Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Food Court Experience

Just across the street from our apartment is a shopping mall. In the basement level is a small food court. Probably all in all including the hot dog stand no more than 10 vendors. There is sushi, Sri Lankan, Indian, Chinese, ice cream/smoothies stand and a Pizza Hut Express.

It's not like visiting a food court in the U.S.A. They have common cutlery stands to get forks and spoons and you can leave your trays or dishes on the table as they have people to pick them up. In fact the men who pick up the trays and dishes are usually nice enough to take it from your table when they see you're finished.

For us a typical meal would be at Shanmuga's which is an Indian vegetarian place. We can get a belly filling meal for around 250 Rupees (Around $2.20USD). The different spices in the curry's taste so good. Finish it off with a trip to the ice cream stand or the deserts place and get an ice cream sundae or a personal sized apple pie for around $1.25. The goodies at the desert place are incredible. For me to call this just an apple pie is not doing it justice. It must weigh a solid 1 pound.

One interesting thing I noticed about the customers of the food court is that they are a different class of Sri Lankan's. To us going to the food court and spending under $10, well probably closer to $5 for two meals and deserts is a good thing, for most Sri Lankan's that is just out of the question. A Sri Lankan lunch packet sold on the street will cost about 100 Rupees and it is filled with rice and a good serving of curry.

I noticed that the kids that go there are definitely more Western, speak better English etc. You can tell the that the family's that visit the food court have money. Lunchtime the crowd is cal young professionals bunch.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Movie Theater Experience

Just returned from watching Avatar at the Liberty Cinema Theater. It was a pretty neat experience.

First I went to the theater and purchased 2 box seat tickets for the 7:00PM showing. It was 400 Rupees per ticket. Regular seating was something like 235 and balcony seating 325.
I could have reserved and purchased the tickets on the web but I couldn't get the web site to recognize my national identity card number.

We caught a ride to the theater, although we could have walked. There was no lines outside but the place was packed.

We showed the usher our tickets and he escorted is to our box seat.

It was an enclosed box area on the ground floor in the back of the theater. It had its own door and 2 seats without a middle armrest for special close together snuggling.

I bought a Coke and bottle of water before the show began all for 100 Rupees, not even $.90USSD.

At the halfway point during the movie there was an intermission. The lines were pretty long at the snack counter. There wasn't much asides chips and bags of popped popcorn (Not the hot stuff) and peanuts. The prices were really inexpensive.

When the movie started again the entire theater was full of the sound of crinkling bags, it was pretty funny.

At the end of the movie we waited for the theater to thin out, it was kind of embaressing as everyone is looking at us, in our box seat.

Don't ask me about the movie...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Flip Flops

Much like my luggage and boots I have (had) a great pair of flip flops. A good pair of flip flops have to be cheap and comfortable, mine were those. They have traveled with me to many countries and the bottoms have touched the sands of many beaches.

But my wife threatened its disposal on many occasions, I knew it would be soon.

So the other day she presents me with a pair of foo foo flip flops, purchased off of eBay. Who buys flip flops off of eBay? Isn't that against the law?

Well I said my goodbyes to my old flip flops and they went to the great beach in the sky.

My new flip flops got their inaugural walk this evening, not a very long walk.

Well guess what? Now I have a nice painful blister on my big toe! Flip flops are supposed to be comfortable, not painful!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Day After the Elections

A ghost town. No other way to describe it. Now granted today was declared a national holiday by the government, but even on regular holidays here there is more vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Today was the day that the Sri Lankan presidential elections winner would be announced. It was no surprise who won, the incumbent.

As mentioned before it was a rather messy election. Barbs thrown out on both sides. To think just last year these two worked hand in hand and now are enemies.

I kept up with the election results via Twitter which made for some rather interesting bits of information. It was pretty neat watching updates come in literally by the second.

The opposition (General Fonseka) and his staff was staying at the Cinnamon Lakeside, where Chris and I had dinner last Friday night. The army decided to surround the hotel. They said for his protection, he said to assassinate him. Last I checked he was still there. Could you imagine if the Army had surrounded John McCain's house the U.S.A. after the election?

I could hear the fireworks inside my office, my boss commented what we were both thinking "I hope that's fireworks". When I walked home it was a surreal scene to say the least. The streets are empty and covered in confetti, there is a rainbow in the sky, the sun is going down over the ocean, the humidity is so thick it's hard to breath and the sound of drums coming from the presidential palace.

Wondering what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Big Plastic Buddha

Just an update on the apartment Buddha. Gave him a knock and sure enuff, plastic! I'll take a picture and update as soon as I can.

Welcome Back

Wanted to extend a warm welcome to my wife who after a long hiatus of not reading my blog has recently returned to reading it and editing it with gusto. I will probably get in trouble for posting this.

I'd also like to thank all of my faithful readers who have followed the Doc Report since its transition from email to blog format.

Where I had lost many of my original readers, I have picked up a whole world, literally, of new readers which is pretty neat.

Which remind me it's probably time to repeat the Doc Report manifesto. Okay, there will be grammar mistakes, English comp wasn't one of my best subjects. For that matter, not sure I even took it. I try to not to go long periods of time without updating my blog, but every now and then I will hit a slump. I do moderate my comments so please don't spam me.

But most of all I am happy that your reading my blog!

Long Bumpy Ride

I volunteered today to be an unofficial "reporter" of sorts for the election. I went on a ride 45 minutes into the interior of the country. This by itself does not sound like much but when it's 45 minutes of bumpy roads, passing buses, avoiding pedestrians and just about everything else Sri Lanka has to throw at you, it can be one fun experience.

Fortunately our driver was very professional and handled the 5 speed armored Toyota Landcruiser with ease on the roads. I'd really love one myself, a diesel 5 speed Toyota Landcruiser, never find one in the States, but nice to dream. It doesn't have to be armored ; 0

Well the funny thing about this trip is I'm thinking, I must be the only Westerner out here, I can't even pronounce half the names of the towns and on our way back I notice a western tourist couple resting on bicycles taking pictures of a river. So much for that.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Sri Lanka Elections

Tuesday is going to be a big day here, the presidential elections. It's also going to be a big mess.
I won't go into all of the details, it's all out on the web, it's just going to be a mess, such that there will most likely be a city wide curfew imposed on Wednesday when the results are announced, it won't make a difference.

When we went to the supermarket today it was rather apparent that it was a little bit more busier than usual. We came to the conclusion that people were stocking up for the curfew.

Hoping that it doesn't turn violent.

The Big Green Meanie and Boots

I have always meant to blog someday about two, well actually three, items that have stood the test of time. That would be my Jeep brand luggage and my Hi-Tec hiking boots.

I bought the two piece Jeep luggage back in 2000 before going to Sarajevo. I think it cost around $50 or so. Since Sarajevo it has been everywhere with me and aside from a torn outer seem that is only cosmetic I have had no problems with it at all. The handles have never broken, always slide in and out easily and the zippers have never torn or broke. I have stuffed these suitcases to the breaking point on more than one occasion.

They aren't the most attractive luggage, but they are durable and olive drab green, thus the "Big Green Meanie". I never miss them on the luggage carousel at the airport.

On the other hand we have gone through quite a few pieces of luggage. Most recently a rolling duffel bag purchased off of eBay sustained a broken liner (Probably it was only cardboard, who knows) on it's maiden trip. More expensive luggage we own have had multiple parts pieces broken.

And my Hi-Tec boots. I bought these on sale for $25 in December 2004 before going to Baghdad. I envisioned, and correctly so, lots of walking around and time on my feet. I wanted something comfortable. The best thing about these boots when I tried them on was that they fit. I have a hard time finding comfortable shoes that fit me well, but these were spot on.

I pretty much wore those boots everyday when I was in Baghdad.

Now fast forward to 2010. I still have the boots and amazingly the same boot laces! They are beginning to look a tad bit worn and there have been multiple threats from my wife to throw them out but they still get used at least once a week and I like to where them on long walks.

I know when I was in the Marines Hi-Tec also made a pair of combat boots that were supposed to be the most comfortable combat boots around. But the Marine Corps being the Marine Corps if you could get away with wearing them was a different story.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mongolian BBQ Night

Just returned from a Mongolian BBQ night at the Cinnamon Gran Hotel. This was by far the best Mongolian BBQ layout I have ever been to. Not only did they have an excellent selection of meats and vegetables but they had different spices to select from to add to your mix. There was 4 cooking stations that had a selection of rice or different noodles for your BBQ. The 4th station was a Halal (No pork) and vegetarian station.

The bowls they provided were rather small so I shamelessly doubled up on the bowls and showed my colleagues the same technique (Meat and such in one bowl and veggies in the other) which quickly caught on.

If this wasn't enough there was an ice cream station with 6 different types of ice cream to include mango, toffee and cookies. There was a nice selection of toppings for your ice cream and someone to mix it all up a la Coldstone Creamery style.

In true Marine Corps fashion I had 2 bowls of spicy Mongolian BBQ with plenty of garlic and 2 bowls of ice cream.

I'm stuffed.

Matara the Waves

One thing I did enjoy about our trip to Matara was the chance to sample some of Sri Lanka's famous waves.

Now I'm hardly some fancy acrobatic boogie boarder, I just enjoy the sensation of riding a fast wave, Matara offered that and then some.

If you have kept up with my blog you'll know that the waves in Beruwela were disappointing, to the point that even attempting to ride them was a waste of time. On the other hand in Matara I had to wait for the right chance to ride a wave that I decided wasn't going to crush me.

On my first trip out into the water I worked my way past the breakers and almost immediately was greeted with the crest of a wave. With my boogie board power fins adorned on my feet I started paddling and waited to get picked up by the wave, and I did. It was probably at least 10' or higher, I was going very fast inside the wave when I suddenly fell down and the wave crashed over me. It was a very scary sensation. When I finally made my way to the surface I headed immediately to the beach to recover.

I ended up riding some other good waves that day, but steered clear on the man crushers.

I would like to learn how to surf while I'm here. I'd be happy to ride one wave on a surfboard.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A First!

I just rejected my first comment spam in Hebrew!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Matara the Bus Ride

Now that I have recovered from our return trip from Matara I can fill everyone in on the details.
Like many of our trips this one was planned pretty much at the last minute.
There was a communication breakdown with our driver. We had planned on taking the train south but he thought we had agreed on taking the bus. We were waiting for him at 6:45AM but he ended up picking us up at around 7:20AM.

He took us to the bus terminal which is a crowded, noisy and somewhat confusing affair upon initial appearance but starts making sense as you walk around. There are different terminals and signs that show the destination and the class of bus, normal or semi-luxury or a little of both, normal with a/c.

Our driver took us to the "semi-luxury" bus to Matara. Semi-luxury pretty much means there is air conditioning and no bench seats.

Because there is no under bus storage for luggage we had to pay for an extra seat to put our bags. All together 890 Rupees, about $8.50

We left the bus terminal and the bus conductor stands in the door saying "Matara, Matara, Matara" to announce to potential passengers where the bus was going. On our journey south the bus would slow down as it approached a bus stop and the conductor would announce "Matara, Matara, Matara". If someone wanted to get on the bus they pretty much had to run to get onboard as the bus never did stop at the bus stops.

Somewhere around the halfway point the bus did stop for everyone to have a break.

Back on the bus and after traveling for a few minutes there is a loud clanking sound coming from the left rear of the bus, I thought we had a flat. The bus pulled over and the conductor gets out as well as a few passengers. We then hear "BAM BAM BAM", it sounds like a hammer hitting something on the bus. Everyone gets on and we start traveling for maybe a minute when the noise returns. A little bit more banging, back on the road and the noise never returned.

A little further down the road the air conditioning broke and we had to open the windows, fortunately the weather was mild.

A little further down the road and "BANG", flap, flap, flap, yes this time we had a flat.

They changed the totally bald tire that had gone flat with a totally bald spare tire. Pretty quickly actually.

We are back on the road. I do have to mention that a few times along the road I saw my life flash before my eyes as dump trucks and other buses from the other direction barely miss our bus on the narrow road.

We eventually made it to our destination much to our relief.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Matara Challenge

Just returned from a mini vacation in Matara, Sri Lanka. I would like to post a full report about the big adventure it turned out to be, but I am going to sleep. I hurt my back last Friday and it's still bothering me, that and we woke up at 4:30 to catch the Colombo train.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fitness Madness

After a hiatus of nearly a decade I have been working on getting back in shape, it hasn't been easy.
I first started off trying to lift weights again, although I saw some gain I wasn't including the most important part and the most difficult part to motivate ones self into doing, that would be the cardio workout.

Enter my drill instructor wife who has been waking me up every morning for a walk along the Galle Face mixed in with some jogging. We return to the apartment for abs or arms workout, the correct way.

Lately we have been waking up and going to the gym at work and using the elliptical machines. I used to think that they (elliptical machines) were just a gimmick, until I started using one. What a workout!

They definitely provide a very good all around cardio workout, I feel like I've accomplished something.

Hoping I can stick with this.

Happy Pongal Day

Local holiday today, Tamil Pongal Day . Still not entirely sure what it's all about, but if I get to sleep in and be lazy then it's a good holiday.

Bummer is that I have to go to work tomorrow for only 4 hours, and then we have Monday off. If I was a smart cookie I would have asked for tomorrow off and had a very long weekend as half the staff have already done! DOH!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Best Indian Meal Ever

Just returned from Chutneys at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. They have a veggie buffet on Tuesday nights that we have kept saying we wanted to try, but for whatever reason always missed it.
Tonight we didn't.

First the ambiance of the restaurant is excellent, door man, host, server, the whole enchilada. They had three guys in traditional garb playing a guitar, flute (Recorder) and drums playing Indian music. Very cool background music.

The buffet was great. We started off with a salad plate then returned for a few spoons each of some of the different curry's. We both opted not to get any rice although I did get a few pieces of naan (Indian grilled bread).

Every bite of curry was delicious. It was difficult if not impossible to nail down any one curry as our favorite.

This was by far the best Indian meal I have ever had, bar none.

I love Indian food. Now don't get me wrong, do I miss a fat pulled pork North Carolina BBQ sandwich? Would I like some steamed and raw oysters? Would I like some back home diner food like meat loaf and fried chicken? Of course! But Indian food is in a category of its own. The spices, the flavors, it can't be ignored.

So drop by your local Indian place and give it a try!

New Blog To Enjoy

I stumbled upon a blog by way of a comment left on my blog and now I am a follower.
Please drop by for an enjoyable read about the expat life in Turkey.

Speaking of Turkey I gained one of my best travel lessons there. Trying to catch a cab from the Grand Bazaar to the Movenpick hotel. Could not for the life of us find a taxi driver who understood or knew where the Movenpick was. Our plastic hotel key provided only the name of the hotel.

Fortunately one of the cab drivers made a call and we were on our way. Lesson learned? When I check into a hotel the first thing I do is grab a business card and put it in my wallet, like clockwork!

If you have a blog that you would like me to read please leave a comment.

Speaking of comment, why is it every time I mention, comment, I get a few spam comments in my inbox?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Messy Place

My wife and I take a morning walk/jog along the Galle Face Green usually every morning. What a surprise that awaited us as we approached The Green. The place was a mess.

Granted it was Monday morning and it was a weekends worth of trash, but all over the place, not in dumpsters.

Now add the many crows poking through everything and it just looked like awful.

There are pineapple and mango vendors that serve them in little plastic bags (Like you get at the grocery store). So people buy them, eat the fruit, then toss the bag on the ground. Other vendors wrap the food in newspaper, yep, on the ground, along with plastic bottles and everything else.

This stuff makes it way to the "beach" and then eventually out to the ocean as well.

I have mentioned before that we have seen the Sri Lankan President walking along The Green in the morning and I can't believe he has never commented on the mess.

Tomorrow morning it will most likely be cleaned up.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Home Shopping Network - Expat Style

Thankfully my employer provides an additional shipment for consumable items, be it nonperishable food, pet supplies, cleaning supplies etc.

We took advantage of that and Chris purchased plenty of cleaning supplies from the dollar store and some bulk items from Sam's Club and pet supplies here and there.

We have 400 pounds of kitty litter, 100 pounds of dry cat food, cases of canned and pouched cat food, restaurant sized rolls of aluminum foil and plastic wrap, 2 gallons of olive oil, jars of balsamic vinegar, mustard and mayonnaise, tubes of toothpaste and shampoo and on and on.

Surprisingly we haven't put much of a dent in much of it. Our housekeeper has been making use of the starch, actually to much so. Chris has had to remind her a few times not to starch the dish rags.

Pictured: Our pantry, pick your cat food!

Tuna Fish, What a Dish

Almost 3 pounds of fresh tuna fish for under $9! Need I say more?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Expat Cats

My wife says that I don't blog often enough about the cats. I'm not exactly sure how many blog posts constitutes blogging enough about the cats, but here is one.

We have two cats that have traveled to Uruguay and went from outside cats to apartment cats, back to the U.S.A. for a taste of outdoor life again, then back into a pet kennel for the long trip here to Sri Lanka to be apartment cats again. Actually one of them was able to ride in the cabin to Frankfurt and even got a kitty boarding pass.

I'd say all in all they have accepted their fate well enough. Cricket, the older cat has always been more comfortable indoors so it's no big deal to her. Feral, as her name implies loves the outdoors.
The apartment has it's fair share of doors and mirrors and the master bathroom has all of that and a big window.

Feral is pretty sure that sooner or later if she stays in the master bathroom we are going to open one of the doors and there will be a big green lawn and trees. So she stays perched on the dresser in the bathroom (Oddly enough we have a full sized dresser in the bathroom) and waits for that moment.

They both want to pounce the crows that tease them from our balcony, they wait crouched down and ready to attack, but we can't let them attack them less they will use up all of their nine lives.

Pictured: Feral hiding under the table and Cricket looking at the crows.


I've had a rash of comment SPAM lately which kind of surprises me. I don't understand someone going through all of the trouble to complete the CAPTCHA for the off chance that I would publish the comment (SPAM).

There are hacker spammers out there with programs that can bypass the CAPTCHA which I think is most likely the case.

But I just wanted to thank the anonymous commenter who left me a post recently regarding my mini-vacation to Beruwela : )

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Elephants on the Beach aka Sri Lankan Vacation

Where to begin? Well transportation. I had called our driver and negotiated a price and pick up time. He arrived much to my horror, initially, in a trishaw. Wasn't my idea of a two hour trip. I envisioned watching a movie on my netbook in air conditioned surroundings. Being that we hardly went any faster than 35mph or so it really didn't matter. We loaded up his trishaw and hit the road south.

It was interesting to see the landscape change the further south we went. We passed many towns with tsunami damage and both remnants of buildings and homes and shacks that people were still living in.

Another thing was the number of cows walking along the road, many of them. They are considered sacred by the Hindu's.

Our driver pulled off the road at a king coconut stand and treated us to coconuts to drink, very delicious and refreshing. The vendor then chopped the coconut in half and made a small spoon out of the coconut to scrape the meat with. We jumped back in the trishaw for the rest of the trip.

We arrived at Jetwing Tropical Villas right on time. At check in papaya juice was brought to us and our driver. The hotel staff gave us the hard sell for a $50 per person New Years Eve buffet, we passed.

Our room was of decent size, but sparsely furnished, make that not furnished? There was a closet but that's about it.

I won't go on about the hotel, everything else was booked up and they had rooms for only $60 per night with breakfast so we shouldn't complain. On the other hand we won't go back either.

My mission was to spend lots of time riding the waves on my boogie board, that turned out to be disappointing as the waves closed very quickly so what rides I did get were short lived.

The beach itself was nice, the atmosphere wasn't. You had vendors approaching you every few minutes being your sitting on a blanket or walking. They were easy enough to dismiss with a wave or “No thanks”, but the beggars sometimes tended to be a little bit more in your face.

We did get to enjoy a candlelit dinner on the beach, complete with mosquito bites every couple of minutes. The atmosphere was nice, but the menu's were pretty much all the same and lackluster wherever we went and the food overall was bland.

Oh, the elephant on the beach. Yes there was a man who offered elephant rides on the beach, also a guy with a horse, a guy who offered to take pictures with his monkey and or python snake. Pictures with the dogs were free.

We were glad to go on our last day. I settled the room service bill, not bad, around $38, considering $11 was for a dinner buffet I had (And wish I hadn't).

Opening the door the apartment and feeling the air conditioning was the best part of the trip.