3 November 2008

Letter 4.11

The boxes of books arrived with newspaper packing -- the LA News – which I read with some interest. I was impressed by the ads for fat people and for alcoholics -- i.e. by the number of such ads -- and by the ad for peppermint-scented hula hoops (a marital aid, possibly?). Puzzled by a letter to the editor expressing gratitude that the U.S. was a capitalist country, except for Santa Monica. What does this mean? Passed the papers on to some villagers, who have yet to comment on them.


On the way to Colombo recently, while stopping to eat, I drank some orange juice, which had a bit of a seed -- I suppose it was -- with a sharp edge that cut the inside of my throat. It only caused an annoying tickle, but then it got infected, so before returning to Ella I saw an MD in Colombo about it. Yes, he told me, my throat was red and my tonsils were swollen. Doctor, I told him, my tonsils were removed when I was a child. He had no comment to make, and gave me a prescription for tetracycline, which I took to the dispensary, where they gave me ampicillin instead. I was asked by neither doctor nor pharmacist if I had any allergies, etc. In any case, I took the ampicillin and am now recovered -- with problematical thanks to the medical establishment. Another medical misfortune: we now seem to have entered into the season for a certain kind of caterpillar with thick tufts of black hairy fibres all over it. One fell on my head as I slept, waking me. I tried to brush it off, thinking it was just another cricket, which I get plenty of, but as soon as I touched it I knew it was no cricket. One day of intense itching, and about 3 more days of gradually diminishing itching. And then, a few days later, another one got in and got me on the arm. The best medicine I've found so far is preventive: a thorough wall-check before going to sleep each night -- they, apparently, like to climb walls -- though don't seem to be very good at it as they keep falling off.

This isn't only the caterpillar season -- also swarms of small yellow butterflies, invariably flying southward. They haven't far to go before reaching the Indian Ocean and the next landfall (unless it's some secret butterfly island) would be Antartica, so presumably the southern coast is now suffering from an infestation of butterflies and -- unless they fly back at some later date -- the north of the country will eventually be totally devoid of this species. Another of life's minor mysteries.

In the paddy fields they are now finishing transplanting rice shoots from the seed beds to the prepared fields, which is where I came in 6 months ago; but it's been a good show, so I'll sit through it again.

I can tell how hot it is by how melted my jar of coconut oil is. It solidifies every night, and on a warm day it will be cloudy liquid and on a hot day (or if I put it in the sun) it will become more and more clear. Today, it's liquid but very cloudy. But the solar heating system works well: a black plastic sheet covering a plastic bucket of water. Three hours in the sunshine and it's as hot as you would want it for bathing. On cloudy days I heat a kettleful on the fire. The rain barrel is empty, so I have to boil drinking water now.

Yes, as the Fiddler on the Roof said, 'If the rich could hire someone to die for them' they probably would. But they can't. Nobody can. This is morbid? Or the way it is? Morbid to me is the refusal to face this fact, and to morbidly insist upon living life as though it were eternal (except for those who have the bad taste and lack of discretion to die).

But who am I to convince you?

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