Steamed Chicken

On Tuesday I experienced what it must be like to be a steamed and roasted chicken covered in oil.  I am having some Ayurvedic sessions hoping to improve my health.  They  begin with an Indian head massage.

Sitting in companionable silence alongside a petite German lady, who had her Ethiopian holiday changed a week before she travelled, (considered too dangerous), we were both commencing our treatments with said head massage.  Starkers except for knickers and a huge orange bath towel, which just wrapped around me but the German lady could have wrapped it around herself twice!   We both sat in comfortable chairs in the open air, facing the ocean and watched the waves rise and froth and gently roll into the golden sandy shore.  There were only a couple of security guards around all week but a couple of dozen French holidaymakers arrived yesterday and they took to the waves this morning.

One of the security guards works for the Maalu Maalu Hotel and Spa and the other one works for the hotel next door.   I would stay here longer if I could.  It is just amazing and the food is brilliant too.

I got more than my German friend, as my masseuse chants softly each time she starts the head massage.   Off to one of the treatment rooms along the corridor of gaily painted doors and on to the high table to have my body pummelled and pulled and oiled.  When I am turned face down I find myself staring at lotus blossom floating in a bowl below the massage table.  There are yellow trumpet flower heads and dark green glossy leaves scattered here there and everywhere, even in the toilet which is at the end of the corridor.

All is open to the elements with a thatched vaulted roof above to protect you from the sun.  Coconut palms and bushes sway in the breeze alongside the Ayurvedic suite of rooms.  Coloured canvas blinds can be pulled down as protection from the sun and there is a huge piece of blue silk with an embroidered gold border along each side of the length of the piece of silk.  There are dots of gold all over the material which may have been a sari in an earlier life.  It is stretched on bamboo in line with the table and about five feet above.

You would almost dose off but for the request, ‘madam turn over, madam sit up, etc.’  Eventually madam is guided to a steam contraption in another room. The only way I can describe it is like a wooden clinker built version of the iron lungs we used to see polio victims in when I was a child.  It was like a huge clam shell open and waiting for me to climb in so it could snap shut!

I hoisted my oiled body up and lay on a thick towel above the slatted base.  The slip of a girl, always quiet, always serious, indicated I should move over a tad to my right otherwise my left arm would be caught in the door as it came down. I duly moved over and within seconds found myself encased in the wooden steamer with only my head protruding.

I didn’t see any dials so maybe the heat temperature was operated automatically.  I lay there growing hotter and hotter.  My girl went out of the room and I wondered what I would do if it got too hot. I thought of the large stainless steel domed barbecue my cousin in Penticton has out on his deck where he does most of the cooking, even in the winter.  I thought I knew just how these oil-basted lumps of chicken felt as he closes the domed cover so the meat can cook through.

But just before I was on the point of yelling for help she came back in and asked if I was okay – which I was and then she went off again!   Not wanting to appear a wimp or anything but I didn’t like being left on my own and with my overactive imagination I fancied scenarios of the whole thing blowing up and me being thrown like a large white oiled whale up into the air and landing somewhere out in the ocean.

Before I could lose my mind completely and I was really quite hot by this time, the gaoler came in and released me and I returned ensconced in yet another large orange bath towel to what has become ‘my treatment room.’

Unexpectedly one of the stretches of nerve pain I have had from the shingles, for eighteen months, has gone.  The doctor here believes it is because of an oil the masseuse used and left on me like a poultice.   The oil is one that the Ayurvedic doctors use to treat the chicken pox virus and of course shingles are related to the same virus.

They have since used the same oil in the same way on the two other stretches of shingle nerve pain I have had without success but are having another attempt today.  It would be worth this whole trip to be pain-free.   So here’s hoping.

Slave Island, Colombo, Sri Lanka

I cringed the first time I heard the name ‘Slave Island’ as we were heading to the Don Carlos, ‘most expensive furniture store in Sri Lanka’ shop.

I am Scottish, (half Italian and half Scottish to be precise), with Irish ancestry, so why do I cringe when I hear anything that I know is going to be connected to the time when the British pink covered most of the maps on the globe.  You just know the Brits had to be involved in some way with Slave Island.

Why are we brought up to be responsible for the sins of the generations that went before us? My maternal grandfather was a pacifist by the way, which was another sin during WWII and almost instigated WWIII when the subject matter was brought up by my stepfather, who was to suffer for the remainder of his short life from injuries sustained during WWII.

slave-island“Slave Island is a suburb in Colombo, Sri Lanka, located directly to the south of the Fort area of Colombo. The name Slave Island was given during the period of British occupation and administration, and refers to the situation under Portugese and Dutch administration when slaves were held there, most of them from Africa.  Most of the slaves later returned to Africa. However, a very small group of African descendants are scattered throughout Sri Lanka and are collectively known as Sri Lankan Kaffirs. The suburb contains Beira Lake, a large lake and its esplanade is visited by many for recreation. Slave Island is mostly a commercial area with hotels and shopping centres.”

The above is straight from Wikipedia thanks.

I spent last Friday at Beira Lake, well I think I was at Beira Lake, for the all Sri Lankan National Colleges Rowing Championships.  Daughter-in-law’s niece was amongst the rowers, although the traffic was so crazy despite our 7am start we arrived at the lake as said niece was rowing towards the finish line.

It was the first real day off I have had since being here. It was wonderful to spend the time with the DIL’s sister and the other mums.  We sat under the shade of a huge canopy – a quilted marquee open at both ends.   Pure dedication for the mums as most of them had set out from home at 5 am or earlier to have their rowers to the lakeside for the off.

There were teams of rowers from four colleges for girls and ten colleges for boys.  Everything was orderly, as the teams worked together to get the appropriate boat in the water and to wash down the boat immediately it came out of the water.

It meant we spectators had to keep a watchful eye out for the narrow metal rowlocks as the boats were spun over our heads and into a resting area until they were needed again.

The colleges where the competitors came from, are all fee paying as education is of huge importance in this country.  If you thought grinds were purely an Irish pupils’ penance, that’s nothing to what is going on here.  Every single night and at weekends too there is an extra class of some description whether it is maths, science, piano, tennis, rowing, elocution, ballet – the list seems endless.

The head of sport in the Army, officially opened the three-day event.  The schoolchildren lined up in their school teams and stood politely to attention for the Sri Lankan National Anthem as we adults rose to stand in respect.

The army commander spoke of the ethos of the sport of rowing, team work, fairness and spirit of the sport were amongst the words I caught as I was standing at the back near the lake edge.  The teenagers raised their arms during these words swearing allegiance to the sport.  The Army official then encouraged those who were interested to enrol in the army and he spoke of a huge investment the country was making into the sport of rowing.  (Gary and Paul O’Donovan of Skibbereen Rowing Club have a lot to answer for.)

As schools are single sex, this was a first meeting point for the teens of the opposite sex in their age groups.  I observed shy glances, from boys and girls, in the other’s direction, and much walking up and down from the shelter of the Colombian rowing club to the water’s edge but the bevy of chaperoning eagle-eyed sentinels, (the mothers), were enough to dampen any burgeoning interest or ardour.

The girls in the niece’s team were solicitous hostesses bringing chairs and tea for the mothers.  The niece’s partner in the pairs rowing had been attending the rowing for two years, helping carry, clean and wash the rowing boats down.  Last Friday was her first day being allowed to row, and she and the niece were presented with ‘Certificates of Awesomeness’,  “in recognition of having mastered the technique of rowing.”

There is no holding back such determination – two years washing boats! Magdalene Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj will have competition for Tokyo 2020.

I had hoped to slot in some of the photographs I took on the day but instead of photos I took videos and I am posting some up on facebook and will head them Slave Island.  You will see in one there was a huge monitor lizard swimming alongside the waters edge.  At one point it raised its head out of the water looking around at what was going on. I was the only one paying attention.  For all the other rowers and spectators the lizard was a regular participant.