18 July 2008

Letter 2.40

Arthur C. Clarke (who wrote the screenplay of 2001, which seems to have been a film) was one of my favorite science-fiction writers in the days when I read SFI. I was aware that he lived in Ceylon, and in fact the house on Sanghamitta Mawatha is rented by a friend of his who co-authored at least one book with him.

Behind it (the house) my hut is now finished to the point where I am living in it comfortably -- most of the remaining work is just 'winterizing' -- i.e. getting ready for the rains, which begin here about early May.

Some lumber mill donated enough wood to eliminate the need for mud walls, but mud, in this climate, is by no means to be berated as a building material. Certainly in an area where there is snow it is quite impractical requiring far too much maintenance, but in the tropics it is a fine structural material -- cheap, sturdy, strong, and cool. When plastered over with the mud of termite piles it is not only long lasting but also attractive both in color (tan) and texture (which can be anything you want depending on how finely the termite pile is ground up and how it is applied). Bricks, after all, are only baked earth. In the tropics the earth gets baked naturally. There is a product called 'swishcrete' (love the name) made of 1 part cement to 14 parts earth, which lasts 20 years or more.

The walls, however, are wood, since for mud walls -- which I rate as superior to wood -- there would have been problems transporting the quantities of water needed. (Water is the most serious 'problem' here -- there is a small river with pools running at no more than a gallon a minute at the very bottom of the hill, but that's quite a climb -- especially back up, by which time I would need a bath again -- so I go to a grotto about 1/3 mile away where there is a well in picturesque surroundings, bathe there and carry back the gallon of water I need daily -- usually from the village, which has tap water, saving me the need to boil or filter the water -- but also usually people bring the water for me, so that the water problem is not 'serious'.)

The roof is of cadjan (coconut leaves woven together), which, being porous, is extremely cool. The land is about four acres of hillside (descending farther the hill becomes almost precipitous) with jungle on three sides, but the 4 acres are almost treeless and, being atop a hill, afford a rather spectacular view -- mountain peaks, coconut plantations, and the whole works-—yet is protected by the jungle from most of the weather and noises of Kandy (which is within walking distance -- a 2 mile walk through the forest reserve will bring one suddenly into the very heart of town). Pacing west I can enjoy some fine sunsets. Bushes are (so far) in perpetual bloom, and all in all the land in a similar location in the U.S. -- say a few minutes drive from the heart of L.A. yet still almost entirely natural, quiet, secluded -- would doubtless be much sought after property. In the distance, at dusk, I hear the muezzin calling his chants from the Moslem mosque in town, and watch the endless stream of bats flying across the skyline. In the day time it's monkeys, parrots, occasional water buffalo through trees that must have come from a Japanese garden-so I'm quite content here for now even without a color TV.

Lamb me tell ewe some otter gnus. Right off the bat, first morning in the gnu home, just after having eaten breakfast (which included an onions-and-chilie-pepper sandwich – pugh! -- which apeset me so horibully that verminit I thought, 'Iguana be eel! I've been pythoned! Where's a dogtoe?' -- perhaps, though it'll put heron mynah chest) a parrot mastiff elephants lumbered by my newt haress on their way to work, which was carrion off the huge coconut-tree logs lion about the place. The two antelopers (who were racoonpanied by their drivers) thrushed their trunks hunter their staggering birdens, pigged them up, and weaselly boar them byena hare. (They are for ocelot too heavy to lift even when cut insectshuns.) Wallaby damned, I thought. Monkey around with them animules and weasel be in a fine cattle of fish. I wouldn't want them for anemone. But of horse sow capabull creatures we shell rarely meat. It did my hart good. The frog lifted and the morning was pheasantly wormed bison, and to snake my thirst I drake a long swallow of water. I cassowary ibis one log after a few inches terrier of a roof sunport -- deer deer, I quailed -- and oxed the driver if the elephant colt be eggstra careful hen his aukward fitchewation. 'Serpently,' he replied. The elephant steered the log with his trunk, terning it carefully eaglempt it in his jaws, and gently brute away from mouse. I watched them aphidly owl morning. At noon they went away. (Lemur know if ewe want furother gnus and alligator round to it. When read several times this paragraph may become intelligible. Tiger beast ewe kine, hmm? And if heifer ewe asp wether amphibian or just kitten, owl condorly adder least llama gnat lion.) Whelp, I goose that'll rabbit up for now. Any moa this stuff chincilla guy.

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