Sri Lanka - anything that could have gone wrong
Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
23Trip End May 01, 2009
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The Kingfisher flight was luxurious. The food was great and they served juice and beer to everyone. In an hour and a half's time we landed in Colombo, the Capital of Sri Lanka. A red shuttle bus from the airport took us to a nearby bus station and from there we took an hour long bus ride to the Colombo bus station. From Colombo we took another bus to Hikkaduwa, a beach town about two hours from Colombo. We reached Hikkaduwa at about nine in the evening. A very nice rickshaw driver took us to a guest house on the beach and we were placed in a room with a balcony looking over the waves and coconut palms. After we were settled in the room, the driver took us to Red Lobster and we had dinner. It confused me at first why our driver had joined us for dinner and then it became clear that he brought us there to show us to his friends who were also there. I had ordered a surprisingly huge vegetarian meal and shared it with him while Brian devoured a giant plate of mixed grilled seafood. Our driver ordered a small bottle of black alcohol which I later learned to be local coconut derived liquor called Arrack. We were introduced to two of our driver’s friends and our driver made sure we knew that one of them is a Muslim. I am not sure why he thought we would care. Before eating I checked my blood sugar and our driver and his friends were intrigued. Later, after dinner when I took insulin for the meal, the driver made it clear through his broken English that he and his friends would like me to check their blood sugar too. The driver’s friend’s levels were great and I congratulated them. They were very happy to find themselves in good health. However, our driver’s level was high. I smiled and told him it was ok, but that he should eat less sugar and drink less sugar. He seemed terrified and I tried to console him. I suggested he check with his doctor. Then they asked me if I was a doctor.
After dinner the driver invited us to dinner with his family in his home the next day. We happily accepted and then he drove us back to our hotel. Our Driver had only just started down the main road when we were stopped by three policemen. The police are everywhere and they want to know everything. They told the driver that he needed to put his headlights on and then asked us with welcoming smiles where we are from. They seemed very pleased and after giving the driver a pat on the back, they released us. They didn’t seem to care that our driver had obviously been drinking.
The following day we spent on the beach. Bryan was very brave and ventured into the water, even though the waves were high. I was content to going out as far as I could and then running away when a really big wave came. As the time passed the waves became bigger and bigger and so I retired to read in the shade. I had been looking forward to swimming in the ocean but I did not want to be pushed around by huge waves. We asked the guest house manager why the waves were so huge and he explained that the ocean becomes more aggressive as we come closer to the monsoon season. This was a disappointment because one of the reasons we came to Sri Lanka was to enjoy the ocean. After sunbathing on the beach we showered, dressed, and read until our driver came at seven thirty to take us to his home.
Our driver’s house was small and colorful. In his living room there were nylon flowers all over the room, a nice stereo system, a small TV, and a couch and chairs set with a coffee table in the middle of the room. The kitchen was plain and blue and the dining room was made cramped by a huge wood table. We had stopped to purchase a large bottle of Arrack and the driver and I mixed with soda water while Bryan drank his with cola. Our driver had gone to his doctor earlier that day and the doctor had told him the same thing I had said and so he was not watching his sugar intake. I was glad I was able to help someone catch early-onset type two diabetes early enough to prevent it from getting worse. The home became crowded with people. We were introduced to our driver’s wife, their three children, their neighbor’s daughter, her baby and little brothers. We sat on the couch while the driver sat in a matching chair on the other side of the coffee table from us. Although the seat next to him was free, everyone in the room sat or stood along the perimeter of the room and did not speak. They smiled often though and the neighbor gave me her baby to hold. Only later when a young adult male relation of the driver’s had come, was the honored seat next to the driver taken. Shortly after arriving, our driver showed me his daughter’s forehead. I could see that it protruded a little. Our driver explained that she had hit her head somehow a while back and he wanted me to investigate the bump. I didn’t see anything. I think he thought I am a doctor. After he convinced everyone in the room to have their blood sugar checked. I happily complied. I could see he was worried for his loved ones and I was able to make him very happy when I reported of their health.
We communicated as best we could through the language barrier. For several hours we listened to fantastic Sri Lankan music, ate, and conversed. They kept giving us food, although we were full, and at one point I whispered to Bryan I cannot healthily digest all of this food. How prophetic my words were. That night I became violently sick. The worst part of the sickness lasted three days. I could not eat or get up from bed except to use the restroom. I had horrible cramps in my stomach and was nauseous. Bryan talked to a pharmacist and I took some medication, but to no avail. On the second night I left the room for the first time to have dinner. I ordered soup but didn’t expect to eat it. As we were waiting for our food I suddenly threw up twice behind me, over the short wall surrounding the patio restaurant.
During my sickness, Bryan was left to make the most of the trip without me. He had a late night with the hotel owner and some other men on the Beach. The details of that night are Bryan’s only but I know they drank, ate, talked of politics and Hollywood, and he enjoyed the "guy time". The next day he went out on a boat with the driver and the boat owner to explore the lagoon, visit a temple, and to visit a turtle sanctuary. From the pictures he took the Buddhist temple was colorful. Bryan was disappointed that the turtle sanctuary was closed. By Monday the thirteenth we were more than ready to return to Bangalore. I was still not feeling well but I was well enough to travel and we made our way back to the airport. The journey was long and horrible. I was nauseous the entire time and Bryan was left without a seat on the bus for part of the journey. The bus coordinator packed in as many people as could possibly fit on the bus. For most of the way I had smelly men standing over me, stepping on my feet, and bruising my legs with their boney knees.
Finally we reached the airport at 6:30 in the evening. Our plane would not leave until 9:15 the next morning but we had decided to cut costs by spending the night at the airport. We were about to order dinner at the airport restaurant when Bryan realized he no longer had his wallet. We searched all the bags. Not there. The wallet also contained my ATM card so we had no means of obtaining cash. The trial of searching for the wallet in and outside the airport, going over airport security tapes, filing claims with the police while standing in the rain, is not a story I wish to repeat at this time. The entire process from when we realized the wallet was lost to when all hope was gone and there was nothing more to be done lasted five hours. Ask me in person, I will recount the tale. Perhaps later I will write it down. I can say now that we were angry, frustrated, tired, eaten by bugs, dripping wet from rain, completely out of cash, and hungry. It was a terrible night but it would not be the worst; that would be the next night.
Bryan felt terrible and I, remembering my mom’s words upon hearing of the fraud on my credit card, told him these things happen. We would be ok. We only have two more weeks left in India and friends who would take care of us. We got some rest at the airport and flew back to Bangalore. When we arrived at the Bangalore airport we called one of our wonderful roommates and asked if they could pay our cab fare so we could come home from the airport. We took the cab and our roommate happily paid for it. Bryan realized that he had left one of his credit cards in Bangalore so we suddenly had means again and we would not have to borrow from our roommates. We also had some American dollars which we exchanged so that we could pay the cab fare back to the airport in two weeks for our flight home. We slept for most of the afternoon and it seemed that everything was fine.
But I was still sick. I could barely eat and was losing weight. My stomach hurt and I felt bloated. I would burp constantly. I decided I would see a doctor the next day and let it rest. I wish now that I had gone then instead of waiting. That night I couldn’t sleep. Restless and uncomfortable in my own skin, I lay on my back and prayed for sleep to come. I fell asleep but within minutes I woke up from a horrific dream. My heart was pounding like I had run a marathon and I was gasping for air. When I caught my breath and relaxed, I lay back down in the bed. I noticed my left hand was completely asleep and I had trouble getting the circulation moving again. Suddenly I saw a multitude of bright colors. The colors began taking shapes. It is very difficult to describe what happened next. It felt like I was not alone in my own head but another presence – the sickness – was there and it wanted me to know it. Shapes and forms appeared. I was helpless to control the voices that were not my own thoughts or the shapes that were not my own imagination. A Blackness was following my thoughts and I couldn’t escape. I knew the Blackness was whatever was making me sick. My body began to go numb in places and there were waves of pain washing over me as I lay flat and motionless except for sporadic convulsions. I wanted to wake up Bryan, I wanted him to hold my hand and talk me out of this drugless trip I was on but I couldn’t move. Somehow, I fell asleep, only to experience everything that was while I was awake but in a dream. The dream was of unspeakable pain and violence. The Blackness was trying to make me spread my sickness so that is could kill everyone. In my half-dream, half hallucination I could feel my arms and legs wailing around in the bed. In an instant my eyes were open and the colors and Blackness gone by my heart was pounding in my chest and I was struggling for air. It took me a moment to realize it was over – that the trip had stopped. I sat up in bed. It was five in the morning. I resolved not to fall asleep again because I was afraid I would dream again. However, I was completely exhausted because, I believe, I had not had any real sleep only dream-like hallucinations. I passed out and slept like a rock until noon. I told Bryan about my night and we went straight to the doctor. She had nothing to say about my dreams, but did tell me I have a parasitic infection and prescribed some pills for me. Now I am taking the pills and feeling better than before, but I am not completely healed. I can’t wait to come home.