Sunday, November 30, 2003

8:12 p.m., Sunday, November 30, 2003

Beach Resort Bedroom

Quite a nice, relaxing, most very productive couple of days.

Yesterday, while Angie and Linda from the Batticola Team were visiting us, we had an outing up at the Nilaveli Beach Hotel. It was quite a nice day. Since the rains abated and the sky was generally clear, I decided to bike the 17 kilometers out in the country to the hotel. Soraia decided to bike with me. It was wonderful to work up a sweat out in the countryside again, like all the long bike rides I would take around Long Island or when I was living up on Woodland Lake.

We stopped so I could take these pictures of a roadside Hindu Kovil and a group of local farmers who stopped and asked me to take their picture.

Here's a close-up of the little Ganesh statue on the lower left with flower offerings devotees have left:

And here is a picture of the larger spiritual entity that I have no idea who he or she or it is:

Here is the group of farmers who were most proud to have their picture taken by me, a strange foreigner. Wish I would have thought to have showed it to them:

Handsome lot, aren't they . . .

Here are several shots of the Nilaveli Beach Hotel, quite a nice place to hang out in with lots of amenities:

This is Pigeon Island, about a 20 minute trip by motor launch where there is snorkling and scuba-diving I can get certified to do out beyond the Island. I can stay in a luxury cottage opening to the beach here that includes breakfast and dinner for $16.50 per night -- not a bad deal, eh ? ? ?

Whale bones? Elephants? Dinosaurs? None of the local waiters in the outdoor eating cabana knew . . .

Here's a shot of some of the local inhabitants, the ever ubiquitous seacrows and one of Sri Lankan squirrels, which look more like chipmunks, but with a much larger tail and they scurry around trees like squirrels:

On the bike ride back, Soraia and I had a poignant adventure, which I describe in this piece:


It was rather a miracle in itself that Soraia saw this tiny, huddled bundle of a skinny, shivering, very flea-infested kitten, so very young with deep blue eyes barely opened, nestled in the tall grass on the side of the late afternoon road a couple of klicks south of the Nilaveli Beach Hotel. We had bicycled to Nilaveli from Trinco earlier in the day and were on our way back home after spending a lovely, relaxing afternoon at the beautiful Sri Lankan beach with our Muthur teammate, Karen, and with Angie and Linda, who were visiting us from the Batti Team. The three of them had shared a three-wheeler up to Nilaveli, while Soraia and I decided to take our bikes on an extended ride through the lush countryside.

Gently we picked him up and wrapped him in my T-shirt, placing him in her basket, so back home in Trinco we could nurse him back to a full life with us. Maybe he had been abandoned by his Momma cat, because he wasn't thriving we speculated. We would do everything possible to change that, like Soraia had previously done with several animals she had rescued in her native Brazil.

We were able to flag down the tuk-tuk, carrying Karen, Angie and Linda back to Trinco. They would be able to get him home sooner, so that Angie could start ministering to him from her reservoirs of deep, compassionate care and long experience being a skilled street-medic in confrontations with the Canadian police. For several hours, we each focused intently upon him such gentle care. We yearned deeply in our hearts and spirits for him to thrive, Karen, Soraia and I began planning the life we would share with him as the feline member of the Muthur team. We carefully kept him warmly wrapped as he slept and every half-hour gently fed him sugar water to build up his strength. Angie named him Milo.

Unfortunately, it was all for naught, for him and for us, but who are we to judge. After several loud, whimpering cries, fully stretching out his tiny clawed feet in front of him, which we misinterpreted as signs of gathering strength, his fragile spirit departed this earthly space and time. The cries must have been his protesting death throes. Solemnly we took him out to the beach behind the house and in the dark of a clear, starlit sky with a watchful half-moon overhead, we dug a deep grave to gently place him in. Each of us revered his barely known spirit in our own individual ways and continued on with our lives, dealing as best we could with the unfathomable mysteries of life and death.

To me it was poignantly symbolic of what perhaps much of our work here in Sri Lanka shall be. We shall no doubt in many instances be powerless to positively affect the outcome; we can only devote the sincerely of our intentions to witness and to be presence to support the Sri Lankans build the peace they want in the way they want it. We are not responsible for the outcome, only for our sincere efforts in accordance with the principles of nonviolence to be a healing presence. Rest in peace, Milo, and thank you for this sorrowful lesson.

November 30, 2002
Beach Resort, Trincomalee

And life among the living goes on . . .

I also wrote this poem about Karen, one of my teammates and our experience the other day riding the ferry on a very, rough, monsooning day:


Trinco Bay tossed the small, overcrowded launch
pitched and swirled it from sea trough to high wave
several people losing it in plastic bags

At the first breach of heavy sea
a young Tamil girl, maybe 12 or 11
froze in a montage of stark terror

As the boat pitched and yawed
she clutched Karen's arm, which most naturally
encircled her, to comfort, to soothe

Another bounding wave smashed the brow
and the young girl flung herself across Karen.s lap
whose tilted head gazed with such grace

It was as poignant a tableau as ever perceived
as compassionate a piece of peace work
tenderly ever to be performed

November 29, 2003
Nilaveli Beach, Sri Lanka

All in all, it is a very rich and productive and grace-filled and wonderful life . . .

Saturday, November 29, 2003

7:20 p.m., Friday, November 28,2003

Beach Resort Bedroom

Friday night and I didn't get paid. Waiting for Linda and Angie of the Batti team to come. Soraia cooked a delicious smelling soup, which is simmering in the kitchen. Rain is still pouring. Thanksgiving come and now gone, as has Martyr's Day, the combination 4th of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day for the LTTE. Prabhakaran, their leader and as ruthless a devotee of his cause as any leader in history, gave his annual speech yesterday -- no unusual deviation from the stalled peace plan, just the usual reminder that the resumption of the peace process depends on the stability of Sri Lankan government and that the Tamils still want their own governed area.

The rains did abate enough for awhile this afternoon for me to take a nice long spin through Trinco downtown and up to Uppuveli and back by the Inner Harbor Road to get some nice shots if some of the LTTE red and yellow decorations and posters. I was so glad that the VVAW appropriated logo banner was still up:

Some logos never die, they just find another war to fit in . . .

Ironic that I am also again in a place where one of the combatants has red and yellow as their colors, just as the ARVNs did in my old war, three and a half decades gone by. It strange. All week watching the steady increase of red and yellow banners and bunting and flags and posters, I knew it looked familiar, but I couldn't place my finger on it. Just now looking at this picture with the colors evidently on display, it hits me that the LTTE have the same colors as the ARVNs did 35 years ago, another example of me missing the obvious.

The Uppuveli Junction -- riding along N.C. Road up to the junction above, I was quite startled when I heard in the distance what sounded like approaching gunfire. It was not, thanking all gods & goddesses. Instead it was a funeral procession of solemn mourners, who were shooting off firecrackers as is the local custom to announce to the villagers and passersby that the remains of a passed soul is passing by. I wondered if it was one of the people recently seriously wounded in a series of small skirmishes in Trinco among the Muslim and Tamils, who died of his wounds. The faces were grim, gave no indication of who died or what the circumstances were. I stopped the bicycle on the side of the road, watching them pass by, and in my own way of reverence, blessed whoever he was a safe journey.

Here are a couple of shots of the banners leading to the Hindu Cultural Center where yesterday, when Karen and I were in Muthur, the Trinco festivities were held:

No matter the country, regardless of the language, the memorial celebration of losses to stupid, senseless war is still monumentally sad in my opinion. I can honor and grieve the loss of the LTTE soldiers and combatants, 17,708 to be exact, most very young, teenagers or in their 20s, no different from the waste of the thousands of Americans and the millions of civilians in my war in Vietnam, while still abhorring the same old cycle of war-mongering necessity.

Here are a couple of shots of the now peaceful Trinco Harbor:

Here is the main street, where we do a lot of our shopping. The 6 to 9 Restaurant where we ate our Chicken-Day Thanksgiving meal last night is down at the far end. On the right is the bicycle shop where we got our machines:

Last night there was much more bunting and flags all along the street, and in front of most of the shops were displays of slow-burning candles. I was reminded of the October, 1969 Candlelight vigil I attended in Washington, D.C. as well as the candlelight vigil against the Iraq War early last Spring.

And here I am, fuzzy beard and all, with my ltbikemobile in front of the Beach Resort -- 21 speeds made in Taiwan and it cost less than $56 dollars U.S. Not bad at all . . .

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Socked in most of the day as it has been monsooning to beat the band again. Hard to believe it is Thanksgiving again. What a different one it shall be for me. If the ferry is running, which it wasn't on Tuesday when we tried to go, Karen, Soraia will spend the day in Muthur. Trinco and the surrounding areas in the Northeastern Provinces have been a sea of red and gold bunting, flags and decorations with large martial posters all week culminating tomorrow with the annual "Martyr's" day festivities to honor the some 17,500 LTTE battle deaths during the past two decades. I was able to do a fairly long run through the town at dusk this evening when the clouds broke for a couple of hours. I saw one banner that was most weird and sad -- they have incorporated as one of their memorials the logo of VVAW from the war of my generation, a M-16 rifle stuck in the ground with a helmet on the butt as a tombstone memorial. Tomorrow, or Friday, if the sun comes out, I'll try to get some pictures of it and some of the other large posters depicting LTTE cadre killing and getting killed. Whether it's red, white and blue or red and gold, it is so stupidly sad that all this energy goes to maintain the myth of the honor and glory of war. What is going on here is no different that what we recently did on November 11, Veterans Day. To my mind makes as much nonsense as these pictures of a painted rock in the middle of Iowa cornfields. I much prefer these thoughts by Admiral Gene LaRoque which I came across the other day reading Howard Zinn's Passionate Declarations:

I’ve been in 13 battle engagements, had sunk a submarine, and was the first man ashore in the landing at Roi. In that four years, I thought, What a hell of a waste of a man’s life. I lost a lot of friends. I had the task of telling my roommate’s parents about our last days together. You lose limbs, sight, part of your life — for what? Old men send young men to war. Flag, banners and patriotic savings . . .

I hate when they say, “ He gave his life for his country.” Nobody gives their life for anything. We steal the lives of these kids. We take it away from them. They don’t die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them.”

The area around Trinco has been rather tense with heightened security since two Muslims were killed by grenades in the nearby village of Kinniya Monday night, and last night a grenade was thrown into one of the main mosques in Trinco, several blocks away from our house, seriously injuring several people prayerfully celebrating Eid, one of the highest holy days of Islam. So sad, so senseless . . .

Saw my DVD of American Beauty last night and cried and cried at its beautiful message and the incredible art of Spacey, Benning, etc. as directed and conceived by Sam Mendes. Just outstanding. I will see it again and again, like I did (and shall do again) with Pulp Fiction, not nearly as uplifting and inspiring a flick . . .

Have most Happy and Grateful Thanksgivings for all the blessings we share and so often take for granted . . .

Friday, November 21, 2003

5:48 pm, Thursday, November 20, 2003

Trinco Beach Resort Bedroom

A Monsoon gale wind wails again outside the window as Van wails about a Stepping Out Queen Part, while whitecaps dance across a grey sliver of sea underneath roiling dark storm clouds I can barely see beyond the seawall and the frantically waving palm fronds. The tea is sweet in my Sri Lanka blue mug and my cinnamon stick is tasty. After a good mid-day meal, which I cooked, of canned corn beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots, I'm about as satisfied as one could possibly be, especially since I just read the truth again that Gary Zukov reiterates in his Seat of the Soul Thought of the Day: "Authentic needs are the needs that are always met by the Universe." And I suppose that yes, indeedy, most certainly they all are . . .

The past two days spent doing mostly organizing stuff both in our temporary home/office and for me on the computer setting up a record system of the NP Muthur Team and backing it up. One of the things I did was to rearrange my room so that I can look out the window at the wonderful sea and soak up this view while I can before we move into the much more primitive Muthur House, which yesterday the Colombo office closed a deal for with the landlord. Here's the view:

The palm fronds wave a crazy dance in the steady seabreeze that washes over me cool with the delicious scent of seasalt air. It don't get much better than this -- well maybe if Bonnie were curled up beside me purring after our deep coital joining . . .

Here's a shot of the Mesa I set up the other day with all my stuff from the various places I've been graced to experience throughout the world the last thirty years or so.

I was just thinking that Tommy and I spent last Thanksgiving in Mexico where I got the white coral piece and a the three skinny spiral shells; it'll surely be a most different Thanksgiving this year. Don[t think I'll find a turkey, much less dressing or candied yams with marshmallows on the top, here in the Eastern Province of Trincomalee in Sri Lanka land, strange and far off from any New World influence. Maybe if I was in one of the hotels downtown near Galle Face Green, the Hilton maybe, I'd find turkey with all the trimmings. Sure glad I don't have any deep sentiments vested in T-Day. Won't even miss watching the traditional Dallas Cowboys game, like I vaguely remember one year I did on Dawn's TV while I was cooking in the kitchen of the Islip (I can now call it what it is) house, all vestiges of it being a home now faded mostly to very indistinct sepia tones, not quite gone fully to black . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

9:06 p.m., Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Beach House, Trincomalee

Tea sweet, as is cinnamon stick. and I have cashews and chocolate for a reading snack just before I go to bed. Outside the ocean surf pounds and a near gale force wind wails; inside headphone wired to one of my favorite of all-time American musical soundtracks, Fantastiks, my all-time favorite "Try to Remember" bringing a gladful tear of gratitude to my eye, I am in a very mellow, very good, very centered place. It was a really good day mostly spent in Muthur, and I am feeling very content with the work I'm blessed to be doing and how our life is shaping up here in the Eastern Province. Yes, Muthur is to Trinco what Trinco is to Colombo what Colombo is to Tucson what Tuscon is to my all-time fav NYC -- it is very primitive, very dirty, very no frills beyond basic necessities for a mostly hum-drum survival for so many of the Muslim and Tamil people, but I can really get a sense that I have manifested for myself the challenge to go deep inside, stripping away all of my attachments to consumeristic consumptions of convenience to get to a deeper core of what is authentic for me. I have my Titanium toy and the camera to scratch recordings of my life and soul wanderings. So much I want to write and delve into within me and my life experience. So much to just grok and be with in the simplicity of living each gift of a moment, to notice just how wondrous life is, like the scintillating moment on the ferry ride over this morning seeing the eagle pair -- a mating pair for life? -- clasp claws in mid-air and whirl around each other in a centrifugal ballet of grace beyond description, while overhead a flock of seabirds, yes, real terns, swooped and swirled like a corps de ballet, not once but twice!~!~!

At sunset I had a spectacular run along Trinco Bay as the sun painted another magnificent colored light painting across the sky, going through the dusk-sprawling busy town, sending scores of Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim children into gales of laughter at the weird old foreign man running through the crowed streets in shorts and bandana with prominent grey beard, to the other shore where I was able to see across the cricket field the Hindu temple backlit in stark silhouette with palms trees against a brilliant orange sky tinged with fading-sun red. I saw a small fawn-spotted dear with cute little fully-formed antlers and was able to rescue a white lady kitten with a raccoon-ringed tail from a harassing dog, who I thought was gonna become the feline member of the Muthur Team, when for a while it came with me, but a back-firing truck blaring loud Tamil Rap scared it off into the bushes of a far-away field, so I accepted the deep-purring touches we had were all that we were meant to have and let her go. Had a wonderful dip in the Indian Ocean, remembering in awed gratitude that it was almost to the day 37 years ago when I first stood on an Oceanshore, when I went out in the freezing cold and stood at the edge of the Atlantic when Pete and I visited Sue and Kathy in Atlantic City. Now after a wonderful almost-real Kraft cheddar cheese and chicken sausage omelet. I am most content to sit here, doing my Mojo Journal thang, while now listening to Harry wail nostalgic, as so often I am.

Sunday afternoon, Karen and I took a 3-wheeler way out the beautiful countryside past Uppuveli to the British Cemetery, filled with about 350 fallen combatants from this little corner of World War II. It was a perfect way to commemorate the ending of a Veterans Day week for me. Here in reverence are some pictures of the meticulously cared for British Veterans Cemetery:

"And so it goes . . . "

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Ah, sometimes life can be just so wonderfully goddamned poignantly bittersweet, like the last line in Anil's Ghost, the beautiful novel by Sri Lankan ex-patriot living in Toronto, Michael Ondaatje, "This sweet touch from the world."

After a rich, full day, I listen to Van de Man wail, "Ya not supposed to break down, swallow the hurt, listen to the dirt, I'll . . . something, something . . . and sound" as a golden half moon sends shards of golden lightbeams through swift-moving clouds to dance and swirl across the shifting waves of a gentle sea . . .
1:37 p.m. Saturday, the Ides of November

Beach Resort, Trincomalee

Home alone again. The teamies are out and about shopping. I just bought bread and came home after not being able to order the SLT Internet connection since Peshanti is on leave and after successfully posting a letter to Verizon Wireless as they instructed so they suspend service and don't charge me early termination fee of $175.00 with proof that yes, indeed, I have relocated to the foreign land of Sri Lanka.

The tea is good and sweet, don't have a cinnamon stick, which I'm gonna have to find out how to order online, like I had bookmarked on the La Frontera computer, but never did, since the local brands are too soft and crumbly. Outside the wind is blowing strong under a heavy overcast after a strong gale storm this morning and raining most of the night. The Michael Jones Pianoscapes is nostalgic; fits the mood I'm in of missing the life I had with Sara, the cooking we did. I've been thinking a lot lately about all the soups and stews and vegetarian dishes I used to cook for us, the roasted potatoes and barbecues in the patio, the omelets on Sundays, like the Happy Cow, about the best cheese I can get in Trinco, and tomato omelet I deliciously cooked for myself this morning. I'm also missing Bonnie deeply, who is spreading light in Australia, wondering why I have created this isolation in my life in Sri Lanka the next 2-3 years instead of partnering with her and creating a relationship, "A Better Place To be" kind of a thing now that I am finally fully accepting the reality that Sara and I are no more. Wonder if the divorce papers came through.

This week has generally been good, setting up our temporary home at the Beach Resort. It feels good to have most of my stuff unpacked, the few books I brought with me out, the Mesa set up with the angel picture, all the rocks and shells from the many places I've laid my head in rest and experienced life, to have my roseflag pictures and the Imagine picture, the Happy Buddha, Sara's small teddy bear with purple hat, the little gint man, the Orgami crane Midori had us make at the Group birthday party for William, Sreeram, Rita and Angela, etc. up and about my space.

Here's a couple shots of the Beach Resort:

Our front yard looking left toward the ancient Fort Frederick, built by the Dutch in 1642, and which today is used by a Security Forces Army Unit, or so I discovered Thursday morning on my run, when the armed guards let me run by them with the side to side nodding of heads, which signifies "Okey Dokey" here in Sri Lanka land.

Here is what our front yard looks like looking right:

This shot was taken late yesterday afternoon when a wonderful, dark-clouds-looming-low over the horizon kicked up a strong, wind that churned the sea with white caps and cascading, white-frothed waves. The promontory is called "Lover's Leap", off which, as the local legend goes, a Hindu Princess leapt to her death when she found out her Prince lover had been slain in battle.

On my run yesterday morning, I ran up and over the promontory to the beach on the other side. I was plodding along, deep in my own meditative "Namo guan sith yin pusa" thoughts, when a couple of guards in a watch tower, nice Navy guys, I suppose, with ugly looking Chinese semi-automatic weapons loudly motioned me not to go any further. It was then I noticed the barbed-wire fence with a tiny "Keep Out" sign in English, Sinhala and Tamil. Glad I did; they weren't nearly as nice as the head-nodding Army guards at Fort Frederick. This morning I got a bit of an understanding why they wanted me to keep out. Apparently, the beach goes to a firing range, because for about an hour today, the town was full of the ominous sounds of exploding artillery shells from about where the beach would be. It didn't help my nerves any to hear the volleys of artillery rounds, especially having watched PLATOON again last night, part of my commemoration of Veterans Day week. We were so goddamned young and lost all our innocence, as well as whatever ideals we may have had. I just let the never-ending sobs again deeply flow . . .

Here's a shot from the beach front of the Beach Resort, our home for the next couple of months:

Not a bad place to hang our hats for the next couple of months as we begin our Peace Work in Trinco/Muthur. Hope contractors here run as far behind schedule as they do in the States.

Here's a shot taken from the other side of the door of the door this morning during a heavy rain squall (see the drips off the roof at the left?) of a couple of ubiquitous seacrows hanging out like Janus of old watching all from both directions:

On Tuesday, the whole Team, sans William who flew back to England for his son's wedding on Wednesday and Dharshini who stayed back in Colombo holding down the office and nursing her morning sickness finding out last week that she is pregnant with her first child, took a trip to visit Sigiriya, one of the cultural marvels of Sri Lanka, which they call the Eighth Wonder of the World. It comprises the ruins of a 6th Century palace complex of one of the eary kingdoms of Sri Lanka on top of a large rock mountain formation with the remains of intricate water gardens surrounded by a moat below and caves with elaborate paintings half way up the mountain fortress. Here's looming Sigiriya Mountain over the remnants of some of the large complex of water gardens.

Here is a shot taken about a quarter of the way up the mountain of a circular arrangement of water gardens built among large boulders and rock formations:

Here are a couple shots of the wonderful, most erotic and sensuous paintings of sirens who were the delight of some lucky 6th Century King and his noblemen no doubt:

Here's a shot of Lion Paws carved into the mountain side, all that remains of what was at one time a huge lion stature. Since antiquity, the Lion has been the symbol of the Sri Lankan people, a prominent part of the modern day Sri Lankan flag and the name of its most popular local brew, served in imperial quarts -- no, thank the gods&goddesses of old as well as the angels of the present light, I am not tempted in the least to taste it. For good measure I keep an image of one off the scillion of cows pissing in the street, splashing all over itself, in the forefront my consciousness to remind me no doubt of what it tastes like:

Here is a close up shot of some of the stone and brickwork with flowers growing out of them. I was struck by how similar in construction method and look Sigiriya was to the Chaco Canyon ruins in New Mexico and the Cham ruins in Vietnam, all built about the same time:

This is a shot of one of the many long stairwells up and down the mountain covered with a most brilliant green moss and a play of shadow and sunlight through the jungle cover overhead:

A final shot from on top of the palace complex of distant mountains. My heart ached for my recent Tucson home, but mostly for Bonnie to be beside me sharing this adventure with me:

At the end of our day, while waiting for some of the other team members to come down off the mountain, I happened upon a troupe of monkeys, including this one fellow, most curiously investigating a box while his comrades did their grooming thang:

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed taking these two shots along with bunches more, experiencing a taste of what it would have been like to live a life as a wildlife photographer for National Geographic. I could have dug it . . .

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Feeling rather frisky, so I'll try and upload a couple of more pics taken the first couple of weeks In-Sri Lanka while at the Sarvodaya Center:

Who could make up that I would see a sign that reminded me so much of my NYC hometown . . .

This is the lovely main Buddha statue in the Meditation Garden that Dr. Ari, founder of Sarvodaya Center, built himself using funds from International peace prizes he has been awarded and the sale of his family ancestral home, or so he related to me when we were in the Garden together late one afternoon. The Bodi tree behind the statue he planted from a sappling cut from the Bodi tree that legend has it the Buddha sat when he achieved enlightenment . . .

I just love this Bridge of Mindfulness over which I mindfully crossed several times not allowing my focus to be distracted by the lovely lotus blossoms and other delights, including most exotic water bugs, so I didn't end up in the pond with them . . .

Later, dear ones, from Trinco . . .
9:54 p.m, November 8, 2003

Ecumenical Institute, Colombo

Welp another week has churned its way speedily into the mostly forgotten halls of memory. As I bobble meEarphoned head in tuneful time to the mellow sounds of Brubeck, who I saw in the old X.U. Field Center the Holiday Dance of, geez that must have been just about 42 years ago in December of 1961, I reflect that on balance it’s been a pretty good week, the last full week of our In-country training. I got a cell phone set up with voice mail even and an easy way to call all over the globe with GSM Kit charge cards. I haven’t had too many technology snafus, except that my case is bending out of shape again like it did when I first got the G-4, the same piece of padding fell out again, a structural defect, I suppose, that will cause me to be very conscious when I open and close the screen so I don’t further do serious damage, like impacting the screen.

It’s been raining a lot, and today I got soaked walking back from the dry cleaners empty which was closed during lunch, and a good thing, else my dry cleaning would have gotten soaked like my laundry which was about half-dried out on the line, and which now is half-dried again hanging all over the place both in my room and the empty room next door.

Dave Gray wails about “Babylon” with the twanging, heart-moving guitar and electric snare sounds poignantly reminding me again of all I miss about Long Island, where Chutney I hope is dreaming some of the time about playing fetch again in the desert. I was so homesick, missing him so much and all I have given up to be on this adventure as an NP Peace Worker, the other morning walking back to the Ecumenical Institute after my run to see the Sri Lankan man playing fetch with the German Shepherd, who so expectantly, like Chutney, would sit panting, barely containing himself to wait until the ball was once more, never hopefully would it end, time.

This afternoon I had a nice afternoon with Soraia in Crescat Plaza buying books, incense and cinnamon sticks while having several lattes, one in Delifrance again with a delicious croissant and two downstairs in the eatery from The Cricket Club while reading about Prabhakaran, the LTTE leader, which is quite a story. She left and I stayed, doing one of my favorite things that I’ll get a lot of opportunity to do in Muthur, especially if I’m able to get Eric to Fedex me the latte machine, sit listening to music, drinking latte and reading, while glancing up from time to time to watch the endless parade of people from all corners of the world, like I would in a sidewalk café in the bustling streets of my favorite hometown, New York City. Welp in Muthur, maybe I won’t do so much people-watching.

I was in such a good, centered space, especially thinking about the closeness I feel with Bonnie who now is on this side of the world in Australia, that when the musak played Eagles “Heartache Tonight”, the song I remember Sara-then-Cathy wearing tight blue jeans and the felt burgundy sports jacket tapping her lovely, petite, high-heel-booted leg and pertly bobbing her head in time to in that restaurant that is no more in Woodstock on one of our first week ends together 24 years ago just about this time in the late, gloriously-colored Fall of 1979, I didn’t even blink more than one or two tears to slide down my cheek and quickly disappear into my full beard, now so grey.

When I couldn’t find the AA meeting, I called Navam -- so nice to have my own means of communication again; I am so spoiled with all my goodies – made arrangements to meet up with him tomorrow sometime to get the Tamil versions of AA literature. I then walked down the main avenue of Galle Road in a light, steamy rain to find MacKay’s restaurant, where I had one of my favorite meals, pasta and salmon in a light cream sauce, so similar, but oh so different from the ones I remember having several times in that other lifetime last decade with Larry in that little Italian Restaurant on 57th Street down the street from the Barnett and Associates office. When I was able to barely discern a Puccini aria through the strident sounds of Sri Lankan ESPN on the bar TV, I was very moved at just how different and strange and poignant and incredibly rich my life continues to be in all its permutations.

The night being steamy with the rain mostly stopped, I decided to walk off the over-fullness of the mushroom soup in a whole-wheat bread bowl ala San Francisco sour-bread bowl, the salmon pasta, finished off with a delicious two-banana fritter with ice cream and honey and chocolate trimming desert. It was a delightful stroll through the wet, puddley city streets, seeing beggars, my first street walker, many insistent three-wheelers, and other city citizens out and about including the two young Sri Lankans driving a Beemmer with the windows rolled down, which gave me a contact high as they turned in front of me from all the dope they were doing, and a few wondrous glimpses of the elusive moon trying vainly to play hide and seek with the mostly solid cloud cover. Guess I’ll miss the lunar eclipse which is scheduled, according to my Office Notification, in 1 hour and 24 minutes, though maybe I’ll go out and see if I can see it. Naw, prolly not, that’ll be ‘Round Midnight, and I need to go to dreamland.

Tomorrow my next to last day in the city before going back out into the bush with Karen and Soraia, first to Trinco where for the next couple of months we’ll live in the Beach Resort Guest House with the private entrance to the beach – how nice to be able to spoil myself with some beautiful morning dawn light runs – before we move into our house in Muthur, presuming we can do a deal with Mr. Sedak, the Muslim owner. It could be most interesting going into the deep bush with the political uncertainty created this week by the President’s power grab while the Prime Minister was in Washington hobnobbing with Shrub – I do smell a most odiferous dead rat with the Pentagon creaming in their starched fatigues over Trincomalee Harbor. Glad that last week we made a good initial contact with the local LTTE folk, who we will follow up with in the next couple of weeks, maybe see if I can observe the Martyr’s Day Celebration November 25-27, when as I understand from the book on Prabhakaran that he gives a major policy speech that this year with the political uncertainty could be quite important. Hmmm, wonder if I could reach out to one of the Security Force Majors, the tough little airborne guy perhaps, and see if the LTTE would allow us all as veterans to honor the death all of our comrades in stupid war – probably not. It is a weird kind of synchronicity that I go back into the bush for real on Veterans Day – I got so tearfully moved reading in the Prabhakaran book about the young boys running down to the fishing boats with M-16s and AK-47s. Don’t know what the G-3, an American weapon, is – must be one of the new Special Ops weapons. Course I want to immediately go down and connect into the Internet to check it out, and maybe I will.

Let me upload here the pictures that I was able to upload on to Brainstorms this afternoon:

Yours truly in the back of the fishing launch we commandeered for an exorbitant, in Sri Lanka, price of 150 rs., about a buck and a half, to take us out of Muthur, which is in the distant background, to a bus we could catch in China Bay back to Trinco, when the ferry wasn’t running due to the heightened tension. On the right is the delightful Sri Lankan lady, Judy, greatly proficient in Tamil, Sinhala and English, who served as our interpreter.

My two teamies, Karen on the left and Soraia, holding the flag with other folks who traveled with us from Muthur back to Trinco.

The war-damaged house in Muthur with the graffiti, whose sentiment I most certainly agree with. So sad this week that we lost 22 young lives, KIA, when their helicopters were shot down by ground fire. How do you spell Iraq? V-I-E-T-N-A-M, a synonym for quagmire. No telling how many innocent Iraqi civilians were killed when we retaliated with massive bombardments of artillery and air strikes into the heavily populated areas where they think the shoulder fired SAM was shot to down the Chinook, guys going back to the Baghdad Airport to go home or on leave – so fucking stupid, so goddamed dumb, we have totally forgotten the endless futility of fighting a guerrilla war in a country where a good portion of the citizens don’t want us there and are hostile to our presence. The hubris that we can do it any differently, even with all of our super-techie war toys, than we did 35 years ago in far-off fucking Vietnam. Oh father of all spirits, mother of all angels, grant me peace, so that I may peacefully be a peacemaker.

The Sunflower Guest House where we stayed while in Trinco last week with the wonderful tree-being, most profusely inhabited bunches of creatures.

That's it for now -- hopefully when I get situated in Trinco next week, I will have as speedy a connection, 45.3 K, so I can upload some more pics.

Be peacefully gentle and loving amongst your most wonderful selves . . .

Monday, November 03, 2003

9:34 a.m., Sunday, November 2, 2003

Ocean View Inn Patio

Tea sweet, cinnamon stick tasty, Ahmad Jamal piano sounds cool jazzy, the view of the Indian Ocean a blue calm underneath the cloudless expanse of lighter blue sky through the windows of the van that just pulled in front, partially blocking the view – no matter. Sea crows squawk and flit in the trees behind me.

I sit here a week later in a very calm, like the sea, centered, like the Kosmos, space, just grooving with gratitude this splendid moment about the multitudinous blessings my life is filled with. All is in perfect order, as the passage from the 24-Hour Book this morning reminded me. My DMFCU Visa check card is safe in wallet, and I shall test it later today at a HSBC ATM machine, the accompanying paperwork assuring me that it can be used at scillions -- over 12 million merchants to be exact -- of places worldwide to include over 240,000 Visa/Plus ATM machines – we’ll see. The running stomach I have been dealing with all week seems to have abated for the moment. I just finished a bit ago a scrumptious breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade with a piece of papaya and a slice of lime. Yes, my little center of the Kosmos is quite content. Now if only I had Bonnie to delightfully squeeze – there’s always something, eh Brinso?

Most strange and weird as ever life is to reflect that at this exact moment on a similar clear and gorgeous Sunday morning last year I was running along the crowded, cheer-filled streets of Brooklyn in the New York City Marathon. What an incredible run that was; I savor it in cherished memory along with so much else in my lengthening, always blessed life, despite at times I judging it too harshly. Who would have ever thought that a year later I would be sitting here, body-tingling and Indian Ocean dip and shower clean, after a much shorter run this morning along the dirty beach, in a Guest House looking at a most foreign sea in Colombo, Sri Lanka on the other side of the world in time and space from my favorite New York City hometown? But here, indeed, and for certainly real I am.

Last week, Karen, Soraia and I had a very successful second full week in Trinco and Muthur. We deepened considerably our comfort zone, and we became more relaxed and assured that we can not only do significant good peace work in Muthur, but that we can evolve a most satisfying, interesting and exciting lifestyle both in Muthur itself but also within the surrounding area of Trinco, Kantale, where the hot springs are and Nilaveli, where there are miles gorgeous, Caribbean-like beaches with snorkeling and deep-sea diving. I will be able to fairly inexpensively get certified to dive, fulfilling one other life-long ambition. Maybe I’ll finally get to jump outta an airplane, after all!

Though the area was somewhat tense with numerous incidents between the Muslim and Tamil communities, I was most gratified to be able to deal with all of the various challenges and stressful situations not only with aplomb and assurance, but I actually enjoyed what we were doing. I didn’t personally feel any discomfort or fear or concern, even when it appeared we would be stranded in Muthur when the ferry was not running. I was graced with certainty in the reality that we would be guided not only to survive, but to have a marvelous adventure as well, which is what happened where we were able to hitch a ride in one of the fishing launches to a most picturesque China Bay and from there catch a bus into Trinco.

Several moments stand out for me . . .

It was delightful watching the troop of monkeys scamper and scurry over the red-tiled roofs of the buildings behind the back balcony of the Guest House in Trinco, stopping from time to time to groom each other, take a quick suck of lunch from Momma, or playfully chase each other in a plethora of somersaults, one-hand stands and tail clutchings.

The huge tree in front of the Sunflower Guest House – how have I made up the name of the Guest House we stayed in to be the name of Sara’s and my favorite flower, which along with the Montauk Daises and snap dragons we grew in our now long gone Islip Home in such seasonal profusion, accidentally at first after a winter of feeding birds in the patio and nature taking its course up they sprouted six to ten feet high in yellow and black glory the following summer? The tree was a source of huge, wide-spreading shade, a home for crows, parrots and chipmunks, which ply the branches of trees here in Sri Lanka just as squirrels do in my various homes back in the bad ole U.S. of A.

I got some utterly delightful runs, both along the Trinco Bay at twilight with a sliver of a new moon shining on the sea as the fading sun sank behind the distant hills and along the shore of the Indian Ocean both in Uppuveli at Fr. Leo’s and at the Nilavela Hotel.

I was quite moved and felt very comfortable speaking with and relating to the four Majors of the Sri Lankan Security Forces in Muthur. It was important for me to relate to them that I had been a “Left-tenant” in the Vietnam War, and I felt a particular empathy for the hard-core, small airborne ranger major with the clipped moustache, maybe because he has jumped out of airplanes and I haven’t. It was evident that he, like the LTTE person I met on Tuesday, have both been in the shit, the skittish, harried look in the eye, the hyper-alertness, the intensity of their piercing watchfulness, and I felt such a compassionate bond with both of them.

There is still such a strong affinity within me for all things military and though I am certainly most privileged and grateful that I am now a Peace Warrior, the old myth of military honor, duty, service to country dies hard. Though what the military does is abhorrent to me on the one hand, the allure, the mystery, the heroic myth remains alive and well within me, and I just honor and respect and accept the slide of tears down my cheek, trying to balance the strength of the dream with the hard reality of just what it is . . .

It was such a delightful moment when the motor on fishing launch we were hitching a ride on from Muthur to China Bay – what a picturesque, charming place it is – sputtered to a stop right in the middle of the wide, wide bay. Soraia and I looked at each other in mock alarm and pantomimed paddling with our hands over the side or blowing the tiny, fluttering flag as if it were a sail. It was a good, trusting in the beneficence of the Universe, reveling in the marvelous adventure of it all, moment by moment just being with it with no fear or concern, and for sure, right on cue, after the driver fiddled with the gas line, the motor sputtered as quickly back to life just as it had suddenly died.

At Nilaveli Beach the scores of soaring eagles, yellow-beaked, white headed and necked, distinctive claws and feather-spread wingtips were a sight to behold. With the two eagles we saw at the garbage dump in Muthur and the huge eagle landing in the gnarled tree stump we saw on the way from Harabana to Trinco last Monday, By the weird castings of fate, I’ve seen more of my country’s national bird in the past week then I have living for 59 years in the U.S.A. It was also a delight to finally see seagulls and fork-tailed terns and cormorants on the wide, blue-green seas of Trinco Bay instead of only the squawking, rapacious seacrows.

A gentle breeze caresses me soothingly as I have just finished my second pot of tea and Aretha scats r&bingly all of her favorite songs except my favorite, RESPECT – how did I not download that one -- the song I danced the beliquored, light-fantastic to in the E-club of the 629th some 36 years ago in Vietnam, which Don captured with the midday-requisitioned Polaroid camera and which son-in-law Brian was able to blow up and clean up for me several years ago, when I was in the land of broadband and other excesses ? ? ? The morning has spent itself in this delightful endeavor of one of my favorite doings – with music scratching these journal entries of my winding, wending, wandering life.

It’s time to move on into one other place of being. Gotta repack the suitcase I’ve been living out of for the past several months, not only here in Sri Lanka, but also while at Bonnie’s my last several weeks in Tucson and when dear Chutney and I took our five-week journey on-the-road all around the U.S. of A. In a while we move to one other Sarvodaya facility to spend our last week of In-country training before we deploy for good, better or worse to our sites in the field of this amazing country, a land of mystery and scenic beauty in the midst of all the suffering . . .

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