Thursday, February 01, 2007

Not just passing through Colombo this time.

For the third time in just over a month, I find myself in Colombo. Justine and I have come to Sri Lanka in order to renew our Indian visas. I shall only stay briefly but she is staying for a couple of weeks or more.

We arrived this morning and it has already been quite eventful one way and another.

Firstly, J took the unsurprising but foolish decision to empty her room of alcohol before leaving - into her stomach. I think there was a good 3/4 bottle of vodka left before her "spring clean".

All last night, whilst I sat chatting to Margaret, our new hostel mate, Justine wafted in and out of her room with increasing unsteadiness, having made the mandatory request for samosas, which the dog then ate as she left them the steps during one of her forays back into her room.

We were due to leave at 5.00am and finally, at midnight I finally went in to pack, knowing that I was only going for a few days and my things were still packed from Bangalore anyway. It took only about half an hour, despite frequent interruptions from J firstly telling me she was really annoyed with me (no idea why), then coming back to tell me (slightly tearfully) that I had helped her a lot whilst she had been in RUHSA, before a bout of paranoia half way through her speech made her reiterate that she thought I was really annoying. Then she came to ask me if I could help her upload her music onto her MP3 player from her computer, which owing to a lead issue I couldn't. I went to bed as she was still pootling ineffectually around her room crunching on puffed rice which she had scattered liberally across her floor, with no sign of any bag being out, let alone packed.

This morning at 5am when the car arrived, I went to wake her. Her light was on, the door was open, the puffed rice, looking a little more crushed than last night, was still everywhere and a bag, containing unknown items, appeared to be packed.

I checked she had her passport and tickets. She staggered to the car and fell in. Amazingly, the driver, despite the fumes, managed to stay sober for the drive and got us to the aiport literally in perfect time.

It was quite hair-raising trying to contain the whirlwind that was Justine (still pissed obviously) but I reckoned that she had been doing this for years without needing me to mother her so I wasn't going to start now. I also said to her that, no matter what, I was getting on the plane as I needed to sort my visa out immediately.

Halfway around through the airport procedures she realised she had left her wallet behind. Completely. She had a total of 7 rupees in Indian coins and that was it. She now has the prospect of spending nearly 3 weeks in Sri Lanka with no access to money. Oh well, something will occur.

Luckily for me, owing to check-in shenanigans we were not sitting together on the flight so I, unlike those on row 15, had a peaceful trip.

On arrival, having read about the rip-off taxis at the airport charging 1400rs for a 35km trip, we rather stubbornly set off walking toards the bus stop which was 2km away. After a short while a bus arrived and charged us 50rs each. We felt very smug. I handed over the smallest note I had - 1000rs - and waited for my change. He didn't have it to start with and unlike the Vellore bus drivers, who hack their way through 100's of people crammed in and out of the bus in order to give you your 50 paise change, this young man, conveniently "forgot" and I even more conveniently for him, forgot to ask. This was partly due to the fact that we had 2 police check points when all the passengers or just the driver and his dishonest sidekick had to get out and have their bags checked while J and I sat on the bus looking a bit bewildered.

Amidst a repetitive refrain from J of "I can't believe I don't have my wallet!", we got to the Indian High Commission to be told that it was too late to put my application form in today (I wasn't surprised), but I could do it tomorrow. Great, I thought. It will take 5 working days. Fuck, I thought. I have three working days in Sri Lanka. I am obviously going to have to be very, very persuasive. I may even have to cry a little.

We are staying in a nice place, which has an old Dutch colonial feel, it is open and breezy with cooling gardens surrounding it, so it feels somewhat like we are still at RUHSA. Tomorrow, I tackle the Visa Problem. Wish me luck.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nothing like a paranoid alcoholic for company on a long journey in India...