There are only six of us scheduled to take the Sri Lanka pre-trip before the southern India tour. The other four travelers were supposed to arrive last night. Instead we got a call telling us that their flight had been delayed and we would be touring Colombo today on our own - on our own meaning with a guide, his assistant and a bus driver on a small, very well air conditioned bus. (We were afraid that with such a small group we would be stuffed into a van. Thanks Overseas Adventure Travel.) Today was scheduled to be a light day to give travelers who had flown a long way yesterday a chance to recover. We are well on our way to being recovered, Ken especially. My body seems to prefer being awake during the night and sleeping like a dead person mid afternoon. The half day tour of Colombo gave me a chance to do so, but our fellow travelers won't get to bed until midnight and breakfast is scheduled for 7am tomorrow for a long and exciting touring day. These poor folks may not be much fun to travel with awhile. We feel very fortunate.
It felt weird to be on a tour just the two of us, but it did give us a chance to get many of yesterday's questions answered. The guide made me feel snarky about my comments yesterday regarding the English spoken here. Everyone here learns Sinhalese and Tamal (one being the language spoken at home) and English as well. Each of these languages has its own alphabet and all the signs here are trilingual. That's a lot of vocabulary and grammar to memorize.
The tour was atypical since today is a Buddhist holiday honoring the full moon. Since there is a full moon every month, this holiday occurs twelve times a year. Devout Buddhists (about 60% of them) spend the day at the temple and/or in reflection and contemplation. Sir Lankans who are Hindu, Moslem, or Christian show respect and take the day off, too. We get the impression that with all this interdenominational respect, these folks could end up with more days of holiday than days of work. Such a deal! Traffic on the roads was light and the trip to Colombo took half the usual time. Many of the stores were shuttered.
As we walked through the market with our guide, the traffic felt heavy enough. Since people buy fresh fruit and vegetables almost every day, the market was open as usual. As we walked the guide asked us repeatedly, "Do you know what this is?" We hardy ever did. There are many fruits and vegetables that only grow here. When he asked me how I know that the okra is fresh, I wanted to say I never make okra because Ken hates it, but replied "We buy it frozen." I felt like a disappointment and student in need of much remediation.
Along the way we admired a number of imposing buildings mostly built by the British during their occupation. Many of the newest, most architecturally impressive buildings were built by the Chinese, who seem to be making great progress in winning the hearts of the Sir Lankans. The Sri Lankans made great progress in winning our hearts. People are very friendly and seem pleased when we take their pictures. The guide said they love to talk to white people and practice their English. We saw no beggars and vendors encouraged us to buy without aggressive sales techniques.