Friday, October 2, 2015

Warming to Jaffna: motion and emotion

Jaffna was my favorite place in Sri Lanka when I visited in 2013. It's hot place. Hot food, hot temperatures and somehow a heated atmosphere of human motion and emotion. So bringing Janet here I have been concerned with how she sees it through her eyes. At the end of our morning walk today she reminded me that her office is so cold during the summer because of air conditioning that people not only wear sweaters but actually turn on portable heaters. She's used to cool temperatures and she's not so comfortable in the heat. But she's been doing a great job here. 

Jaffna has a lot of cool too. Incredibly cool deco architecture, cool inventive fonts, and the cool hot blaring of horns constantly. People here wear long clothes, long pants and long shirts. As a strange looking foreigner I'm allowed to wear shorts. But maybe the people here are afraid of catching a chill. I can't imagine why long everything is de rigeur. 

Anyway we've been doing strange stuff in Jaffna. Instantly walking walking and walking some more. Nobody really walks here except for a short distance. So there are constantly people on bicycles coming by, tractors on the move, buses, tuk tuks, and assorted other modes of transport we don't use. Most of our walks so far have been into and around the city, first to the execrable Piliyar Inn to tell the we wouldn't be staying there (why waste the Dialog seconds?), then to the incredible Nallur Kovil where we stood and watched for awhile. We hit the downtown big time, the bus station, the bazaar, and just a but further out, the spanking new Cargills Super Mall. We happened to get there just when school let out and the boys came pouring in. Just the cool place to be when you want to hang out somewhere. 

We contemplated who these kids are...they're not the ones who stopped on the corner near the new Jaffna Library for a king coconut. Are they what the world bank calls the emerging middle class of Sri Lanka? What are their horizons? What are they seeking?

Speaking of horizons, we took Beach Road today and ended up with some amazing Lagoon views. We soaked up the scene in Passalyoor, the first fishing village east of Jaffna, and kept pushing on toward Columbuthorai. The day got hot and we flagged a little as we finished off our water bottle. But amazing to walk and see the giant milkweeds, the nearly-dry tanks, the fishermen in action, goats, bananas, kovils and churches. Oh. And did I say tractors?

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