Sri Lanka used to be a British colony (Ceylon) until 1948, and there is one cultural “habit” that decades later, seems to still be entrenched. And that is, the use of the formal “Madam” and “Sir”.
Having grown up in South Africa, during apartheid, I (Peta) have recollections of hearing black servants refer to white employers in this “deferential” manner. It is not something that feels comfortable to me. On the contrary… It did not feel comfortable then, and it does not feel comfortable now. I left South Africa at age 20, way before Mandela was released from prison and rose to lead the nation as its first black President.
After numerous “Madam this and Madam that”, I want to make a request of the tuk tuk driver who often takes us to the train station. I ask if he could please use my name, Peta, rather than “Madam”.
Kuttha responds with the confusing head shake from side to side, which indicates “no” to us Westerners, but in Sri Lanka, means “yes”.
“Okay. Fine………… Madam”. And then we both laugh.
“It is out of respect…. Madam.”
Clearly, I will have to get used to this Madam thing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
On another occasion, after shopping in town, a different tuk tuk driver calls out,
“Tuk tuk madam?…
I get in and he asks: “Where is your villa?”
Hmmm, I wouldn’t exactly call our place a villa, not even close. But this is a reasonable assumption, as the expat community in the Galle region tends to be on the wealthy side, and most of them live in rather large and lovely villas.
As we pull up in front of our home, the tuk tuk driver says, rather disappointingly, in his lovely Sri Lankan melodic accent:
“Very simple house Madam, very simple!”
And so I respond, “Yes, SIR, very simple house.”
I have found my counter to the “Madam” dilemma by answering, “Yes, SIR”, thereby leveling the playing field.
Ah, how I love these cultural vignettes…
And with this as context, it seems like a good time to update the progress on our “very simple house.”
Now; straw mats, tatami-like, throughout the house….. prove soft on the feet. We are living “Japanese style”, and keeping things very minimalist. The less “stuff”, the better.
View from our bedroom. This is where the monkeys play. Just yesterday, we witnessed what might be described as a “monkey highway”. Three black monkeys with grey tails,, taking long leaps from one tree to another. Then two more. Then another two. In all, there were about 12 monkeys following each other, each repeating the exact path taken by the previous monkey. We don’t have a TV… but this is National Geographic quality entertainment!
It’s the little things… Sri Lanka is a colorful place.
To make a bathroom basin we converted a cement mini fish pond into a sink ~ an antique door for which we had legs made, becomes the counter top.
Ben’s ceramic lanterns at night in the bathroom create some interesting shadows.
Our industrial pipe bathtub at night… Very romantic ~ especially when the moon is full.