Pokie Tarantulas

The tropics are known for large bugs-hornets, roaches, ants-they all seem to be on some kind of miracle grow hormone.  Until now I have forgotten this is also true of spiders.  I found this tarantula in my bedroom when staying in Vavuniya.  Apparently he's a Sri Lankan ornamental tarantula nicknamed a 'Pokie'. 

I have a new found appreciation of  sleeping with a mosquito net in the security of knowing I will not wake to find this guy in my bed. 

Hopping Gates in Colombo Part Deux

It was my friend's 35th birthday party in Colombo and I made my way in for the big event...she called it her official entry into the Middle Ages.  Kind of dramatic if you ask me. 

I was happy to be able to take the train with one of the other expats in Batticaloa.  Aside from being my cycling and badminton partner she also lived in Afghanistan the same time as me and we have a ton in common.  Not only did she provide some much needed comic relief on the 10 hour overland journey, but also a place to go in the morning. My friend had sent me an SMS to warn me that there was a crowd of emergency aid workers in the process of a bender at our guesthouse. 

As much as the idea of walking into a house tired and exhausted to find a crowd of drunken expats sprawled out over the place appealed to me-I instead took my friend up on the offer of an extra bedroom in her Colombo guesthouse. We had the opportunity to go for breakfast at Cinnamon Grand hotel, where I was told by a man from the Seychelles that there's a village inside of the hotel.  I don't know if this was true...considering the man was slamming shots of vodka at the time I don't know if it's trustworthy...however, given the size of it this could very well be possible.

In the afternoon I returned to our guesthouse and then spent the day shopping with my friend before heading the posh Galle Face hotel for drinks.  It was an absolutely lovely setting.  Dim candlelight was spread across tables that sat right on the edge of the water with waves crashing down.  Many a gin and tonic was had along with wine for a crowd of about 30.  There even appeared to be some random people who somehow joined us and didn't even know my friend, but had somehow made their way to our table.  I somehow became surrounded by a group of people who had all previously worked in Afghanistan--all about the same time as me.  It seems at the moment I'm surrounded by a load of people with experiences in Afghanistan, Sudan and the DRC-it's an interesting bunch to say the least.  I also met a Brit who apparently had been rejected by MI6.  Or at least he told me he had been.  Most likely it was a pick up line, but I entertained the notion and let him chat me up for a while.  Whether true or not, he definitely had some good stories to share about it.

  At about 3am I returned to my guesthouse.  I had been told that our guard had improved dramatically since the last time I had to climb the 3 meter wall with the help of being put on the shoulders of a stoned tuk tuk driver.  Unfortunately I had a bit of an altercation with my tuk tuk driver this time as he tried to charge me a ridiculous amount of money.  I suppose it was the drinking and my past experiences fighting with Arab taxi men as I immediately yelled something at him Arabic and he responded by saying nasty in Sinhalese before driving off into the empty street.  Sometimes things are best left to be lost in translation.

The next 1.5 hours were spent attempting to yet again try to get in the gate.  I called the guard and at first it rang, but then he switched his phone off.   Unlike the last time I had to hop the gate, I was alone and in a skirt and heels which resulted in many a man driving by-turning around and driving by again.  Apparently I appeared to be a hooker of some sort.  Unfortunately for these men I immediately approached them not to tell them how much I charged, but instead to tell them I had been locked out.  There were four men who did this-one even called the police, but they never did come.  I kept banging on the gate yelling, Hello Mr. Security Guard!" But nothing. 

I was being attacked by mosquitos, I was tired, kind of drunk and actually considered taking a nap on the pavement when a truck drove up, then turned around and came back stopping where I was standing.  Again, he thought I was a hooker, however this guy proved useful.  I explained my situation and asked him if he had a ladder or something I could use to climb the gate.  He told me that he did have one in his house.  I asked him if he wouldn't mind getting it and he agreed saying he'd return in 10 minutes.  I only half believed he would do this and sat down on the sidewalk with a sense of defeat.  Just as I was beginning to think that my yelling at the tuk tuk driver was some kind of karmic retribution, the truck driver returned with a proper ladder.  He extended it out, helped me climb it then he did the same to help me down on the other side.  He then climbed back over the wall and packed up the ladder.  I asked him how I could thank him--with the tuk tuk driver I had offered him money, but he had refused. This guy asked me for my phone number and told me to stop by the Bay Leaf restaurant where he worked. And then he drove off.

And once again I'm reminded of the kindness of strangers, even if it means breaking into one's home.