Tag Archives: dogs

Broke(my)back Mountain

On the second of July I broke my back. Here’s how it happened. I was in the park with The Morgster (henceforth known as ‘The Assailant’). It was about 10 am and I hadn’t had my coffee. I add these two details because, as anyone who knows me can attest, I am pretty useless before noon and quadruply so without coffee coursing through my veins. And by the way, I was looking at my phone, not paying attention to what might be transpiring around me (Kids! Let this be a lesson to you: Don’t text and walk!). What was transpiring was that Morgan spied a dog with whom he did not see eye to eye. He lunged and because he was on the leash and I wasn’t paying attention, I lost my balance and somehow ended up flying through the air and landing flat on my back in a ditch. At which point Morgan abandoned the argument with other dog and trotted over to sit down next to me like a little gentleman.

Who me? I wouldn't hurt a fly!

Who me? I wouldn’t hurt a fly!

Morgan — sorry, The Assailant — is not a large dog and this was highly embarrassing. Or it would have been  if I had been able to form one coherent thought beyond OWWWWWWWW!!!!! There was a guy hanging out nearby with his own dog and he came over right away to see if I was okay. I quite literally could not speak since the breath was completely knocked out of me. I waved my hands around a bit in an attempt to indicate that I needed a minute. Once I got my breath back I knew that there was no way that I was going to be able to get up on my own. But the nice man stayed with me for the 30 minutes and two false starts it took him to get me to my feet. He asked if I wanted him to call an ambulance but because I am an idiot and had forgotten the first law of back trauma, which anyone who has ever seen even one episode of Emergency knows by heart: don’t get up and don’t move, I insisted on walking myself home. Fortunately, home was just across the street. I’m not sure how I made it: my ears were ringing to beat the band and I could barely see for all of the stars flashing in front of my eyes. Naturally, The Assailant took this moment to have a poop. I’ll go back and pick it up later guys.

Once I got home I flopped down on the couch and passed out or fell asleep because the next thing I knew it was several hours later. The pain was almost unbearable and there was no way I was getting off that couch. I called the Upstairs Vegetarian at work and she came home right away. Then came the ambulance.

That was amusing. In walked a couple of burly fellow, not unpleasing to the eye. They tied me to a plank and then argued a bit as to how to get me downstairs (I’m on the first floor — second if you’re used to American floor counting). They decided not to risk taking the 10 stairs to the lobby and propped me up in the tiny elevator, plank and all, like a flatpack Ikea bookcase.

We went to Salvator Mundi, a private clinic which is nearby, well-known to me and air-conditioned, a key consideration given the extreme heat we’re experiencing this summer.Also, a friend of a friend works for an orthopedic surgeon there. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t put on the siren, a very familiar sound in the streets of Rome so how come my injury didn’t make the grade? Once I got there, everything happened pretty quickly (another reason I chose the private clinic): X-ray, diagnosis, bill paying. I had broken two vertebrae: the L2 and D12 for those of you who take an interest in such things. I was to spend three weeks completely immobile in bed, after which I could be up a few hours a day as long as I sported a horrifyingly uncomfortable metal brace. If I was lucky and did as I was told, I’d be good as new in 3-4 months.

The UV buggered off to Canada for hols almost immediately but fortunately my cleaner and dog walker (who are married to each other) were able to move into her place upstairs so that they were on hand to take care of the two dogs (The Assailant and his gun moll, the UV’s dog Reina) and me. In fairness to the UV, her buggering off was planned before my fall occurred, she was only gone two weeks and she has been looking after me ever since her return.

When one faces a prolonged period of invalidism, it is only natural to fantasize about all of the things that can be accomplished once the drugs kick in and it no longer feels like you are going to die from pain every time you take a breath or move a muscle. Or at least that’s what I reckoned. Here’s what I hoped to accomplish: write at least 100 pages of my novel (didn’t Marcel Proust and Frida Kahlo get started this way?); work out my finances; figure out what to do with the rest of my life. Here’s what I actually got accomplished: watched the first two seasons of Orange is the New Black; watched all seven seasons of Parks and Recreation (Please and Thank You); read a 700 page book on Gabriele D’Annunzio; had many naps. I also got pretty good at the bed pan and managed to — sort of — keep my sense of humor. I was even able to do a bit of work by propping the computer against my knees and using an external keyboard balanced on a couple of pillows at my side. I’d claim patent pending but the setup gave me carpal tunnel so there are clearly a few kinks yet to work out.

And how was your summer?

And how was your summer?

The memory of the pain has started to fade a bit and I’m back on my feet for at least part of the day. I’m pleased it wasn’t worse, which it might have been given the fact that I am super clumsy and have the bones of a sparrow. I’m sad that I missed most of the summer but, as people have told me, no one has been going out and having fun because it’s about a million degrees outside. I haven’t noticed much remorse on the part of the dog.

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At long last #Reina/Torrimpietra

Here’s a yarn with a nice backstory so I’ll start with that. Many years ago, not long after I moved to Rome, I got a call from a couple of new friends asking if I wanted to go for a drive in the country, maybe grab some lunch. It was Sunday, obvs I agreed and off we went. We drove about 40 minutes in some direction or other (southwest as I later learned) and happened upon a little restaurant hidden in a valley surrounded by woods and agriculture. There was some sort of medieval castle next door and a load of old men playing bocce in the square.  (There’s also, as it turns out, a cantina downwind selling eponymous wine, honey and pasta made from farro). Aside: I hoped to impress the non-bocce enthusiasts amongst you with some skinny on how the game is played — to me it just looks like a bunch of beardies throwing balls at another ball — but I couldn’t be bothered to read all of the millions of pages that the Interwebs devote to the subject. Suffice it to say that bocce dates back to the Ancient Romans, who played with coconuts brought back from Africa, and — this tidbit alone is worth the price of admission — according to legend, Sir Frances Drake refused to defend England against the Spanish Armada until he finished his bocce game. He proclaimed, “First we finish the game, then we’ll deal with the Armada.” Hee.

Getting back to the backstory: as I remember it, the day was perfect; dogs and cats snaked their way around the outdoor tables, searching for handouts; the food was simple and delicious; lunch lasted for hours. It was — as a colleague was to remark much later — like being in an olive oil commercial. Afterwards, I drove back to Rome with my friends and fell into my normal routine, which, believe me is nothing like being in an olive oil commercial. I thought about the restaurant often, but since none of us had paid any attention to how we got there, we had no idea how to get back.

Some years later, I was sitting in my office when a colleague rushed in, overwrought. By that time my job had moved from central Rome to Maccarese, an agricultural estate on the sea. “I have just found the most amazing restaurant,” he cried. “It’s in the middle of nowhere and it is everything you imagined Italy could be.” Another expatriate craving the perfect Italian experience, needless to say. We went there the next day and, you can probably guess what I found. Yup. It was my olive oil commercial. It hadn’t changed a bit.

This is what the restaurant looks like if you get there early (or, in our case, stay late).

This is what Trattoria da Maurizio looks like if you get there early or stay late.

The restaurant is called Trattoria da Maurizio. It’s located in a tiny town called Torrimpietra. The aforementioned castle — as I learned during subsequent visits — dates to the 13th Century. Apparently there was also once a fortress built in ye olde Roman times.  Not sure why that was — the sea is close by, but not that close. Back then, my office was only a few minutes away and we went there whenever we could afford to take a nice long lunch — not an everyday thing in Italy I assure you.  Usually a nice long lunch coincided with a birthday or some other occasion that was particularly worthy of note, e.g. summer.

Aside #2: In September 1943, the Germans having occupied Rome and the towns to the south, some SS forces were camping out near Palidoro — the next town over from Torrimpietra — in an old Italian military installation. I also heard a story that those guys were staying in the castle at Torrimpietra and they used to get drunk and ride their motorcycles up and down the stairs and shoot at the birds on the frescoed ceilings. Anyway, on 22 September, these knuckleheads were poking around in a box of abandoned munitions, which blew up in their faces, killing one German and wounding another two. They immediately rounded up 22 random locals and got ready to carry out the reprisals of which the Germans were so fond.  They demanded the cooperation of the local branch of the military police or carabinieri, which was located at Torrimpietra and under the temporary command of 22-year old Naples-born Salvo d’Aquisito. That’s him below.

Salvo d'Aquisito

Salvo d’Aquisito

BTW, has anyone noticed how many 22s there are in this story? 22 September; 22 locals; Salvo was 22. Coincidence? Anyway, Salvo stood up to the Germans, insisting that the explosion had been an accident and trying to persuade them to let the prisoners go. The Germans roughed him up and tore his uniform, which is pretty much the worst thing you can do to a carabiniere. Especially these days when the carabinieri uniforms are designed by Valentino — true story. Next the Germans made the prisoners dig a big mass grave for themselves. Just in the nick of time, Salvo ‘confessed’ to the crime. He was executed and the prisoners were set free. Today, Salvo is celebrated as a big carabinieri icon. The young hero was posthumously awarded the Golden Medal of Military Valour. He was buried in the church of Santa Chiara in Naples, alongside the odd Neapolitan king and the brains of St. Louis of Toulouse. There have been movies, stamps and apparently Salvo just lacks a few miracles before he is named the first World War II soldier saint.

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Salvo’s stamp – 1975.

A few weeks ago the Upstairs Vegetarian suggested a day out in the country and off to Da Maurizio we went. I’d not been there in about four years. We had a lovely lunch.

What's for lunch?

What looks good?

Bruschetta, three ways.

Bruschetta, three ways.

Spaghetti with porcini mushrooms for the U.V.

Spaghetti with porcini mushrooms for the U.V.

Maurizio's wife is Cuban and makes this delicious been dish with pancetta.

Maurizio’s wife is Cuban and makes this delicious bean dish with pancetta.

Scamorza, aka melted cheese for the U.V. I believe that I ordered a hunk o'meat for myself but apparently was distracted from taking a photo by what came next...

Scamorza, alias melted cheese, for the U.V. I feel sure that I ordered a hunk o’meat for myself but apparently I was distracted from taking a photo by what came next…

So, you ask, what did come next? That would be Ms. Reina Jaymes (alt spelling, Rayna). I should preface all of this by saying that the Upstairs Vegetarian has been angsting and kvetching about getting a dog for ages. I have been in favor of the plan, mindful as I am that the Morgster could use a bit more canine company to help overcome his conviction that, much like Pinocchio, he is a real boy. Yes, I know that he spends endless hours in the dog park but most of that is spent preening around the grown ups, looking for strokes and treats. I have sent her dozens of photos and adoptions pleas over the past year culled from the many many dog shelter sites that I somehow subscribe to but she’s never paid much attention. She insisted that she was looking for a Dog of Destiny who would appear at just the right time, in just the right way, ringing the doorbell and crying “Mama.” I don’t really believe in that sort of nonsense. But then, just as our lunch was drawing to a close, we looked over at the next table and there she was. The world’s cutest tiny puppy. And she was looking for a home. Destiny Dog.

The Morgster meets his new BFF.

The Morgster meets his new BFF.

Five minutes later, the U.V. had a new puppy and Morgan had a new best friend. Finding the right name took a bit of doing. But the U.V. finally settled on Rayna Jaymes, named after the main character on her favourite TV show, Nashville. Only it’s spelled  Reina, which means ‘queen’ in Spanish, so as to be maximally confusing. Rayna Jaymes, in case you don’t know, is played by the magical Ms. Connie Britton, who played Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights and whose hair has its own blog. So there you go. Stay tuned for many doggy adventures to come.

Introducing Ms Rayna (spelled Reina) Jaymes!

Introducing Ms Rayna (spelled Reina) Jaymes!

#toomuchdog/street food at Eataly

Yesterday was a bright bright sunshiny day, which inspired me to make an exception to my normal Saturday morning practice of lying on the couch and napping while watching the news. Instead, I headed across the street to the park rather earlier than usual. It was lunchtime and the place was packed to the gills with picnickers.

This is my favorite tree in Villa Pamphili. I can see it from my window.

This is my favorite tree in Villa Pamphili. I can see it from my window.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before but there is somewhat of a design flaw in the area cani in Villa Pamphili: it is only place in the park where there are picnic tables. So naturally the picnickers all flock there. But it is also one of the few places that dogs can be off-leash. You may be able to imagine the rest. Here’s the scenario that I have seen play out about 100 million times: picnickers organize a nice spread in the area cani at one of the tables or perhaps on a blanket on the ground. They may not even know it’s the dog zone because the signs denoting it as such are only up for a few days about every three months since they get knocked down by vandals almost immediately. Idiots. So, the picnickers are happily eating their pasta and whatever and all of the dogs in the zone (and because it’s a nice day for picnicking, there are plenty of dogs) come over and start nosing around. It’s more of an issue for the on-the-ground picnics than for the ones on the table although there is one dog who shall be nameless (his name rhymes with Gorgan) who believes that the picnic tables are his own personal domain — he likes to jump on them the better to observe his kingdom — and he has no qualms about jumping onto a picnic table full of food (and once, smack dab in the middle of a birthday cake). Then the picnickers yell at the dog owners, “Get your dog out of here!!!” and the dog owners yell at the picnickers, “This is the dog area. If you don’t want to deal with dogs, go somewhere else!” And they continue to yell at each other until everyone’s day is ruined. Ball-throwers and kite-flyers face the same degree of canine interest in the dog zone and the results are usually the same.

This is my table!

This is my table!

Lately I’ve noticed that Morgan has a new routine. He runs over to a blanket where a picnic is occurring and sticks his head directly into the first purse, backpack or bag he can find. If the purse or backpack is zipped, he starts pulling on the zipper with his teeth. He’s not succeeded with that yet but it’s just a matter of time.

Let's just see what's in this bag for me, shall we?

Let’s just see what they have brought for me, shall we?

The picnickers — for the most part teenagers — are usually distracted by how awesome and cool they are (and are frequently, shall we say, entwined) so they don’t see him at first. When they do, he immediately launches a major charm offensive, rolling on his back with his legs up in the air, rubbing against them like a cat and just generally being adorable (which he is).

Score! They're hooked. Now where's that bit of pizza?

They’re hooked. Now what’s in it for me?

After a few minutes of this, the picnickers are oohing and ahhing at Morgan’s cuteness and he generally scores a bit of pizza crust out of the deal. And then he immediately runs to the next picnic blanket and starts all over again. Genius. He hit six picnics yesterday and got a little snack at every one of them! BTW, there is a subset of the Italian teen — female persuasion — who thinks she’ll be more attractive to boys if she’s afraid of dogs so when Morgan approaches this idiot she’ll go, “Oooh help! I am so afraid! Protect me!” I’m like, “Moron. This dog is the size of your average kitty cat.  Get a life.”

Yes, it is true. I am a genius.

Yes, it is true. I am a genius.

This weekend, Eataly held its second annual street food festival and my friend Daniela and I went along to check it out. It was splendid.

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Eataly — which occupies a beautifully redesigned train station — is a combination farmer’s market, supermarket, food court and learning centre

The deal was that you bought chips (known as gettone, which are also the name of the things you used to use to make phone calls back in ye olde days of phone booths) and exchanged them for different street foods available around the food court. In addition to Italian street food (think pizza, focaccia and gelato), there were plates dedicated to Germany (currywurst), China (porky dumplings), Greece (gyros), Morocco (cous-cous), Vietnam (bahn mi), Thailand (pad thai), Mexico (chicken tacos), Spain (paella), Argentine (empanadas) and the USA (cupcakes — snore). As usual, my eyes were way bigger than my stomach and I bought four gettone. But after a chicken taco and a trapizzino filled with picchiapò, (peek-ee-ya-poe), which is a spiced boiled beef stew and one of my favorite words ever (it means ‘a little beat up’), I was done. That may have also had something to do with all of the free cheese on offer, of which I partook heavily. I used my leftover chips on take-home dumplings from the Chinese vender. Dinner!

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Daniela (lower right hand corner) waits in line for her pad thai. I did take a photo of her eating it but it was a very scary photo so this will have to do.

Bau Beach!

Yesterday was lovely — sunny and breezy — so the Upstairs Vegetarian and I took ourselves to the beach. But not just any beach. Bau Beach is a beach for dogs, so named because Italian dogs say bau-bau instead of bow-wow. And that’s not all: Italian roosters say chicchirichí instead of cocka-doodle-doo; sheep say beee instead of baaa; frogs say cra-cra instead of croak-croak; donkeys say i-oo, i-oo rather than heehaw; and mice don’t squeak, they go squitt squitt. Interesting eh?

It was the Morgster’s first trip to the seaside, although he’s been to the dog beach at Lago di Martignano several times. He loved it. There were tons of dogs on the beach, all racing around, digging holes in the ground and surfing the waves. Very chaotic but great fun. Bau Beach is in Maccarese, a short drive from Rome. An annual pass costs 10 Euros.

Welcome to Bau Beach!

Welcome to Bau Beach!

Each dog gets a water  bowl and a dog-sized umbrella.

Each pup gets a water bowl and a dog-sized umbrella.

There's a fresh water source on the beach.

There’s a fresh water source on the beach.

And plastic bags are available for picking up what the little critters leave behind.

And plastic bags are available for picking up what the little critters leave behind.

First visit to the seaside!

First visit to the seaside!

Is this not the cutest thing you have ever seen?

I love this photo of Morgan's shadow. He looks like a hairy baby giraffe.

I love this photo of Morgan’s shadow. He looks like a hairy baby giraffe.

Tired but very happy

Tired but very happy

For Lula

Here in Italy, it is fairly unusual to see an obituary in the newspaper unless the deceased is someone famous. Instead, people hang small posters on public notice boards with a photo, basic information about the person and the time and place of the funeral. I’ve never actually noticed this in Rome but you see it in small towns all the time. I took a bunch of photos of these manefesti funebri when I was in Puglia last summer. After the funeral, mourners are usually given a ricordino, a wallet-sized laminated card with a photo of the dear departed, birth and death dates and usually a prayer.

Puglian death notices

104!!!!!

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Nor was this guy a spring chicken.

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Puglian death notices

Dogs don’t generally rate newspaper obituaries or manifesti funebri but I guess if you’ve got a blog you can do what you want. My dog Lula died just over a week ago. This is for her.

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Lovely Lulabelle

Tallulah Bankhead Raymond died on 5 February 2013 at 4:00 in the afternoon. She was 15 years old. I found Lula in a cardboard box in Campo di Fiori when she was just a few months old. She had been dumped outside a dog shelter along with her sisters and the shelter people brought the puppies into town and were offering them to anyone who could give them a good home. I had lost my dog Badger just a few months before and although I enjoyed the freedom from responsibility and the spontaneous life of the non-dog owner, that really paled by comparison to how great it is to be one.

Lula was never an easy dog. I imagine she’d had some serious traumas before she found her way to that box in Campo di Fiori. She was scared of so many things — long-haired German Shepherds, thunder, the handsome vet, bald headed men, blue eyed dogs. For the first few years, she hid under the bed when anyone came over that she didn’t know. I put her through two years of doggie therapy — yes, I am serious — and that helped a lot. She never lost her initial fear of strangers but she’d usually loosen up with them after a bit of time.

About 8 years ago, Lula was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, which occurs  when the adrenal glands don’t produce sufficient steroid hormones. President Kennedy had Addison’s. Lula took pills and had injections every day for the rest of her life.

Lula was not an easy dog nor did she have an easy life. But she was incredibly loving and loyal and sweet. She loved Morgan and she loved me. She loved her Aunties. She loved to swim. It’s very quiet around here these days — Lula was a barker — and we miss her so much. I keep seeing her out of the corner of my eyes and expecting her to greet me at the door.

Now here’s a thing. I had Lula cremated and they brought me her ashes in a little box earlier this week. I put the box on the top of a bookshelf in the hall. The first time Morgan passed by the bookcase he did this.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At first I thought it was some crazy coincidence. Maybe there was a ball or cookie on the bookcase that had caught his eye? But now I’m not so sure. Since Tuesday, literally every time I have brought Morgan in from a walk and he’s passed by the bookcase, he sits for a minute and stares at Lula’s ashes. It’s creepy. But it’s also pretty wonderful.

The Morgster has a moment of rare silence for Big Sis.

The Morgster has a moment of rare silence for Big Sis.

My lovely girl

My beautiful girl

My most humiliating moment ever

I haven’t written in ages. It’s been an awful 2013 so far, what with family illnesses — both in the human and canine sectors — work challenges, and financial worries. I’ve already broken my one and only New Year’s Resolution, which was to write in this blog more often.

I feel bad. So I’m going to try to make it up to you, loyal readers, by giving you a gift.

Spare a thought for Lula, who is not doing well.

Spare a thought for Lula, who has a tumour on her heart and is not doing well.

Yesterday, I was taking the dogs for their Sunday morning constitutional. I had just left the park and was proceeding down the sidewalk across the street from my house. The sidewalk runs alongside Via Vitellia, a very busy and fast-moving road. The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air.

I still don’t really know what happened — I must have tripped on the ancient and crumbly sidewalk (I do that a lot and also fall down — it goes with the territory of being tall, clumsy and having dogs). I was wearing a pair of loose drawstring pants, which got caught in the cracks in the sidewalk, I guess. As I was hurtling towards the ground, my pants stayed put. I ended up flat out on the sidewalk, my unclad butt in the air for all to see and my pants around my ankles. Fortunately, I was wearing a longish jacket but for sure there would have been a few seconds there when I was mooning Via Vitellia, which was — of course — crowded with people driving to church or the soccer game or Sunday lunch.

Only one guy slowed down his car and, as he did, I could actually see his thoughts flashing across his face: “Should I stop? Maybe she’s hurt? But how can I help? She’s not wearing pants! Not sure how to handle this. I’d best move along.” Can’t say that I blame him. I must have looked deranged.

Meanwhile, the dogs were standing patiently by, observing me with their heads cocked to one side, as if to say “Whatcha doin’?” I pulled on my pants and ran home as fast as I could.

That story is my gift to you. Everything bad that happens to you this week will simply pale by comparison. You’re welcome

 

Random Sri Lanka

I’ve been in Colombo, Sri Lanka and its environs for the past week and although I haven’t had much time for touristry (I’m here for work), I have a few random things to report.

1. I first stayed in a little guest house near the institute where I’m working – very pretty but remote. No TV, telephone, hot water or closet. Thus ensued a humorous discussion with my English colleagues who thought I was having an issue with the lack of a bathroom (a.k.a. water closet) in my room, when my problem was really having to drape two weeks worth of clothes over a single chair! At the weekend, I moved to the Grand Oriental, which was originally built as a barracks for the English army when it occupied Sri Lanka (back then it was known as Ceylon).  A bit down at heels but with a lovely view of the harbour and a fine closet complete with hangers.

The Grand Oriental Hotel was built to house British soldiers in 1837. You can see plenty of tuk tuks (see below) out in front.

2. Up the street from the hotel is the Dutch Hospital, which was used to house ailing soldiers back when the Dutch ruled Sri Lanka in East India Company days. Built in 1681, the hospital was restored last year and now houses a pretty little mall with a couple of restaurants (of which more later).

The newly refurbished Dutch Hospital (note the big skyscrapers behind)

3. There are many many homeless dogs here and they are all pretty laid back. That is not to say that they are not scruffy because they are that in spades. But they don’t seem sick or starving or particularly fearful of the many crazy drivers on the road, which is more than I can say for myself. I am always amazed by off-leash dogs who understand the concept of the automobile, waiting quietly for cars to pass before they cross the street. If I tried that with my dogs, they would leap under the wheels of the first car that passed by in their eagerness to get home for supper.

A local denizen

And another

Although he appeared to have a collar, this guy was just chillaxing in the street.

When I was in Puglia a few weeks ago, I noticed many dogs there running free but appearing to live lives of purpose (as opposed to the Sri Lankan dogs, who mostly just hang around street corners checking out the ladies). For example, in a town called Sannicola we saw a big black and white dog trot by, looking neither left nor right, clearly on a mission. Between her teeth she held what could very well have been a plastic bag of mozzarella, which she was taking home to her owner from the local cheese shop. Or so I choose to believe. Since I didn’t manage to get Mozzarella Dog’s picture, I tried to do a dramatic recreation with Morgan holding a bag of cotton (as a substitute for expensive cheese) in his mouth. That went entirely as expected. There’s a little society in Colombo called Embark, which raises money to look after the homeless dogs by selling funny dog-themed tee-shirts. That might explain why they don’t look too badly off. I am the proud owner of a new tee-shirt that reads “License to bitch!”  I’d take a picture of it but it’s hanging in my very fine closet and I don’t want to disturb.

4. Sri Lankans are very friendly and are always trying to talk to you on the street. Not is a smarmy stalkery way (not that I attract much of that kind of attention these days). More of a “I see you’re not from these parts. Let me welcome you to my fine country. And perhaps you’d like a ride to a tourist destination in my tuk tuk?” way. Tuk tuks are little motorized rickshaw things that go “tuk tuk tuk” as they putt down the street. Yesterday, a guy tried to convince me to go to a big Buddhist celebration at the temple, promising that I’d see 60 elephants. I didn’t bite but when another guy told me about the same celebration, I thought there might be something to it and I hopped a tuk tuk to check it out. It turned out the so-called celebration was at Gangaramaya Temple, the main place for Buddhist worship and learning in Colombo. I didn’t see 60 elephants — there was one, however — but there were worshippers, tourists, incense, candles, chanting, thousands of statues of Buddha (include one made of diamonds and one that could only be seen with a magnifying glass) and various legacies left to the temple by the faithful, including elephant tusks, cars and eyeglasses. Not sure if what I saw constituted a special celebration or just business as usual but nevertheless I’m glad I bothered.

I’ll leave you with one final thing to ponder: a poster that hangs in all of the bathrooms in the institute where I’m working.

Flush flush flush until all your friends are gone!