14 June 2008

Letter 2.7

After leaving Bundala I spent a few days at Godawaya, and then returned to the Island Hermitage, to digest all the material I had consumed during my four months in the jungle and by the sea. Digestion, though, is hard work, and results are coming in (going out?) slowly. Nor am I settled down yet: one of the German monks will disrobe soon, and when he leaves I will move to his kuti, which is far superior to my present one. There are not many people here now: the Mahā Thera, 2 Germans, 2 Sinhalese, and two laymen: an Indian and a Dane. The Indian will take the robes in a few months; the Dane is undecided. (Everyone is Excited -- everyone, that is, but me -- about the Indian's ordination, for he is a high-caste Brahman from Benares. He seems to spend all his time in the library.)

I sent a telegram (the first, I think, that I have ever sent in my life) to the Island Hermitage to tell them I was coming. The telegram I sent said that I would arrive on the 3rd at 9 AM. The telegram which was received said that I would arrive on the 6th at 1 PM. The telegraph office has vastly underestimated my abilities. As a result, there was no boat waiting for me, and I had the alternative of either taking a fishing boat or waiting (as I later discovered) 3 days and 3 hours for the Island Hermitage boat. (I was a little late, but not so late as the telegraph office predicted. In this case, they are, it seems, much like the weather bureau -- generally wrong.)

The fishing boat was a long narrow affair made of a coconut log with boards raising the sides, just wide enough for me to put my legs in, though not next to each other, but, rather, one before the other. I would have preferred straddling it, like a horse, but monks, apparently, do not do such things -- at least not in Ceylon -- and I was firmly told (in Sinhalese) to put my feet in the boat. As soon as we got a few feet away from shore we began taking on water at an alarming rate and were in the process of sinking, which was rather distressful. I can swim, but the box of papers, etc., I had with me -- some of them irreplaceable -- could not. We returned to shore, I and my boxes -- a total of about 200 pounds -- got out, and the fisherman went to the Island to tell them I was waiting. The servants came (at record speed) to get me, and I managed to get to the island at 11:00 AM, just in time for
dāna. So my trip, unlike the world, ended with a bang, not a whimper.

No, I hadn‘t heard of LBJ's problems. At one time, the news would not have displeased me, but now I no longer care very much about it. Such matters no longer concern me, and -- partly for that reason -- seem somewhat unreal. (In fact, if by real is meant here -- now and by unreal not-here or not-now, then the presidential situation is totally unreal, since I don't even think about it.)

Today is full moon day. It's also Sinhalese New Year day, and I write against an aural background of fireworks. It's also Good Friday. Tomorrow and the next day are also holidays. Maybe the day after a no-holiday will be declared.

Oh, yes -- we made the blinzes again, according to the recipe you sent, and they turned out much better than the first batch. It's back to the chilies, now, though.

So ends another pen refill -- almost before it started.

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