Adam must have come in very late. I awaken him at 6:00 as he asked. He doesn’t get up and decides instead to go back to sleep. It’s his last day at the hospital. I get up at 7:30 and go downstairs for breakfast. I can’t find my cheap local phone.
When I come back up Adam is still asleep I tell him I am leaving at 8:25 and go down and meet Champika. Champika has arranged with a friend who runs a Ayurveda spice shop to allow me to charge the amount needed to pay the cash to the Thilanka Hotel since I am getting a great deal if I pay cash. He let’s me charge my credit card and will give the cash to Champika who will pay the Hotel. He charges 2.5% for the service. My foreign ATM service is 5%. In effect he is acting like a cheaper ATM for me.
The plan for the morning is to visit the Royal Botanical Garden. On the way there we pass a few interesting things and stop to take a look. There is a municipal election going on and a politician is having a rally in a yard near the street. The place is a small yard enclose by a concrete fence crowded with about 75 people with loud speakers broadcasting the speech loud enough for people in the passing cars to hear. Champika stops across the street and I go into the yard just to see the process in action. Most are men but a substantial percentage are women listening. A politician is standing on the ground not on a stage in a flowered emerald green silk shirt is speaking into the microphone with a big politician to big to be real smile. People are crowded around him. Almost everyone is wearing white the dress like sarong covered by a shirt than is not tucked in. They make room for me as I move into the crowd. The speech is in Senegalese. Just as I get to a place where I can see what is going on the speech ends and people start to leave. I didn’t learn much. When I walk back to the car I notice that there is stream on the other side of the wall that borders the road. I look down into it and see that the banks of the stream are covered in litter and the there is litter floating in the stream. It is something I have noticed more and more since I noticed how bad it was at the gold fort. Litter is everywhere. Some places like this one are much worse than others.
Champika drops me off at the Royal botanical garden. He suggests an hour and a half. I am going because it is a named attraction not because I think I am particularly interested in walking in a garden. I am wrong. It is a fantastic gorgeous place. It cost 1500 rs, $10 for foreign tourists. It is close to free for Sir Lankans. There are plenty of each at the entrance. A beautiful sunny day, an hour and a half will not be enough as the Garden is immense. There are huge old trees that were planted her over a hundred years ago. One placard says the Czar of Russia planted the tree from Russia when he was the crown prince before he became czar in 18 something. There are little placards on the sides of most of the trees with genus and species names of the trees along with the place where the tree is from. Someone with great foresight has designed this place knowing that he will never see it in it’s splendor the way I am seeing it now. The trees are spaced so that each gets plenty of sun. There are paved trails through the garden gently shaded by the trees and other places where the shade is deeper between the trees. There are no rules that you must stay on the paths. The garden is so immense that it is easy to find yourself almost alone wondering between the trees that tower above you each with it’s unique bark and root structure.
I am starting back when I come upon a couple dark skinned tourists taking pictures of a tree. One asks if he can take a picture with me. This happens occasionally to western tourists. Usually young women. I go along. We start a conversation. He is a shopkeeper from the Provence where Peshawar is the capital which on the border of Afghanistan. I spent several days there waiting for a seat on the bus through the Khyber Pass to Kabul in 1978. I ask him what is going on in Pakistan and what he thinks about Trump’s decision to cut off aide to Pakistan because they are harboring terrorists. He reminds me that he is just a poor shop owner who has only a high school education. He shares his opinion. He says that the Taliban kills people in his area and that the government is trying but failing to stop them. The Taliban kill people than send suicide bombers to the funerals and kill more. He says the bomb the mosques and that he is afraid when he goes to worship. I ask him if the Taliban go after a particular form of Islam. He tells me that the Taliban is made up of different groups some go after Shia and some go after Sunni. They not only fight the government of Pakistan they fight each other. He says that China, Iran, Russia and the US sell weapons in the region that end up in the hands of the Taliban. That it is the business of arms dealing that is keeping everything going. It is his opinion that if the other countries would get together and get out, stop supplying or bringing weapons to the area, the Pakistan Government might have a chance to stop the violence. As it is especially true for Iran as it has a big hand in supplying the Talban. He says, as it is, there is little hope that it will ever stop.
After the conversation I realize that I must get moving toward the exit if I am to meet Champika at the appointed time of 12:30. I take a wrong turn on the way back and I am seven minutes late.
I have developed this idea that I would like to get some Ebony seeds and plant a few Ebony trees when I get back home. I probably would need to plant them in Louisiana since I don’t think they cold survive in the cold Colorado climate. Champika has a idea that perhaps an Ayurveda pharmacy might have seeds from plants and perhaps might have seeds from some of the large trees that I would like to take home like Jack fruit and Bread fruit.
We go to a large Ayurveda pharmacy. They don’t have much they do have Ironwood seeds. The Ironwood tree is indigenous to the lower wet Zone of Sri Lanka it was named the national tree of Sir Lanka in 1985. It is slow growing and grows in the rain forest to about 30 meters high some of the leaves are bright red. The timber is very hard and durable. It is no longer allowed to cut Ironwood trees because of religious reasons. It’s believed that the first visit of Buddha was to grove of Ironwood trees at Miyanganaya and that the next Buddha (mithriya) will attain enlightenment under an Ironwood tree. The reason there were ironwood seeds at the pharmacy is because the flower of Ironwood tree is also used in herbal medicine and in the preparation of perfumes, cosmetics and soaps.
On the way back to the car we stop at a restaurant Champika is familiar with each have a Mango Lassi. A Lassi is popular traditional yogurt based drink that I had many times in India. It can be made with spices including cumin. I like the Lassis made with fruit.
It is Champika’s has arranged for his wife and son to come to Kandy to stay with relatives where they will celebrate his son’s birthday. He had mentioned that he wanted his son to learn to play the guitar. I told Champika that I would give him my guitar as part of his tip. It is a baby Taylor travel guitar and I have had it for years. Taylor is one of the two best commercial guitar makers along with Martin. It is a small well-made guitar made of cheep wood; the least expensive guitar sold by Taylor. I think I paid $200 for it years ago. Truth is I don’t enjoy playing it very much and am happy not to have to lug it all the way home. Champika is delighted and orders a cake for his son made in the shape of a guitar.
The birthday party is tonight and the plan is for him to drop me at the tooth temple with a prearranged guide and I will walk the short distance back to my hotel. Champika will pick Adam and I up in the morning for our last day in Sir Lanka.
At the Champika makes sure that I know the way to walk back to my hotel and shows me where the dancing show is also an easy walk from my Hotel. Then he leaves me at the Tooth Temple with the guide he has arranged for me after we go through a security checkpoint to get onto the grounds. The admission fee is 1500rs, $10 and the guide is also 1500rs.
The guides name is Nuwan and his English is fine not perfect. He first tells that the security fence and procedures were started after the Tamil Tigers detonated a huge truck bomb in front of the temple during the war. It did substantial destruction and killed 16 people. Everything has been rebuilt and the fence and security check point was put in place.
The tooth in the tooth Temple was taken from Buddha’s funeral pyre and has passed through the hands of Kings who revered it and hid it from other powerful kings who were from time to time destroying Buddhist temples and relics. This temple is one of the places that devout Buddhists should visit. Not so much for tourists unless it is important to you to say you went. It was not an awe-inspiring visit for me. Adam on the other hand told me not to miss it. He said the dancing show was not so good and I decided not to go.
I made the walk back to the Hotel. On the way, I picked up a new map of Sit Lanka and plan to make my travels on it with a Champika tomorrow when we stop for lunch. I am back at the room five minutes when Adam knocked on the door. It was not planed: we could not have planed it better.
He wants to take a short nap and I guess it’s because he went to the hospital when without a full nights sleep. I try to catch up on my trip log a bit but fall into playing a few games of chess online. It is an addictive habit especially when I have played a good game, am winning at the end, then make a blunder that insures defeat. I want to make up for it, get another chance to be more vigilant, play another game immediately, redeem myself.
Adam awakens right after I start a new game and wants to go to the market and buy some gifts. I want to finish the game and he leaves without me. I should have gone with him. When he returns we talk for a while and have a very good conversation about life in general, about how precious this time is we are having together and the experience of being together in Sri Lanka. How we are facing another long period apart when I go home and he will stay in Australia.
Adam tells me he has not been eating meat except fish. He says that we need a certain number of essential amino acids and that we can get all but two of them from vegetables and the other two from fish.
Adam believes that one of the reasons his grandmother Freda is 96 and still mentally sharp is she never did any mind altering drugs and drank only a very small amount of alcohol and does not smoke tobacco. He says he wants to have me mentally sharp for years to come so that he can benefit from my “wisdom”. He believes that for that to happen he wants me to promise not to do any drugs or drink any alcohol. How can I say no to that? I must and do agree. We make a pact. He will also do what he has asked me to do. I will miss the marijuana that I have enjoyed since graduate school so may years ago in Lafayette Louisiana. Going to a funny movie and laughing out loud without reservation. Hiking in the mountains while my mind takes me on a jaunt in some weird direction. Going to the Jazz fest listening to the music. I never was a daily user and have often gone months without touching it especially when traveling. It’s been fun when I share a few moments with a friend getting high. I can’t say no to this expression of love from my son who after all has a degree in neuro-science from Cornell.
We go down to dinner and meet a very attractive family from New Zealand they are traveling with their three children and have just come from Dubai. They said that they saw some kind of celebration where the men were driving their cars very fast over the dunes. It sounded like a crazy thing to do since the sand would get into the cars and probably damage the engines. The couple said that that certainly would happen since the sand got into everything, but the people there had so much money that they didn’t care if their cars were ruined. They also went to Oman. They stayed at one point in the desert in tents is some kind of a tourist resort. Servants that came to work there from India kept the area inside the resort clean. They commented that outside of the resort there was trash strewn everywhere.
After dinner we went to bed. Tomorrow we leave for Australia.