Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When the Wild Met the WIlderness

We rule. Seriously.

After much blathering and de-roping over the course of three whole years, the bunch of monkeys from the old office finally managed to get their acts together and loiter over to Yala on a trip this weekend. As if the drought and tourist season wasn’t giving enough pain to those poor animals, we decided to add to their misery too.

As head honcho, I took on the role of overall instigator of Project Trip-To-Yala (creative, think you not). I swear I will never make that mistake again.

I never realized that organizing a trip could be more stressful than running America. Not only did I have to battle it out with ten ninnies for weeks in order to convince them all to come, but I also had the pleasure of playing headmistress and chaperone in talking to their parents and assuring a few wrought mums that I’d return their precious angels in one sober piece. Mind you, these are mostly adult males we’re talking about. One even as ancient as I am. I had to make vows of responsibility and sobriety, even going into the extent of sending out group mails listing out rules of conduct to the lot. I felt like one of those parents promising to babysit a slumber party. I spent sleepless nights budgeting out the cheapest options for travel and accommodation, with some of the bunch kindly volunteering to do much of the dirty work of calling around for quotes and securing deals.

But in the end, we did finally go, and none the sooner. It was wild, it was whacky and it was, in every sense of the word, a trip.

For cost and adventure purposes, we settled on taking a train to Matara and then finding a way to get to yala from there. The drama began in the wee hours of the morning when the cab we’d hired to pick us all up and take us to the railway station turned up minus four seats. A moment of panic, and it was decided that some of them would go ahead to the station on their own. A good decision on their part, because those of in the cab spent two hours pulling our hair out every time the gears flunked and we got caught to checkpoints, fearing we’d miss the train. But all turned out well, and we did catch it on time, thanks to the brave souls who went ahead of us and purchased tickets.

The train journey itself was eventful too. To begin with, none of us knew where the 2nd class compartments were, and ended up getting in late and not having seats. Most of the gang stood for a whole three hours right next to a rather gruesome cabin toilet until people got off and seats became available. I, being the queen that I am, secured myself a nice plush seat next to a snoring passenger and rode in comfort. The weather decided to be an arse and kept raining now and then, which meant the train windows had to be opened and closes at least eight times during the journey. I could see Lady Divine’s face turning very, very sour every time she ended up wet. The train also featured quite a number of entrepreneurs who passed the cabin selling different versions of vadey, kadaley, and pitiful stories in order to make a buck. Five hours hence, I’d almost emptied my pockets and we arrived in Matara.

From Matara we hired a cab to take us to Yala. This one actually had enough seats. We stopped on the way to buy food provisions and ended up alarming the employees of Cargills. The boys spied the liquor section and there went my no-drinking policies. En route to Yala, yours truly had the pleasure of treating everyone to a delightful bout of travel sickness. Luckily, that was as dramatic as it got, and we slept the rest of the way to our lodgings.

As our accommodation of choice, we chose the Panthera Lodge – a charming bungalow on the fringes of the Yala park. Never realizing whom they were handing their premises to, the lodge owner gave us a very cool deal that included the services of their fabulous cook, Liyanage, who could whip up gourmet fantasies out of rocks if we let him. The lodge itself is basic in architecture, but quite well built, with a novel ‘outdoor’ feel to it. All the beds were lined up on this massive verandah so that we could sleep under the stars.

Even the bathroom was open-aired and lacked a ceiling in a very ‘designer’ way, giving passing birds a shock of their lives. We even had the pleasure of the company of the lodge’s delightful little watchdog, who did anything but be a watchdog. We called her Soma.

She actually responded to it, too, giving us full view of her tummy and plenty of access to the scratchable areas behind her ears and neck whenever she was called. Soma’s speciality was her inclination to fart out the world’s smelliest dog farts, rendering everyone green in the face for hours.

But even Soma’s farts could not stop us from enjoying ourselves. In the midst of the hilarious moments of Mafia, poker, word games, sing-a-longs and home-made movies, I can’t remember a single second that I wasn’t laughing. If the daytime wasn’t crazy enough, the night was even better. Open air sleeping arrangements meant a lot of Yala bugs visited us out of curiosity, necessitating the use of convenient mosquito nets – one per every two beds. Securing them was enough of an adventure. We spent hours not sleeping on that row of beds and methinks we kept the whole of Yala awake with the screeches, guffaws and giggles throughout the night. The boys shared beds with each other and left nothing to the imagination of what was happening under those nets.

The next morning we slouched off to the park for our Safari. An early start meant an eventful waking up ceremony at 4 am that warranted another episode of hilarity and drama, with everyone trying to find ways of keeping the others awake. However, all drowsiness was forgotten when we entered the park at 5.

Now I’ve been to Yala before, and it’s always been the same old same old. A dabbling of elephants, a few lazy crocodiles and a couple of deer. But this time around was excellent. Whether it was the drought luring the animals out of their hiding or pure luck, we managed to have an excellent experience. We even saw two leopards! One was an exceptional large, lazy one walking on the road just in front of the jeeps and the other was a cub who shot out of view the minute he heard us coming. Because the universe is highly unfair, I didn’t manage to photograph either. Bummer. But the park encounter was worth every cent, given that we saw a huge number of creatures in all sorts of positions. Here are a few photos that aren’t my own, simply because the other guy had a better camera than I did.

If there was anything that outshone the eventful safari, it was the cook. His meals were beyond fabulous, especially the scrumptious barbeque he whipped up on our last night. BBQ-ed chicken, sausages, grilled whole fish, garlic bread, potato salad and cheesy pasta. We ate copious amounts of it, not wanting to stop.

With that BBQ came the end of the trip, and we all got back into a van at midnight and took off for the Matara station. The train ride back was far more comfortable than our original, though I don’t remember much of it, given that I slept for all five hours of the way home.

And now here I am, pondering and pining to go back there. Just for two glorious days I had my mad lunatics back together and the world was good again. I went back to a time, two years ago, when I worked in a place I could call home with a super group I could call my family. It's little trips like this that makes all those good memories come back to life again. Makes you wonder if everything else in life has a point.

Where to next, peeps??

A Long One That Isn't My Boyfriend's Schlong.

With apologies to said boyfriend for mentioning his long schlong.

I’m back.

Really couldn’t be bothered with thinking up a more creative opening statement.

The days are quite literally a blur. Mostly because I broke my spectacles over three months ago and haven’t replaced them, but also because things seem to be passing by at a speed faster than peoples’ memory of Duminda Silva's negative public image. I am both supremely busy and supremely bored with life.

Gutterflower was right. It isn’t fun to blog when writing is your job. God knows I don’t want to WORK off-time too. But clearly you haven’t missed me as much as I’d like you to.

Anyhoo, let me give you a quick rundown of what moi has been getting moi’s itchy fingers into lately, a’ight?

That sounded vulgar, didn’t it?

To start with, back when I had less grey hairs on my head, almost four months ago, I was involved in putting together this year’s Chillies. Yes… that same ill-fated event that’s been given a good blog beating several times already. I had the luck (debatable) of being a part of the organizing committee by virtue of nomination. Given my inclination towards the theatrical, the rest of the committee decided that my chief (and only- because when it’s convenient, I can look like a bimbo who can’t do much else) responsibility would be to put together the entertainment for the event. I thought I was being very economical and smart when I suggested we ask a well-known theatre director to train people from within the industry to put on a musical act. The director thought HE was being smart in deciding to make that act a drag scene from ‘Cabaret’.

It is safe to say that when it comes to the ad industry, Liza Minnellis we are not.

It all went downhill from there.

Note to self and all at large: you will NOT, I repeat NOT, secure yourself any popular reputation amongst local men once you have harassed them to wear women’s' lingerie on a public stage. Let me elaborate with a prime example of what my phone conversations with random straight men went like:

(Ring ring)- which is actually a phone ringing and not a piece of schizophrenic jewellery…

Straight man : Hello?

Me : Hi. This is (dramaqueen). You don't know me, but I'm in the organising committee for the Chillies, and we have this performance that I'd think you'd be PERFECT for. (flirtatious voice to appeal to red-blooded male brain cell)

SM : (clearly flattered brain cell) oh? Wow... ok... what do you need me to do?

Me : Well, we need you to dance in drag. It's a musical number, you see, and the lingerie you’ll be wearing…

(Cue click of phone)
(Second set of ‘ring ring’)

SM : (Not flattered anymore) Yes?

Me : Sorry I think you got cut off. So like I was saying, it's a really cute drag number, and...

(Phone slams)

(Ring Ri..)

SM: WHAT? (braincell is now shouting)

Me : Er... are you interested?

At this point I am subjected to a lot of Greek. Or at least I think it's Greek because 13 years in a private girls’ school taught me nothing.

Of course, to be fair, I have to admit there was the odd (no pun intended) straight man with a slightly more open mind and sense of fun who DID surprisingly agreed to wear the skimpy outfit and heels and wiggle his bottom in front of a thousand people. There were also a handful of brave girls who volunteered (after some initial pleading on my part) to take on the role of the men in the act. I sat up for several evenings pasting sequins on bras and sewing black lace negligees and garters, much to my poor mother’s distress. She is now convinced that advertising is pure lechery. A few days were spent in shoe shops around the city, asking for high-heeled shoes in impossibly large sizes. My explanation to the questioning looks from shopkeepers was that they were for ‘tall foreign women’. ‘Drag queens’ would not have got me those shoes, except for on the head whilst being flung.

I won’t tell you how the show went. There are reviews in both English and Greek you can get someone else who was sober enough to witness it all that night.

Lah Land

The Chillies were followed by a trip to Singapore on a work assignment with a disgruntled co-worker who’d never been on a plane in his life. This meant a lot of nanny duty on my part, with much running after the bloke to stop him from going the wrong way at the airport.

I’ve been to good old ‘pore before, back when my hair was thicker. I didn’t have the slightest clue to how much things had changed since. The first night there, my workmate and I decided to grab a bite from a food court outside our hotel, because the food bills at 5-star hotel restaurants in Singapore make you puke out everything that’s eaten, rendering the whole experience a worthless one.

We asked the bellboy to recommend a good food court nearby that we could hop over to at that time of night (it was a bit late in the night given that our flight landed well past people’s bedtime). Perhaps we should have specified that we meant to eat and nothing but, because the guy gave us a suspicious snigger and pointed towards Orchard towers, a few blocks away from our hotel.

Oblivious to the meaning behind Singaporean sniggers, we skipped over to the Towers. The last time I’d visited Orchard Road, it was the place for the elite to stroll casually by on whilst determining which designer store to throw their money at next. This time around was a little different. There were quite a few questionably dressed girls draping themselves on walls of buildings and under streetlamps, wearing enough make-up to render said streetlamp redundant. I, being the dud that I am, put this down to the fact that Singaporeans must love to dress up at night and have bad stylists. Going into Orchard Towers, we found more and more of these disillusioned fashionistas gyrating to the loud thumping music blaring out of several nightclubs dotting the basement floor into which we had descended. Having manoeuvred the alarmingly seedy corridors, we found our food court and looked around, gulping nervously by now. One hour later we ran back to the hotel at lightning speed, not even surprised by now at the food looking very suspicious, tasting odd, or the fact that we got played out by the vendor. The next morning I found out that Orchard Towers is also famously known as the ‘Four Floors of Whores’.

I hope you’ve caught on by now that the bellboy didn’t get a tip from me.

The rest of the week was spent in between work sessions, slightly more respectable food joints and the zillion shops. One cannot go to ‘Pore and not shop, dahling! Ever the stingy Grinch, my firm favourite has been and will always be the infamous Mustafas. Hours upon hours of loading the cart in greedy haste like there’s no tomorrow. Designer was never my thing, anyway. The food was better than I remembered, especially the chillie crab at Jumbo’s!

There was that one other place that I’d have died if I didn’t get the chance to go back to, and that was the zoo. When you’re a nutter like me you’ll understand why the Singapore zoo is the god of all Asian zoos. I once even tried scoring a job there as an animal show presenter, but was sadly rejected. I think it had something to do with the height of professionalism I demonstrated by writing them a letter to the effect of ‘Hi. I love animals. Could I please have a job there?’.

What? I bet the animals would’ve said yes.

My work mate couldn’t really get his mind around to the fact that when I suggested visiting the zoo, I meant staying there and never going back to SL. He tried to drag me away from the zebras quite a few times once he’d realized my intentions. But I stood my ground and the poor man spent his entire day watching me cooing at the wary creatures like an escaped lunatic. The only beings appreciative of my attentions were the snakes, who’d thus far never received any cooing and thought it a delightful novelty.

I would have felt sorry for my colleague’s plight had he not taken sweet revenge on our last day. We’d decided to visit Chinatown and discussed the merits of splitting up, doing our thing and then meeting at the metro point at a given time. I kept my end of the bargain but he did not. It could have had something to do with the fact that he’d lost his way and didn’t speak fluent English or Mandarin, but I didn’t care. I spent a good three hours standing near the metro entrance, to the point that one particular Chinese man thought I was a hooker and asked me if I wanted to go away with him and show him what brown girls can do. He may have gotten my point when I hit him with a large wooden souvenir fan and called him a bastard, because he left speedily. Seething with rage, I decided to leave my workmate to his fate and went back to our lodgings, only to find him fast asleep there. I hit him with the fan too.

Since Singapore, nothing much else has happened that’s exciting enough to share. I did agree to be conscripted into another play that I’m currently suffering rehearsals for. It stars a few good friends, and that is about the only thing I’m motivated by, given that my work schedule makes everything else an inconvenience. The production is in itself quite a good concept and it’s bound to thrill a few people. We shall see.

Apart from the play, my latest bouts of angst are directed towards Nilanga Dela Bandara a.k.a the Diyawadana Nilame, Minister Gamini Lokuge and the Asgiriya chapter. If you’ve been following the recent outrage of the media and general public, then you’ll know why I want all of the above mentioned bastards dead, or at least hung by their clearly-lacking balls. I am devising way in which to make this happen as we speak.

If you are not savvy to the goings on, then Google their names and you’ll come across a hundred article reporting the demonic way in which they abducted two suckling tusker calves from their mothers in Pinnawela and ‘offered’ them to the temple. To this day the babies remain chained, injured and traumatized inside Dela Bandara’s garage, whilst the mother elephants lie injured and pining for their calves. True Buddhists, these pigs are… to heap portions of abuse onto animals and expect karma points out of it. It astounds me how greedy fat arses like this are actually put into positions of power by us, the people. We are clearly dumber than I thought we were.

And that, my little donkeys, is what has happened so far, with the exception of work, work and nothing but work that keeps me grimacing every time I think of sitting down at the PC, even if it IS for personal gain. I did have a few outstanding moments like that time I saw another workmate standing near the office elevator and slapped his ass in the jovial fashion I always do, only to have the man turn around and reveal himself to NOT be the workmate in question but an absolute stranger. I ditched the elevator ride for five flights of stairs, just to avoid dying of shame.

Like a coincidental bitch of an irony, someone in office just called for me. This means you need to wait to hear from me again.

Over and out.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I swear to you, I'm not dead.


A longer post is on its way, I promise. I just need to find that little jewel called time. Between fighting the President on animal rights issues, my mother's suspicions, my client's brainwaves, my boss's sudden itches and all the voices in my head, I really haven't had the chance to talk to you.

Sorry. There's lot to tell.