Friday, April 30, 2010

Lost in translation

One good thing about living in Sri Lanka is that most people speak some degree of English, except the guards here at the apartment. We had a frustrating incident when we ordered Pizza Hut delivery. I called down and told them to let them up, the guard calls me and tells me they are in the lobby, so I told them to send them up, minute goes by the guard calls again, I tell him to send him up. Finally I go for the door ready to go down only to see the elevator door open and the Pizza Hut guy walking my way, shaking his head and chuckling about the guards.

Fast forward to tonight, we thought we would do the home delivery thing again. This time Chris calls down to tell the guards to let them up, she gets off the phone and she was pretty frustrated.
She said the guard didn't speak any English.

I decide to go down to both guard tables and tell them to let the delivery guy up. This turned into a pretty frustrating experience to the point I just buried my face in my hands and went back to the apartment.

I have zero confidence that these guys would be of any assistance in an emergency.

Brings back memories of the compound guards in Saudi, but they were much worse.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fun With British Electrical Plugs

Electricity Sri Lankan style, British style plugs. Big old 3 prong connectors. Some jacks look like the one above, others have 3 round holes. Now most 220 voltage appliance that you purchase have the European style plus on them, that being 2 round prongs on the end. The Brit's had to make everything difficult and up it one prong. So there are two ways of utilizing a two pronged device, purchase an adapter. There are many different flavors of adapters, most also accept U.S. style pronged devices as well. The other way, my favorite, is to stick a screwdriver in the top hole simultaneously pushing the plug into the bottom two holes. It seems preposterous. Chris thought I was crazy, she swore she would never do it but she has become old hand at it. I was introduced to the screwdriver method in Baghdad by a coworker. Iraq uses British style plugs as well.

We have learned to bring or own adapters both traditional and round holed when we go out of town. Although most places have courtesy adapters to use, it saves us a call and you never know what shape they are in.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stop Everything - Here Comes a VIP!

Not a day goes by that you see two paramilitary soldiers with submachine guns on a motorcycle followed by the same waving at everyone to get out of the way, then comes open top Land Rovers with soldiers in the back pointing AK-47's in both directions waving at everyone to stay out of the way, followed by a stream of Mercedes S600's maybe a few more Land Rovers and soldiers on motorcycles.

This is the treatment for members of the Parliament, comparable to the Congress in the USA.

Now bump this up to Minister level (Cabinet level in the USA), then they will most likely stop traffic in both directions, posting soldiers along with the military police to make sure nobody leaves the buildings along the main road. Fortunately it usually doesn't take very long.

We were leaving the apartment one morning and a group of commandos with submachine-guns come in the lobby, surveyed the situation and a general walked in. In the USA a general would probably be living on base and have a driver and driver would take them off base, but definitely no armed guards to go to the ATM!

The last time I saw this kind of treatment was in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) where the police would setup at the intersections and stop traffic and then would come a stream of Black Chevy Suburbans and Mercedes S600's flying down the 'kings highway', one big black blur. This would be the treatment for any prince (Everyones a prince there!) and of course the king.

Now I know this does happen in Washington as I have seen it myself, probably more for foreign dignitary's then anything else. Can't see the Secretary of Education getting the whole stop traffic and armed escort thing, you know.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happy Birthday Shout Out!!!

Happy Birthday to my son Corey who turns 18 today! Talk about how time flies!

The Ross Sisters - Solid Potato Salad (Video)

Found this video via I usually don't post many YouTube videos on the Doc Report unless I think it's cool, this is cool.
Here is a wiki article regarding the Ross Sisters:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Dog Lady

The streets of Colombo are littered with stray dogs. You can't walk a single block without passing a sing;e dog. I am amazed at two things. One that I have never seen one get hit by a car. They seem to know how to negotiate the traffic pretty well. The other thing is although they are mostly skinny dogs, they are not overly skinny.

So one morning I saw a lady with some grocery bags at her feet pouring water into a bowl for a dog and giving it something to eat. And what was that something? Red rice.

I have seen her quite a few times now and watched the dogs happily inhale the rice that she is giving them, tales wagging away.

Chances are she is getting leftover rice and probably curry from the local restaurants.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Corner - Finished Reading

The Silent Man by Alex Berenson
Paperback 480 pages
Spy thriller

This is the second novel I have read by the author, the previous being The Ghost War. I tore right through this book in a few days, really enjoyed it. Same spy hero, John Wells, in this book, saved the world again. I'll have to admit, as per my previous review of The Ghost War, the story line is a bit, shall I say, stretched, but enjoyable.

I'm going to have to go with it's a good read for this one.

Book Corner - Quit Reading

Distraction by Bruce Sterling
Paperback 52 pages

Rare for me to post a "Quit Reading" on Book Corner. I really tried to finish reading this book but it was just very hard to get into. The book was written in 1998 and the book is about the United States in 2025. I got lost so many times reading it, that and it's a fairly long book. Judging by the reviews on Amazon most readers gave it good reviews, some people read it twice.

Back to the library shelf with this one for me.

Bonehead Home Networking

In less than 2 weeks my USB WiFi antennae quit working on me. When it was working I wasn't getting the WiFi security I wanted and the connection was spotty at best.

Back to square one. Didn't want to buy another WiFi antennae. And then it hits me, I had the correct component all along! My ADSL router. In less than 5 minutes I plugged in the router (Tucked it out of the way in the entertainment center), ran an Ethernet cable from the PC's Ethernet port to the router, added a static IP address to my PC's network card (Geek speak) using the router as it's gateway and shared out the Wireless broadband connection to use the PC's network card.

End result? When I connect to the wireless broadband network the connection is shared out through the network card into the wireless router where I can now connect with my netbook and Chris laptop using higher WiFi (WPA2) encryption (That's the coffee talking).

I deserve the bonehead geek of the week badge!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Perfect Follow Up

dood get out... <br />hoomins do bad <br />fings  wif ur hiding place
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Which way to the bidet?

I'm sure the first time I saw a bidet was when I went to Hungary, in the hotel room. What in the world is this strange contraption? Wasn't till I went to Paris with Chris and our hotel room had a separate bidet room that Chris explained its certain "function".

Our apartment in Montevideo had two of them and they were now new to our cats. A street cat we took in decided that these nice porcelain bowls would make a nice kitty pan. It was pretty funny actually to see Tawney jump up and do her thing like it was normal. One of our other cats decided that it would make a nice kitty bed, which made me jump more than a few times at night when I went into the bathroom and looked down to see this big dark object laying in the bidet. Good job cricket.

Which brings us to Colombo. Well Chris has realized that they make a good wash basin to scrub her feet.

Chances are that bidets are not a common bathroom item in Sri Lanka and these were just put here to appease Western residents living here.

(This photo is not of our cat, but just what I was looking for)

Delicious Meal

Chris made me the MOST delicious sandwich I have ever had, so I had to blog about it.
It was a shrimp and bacon sandwich on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes. The shrimp was so good, I had to find her secret. Well she cooked them the good ol' Southern way in Old bay seasoning but after she cooked the bacon she sauteed the shrimp in the bacon fat, the piece de resistance!
If that wasn't enough she even fried up some shoestring french fries and made me a tall glass of lime soda, with real limes!

I tried to take a picture of it before I chowed down but the chef insisted that I eat before the fries got cold : )

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Walk Along The Galle Face Green

The Galle Face Green is but a few blocks north of our apartment. It was a popular place for families to hang out, fly kites and relax and then it was closed during the war. It has since reopened but I don't think it gets the crowds that it used to get as I heard that thousands of people would come here. We get a good view of The Green from our apartment roof as well.
We used to go for a daily morning walk on The Green but sadly there is so much trash it just disappoints us and we now only go there now and then.
Here are some pictures I took. Some when I first arrived and some yesterday.
Click on any of the thumbnails for a larger picture.

View of our apartment
View of our apartment
The beach
Tuk tuks (Trishaws)
Tuk tuks (Tri-shaws) at the ready
Food vendors
Mango and pineapple vendor
Colombo World Trade Center
Waiting on the sunset
Food vendor
Colombo,Galle Face,Travel,Island
Trash, yeck!
Colombo,Galle Face,Travel,Island
Dutch Cannons
Colombo,Galle Face,Travel,Island
Family's swimming
Colombo,Galle Face,Travel,Island
Old weathered tree

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How hot is it?

sunny sri lanka
It goes without saying that it's very hot here. There are only two seasons, hot and hotter!
I work inside in a very cold air conditioned office. Come lunch time I go to the cafeteria which is my first exposure to the weather since walking to work. Since it's later, it's hotter. I can hardly describe the immediate feeling you have, your eyes squint because of the sun, you can feel the moisture already building up on your fingertips and the heat! WOW! It may not be 100F but the heat index is.

Right now it's 8:51 AM, it's 82F with 89% humidity! Yech!

The forecast calls for rain all week. We also get two monsoon seasons each year!

Midweek Vacation

Because of the Sinhala and Tamil New Years I have Tuesday and Wednesday off, which is cool. Most folks at work did the smart thing and extended it to a full week or so, I wasn't so smart.
There is always next year!

Happy Sinhala and Tamil New Year

Sri Lankans celebrate their National New Year Aluth Avurudu in mid april after the Harvest is done. The sun moving from the House of Pisces to the Aries signals the dawning of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. The New Year begins at the time determined by the astrologers. Not only the beginning of the new year but the conclusion of the old year is also specified by the astrologers. And unlike the customary ending and beginning of new year, there is a period of a few hours in between the conclusion of the Old Year and the commencement of the New Year , which is called the nonagathe (neutral period). During this time one is expected to keep off from all types of work and engage solely in religious activities.

April is the month of reveal and revelry, the most intoxicating of the 12 months of the year, when Lanka and her people of the prepare to celebrate new beginning in harmony with mother nature. It is the season of the Avuruddha, the annual new year celebration by the Sinhala and Tamil people of the island, a great national festival which has persisted in all its traditional glory for no less than 2,000 years. Recognized officially and observed countrywide as the National New Year, the celebrations take seven days, varying only slightly from the age old venerable traditions which are still observed to the letter by Sri Lankan's of all ages and social background.

Perhaps one of the remaining authentic folk celebrations in the world, the avuruddha stands as a monument to a people whose lives, to a large extent, still revolve around the grace of mother nature and her most domineering subject, the sun. The traditions new year celebrations in mid-April originated as a harvest thanks giving, the high-point of the annual production cycle. Interwoven closely with the first astrological phase of the sun, it is timed to coincide with the first partakings of the season's blessings, namely rice.Astronomically, it is celebrated on the day on which the sun passes from Meena Rashiya (Pisces) to Mesha Rashiya (Aries), when Sihalese and Tamils bid farewell to the year passed an usher in a brand new one with prayers, meritorious deeds, traditional observations and seemingly unending celebrations.

The new year falls on the 13th or 14th day of April, preceded by at least two weeks of preparations, devoted largely to shopping and the making of a hundred-and-one varieties of sweetmeats. Schools have their holidays during the month of April, so children are often the willing helpers in and around home, getting the household ready for the eventful day.

Over the years, Sri Lanka too has become commercial minded, this factor being symbolized each year around this time with shops and sidewalks densely packed with every imaginable item deemed necessary for having a jolly good time. Cloths play an important part in the holiday buying-spree, tradition carried through once again, for in the past, it was after the harvest that a family received new clothes. It is still customary for each member of the family to receive at least one suit of clothes to mark the occasion.

The Avuruddha is heralded by the constant lighting of fire crackers and the unmistakable call of the koel bird, populary known as the koha which coos only once a year-at this time. Pay some attention to the multitude of sweet aromas flowing from country kitchens, which get crowded with clattering damsels preparing an assortment of coconut oil-based sweetmeats, which are high on the traditional holiday menu.

The day prior to the Sinhala and Tamil New year is one of anticipation. City bus and train stations are crowded with people in a hurry to get to their homes. Most people return to their ancestral homes, obviously with a longing to celebrate the holidays in much the same way they did as children. Cooking is completed, the hearth cleaned, fires extinguished, with fresh pots and pans now awaiting the preparation of the first meal of the new year. The ensuing period, astrologically prescribed is a time for complete relaxation. All activities are suspended and a lull ensues, as a nation waits for the dawning of the new year.

The new year approaches with a pre-determined time for pre -paring the ceremonial first meal. Dressed in the year's lucky colour, facing the auspicious, as the thunder of fire crackers, as housewives prepare a dish of Kiribath made from the first batch of the year's harvest of rice. Kiribath or milk rice , is Sri Lanka's quintessential festive food; an unsweetened rice pudding cooked in cream of coconut and placed reverently at the head of the table, right benith an equally revered coconut oil lamp.

The whole family will sit for the first meal, soon after transacting some business, referred to traditionally as ganudenu, or the act of receiving and giving. The time now is at its most auspicious, so it is believed that whatever is initiated at this time will undoubtedly yield fruits. Frames will plant a tree, students will read a book, etc.The clock-watching is now over. The next day or two will mark the most joyous period of the year; playing, eating, drinking, merry making and visiting relatives and loved ones.

there will be very few shops and restaurants open during this time, with the whole country seeped in celebration. The fun and frolic will continue till it is time for anointing with herbal oil, the auspicious time which falls roughly about three days after the Avuruddha. Hear, an adult member of the family will prepare a very special herbal oil and anoint family members, with blessings for a wonderful year to come. with it, Avurudhu comes to an end and Sri Lanka gets back to its normal pace of life.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Book Corner - Finished Reading

Colpetty People by Ashok Ferry
207 pages

The Sri Lankan author takes a tongue in cheek poke at Sri Lankan life from both sides of the fence. As servants and as wealthy Sri Lankan's who live overseas. It was very interesting to get a behind the scenes look, from a Sri Lankan's view about the role of being a servant as well as someone who has them.

The book helped us put some things into perspective. I guess you really would have to live here to enjoy the book : )

Here is a much better review of this book:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pictures of the Colombo Fort Railway Station

Click on the thumbnails for a larger photo
Our fellow passengers waiting on the train
Crow inside 2nd class car
New bicycle tri-shaws

Doc's Hollywood Cocktail

I know it already sounds delicious right? Chris has heard me call it this for years now and cringes every time she hears it and has probably already deleted this post when it arrived in her email.

Doc's Hollywood Cocktail is no cocktail at all but the supplements I take in the morning! Lately it is (1) aspirin (1) iron table (1) calcium tablet and (1) omega 3 fish oil tablet.

I know the debate rages on about the daily aspirin, does it help? I don't know but I think it can't hurt either!

The fish oil? I guess by the bottles suggestion you are supposed to take 2 to 3 a day. I try to remember to take one before dinner.

And the name? I coined it from something I saw on TV about Hollywood celebrities and the concoctions the take to stay young, the commenter called it the "Hollywood Cocktail"

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Parliamentary Elections Day

Today was the parliamentary elections so just about everything was closed and the government declared tomorrow a "bank holiday" not to be confused with a regular holiday, but pretty much means that any business that needs an excuse to close shop has one.

I monitored the Twitter updates during the election and looks like there was only nominal violence.

Wait, did I mention why the government of Sri Lanka declared a holiday tomorrow? Officially, there was no reason, just because; Really it's because there IS a chance of violence so the government figures, hey take the day off and relax instead of getting mad that the guy you voted for didn't win!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Proper Eating Utensil

One surprising thing about many Sri Lankan's is that they eat most meals with their hands. It amazes me that they can eat the curries with their hands, yet they do. They take the rice and ball it up, add some curry to the mix and pop it in their mouth. There is a proper etiquette to eating with their hands.

Almost every restaurant has a common hand washing station where those who have ate with their hands can clean up. Fancier places will bring a bowl of water to each person at the table to clean up table-side. The idea is not to go past your second knuckle with the food.

Most food is served at room temperature so as not to burn your hands.

I have tried on a few occasions to eat with my hands, it is a little awkward, easier when there is some flat bread available.

The other way Sri Lankan's eat is with the fork in the left hand and a spoon in the right hand, the fork is used to scoop the food onto the spoon and or tear the food apart. I might have that reversed, be looking for a comment from Chris soon.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good Morning Sir

Once my foot leaves the elevator in the morning it begins "Good morning sir", starting with the receptionist, if there is a lady sweeping the floor, her too. Walking towards the bank the first guard will say it, followed by one of the guards in the lobby, leaving the bank one of the guards at the guard shack.

When I make it to work the guard at reception will say it, when I exit this area the two guards manning the gate will say it as I approach the main building I will usually pass by one of the cleaning crew who will say it and then finally past the lobby guard.

I don't think I have heard "Good morning sir" so much as since I was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor by the recruits!

Funny thing is when I am with Chris they rarely acknowledge her, only saying good morning or evening to me, whichever the case is. I think it just confuses people to think of a proper greeting when it's a couple. I would think maybe just "Good morning"?.

The Fix It Pad

One of the best or worst things about living in our apartment is the fix it pad. Air conditioning not cold enough? Write it on the fix it pad. Burned out light bulb? Write it on the fix it pad. Clogged drain? Well you get the idea. For that matter even the furniture can be replaced if we don't like it.

I say good or bad as sometimes it can be a bit paradoxical for me. Take for instance the clogged drain. Do I go grab a trishaw to take me to the hardware store to buy a plunger or go across the street for some Drain-O type stuff and do what any typical home owner or tenant does, or do I write it on the fix it pad and drop it off with the receptionist who calls maintenance and they take care of it?

I can see calling maintenance about the air conditioning, but didn't know if I would have them change burned out light bulbs. GUILTY, yes, I'm guilty.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Quiet Streets

On my walk to work this morning I couldn't help but notice that the bank was closed and that the streets were almost void of all traffic. Reason being is that it's Good Friday and it's an unofficial official holiday here.

I find it rather unusual being that Sri Lanka is primarily a Buddhist country yet we get a day off for Prophet Muhammad's birthday(Muslim) and they celebrate Christmas complete with nativity scenes.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spectacles Update

I forgot to mention that I went back to the optometrist and picked up my glasses. Again they felt a little funny, in that my vision was just a little off. For the record I wear bifocals.

The salesman took a look how they sat on my face then pushed them down just a tad bit on my nose "How do you see now?", wouldn't you know it, it was the difference between night and day.
he made some further adjustments and gave them back to me. Still a tad bit funny but he said it would take awhile for my eyes to get adjusted to them and that seems to be the case.

I got a good deal as well around $158USD for line free, anti-glare bifocals on rimless metal frames. At least a solid $100USD more back home, probably more.

Just in case your wondering they call eyeglasses here spectacles.