Post haste ( or not as the case may be )
Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
16Trip End Oct 28, 2006
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It was not my only experience of the Sri Lankan postal service, yesterday I had to make a 70 km round trip to collect a parcel Mark had sent. In short letters arrive directly here, small parcels get as far as local post office and large parcels (the Sri Lankan version of large is not the same as mine by the way) get as far as Kandy where they stop and wait to be collected in person. As you are charged a daily fee for the housing of your long awaited parcel its best to get up there ASAP even if its takes 90 minutes each way!
Once there I had to show my passport (in which my photo looks nothing like me) and sign numerous pieces of paper whilst long conversations were held between the staff, finally the man I was dealing with shouted for someone to get my parcel it was brought into the room behind the counter and placed on a table out of my reach. I was slightly surprised (okay bloody amazed) to discover that my parcel was then opened in front of me and the contents examined in great detail by 2 more postal workers. Clothes pegs, mozzie repellant (I am using loads) sewing kit (thanks mum) spare batteries for camera, letters from home etc all ended up in a large heap and then they got to the Early learning Centre flash cards (with letters and numbers on for teaching children to read) and that seemed to send them into a tailspin. Every card was laid out on the table (so they could check nothing was hidden between them) and when they asked me what they were for mass confusion broke out as I mimed holding and used my limited Sinelese to say "read" and "write" them up to a sea of puzzled Sri Lankan postal workers! Finally they decided I could have my parcel and I left with the contents shoved back in the box as quickly as I could in case they changed their minds!
The Royal mail have now been added to by every growing list of UK services that are not as bad as I thought, I was going to add Virgin Trains after my trip to Kandy but upon reflection I have been just as hot on over crowded Virgin trains and they charge a heck of a lot more than 20 rupees for the privilege! So sorry Virgin Trains you are still pants and Sri Lankan railways beat you for coolness (leaving the doors open really does help) and there at seat (or standing) food service even in third class. Other UK companies I am seeing in a new light are Thames Water, they maybe expensive, ban hosepipes every time the sun shines for 5 days in a row but at least you can drink there tap water without spending a day in bed afterwards. The national grid is also gaining my respect. You don't realize (well I never) how much you take electricity for granted until its not always there, power cuts are so common here even on normal days (and often I find at night) and when it rains heavily the power can be off for hours (as well as the phone lines) Some one told me that the night cuts (and some of the days) are a planned thing to try and reduce the amount of electricity people use as demand is out striping supply. I have no idea if its true but it does seem to go off a lot either way.
I have found that patience and a sense of homour is vital here, as an inpatient inflexible would probably explode within 24 hours
My day to day routine with Rani is all over the place at the moment as a film crew have been here for 3 days filming an Asian feature film, originally another elephant who had done film work before was chosen but the lead actor appeared somewhat scared of her! So Rani has been given her chance at 15 minutes of fame. So far it has involved me either having to give her extra cleans or more bizarrely this morning her Mahout was trying to get more dirty as that's what the director wanted. I have sat and watched the filming which seems to involve 2 actors on Rani's back, one of them screams every time Rani moves and I am hoping its part of the script if not that poor woman is really suffering for her art
Uploading photos here is still very hard (almost impossible) and I know loads of people have asked for more photos and I am trying (honest) but it involves using some one else's PC (who is not always around), and the availability of another phone line that is often unavailable to get online, so I am not promising anything at the moment
So that's me at the moment, hope you are all well ( will keep trying with the photos :) )