19 July 2008

Letter 2.41

I'm getting settled down here now, although with typical Ceylon inefficiency I've not yet finished all the work on the kuti, I wonder if I ever will? For always there seems to be some little thing that can be done to make the place more… complete? For instance, there is a supply of fine granite rocks close by, and, as sand is brought up, I'm gradually making stone walls to replace the wooden ones, which will make the place more natural in its surroundings, and eliminate problems such as termites (which, in all tropical areas, are very much of a problem -- at Island Hermitage I've seen them build their tunnel in and out of the pores of a cement post to reach the wooden ceiling). This is not such a big job, actually (except for bringing the sand), since my walls are only two feet high.

Between the roof and the walls I have placed a number of straw mats sewn together, which can be rolled up in nice weather and rolled down and fastened tightly in windy weather or for complete privacy (though without any walls at all the location is already as private as can be). This has worked out very nicely so far, and we've already had some very heavy wind and rain. Also the mats are good looking. They probably won't last a year, but they are altogether only about 20 rupees -- 2 dollars -- and easily available, so replacing them should be no problem.

The roof will need replacement every year or so, since it is cadjan, and since the pitch is not great enough for cadjan alone to be leak proof, it has been covered with a brown-colored tar paper, which works quite well. Corrugated asbestos, and tiles are both too expensive, and shingles (which are also coated tar paper, aren't they?) are unknown here. The roof is single-pitched except for a bit with its own pitch over a small storage area, which almost runs into the rise of the hill.

The posts are independent of the walls, and two supporting the roof are of a green species of bamboo that is about 6 inches in diameter and very strong, set into the ground at an angle of about 30° sloping back, so that no pillar obstructs the view and to match the slope of the mountain (Pujiyami?) in the distance and blend the place as much as possible into its niche in the jungle.

Hut enough?

Yes, leeches are a nuisance, but if you're going to live in the jungle then they must be endured. They only come out with the heavy rains, when it's very wet, otherwise the paths are free of them and their bite is no more irritating than a mosquito’s, but you tend to bleed a few drops if they actually do bite, which stains my robes (how
do you remove blood stains?) -- often I don't know I've been bitten until I feel the blood trickling -- and they are tenacious and a bit difficult to pry off (they're not slimy or anything) -- on the other hand, they don't fly, so given the choice I'd rather put up with leeches than mosquitos (though I've got a few of them too). A nuisance, not a problem. They rarely get inside the kuti.

I have an outhut hidden away behind some bushes, though, of course, any place equipped with running water will have a flush system. For my water I must bring back a bucket from the village every few days, when I can't collect rain water (though we've had a lot of rain this past week and I've collected it).

On the many paths and in the open spaces grows a coarse, thick-bladed grass that never gets more than an inch high and is extremely pleasant to walk on (when dry and leech-free).

Today is Sinhalese New Year -- last night and tonight I've been watching many skyrockets over the hills of Kandy (have you seen the comet lying low in the east about 5 AM?), and enjoying the holiday fare that is given me in abundance at each house on my alms rounds -- bags full of sweets, stacks of milk-rice cakes, bottles of fresh milk, and so on. Also very little spicy foods. Sinhalese (and even more so Tamil -- i.e. South Indian) chili peppers are much much hotter than the hottest Mexican varieties. The Sinhalese truly don't believe I can stay healthy on a diet in which I avoid them as much as possible. I don't see how they can…

Yes, I've heard about the World Fair in Japan. In fact, I've been planning for a long time not to attend. Having lost my interest in sports, I've decided to give up not attending Olympic Games, and switch to not attending World Fairs.

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