Dec. 5th. I am in Kandy in the mountains of Sri Lanka. It is a beautiful place. The first night I was here I was bitten by a stray dog! Just a little scratch but after talking to the hotel staff I headed straight for the hospital.
Rabies is nearly always fatal once symptoms develop and with a stray dog you never know. They gave me a shot in both arms and a card with a schedule for four more. I went for the second one today. In the meantime I had done some research and talked to a local who is very knowledgable. He told me that the vaccine takes a couple of weeks to take effect and that in some cases that is too long, that there is also a horse serum of antibodies that lasts a short time but takes immediate effect. So today, at the hospital I asked about it and they agreed that it was a good idea. Two large syringes injected in four places around the wound and into both thighs! Then I had to sit on a bed in emergency for four hours being observed in case I had an allergic reaction. When I left I thanked the nurse and told her how impressed I was by the quality of care they give in such poor, run-down facilities. All I had to pay was 25 cents for two syringes at the pharmacy. But also realizing that, in this case, being an informed consumer might have saved my life.
Yesterday I went to the Queens Hotel to see if I could get a good cup of coffee. I met Elizabeth, a medical researcher, on holiday in Sri Lanka for only a week. She is in her forties, slim with short brown hair in disarray, just out of the pool. She is very organized – on a private tour with her own car, driver and guide. In no time she invites me for a swim and provides me with a towel. Afterwards we arrange to meet for dinner.
Entering the restaurant I immediately see Sahara, whom I met a week ago on the boat through Kerala’s backwaters. She is in her early twenties, slim with long dark hair in a bun and coffee-coloured skin. Her parents, of Indian descent, came from East Africa and now live in Florida. She has a degree in finance and has been volunteering for an NGO doing micro-credit in rural India. She is holidaying for a few weeks before taking up a job at a finance company in New York City.
She joins us for dinner and drinks on the covered balcony overlooking the main street. We chat about our travels and about the confusion that arises for all of us when we are asked where we are from. Eventually Elizabeth asks what I do. When I say carpentry I get a penetrating look from Sahara and so share that I am working on writing a book of essays about my experiences and about the decline of tradition. We talk about what this means and about whether it is a good thing or not.
As an example of this decline being a good thing I cite the near-universal oppression of women by traditional practice. The dialogue starts to become more and more animated. There is no search for a consensus, just a sharing of personal experience and perspectives. The fact that I feel attracted to both these women just adds to the intensity of my experience but I give no reign to my fantasies. After about two hours of intoxicating conversation I walk with them to their expensive hotel. After warm goodbyes I move on to my inexpensive (but charming) hotel across the street.
I have a hard time sleeping. My mind is zinging with ideas and inspiration for more essays on my theme: how dialogue stimulates creativity and creativity is integral to human evolution: further thoughts about consumerism and technology. I get up in the middle of the night to jot down a few notes, so that I can let my thoughts go and maybe sleep.
This morning I bumped into Buddy and Lindy in the street. They were on that same boat last week through Kerala! I had already reconnected with them the following evening in Varkala. We had dined together and had a similar animated, warm dialogue. Such encounters feed my soul, energize me for my travels and inspire me to write more. I am meeting them, in half an hour, for dinner.