Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Corner - Finished Reading

Baghdad Diaries: A Woman's Chronicle of War and Exile
Nuha al-Radi
224 pages

A rather interesting retrospective of Operation Desert Storm, the ensuing embargo and Operation Iraqi Freedom all from someone who experienced it all.

The author makes it clear she does not like the U.S.A.

Overall not the best read, not because of the authors views, it was just kind of a boring book.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Corner - Finished Reading

Strip Tease by Carl Hiassen
432 pages

This is the second book I have read by this author. A rather old book, published in 1994. Really enjoyed it and will probably read his other works.

This was a good funny book, I got quite a few laughs from it.
I'd call it a good read.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Mount Lavinia Getaway

After nearly three days of being cooped up in the apartment because of my food poisoning, Chris thought it would be a good idea if we got out of the apartment and out of the city. Destination, Mount Lavinia, about 20 minutes south of here. We can literally see Mount Lavinia from our apartment.

It's home to the old Mount Lavinia Hotel that used to be the Governor's palace at one time. It was also used the hospital scene in the movie 'Bridge on the River Kwai'.

We packed up and I thought we would take a taxi there. I called and asked that they pick us up in about an hour.

Now, I have to back track a little. In Montevideo (Uruguay) I dialed a 3 digit number, an automated system gave your address and asked if you wanted a taxi dispatched to that address, press 1. In a few seconds it would tell you which taxi was on it's way and give it's time as 2 to 3 minutes. Within that time I could look out the window as see the taxi pull up or ask the portero (Doorman) to call me when it arrived, but usually they are so quick I would just go downstairs and there they were.

Fast forward to Colombo. I asked for taxi at 1:00pm, we went out front of the building at 12;55, I was surprised I received a text message indicating that a taxi had been dispatched, the color and license plate of the car. 1:00pm, comes and goes. 1:10 comes and goes, 1:15, comes and goes. At 1:20 I text the cab company to cancel the cab and we take a trishaw.

Now Chris had seen some specials on for the hotel on their web site but we decided to go through the company travel agent as there was a company discount. I called the travel agent and he made reservations and said they would try to upgrade us upon arrival.

The trip there wasn't so bad, heavy traffic getting out of Colombo but that was expected.

We arrived at the hotel and checked in and was brought to our room, major disappointment. A regular room in the old wing. One wing has been refurbished the other is still outdated. Well, it was just for a night so no problem.

We changed into beach wear and went down to the beach, or what was left of it. The waves were huge and crashing one after the other. The beach was about half the size we remembered it from our last visit. It was also very windy. There was absolutely no way I was going in the water and even though there was plenty of vacant beach cabana's Chris wasn't going to hang out there, off to the pool.

Lots of European tourists at the hotel and quite a few Sri Lankan (Because of a local holiday). Really don't understand why anybody would vacation in Mount Lavinia, there is nothing to do.

Went to the pool and had the pool attendant move some lounge chairs to a nice spot on the pool deck and bring us some towels. So far so good, until I heard Chris scream along with everyone else at the pool. A crow left her a "present" on her leg, yech, fortunately a waiter was quick with some napkins. I told her it was good luck!

Next came lunch, I ordered a burger which surprisingly wasn't that bad, Chris had a panini. All the while the crows were forming a small army waiting for a chance to grab a french fry.

The staff was beginning to get ready for dinner service but placing table clothes on the pool side tables and the sun was just beginning to set, we decided to go back to the room.

Then came dinner. The nice thing about the restaurant is that you can eat outside at the pool deck, under the veranda and get kind of the best of both worlds or more formal inside the dining room, we opted for the veranda.

I was excited to try out the Vietnamese soup and the Korean beef and kim chi. I was surprised to see it on the menu.

The soup was not what I expected at all, it might be Vietnamese somewhere in Vietnam, but I doubt it. The Korean meal was even worse. First the cucumber "kimchi" was just chunks of cucumbers with goat cheese, what! And the "Korean beef" was some horrible stuff on skewers, Korean's don't serve meat on skewers. I called the waiter over and complained who called the manager over. I explained why I was not happy, still not sure he understood. They deducted it my bill. For whatever reason I ordered strawberry's and cream, they were half ripe at best, I was tired of complaining and ate them.

All the while Chris ate from the buffet, I wanted to stay away from the buffet, but now regretted that decision.

The next morning Chris felt sick, I went to breakfast by myself. It was okay, I've had much better.

We checked out early and grabbed a trishaw home.

Opened the apartment door and see a broken vase on the floor. One of our cats, "Feral", that likes to munch on plant leaves apparently knocked it down, fortunately not a big mess.

Overall good intention but bad choice of getaway.

(Note about the picture: You can see how windy it is. This is looking towards Colombo. We can just barely make out our apartment from the hotel).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book Corner - Finished Reading

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
By Malcolm Gladwell
301 pages

This is probably one of the better books I have read in the past year, maybe the best. And is typical with my book reviews I'll just say it was a good read.

Ecoli Food Poisoning

For the past two days or so I have had food poisoning and it's not fun. I'll just say I'm not vomiting so you can guess whats happening.

I don't have to look far to know what the culprit was, I'm sure it was something I ate at the iftar. The environment wasn't exactly five stars.

I have been eating a little bit this afternoon as I am starved. I've lost five pounds since yesterday.

So it's back to net surfing and reading, which reminds me I need to post something to Book Corner.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The company was invited to an Iftar sponsored by the YMMA. What is that and what is that!
An iftar is the meal that Muslims eat to break the fast during the month of Ramadan. The YMMA is the Young Men''s Muslim Association.

I have attended several iftar's while in Saudi Arabia so I was familiar with the program.

We ended up being late as our driver got a ticket for making an illegal U turn. Thus we ended up walking in during the middle of the Inman's prayer and he was sitting at the head table where we were invited to sit. Made things kind of awkward.

After the call to prayer was announced on the radio we ate dates and drank water which is the traditional way to break the fast. We followed this with some spicy porridge and Sri Lankan short bites.

We were introduced to everyone and we showed a movie about Muslim's in America which was very interesting.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. Aren't you a Christian? Yes I am. I don't think I was doing anything wrong. I don't feel guilty about going. Even President Obama hosted an Iftar at the White House, as well as President Bush. I felt it was a cultural experience.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Good Man

This is pretty funny. The other day when I came home I bent down and petted my cat and said "Oh I missed you so much!" Our housekeeper was in the kitchen and overheard me, Chris walked into the kitchen at the same time. Our housekeeper assumed I was talking to Chris and said "Sir is a good man" (She would never call me by my first name). Chris started laughing because she knew she heard me talking to the cat.

Ever since then it's been our ongoing joke, me being a good man. Only if she knew, LOL!

Book Corner - Finished Reading

Air America: The Story of the CIA'S Secret Airlines by Christopher Robbins
323 pages
Non fiction (?)

The author does a great job going into the clandestine world of Air America. I like history books and this one helped me fill in some gaps regarding the Iran Contra affair as well as the war in Laos and Cambodia.

Here it is almost 20 years later and I just realized that the planes that took me back and forth to Okinawa when I was a Marine was Air America.

Some great stories. Overall a good read.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Good Vibes

Just returned from our favorite (Only?) Korean restaurant here, great meal, but not why I am writing.

As we walked out of the apartment there was a trishaw as usual waiting for someone to come out from our building, not unusual, and we approached the driver to bargain for a ride.

It was an older gentleman and when I asked how much he told me "You tell me" he knew where I worked, no surprise there. I made him an offer and he gladly accepted and we got in.

He was very friendly and spoke good English and he offered to wait for us at the restaurant. Afterwards he took for us ice cream and then back home.

Well Chris and I both had to agree that this old man just made such a good impression on us. We never know what to expect when we get a trishaw. It's like all of the drivers want to inflate their prices so much. But not this guy.

It's not so much that he gave us a good price as much as he restored our faith in Sri Lanka again!

The Factory Visit

Chris went on a tour of a factory that makes everything from women's lingerie (V.S.), Nike, Speedo, Gap and a host of other clothing.

She said at the end of the tour they brought them into a big boardroom and treated them to a spread of goodies to eat complete with chocolate cake.

They also gave them a gift, that gift was to let them pick through bins of presorted ladies bras and panties that the factory had already presorted for them based on the sizes they gave them.

She returned with 9 bras and 8 panties that I guessed cost upwards of $100, I could tell they were expensive. Chris said more likely well over $200! Not only that but they gave them 2 coffee table books, not cheap books either. One is a book of sports figures wearing the company clothes.

She said the factory was very clean and that they provide transportation, breakfast and lunch for the workers. They work 45 hours a week and no more than 60. No sweatshop here!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quick Update

I know I haven't posted in awhile, really don't have any excuse. For the past couple of days I've been down with a head cold and the decongestants I've been taking have made me a bit drowsy when I get home.

I have also started reading more and surfing the Internet less. My entire day at work I sit in front of a computer and lately I just get more and more tired of whacking away at keyboard.

I had planned on going home in September but decided to postpone it until the holiday season. Seems I haven't been in the States for Christmas in what seems like ages.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Operation Maldives - Part 3

Right after our snorkeling trip we went on a night fishing trip. As we departed the island we can see the sun setting and what was very cool is that you can also see a full moon in the sky, wow!
The boat stopped for photo opps and one of the crew was quick to take photos of couples together which was very thoughtful.

We later went to a fishing hole and the fishing lines were passed out, note no fishing poles, just line wrapped around a spool with a sinker and a hook with chunks of tuna as bait.

Everyone found a spot and dropped their lines, I was surprised at how deep it was. It didn't take long to start getting some bites, the hard part was trying to catch one! But soon everyone had caught a fish, I caught a Red Snapper, but somehow I caught it through the eye. I was waiting to hear Chris say "I got one!" and she did, a little banana fish. Someone else at the back of the boat caught what appeared to be about a 4' - 5' shark but they cut the line.

When we returned the fish were laid out for a photo opp again. Then the kitchen asked how you wanted your fish cooked. I need to back track. A staff member from island who was on her night off caught a nice sized White Snapper and said I could have it. In turn my Red Snapper was donated for someone else meal. We chose to have the fish cooked Mediterranean style. We went back to the villa to get cleaned up. After awhile we went to the main outdoor dining area and relaxed in the outdoor theater area until the fish was cooked. We went and got a table and our fish was brought to us along with salads we ordered. The fish looked good and tasted even better! We ate it to the bone, literally.

The next day we spent some more time at the beach and returned to pack up. The hotel sent a golf cart to collect our stuff but we were running late so I asked them to come back.

We checked out and got on after a short wait got on the speed boat back to the airport. This time they gave us a short safety lecture that they had not done before. It was very neat cruising very fast across the ocean and seeing all of the many other resorts. We also passed some dolphins.

About 40 minutes later we arrived at the airport. Security was a breeze along with passport control. When we got to check in Chris was quick to ask for a company upgrade. The counter agent already had our tickets in hand and said that in fact we had been upgraded to Business Class, sweet! She also gave us VIP passes to the Business Class lounge. We went straight to the lounge at hit the cappuccino maker with a vengeance! We also made plates of cheese and sandwiches and the like. Some friends from work also made their way to the lounge so we had company.

Boarding was announced and we went to the Emirates plane and to our seats. Pretty comfy! The meal was delicious, coupled with all the stuff I ate at the lounge and now this, I was stuffed!

We arrived in Colombo and back to reality. We also were much quicker than anticipated and our driver was not there. I called him and he told us to take a taxi. I was a bit leery as I thought they would try to inflate the price but was happy when he quoted pretty much the same price our driver had charged.

About an hour later we were back in the apartment. My unpacking took me all of about two minutes, all the clothes in the hamper, shaving kit back on the bathroom counter, travel returned to its spot, done.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat, but would probably try to stay at another resort just to get a little change of taste.

The Hikkaduwa Guest Houses

Just thought I would mention the funnier names of guest houses in Hikkaduwa:

Funky de Bar
The Drunken Monkey
Casa Lanka

I'll post more when I think of them

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Hikkaduwa Get Away

Right on the heels of our Maldives mini-vaca we decided to go to Hikkaduwa which is a nice break from the city. If we had a car it wouldn't be that big a deal but being that we don't we have to get a ride, be it by train or driver. Well the train is the least expensive route but also the most miserable. We never really found out how much a car and driver costs but we asked our usual trishaw driver to take us in his trishaw.

The drive south took much longer than expected, he said it would take 2 1/2 hours but the traffic was awful getting out of the city. It eventually took us 3 1/2 hours. We took breaks along the way stopping at some fruit stands and buying this strange fruit, I'll have to take pictures of it.

We stayed at the same place we had before, The Time N' Tide Resort (sic), it's a guest house, just a better guest house. On the low end of the scale a guest house might only have bars for windows and no hot water for showers, maybe no door for the bathroom etc. This place has a air conditioning, mini refrigerator, rain shower head, hot water for showers, nice pillows, free wifi and balconies with great views.

I was hoping to ride the waves but it's not surfing season on the east coast and the waves were horrible, just vicious overhead waves one right after the other that were relentless and were so difficult to get past. I tried and tried and just wore myself out. I was the only knucklehead trying to ride the waves. I caught two rides, but it wasn't worth the effort.

We were having pizza at the pizzaria the guest house has on the second floor facing the street. The whole dining area is open. I mentioned to Chris that I see people lining up and it looks like they are getting ready for a parade. As it turns out there was a parade complete with three elephants. It was a mini version of the Perhera festival parade, with fire twilrlers and the monkey people and the stilt dancers etc.

Another thing that was going on was Hikkafest 2010 which was this huge party that seemed to be attended by only Sri Lankas's privileged youth. The ticket prices were quite expensive. The morning after we counted two past out drunk kids sleeping outside, one just two feet from the busy street. The music went on all night till day break.

We enjoyed our favorite cheap food while there, rotty, which is hard explain, except that it is dough that is filled with usually veggies or chicken or chicken and cheese or veggies and cheese or chicken and eggs (You get the idea, whatever you want), it's folded over and grilled on both sides and sliced up, served with a hot sauce, delicious. We had 3 dinner rottis, 2 deset rottis and drinks for about $6.

All in all a good weekend but can't wait for the waves to calm down!