Exoticisms

My notions of the world outside my direct experience is mostly drawn from novels, TV, and movies. All the media have their cliches about exotic places. Sri Lanka, the ancient island called Serendib by early spice traders, has more than its fair share of romantic, exotic, associations. Of course, until one actually travels to a place, one never knows how accurate ones mental image of that place is.

Our experiences this weekend illustrated some of the exotic aspects of Sri Lanka. On our way to dinner on Friday night, I was looking out from the balcony of our guesthouse which sits high on a hill. The foliage pretty well matched what I had expected from the movies: palm trees, thick undergrowth, many different types of trees often covered with epiphytic vines. (A few days later, I walked beneath a vine-draped tree. I could not resist the urge, despite being watched by groups of amused students, to test whether the vines would enable me to swing, Tarzan style, through the treetops. They did not support my weight…) I grew up watching black and white TV which may explain why I was surprised by the brilliantly colored flowers everywhere. The flowers themselves were both strange and not strange, in that many of the flowers that grow wild here are cultivated in hothouses and sold as houseplants in the US and so many felt familiar to me.

The sounds that filled the air were right out of an old Tarzan movie. Sri Lanka is a haven for many exotic birds and so, as we surveyed the scene from the balcony, we heard many strange and compelling bird calls. Then a new sound began. It was the chanting of Buddhist monks from the nearby monastery, amplified by a public address system. Periodically the chanting was supported with many, high, taut drums. We were entranced, though it did get a little old when it was still going on at 10AM the next morning.

Dangolla monkey

Toque monkey in Dangolla

And on that next morning, we awoke to a more immediate loud racket. Something was banging on the tin roofs of the hotel awnings. I got up and went to the front window of the common room to see what was the matter. But it was Kris, still in bed, whose eyes caught a movement at our bedroom window and turned to see a little face staring in on her. It was one soldier of a troop of monkeys that was hunting for food at our hotel. They were clambering over the roof and awnings, hence the racket. Though leery of being bitten, we carefully ventured out with our cameras and got a few decent pictures. The monkeys were surprisingly hard to capture on “film” as they were constantly on the move. Many of my shots were of motion blurred, retreating monkey butts. By their swift, sure movements through the trees, they defined “agile.” I watched one monkey do a four legged high wire act on a power line to get away from the hotel’s broom-wielding cook. The monkey lost its balance on the swaying wire about halfway across, but then just went hand over hand over hand over hand upside-down to the next power pole and safety.

Amazing.

Tim

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1 Comment

  1. January 2, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    […] 2, 2009 at 5:56 pm (Uncategorized) I’ve added an illustrative photo to my “Exoticisms” posting from November. It shows one of the monkeys that woke us up one morning by banging on the […]


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