sri Lanka. The subject of how I feel about the airport could make up another post on another day, so let me leave it at that.  

We pick our luggage which come in 4 different sizes and move to  the counter that say “Nothing to Declare(Green Line). The officer at the desk is having a hard time with a lady who has about 9 pcs of large luggage and saying she has nothing to declare. He takes our passports looks at my tranquil body language  and at “D”s innocent figure and says “Welcome, to Sri Lanka…. Oh, you are Sri Lankan no…? After how long are you returning? from Middle East?” before I could even open my mouth and show him my un-brushed teeth he hands us our passports and waves us on. We are too tired to answer him and push through the metal/wood doors to the waiting area. Oh, Ya….now we are back home for sure.   

So We Took the Local Bird to Sri Lanka

Oh! how good it was to be back home…..yes, back in Sri Lanka. Although we had only been away for 6 months it seems like so long ago. D & I were so excited and stressed out (as usual) when we finally knew that we were travelling back home. We have this thing that we always make a rule not to over purchase gifts for family, friends, relations, neighbors, cab drivers, pets and who ever we could think we will bump into during our short, exhausting and expensive stay (Hmmmm…… actually, what is the right term one should use (my gosh! I sound like Ranjith Fernando) when you travel to Sri Lanka or where ever one comes from (oh, I must be catching something from too much cricket commentary) to stay in your own home for a short period before you travel back to your place of employment in a foreign country. Is it called a vacation or Holiday ? Isn’t vacation something you take and go away from home? Holiday…..that seems like poya day, or curfew day (not had any lately), polling (or if you prefer poliem as in paan poliem) day, etc.etc…..I am now more confused @#%^$^%  pls. Throw a rope I am in the ditch of confusion). But like all beautiful Lankan’s we LOVE RULES and break them at the first sight of a shop, sale or just for the love of everybody, this is not because we cannot keep rules, but its because we feel what’s the use of going from here to there empty handed, we must have something to show that we came from over there or else the custom officers at the only landing strip for foreign birds will be frowning that we have nothing to show for being over the seas and might strip us bare to check ……and they may not find anything! Now that, we cannot allow at any cost, it would be too shameful to them and we might finally even appear on the not so live at 8. So we go to town as soon as we know that we are going to be in the belly of a big bird that will carry us home. D & I are happy to shop till we drop, ya, that’s right we stop just before we are to drop, in the final few days before we head to the pearl, tear, mango, pear, Rambutan  (yes, very soon it will be like one or the other from the way things are going on, due to sea erosion, tsunami, global warming, economic warming etc.etc ) or what ever comes to mind of an Island. We pack for days and still at the moment we should be at the airport, we still keep packing, because I forgot to put my sock’s in the pile that went in to the 1st bag that was packed 2 days ago (how could I put my socks in to a bag when I had them on till last night), and yes my laptop is in my briefcase but the charger (yes, the laptop needs new batteries) is still somewhere and I cannot find it……or no, actually it has already been packed by my beloved D (I would have been lost to the wind if I did not find her many moons ago….do not ask me how many moons, that would be insulting). The denim has to be taken (D is getting really mad by now), I live in them when on the island, so please put them in the bag even if it is overweight. Finally, we are ready to go 1 hour late and old faithful Maburuk who will take us to the airport is ready to move.  

We arrive at the airport and all is great the overweight is not too bad and the counter guy only passes a remark “Really are you taking all of this back? No idea to return?” I smile and he is humbled by my little boy face, thank God for the lovely features that I have been gifted with…… (Wow, I hear people getting choked, was that somebody falling off a chair….come on give me some credit?) we get through and are seating in the lounge waiting for that Sri Lankan Bird to take us home. I never knew the real meaning of  “UL”, and we learned the HARD WAY…..yes, it was late as usual, by 2 hours. The funny thing was that nobody at the airport was either bothered to inform the passengers that “UL” is late, most probably as it is usually late. After an extended delay by a further hour we finally move off  mother earth and venture into the unknown, wow, like some adventure……advanture my big toe, although we have being travelling for a while its been along time since we last travelled with the local bird. The last time we travelled she was a red & white peacock and now she is a …..???? in tri colour.

We were so surprised to see what she had to offer under her skin, actually nothing special…. She smelt like “pee” and looked like a child that had not taken a bath for a couple of years. The onboard kitchen was reminding me of the old “Kalu Kussiya” (soot kitchen)  that we had in one of the old type houses we used to live a long while back. We had to keep reminding ourselves that this was our national carrier. The legs that served us was not as curvy as they were when the bird was under the red & white logo but the services was not bad, standard, nothing special either. The food, now that’s another story. Can somebody, please let me know why this lankan bird serves Indian food with no Sri Lankan option? It was like visiting your Mum expecting a total Sri Lankan meal and being served something strange that came from the next door neighbor. (sorry, to anyone who is offended, but this is the actual fact of the birds that are sent to the desert to transport our beloved foreign exchange earners, who the government loves to highlight when ever they think or remember the poor souls who are working in extreme conditions to send back US$ for our fatso’s who make a noise for nothing in the big house on the oya to live comfortably ). Its really a shame that at least the onboard meal is not Sri Lankan. Somebody needs to realize that this is the Sri Lankan national carrier and not the South Asian or SAARC national carrier. We felt it has lost its identity somewhere in-between the national factor and the foreign management factor who might only be viewing the profit factor (may be too many factors to consider).  

The flight was uneventful until the final approach to land which we always enjoy. There is nothing to compare seeing Sri Lanka from above, its really breath taking, the low hanging clouds, the early morning mist playing between the green carpet of paddy fields and coconut estates, the refreshing landscape makes you just wanting to touch down as soon as possible. 

After touch down its another story……….

Rain or Shine, Sri Lanka will always be our Home!

It’s been a loooooooong time since I sat to write, and a lot has happened since my last post. Way too much has happened that made me more lazy to write or was there too much to write about that it made me lazy and may be scared to write. It all started on a crazy day in October when my better-half and me had to pack our bags and get on jet plane to head to our wonderful North looking Southward island that we call home. On the way we had to do the stop over thing in that desert wonderland called Dubai where we usually stop for a bite (hot chips, the potato kind, never tasted better than when you have just got off a plane), a stretch of the legs and to checkout what others are buying at the duty-free shops that are never boring or lack of new trends that could make you or even break you (financially) 

It was great and we were happy to be home once again. Rain always has that magical touch, it bring things to life ( yes, I do agree that too much of it is a pain and a mess), but still when you are seeing it after a while it has a magical feeling and gives you goose bumps in the wrong places (like under your fingernails)! I opened my mouth a little too soon and spilled my thoughts out and “Su” our man Friday, almost had a heart attack trying think why on earth I was so happy that it was raining when all of Sri Lanka was almost under water as it had been raining for almost the whole of 2006. He was good enough to keep his thoughts on the subject to himself and only say that “you would not be so happy with this weather after a few days in Colombo”, how right he was, but still I must admit I enjoyed the cool weather although it was a bit of a hassle when I had to drag myself out of the house to go some place or when there was too much thunder & lightening and the electricity would fuse and we had to sit in the dark without the electric gab (TV) working. But Home is Home and rain or sun it’s good to be back in our little corner on this planet .  

But the main reason of our trip was still to be attended too. In the last couple of years I have been coming home more often since I need to visit my doctor more regularly. This time the visit was over due and  I  was  late by a couple of months for my usual biannual medical check-up. We were a bit worried about the out come of my preliminary test as all was not too well the last time I was here. {have you ever noticed that when you feel like something might go wrong it just does happen! Ya, ya, I know about Murphy’s law, but who expects that to happen? believe me, it just does happen and I am feeling guilty that we always expect the bad in every situ. Now (even at this greying age)  I am trying to instil the opposite, thinking only of the positive and making it happen}. I feel like I should congratulate myself and then hoot at some “Gamme Chandiya (village tug)” and get myself thrashed to bits as my preliminary test turned out all screwed up and as bad as could be. My Oncologist (May God Bless him and his team a Zillion times each day!) was very, very concerned and as usual (Point to remember : never expect to hear the worse in medical conditions) requested that I do a bone marrow test.{ Now, for those of you who do not know what a bone marrow test is, I would say that it’s a very, very, VERY PAINFUL procedure where a sample of  marrow is taken from within the bone. As far as I know it is done from the back of your hip and the chest.} I have done two previously at a gov. hospital and it was hell, I just screamed from start to finish as the procedure is done (behind a steel cabinet) with little (felt like it had even been diluted with tap water) local anaesthesia and was like being stabbed with a hand drill from the back. 

Thank GOD! I was relieved to hear that it could be done at a private hospital where they give you a strong anaesthetic that reduces the pain. However, once bitten twice scared, so I was ready to get it done but terrified to bits (this point will be certified by my better-half, God Bless her for all she goes through with me. My mother even would not tolerate this much). I am NOW (as it is over), happy to proclaim that the procedure at the private hospital was very, very, very less painful and more reassuring to me as a patient . The technician who carried out the test was a jewel of a man, he was so reassuring, calm and confident that it made me less tense although past experiences were still hitting me hard at the back of my mind. The procedure was long and lasted for about 45 minutes where he extracted 03 samples to be sure that we could get a good look at what exactly my marrow was doing to me (believe me, I like most people did not give a thought about any marrow in my bones until I was diagnosed with cancer. It’s like you do not think about the hose in your car engine until in breaks down or starts to leak, you just keep going on day after day, mile after mile). 

However, thank GOD the bone marrow samples show minimum disease activity, but as my blood reports do show some activity my Oncologist suggest that  we wait another six months and repeat the same test to see if there are any changes. But until then I am off the HOOK (or needle which is more like it) and have time to live life to the fullest as always.  

Regarding the Rain, oh, it was a pain finally, so many people were effected by it that the saying “too much of anything is good for nothing” came true. Su, won the day as he was so right to tell me that I would not like it after a few days experiencing this wet & messy weather. Now he reminds me that the mosquitoes are attacking and that I should came for a short stay to experience the soothing pain, the piercing hum and the involuntary blood donation while keeping a look out for the chicken called guniya and the rouge called dengue!