Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chaaya Wild, Yala – Day’s Diary 2 “Five Minutes”

After hours and hours of winding round bumpy roads we finally turned into one leading to ‘Chaaya Wild Yala’. A security guard stopped the van and forced the auto-door open. Not the first time our poor (unfamiliar with ANY road, but excellent at his job) driver Dhammika’s shouts of “wait wait, I’ll open it” were ignored to what looks like his extreme pain. It must hurt the door after all, to be forced!
I feared the security guard wanted to run through the myriad of belongings we’d packed in our numerous bags for a trip spanning a whole day, but thankfully, he only reached forward in a friendly fashion and handed each of us a wooden plank.
yeah, but it had some kind of writing on it (I’m sorry, I don’t do pictures, the following is purely informative):

Our company comprising 75% word-people, spelling and editing errors were gleefully jumped upon. Our pleasure being considered (or so I thought) vital for publicity, the jumping upon was treated with due reverence by our hostess. She immediately called up management and complained to them, boasting that “my journalists” were very observant. If you do take the trouble to read the thing though (wait, that’s if you take the trouble to read even THIS), you may notice its rather wittily (and repetitively) put.
Also brave:DSC00088
So from the start you know, these guys are unusually serious about the nature thing. And then the first five minutes of entering the place:
Things are quite simple. No fancy works of art you’re forced to contemplate and sound educated on, no painfully glaring colors to offend you, no alienation. The entrance is bare, and I’m seeing right through the reception area to the pool and the reserve beyond. Chaaya Wild is nearly a part of the park. Staff in dull green and brown safari shirts welcome me with a blessing, “ayubowan”, holding the traditional bulath kola wrapped around a white lotus in folded palms.
“ooh, nice! is this the nil manel?” one of our company asks. I worry that the question, coming from a journalist who doesn’t know that the national flower is a pale bluish purple, is setting the tone for my stay. [I might have guessed better, I suppose, considering conversation during the trip took vast turns in terms of topic, including: sex, marriages, breakups, affairs and even other related scandals!]
The cucumber juice I asked for has arrived with astonishing amounts of salt in it, and while a waiter gets me another (the manager Teddy -  not Roosevelt, he doesn’t know him – has asked me fifty times whether I’ll have the same or home-made ginger beer!) I pretend to get a phone call and leave the comely gathering of visitors-just-arrived.
There is a thalagoi paetiya soakin’ up some suuuuun [the numerous ‘u’s signify a “gangsta” tone. please note and re-read the phrase “soakin’ up some suuuuun”. aloud even, if you like. thank you] at the poolside. He doesn’t take too well to being nearly trampled by an exhausted reporter absent-mindedly talking to her imaginary friend, so scampers off a little way to show off his/her moves. No really, he/she can actually stand on his/her hind legs supported by his/her tail! (I’m trying to make a hint about certain feminist conceptions/misconceptions/insanities here, please understand this.)
The pool is surrounded by cement “sleepers” that are accented by the soothing dull green of the water. It’s not dirt, it’s the tile. Possibly the most striking thing for me about the whole place is that the water is not turned a bright blue or green by the tiles in order to catch attention, but allowed to blend in. Apologies for sounding cliché, but the word is “natural”. Channa Daswatte not only has an incredibly good-looking protege, but manages (one is tempted to say occasionally, upon remembering Chaaya Tranz) to do good work.The color-scheme is sweet-soothing, and only when you’re chilled out enough to lie back on one of these funny and uncomfortable chairs in the lounge that tilt you backbackback and look up at the ceiling [because you don’t have a choice but to lean backbackback] do you notice the flashing batik-work. brilliant.
My cucumber drink is BACK! This time with extra sugar instead of salt – does anyone know why simply cucumber is not good enough!? Close upon it arrives my key wrapped in ivory paper and adorned by a pretty little yellow ranavana flower.
I am running to my chalet, cold water and a bed!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chaaya Wild, Yala - Day’s Diary 1 “Road Closed”

I love travelling. Now that’s a contradiction to what I usually tell people of my thoughts on tourism, but that’s because this is travelling in a different sense. I don’t much like seeing new places, meeting new people etc. There’s already so much we don’t know about our own little neighborhoods and even ourselves – I don’t see the point in looking elsewhere for knowledge or fulfillment or whatever it is travellers are looking for. But I love travelling. Journeys. By car, on a bicycle, just me and the road.

So although I wasn’t looking forward to this work trip to Yala, I find myself nearly enjoying it. My company is awesome. One is an “immoral” woman who’s left her three-month old baby at home with many different people to take this trip discussing weed and parties. The other is a freak who pierced her own nose (no, I don’t know any other people who’ve done similarly masochistic things) and is stalking me. No seriously. She Googled me last evening and was sharing my personal information with her colleagues, because she didn’t know who I was. And then she saw my hair. [on a completely different (different?) note, I feel it becoming more and more precise to introduce myself and then introduce my hair as well, incase people confuse myself as being owned by my hair. whatever.] And then there is of course our sweet hostess who is probably feeling traumatized by contact with these three media personnel but is hiding it pretty well.

So wait, if all this is so much fun, why am I on my blog at this moment? Proof of the point I’m trying to make.

What I love best about travelling (what? I thought we got over that already, I love travelling, I just don’t have that desire to get any place in particular!) is the wind. Suddenly its like the spirit of the world is touching you. If that doesn’t sound too wrong, that is. So getting to the point:

I love the wind. Not only does it feel awesome when its whipping through your hair and freezing your nose dry and chapping your lips, caking your eyes with dust, but as it hums past you (or you past it) it drowns everything else out and you’re alone with the earth, even when there are four others in the vehicle with you. All that matters is the wind; momentarily you are allowed to kick gravity hard and fling yourself into the horizon ahead of you and just keep gliding.

But I’m not having that today , because although the tourist van I find myself cushioned up in has windows designed to get the widest possible view, they’re not really windows: they’re glass panes. I’m not feeling the heat of the burning sun or the chill of the gleeful wind, I’ve got aircon. And it’s just too cold. And sure, it’s only just 9.30am but we’re listening to Fergie wreck some old diva song for the B.E.P. to boom through clubs.

We are heading into forest reserves where the sun is hard, trees are proud and the air is stiff. We are heading into bare places of the earth where birds don’t just sing, they also scream and laugh and animals are allowed to think and run where their blood takes them to. We are heading into where sometimes you hear flowers bloom and the trickle of water doesn’t just drown others out, but is the only.

We are heading away from the noise, the fumes, the hectic schedules, the late nights, the annoying ring-tones and hammerings and buzzings and honkings and smells and curses and bosses and deadlines and junk food and everythingbadaboutthecity, but we’re struggling to take it all with us.

Inside this cocoon of plastic, glass and metal muscle we’re carefully preserving Colombo air, club hits, cellphones, laptops and canned drinks. We don’t want to get away. We want to be where we hate to belong. Because when the aircon is off, we remember we have skin, and that things can get under it. Because when the fumes disappear, we suddenly discover how bad we smell. Because when we’re in silence, the voices in our head just can.not. be ignored.

Because in the jungle we know, to be human is to never really belong.