“What did you get?”
“Excuse me…?” followed by a hesitant, sideways glance at the man charging me for my bottle of water.
“What did you get?” he repeated, followed by a stubby finger jab in Neil’s direction “from him”.
“Oh you know, his constant love and affection” I responded with some half-hearted laughter
“Aha! That is correct! Everyday should be like Valentines day! Why have a day to celebrate something that should be yearlong!” He yelled with a triumphant smile.
He walked out to us on the street later, hand on each one of our shoulders and continued to drop his gems of advice. Such things as “You get a good wife and you will have a happy life (same with good husband)!” and “No stress means you will age only in years and nothing else!” and finally “This is my wish to you, happiness with no stress!” He repeated these messages again, along with a request to eat the roast chicken at his brothers diner (best in Sri Lanka in case you were wondering) and then walked away, shaking his head and laughing under his breath.
Later that night we chatted with, or rather were chatted to, by our self proclaimed, surfer-esq, German, Sri Lankan and Japanese guest house owner. With a wide grin stretching his mouth, foot tapping vigorously, and the intermittent strong suck of a cigarette, he told us about the 2004 Tsunami. He spoke about the ocean with a mix of reverence and fear, saying things like “Water and fire man….these are the most powerful things on our planet” and (speaking of the ocean, eyes seaward) “I love him, don’t piss on him but I don’t forget what he did”. Then we were dropped with a bombshell of single images, like tiny shards of glass that when put back together reflect an image that is not easy to stomach.
Tuk Tuks stacked like toy cars
Beds tossed out of their slumber into yards with couples in tow
Children floating, bloated with water, the size of adults
Skin that peeled from peoples arms and legs like tubes of pale rubber
An entire train, flicked over like a toy on top of those who climbed it for safety
All this followed by the continuous shake of the head and the words “It was crazy man”. This conversation was the closest I came to understanding what the tsunami must have been like for the people here and I’m sure that, in terms of distance, it’s not really close at all.