As much as I enjoy the big moments - the massive historical site or a pack of elephants - it's the little moments on a vacation that are often the ones that stick with me the longest. One of my fondest memories of Venice was turning down an alley - we were lost again - and finding a beautiful old door, with a sunflower in a vase in front of it. And it was that perfect time of day for the light to be shining on the door. A few minutes earlier or later and the moment wouldn't have been there.
It's a good day when you can have a little moment like that. Day 4 gave me three.
It was planned to be a mostly slow day for us. After all the travel and excitement of the last few days, we thought we would stay closer to the hotel and relax a bit. Maybe pop into town as Lori wanted to get a burner phone so she could call home and take a quick walk around. Dups recommended another temple site we might want to take a look at.
Dups, Jenna and her mom took off around 10:30. Around 2 pm we decided to finally get moving. Quiet moment number one happened when we were walking down the street and I glanced at a couple of soldiers, in full military fatigues and carrying their machine guns. Not an uncommon sight in Sri Lanka. But one of them had at what appeared to be at first glance a bottle of water. Then it started to move. I realized he had a bag of water with a goldfish inside and he was showing it to his friend.
I like that. I like it when you catch military people doing unexpected things. I remember being in South Korea and seeing two soldiers in full riot gear holding hands. Men in South Korea often hold hands, so it's no big deal. But for me, having only recently arrived, it caught my attention. So did this. The fish was probably for his child, but it was still a nice moment.
Moment number two happened at Mihintale, the temple Dups recommended. We got there and after climbing a significant number of steps were walking around the grounds. That's when it started to rain. We got some shelter from a tree, but looking out across, the rain was being lit up by the sun, so you got this beautiful view of the temple and the Buddha statue. I tried taking a picture, but God knows if it managed to capture the moment properly.
Moment number 3 happened when we climbed up even more steps and visited another part of the temple site. We came across a monk sitting on what appeared to be a pile of lumber. We were getting ready to turn around when he called us over. And there was this small temple of a reclining Buddha. No one else was there except Lori, Nuala and I. And the monk. It was amazing. I don't know why I like Buddhist temples so much, but I feel much more relaxed in them than Christian churches.
It was a nice afternoon and gave me moments I'm going to remember for a long time.
After the temple it was back to the hotel where we had yet another fantastic meal (we've yet to have anything less than great and quite frequently the food has managed to be astonishing) and then cracked open a bottle of gin that Nuala had been carrying for a few days.
A quieter day, but another pretty good one.
1. I don't know if Sri Lankans love lots and lots of steps, or if it's just Buddhists, but damn there has been a lot of climbing up steps on this vacation. Lori brought her Fitbit with her and it's been freaking out over all the climbing she's been doing.
2. There were a lot of kids at Mihintale, many of whom took that moment to try and test out their English on the white people. Which I didn't mind, although the one who "oinked" at me I gave a bit of a hard time to. Lori's favourite with the kid who ran buy and yelled "I'm fine, thank you very much!" The strange thing is, English is not something I've heard a lot of from the caucasian people we've seen. They're much more likely to be speaking French, German or Russian. I imagine they can't be terribly amused by the English barrage.
3. Although there's a lovely Buddha and temple at the site, there was also a talk rock you could climb for nor apparent reason other than it was there. Lori used up the last of her climbing courage yesterday, so she begged off. Nuala and I climbed it, but nowhere in North America would you have been allowed to have made it. The steps were mere suggestions half the time and most of the climb involved hauling yourself up using the guide rail. Nice view from the top, though.
4. It's not often I see Dups mad, but when you mess with people he cares about it's never a pretty site. We've been getting around the country with our driver Rukman. Most hotels have what's called driver's accommodations. Because so many tourists depend on drivers ferrying them around (Lonely Planet advises against trying to drive yourself. That might be the understatement of the year), many hotels have special rooms where they can stay at no charge. Our last one did not and they expected Rukman to either pay for a room or sleep in the van. Dups was not having that. It got squared away and Rukman got a room to sleep in, but I wouldn't have wanted to have been hotel management there for a few hours.