This and the next post are not about the Building Bridges workshops at all – Minky and I were stuck in Vavuniya for two days, unable to conduct the final performances because of the threat of rain, and unable to go home because of a 24-hour train strike. So we made the best of a bad situation and had a two day holiday in Vavuniya, roaming its streets and sampling its (incredibly good) cuisine. This is an account of our two very lazy days.
This morning we woke up incredibly late – 9.30am is the latest I’ve ever woken up in Vavuniya – and I delighted in being able to Take Things Slow. We had a long, late breakfast of pittu and chicken curry, and asked Mr Kumar what we’d be able to do in Vavuniya, seeing that we had a whole day to ourselves. Apparently there was a temple and a playground you could see, but we really couldn’t decipher his directions at all, and decided we’d wander along on our own. Personally, I was incredibly excited to be able to have the time to get acquainted by foot with the town that for so long has just been a point of transit, and a series of landmarks for items to take (Cargills=snacks; bakery=snacks; Thai Hotel=food, shower and sleep).
To get to the town from Indran’s, we had to walk along Outer Circular Road upto Station Road, turn left and keep walking to the junction. We turned left and found ourselves walking towards Cargills, but what I really wanted to find was Bazaar Street. So we asked around a bit and found we were on the wrong road. So we walked back to the junction and crossed the street back on to Station Road, and continued until the Road turned left and became Bazaar Street. All the while, we walked incredibly slowly, taking in the little shops of colourful clothes, electronics, Christmas baubles, and food, winding around pushbikes and motorbikes (apparently pedestrians have right of way in this town, though – such a pleasant contrast to Colombo), and walking past dozens of vendors who alternately called us Akka (older sister), Baba (child), and Miss. After we got to the mint-green and gold Grand Jummah Mosque, we went back down Bazaar Street and stopped at the Co-op City to check if they sold chilled Nestomalt drinks – apparently these used to be sold but had since disappeared. I thought they might be available, but turned out that what I thought was Nestomalt was a Nespray milkshake. The Co-op City stock doesn’t go as fast as the Cargills stock – the one time I’d bought chocolate from Co-op City it had tasted a little old. So although we were in the mood for ice cream, I suggested we buy them from Cargills instead. One purchase I did make, egged on by Minky, was a pack of fluorescent-coloured straws – about a hundred for 96 rupees. A bargain, if that kind of thing is useful to you.
We ambled on to Cargills, and stopped there for an incredibly long time, since by this time it had become unbearably hot (where were the torrential rains of the day before?!) and air-conditioning suddenly felt like the greatest invention on the planet. We meandered through the whole store, commenting on fluffy teddies, crockery, and stationery (bizarrely placed next to a very small selection of dog and cat food), before I decided that what I really wanted was a cold drink, not ice cream. I bought Heladiv iced tea, my default drink, and Minks bought a packet of Kotmale milk. We also decided to split the Nespray “milkshake” just to see what it would taste like. (It tasted like vanilla milk, but not frothy at all, sadly). After determining that I couldn’t return the 84 packets of Milo that I’d bought the day before, we made our way back to Indran’s Hotel.
With little else to do but wait until dinner, we sat in the garden on two big stone benches and talked. I subjected Minks to all my theories and musings – I over-think things while she prefers to keep her mind uncluttered of such unnecessary thoughts. She’s a good listener though, and I think I’ve never really had such a long conversation with her in my life. This is the thing about getting together in large groups of friends – we often re-hash the same familiar conversations (also delightful in themselves) or talk about food. Amidst all the personal outpourings, we discussed the incredibly serious question of What Purpose Do Pipe Cleaners/Popsicle Sticks/Straws Serve? My own purchase precipitated the conversation, and we mused on how pipe cleaners seem to exist only in craft stores, and yet we’ve never seen anything remotely beautiful-looking created out of them. Popsicle sticks are another difficult thing, as are straws – we attempted half-heartedly to create something out of two of the straws in my pack, but only managed to mangle them. So much for that. I prefer paper, to be honest – it’s simple and versatile, which is why I have drawers full of construction paper at home. Admittedly, the only craft I do these days is the odd card for people’s birthdays.
At five, we headed out in search of Best Prathap Restaurant. I understood Gajan’s directions much better than I did those of Mr Kumar, and we got there without incident. On the way, we caught a glimpse of a lake, behind a Hindu Temple, and thought we’d visit it the next day if there was time.
Dinner was good, although I was sorry to discover that there were no cuttlefish. Also, the incredible chicken curry we’d had with the roti last time was notably absent. The roti were freshly made, though, and they were incredibly light and buttery. I could have eaten about a dozen of them, sans curry. By 6.30, it had become much darker than we realised it would, so we felt it wise to head back.
Vavuniya is not the most eventful town in the country, so the rest of the evening was quiet, the highlight of which was when Minky showed me the video “Dumb Ways To Die” – apparently a public service announcement from the Melbourne metro, with music from the Cat Empire. The tune was incredibly catchy, and I had a hard time getting it out of my head before going to sleep.