Monday, February 25, 2013


So the kids have now been at school for a week, it's so hot all the time, the humidity just drains you by 8.00pm each night we are all falling asleep.

It's been a challenge finding things to pack for their lunch, you cant make any sandwiches with meat in them, it would just go off too quickly in the heat.So all the children at school have lunch dropped to them at 1.00pm, you just leave it in the guards room  by the gate with their name and wallah! fresh rice and curry for lunch. You don't do this, you get the driver too.

Thank goodness for Google maps
Anyone who has money here will have a driver, they do all the daily running around for you, the traffic is horrendous especially during school drop off and pick up times, you find yourself scheduling your daily activities to make sure you are not on the road at those times or you will just sit in a gridlock for ages.

One morning I went to school with the driver and told him I would run back, it was only 3k, I'm a slow runner but I still beat him back, I was feeling ok still, so I decided to keep going...big mistake I got lost, the streets don't run to any pattern, that's the way it is here, things just amble this way and that, there's no order to anything so I'm looping around and ended up in  the opposite direction, by now its 10 am and the sun is already scorching, the locals were terribly amused why someone would go jogging now, they finish any outdoor exercising before 7 in the morning or after 6 at night, by the time I google mapped my way back I had a severe case of sunstroke...note to self...stick to the treadmill in the air conditioned gym.

The beauty of the driver is when you go shopping there is never any parking, so he drops you off, has a snooze down a side street somewhere and you ring  him when you are ready to be picked up, for this he gets paid the princely sum of about $200 a month, I told David not to  be ridiculous, I didn't want a driver but now I think it's amazing, if you didn't you would spend half your life in the car stuck in traffic.

Any domestic staff you have usually live in, all houses and apartments here have staff quarters which usually consists of a room no bigger than the children's cubby house at home with a tiny bathroom you have to stand sideways in, some have a small bed and some sleep on a mat, I still struggle with  this concept, everyone told me you can't change the system, that's how it's always been, but we'll see about that.
quite the haul

Catching Lunch, Whoever helps, gets to take some home.
The amazing resorts

Before my Husband had to head back to Australia, we spent  the day at a beach resort down south. This is the thing to do here, whenever there is a long weekend, which is every other week, everyone heads to one of the 5 star hotels dotted along the coast. If you don't want to stay the night you can just go for the day , have an amazing buffet lunch, use all the hotel facilities, swim in the ocean or pool and then be home in time for dinner for about $20 each.

With David gone and the kids at school I spent my days going from shop to shop looking for furniture, if you had an unlimited budget you could go mad. I stayed away from the main street shops that sell mass produced flimsy products and instead found these amazing places set up in old colonial mansions down little side lanes, you would have to pick through rooms filled with antiques left over from the British era, heavy wooden furniture that had been around for years, however the people who buy these things are usually ex pats or the wealthy locals so it was priced accordingly and because we still weren't sure how long we were staying I had to be sensible.

Our swimming pool
After 2 weeks in the apartment I knew we had to go, although it was convenient there was nothing for the kids to do when they got home from school it was too hot to go out and if we moved into the house at least we would have the Internet and Pay TV set up and they could swim in the pool. So change of plans.....with David gone I set about organising our move.I had everything sorted to be in the house by Friday, when you buy something here they can deliver it that afternoon if you want , at home when you go to Harvey Normans and buy a couch it takes 3 weeks for it to be delivered.

The day before the move, a friend of ours was getting married so I booked an appointment at the hairdressers, I was looking a little two toned.  I had spent the last week running around like a mad woman so I was enjoying the quiet time. The salons here are all virtually, full day spas, .I've never been one for massages... cant sit still that long,  but the upper echelon of Colombo women don't have a lot to do so they spend entire days here.

 Lara was with me,  I'd picked her up from  school the day before because she had not been feeling well, I put it down to something she had eaten, she had bought up whatever was in her tummy and seemed fine and happy to wait with me in the salon, over the course of the afternoon she started looking really pale, I rang the driver to pick Romesh up from school and take him to the apartment , we went to the hospital....never got to the wedding

She had a blood test which showed she had the dengue virus which is carried by mosquitoes, it's rampant in Sri Lanka at the moment. Sri Lanka is leading the world in trying to invent a vaccine to immunise against the virus,but at the moment its still a work in progress. The doctor I saw in emergency told me she was fine and to let her rest, give her panadol and have another blood test on Saturday that's all you can do.

We went ahead with the move the next day, much to Romesh's disgust he had to go to school on Saturday for a maths carnival, so to compensate and to make life easier with the move I let him stay home today as well.

New furniture was delivered all day, the brilliant thing is they don't just deliver, they unpack and set the item up as well, all for a couple of hundred rupees, which is about $2.  Beds were put together, fridges and freezers were unpacked and plugged in, and TV's were assembled.

Lara chilled on the couch and we celebrated our new house that night with Pizza that was delivered on the back of a motorbike. Anything can be delivered here including McDonalds and KFC. I felt like I could breathe again, we were now 10km out of Colombo, down a little lane surrounded by trees in a lovely double story house with a pool. I had a driver and  the house came with a gardener.  I desperately wanted to get the kids in a proper routine as quickly as possible and things were coming together at last,

The bare basics
Next day we were back at the hospital for a follow up blood test, I left Romesh in the car with my phone so he could update his status and tell everyone what a joke it was, that he had been to
school on a Saturday, for a maths carnival no less. The driver was going to go around the block and come back for us...that's when things fell apart.....he didn't come back, we had now been waiting in the sun for over an hour, I was getting more irritated by the minute, I could see Lara fading, she wasn't well and she wouldn't let me out of her sight, and she wouldn't wait inside, I started to have a "What am I doing in this country moment", my child was sick, the doctor says she's fine,and clearly she's not, my driver is missing in action along with my son,  all the phone numbers of our friends are in the phone which I DON'T HAVE, it's So So HOT!! why is it always SO BLOODY HOT!!!

In desperation I offered some random man 500 rupees if I could use his phone, that's about $4, but in Sri Lanka that can be a days wage, the only number I knew was David's in Australia. I had to ring him, to tell him to ring the driver, when he answered I promptly burst into tears, the pressure of the past week finally got to me and it just came flowing out. I blurted out my message and hung up.

The man was so sweet he wouldn't take my money, I think he was too embarrassed with this weird woman in front of him. At the same moment a beggar comes up to us, I said if you wont take the money I will give it to the beggar......... now the beggar collapses to his feet and starts worshipping me, because I had just given him 500 now the beggars crying, I'm crying, Lara is sitting in the gutter, pale and melting the man's phone is ringing, its David frantic wanting to know what's going on, people are starting to gather wondering what's happening  with the strange white woman with the beggar at her feet.... and then the driver arrives......the language barrier again,he misunderstood what I said and he and Romesh had been parked in a side street for the past hour and a half oblivious to everything, having an afternoon nap.

Private room for three
Sunday I wasn't happy with Lara's progress, I rang Geeva who is the wife of Roshan Mahanama, another former cricketer, Roshan is now a match referee for the ICC and was due to fly out to New Zealand in a few hours to oversee a match there, but instead they dropped everything and met me at the hospital along with Aravinda and his wife, I had quite the entourage walking in with me, one look at who had just walked through their doors and people came running from everywhere,  before I knew it Lara had been admitted and  the head of the Dengue unit had been called. She was soon asleep with a drip in her arm in a private room that had been organised with two extra beds for Romesh and I to sleep in.........this would be our new home for the next 4 days.

She's smiling today
I had tried to do this on my own and got nowhere, then I walk into a hospital with a couple of ex cricketers and it's full steam ahead. It  seems the only doctors who work in the emergency rooms are students who are still learning or they are so old they should have been put out to pasture years ago.....I had been dealing with the latter.

The Public school system here is free of charge and there is no charge for University either, however it seems Sri Lanka is suffering a real Brain Drain, once everyone receives their degrees they migrate To England, Canada and Australia. We are benefiting from Sri Lanka's free education system while they are left to suffer

The second night was horrible, by now I hadn't slept in days and I was struggling, there is nothing worse in this world than seeing your child in pain,  I just held her and sobbed like a baby, was this really worth it ??? We had been here three weeks, my son was miserable, my daughter was sick and my husband was miles away trying to get an early flight back, she tried to hug me but she couldn't because there was a drip in one arm and a cannula in the other , for the twice daily blood they were taking. I just cried and cried...I'm so sorry sweetheart, I'm so sorry, was all I could say.

For four days we stayed at the hospital, with Geeva and Aravinda's wife bringing food and clothes, it was another long weekend but Romesh spent this one in a hospital room playing on the computer, he was more upset he couldn't watch the Liverpool match.

 I woke up on the fourth night to see David standing in front of me, I have never seen a more beautiful sight, the relief of seeing him there made all the stress simply disappear, by now the worst was over and Lara was going to be released the next morning, finally we could go home....together

Geeva told me later the reason everyone rushed down so quickly is that Dengue can be deadly. Last year a classmate of her children had died from the virus, she was only 15. With Dengue if you don't  take enough fluids or if it's miss diagnosed you can suffer from complications and internal bleeding, when I had  told Geeva, Lara was complaining of stomach pains she thought the worst.

The hospital bill came to 70,000 rupees ,for four days in a private room, 24 hour attention,  2 specialists visiting twice each, a day, and 10 blood tests. That's only about $600, and for us that was fine, but what about the average citizen in the street, how does somebody like a driver who earns 30,000 rupees a month manage to give their child hospital care, how is it fair that my child can receive the best attention money can buy, but their child will suffer.

Hospitals here are a huge business, the only good ones are privately owned and while we think it's ridiculously cheap, the average punter in the street has to line up for hours at an under staffed, under funded, over crowded Government Hospital because they cant afford anything else. I know there are a team of doctors from Australia who have been working tirelessly since the Tsunami desperately trying to put things right , but without more help they are fighting an uphill battle. The hospital system only works here if you know someone or have money....for everyone else, you throw the dice and take your chances


  1. Ilaughed and cried when I read this Cathy. It was very interesting and I now know exactly, what you wenr through with Lara. Pam.

  2. Oh Cathy - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry with you. I hope it's smooth sailing for you all now and you have a chance to relax in your lovely home. You're a great mum and don't ever doubt it!! Hugs, Donna xx

  3. Hi Cathy, You better make sure you keep this blog going,it is an amazing insight. It has more Dramas than Home & Away or the Bold and the Beautiful. But speaking of Beautiful... describing David as "the most beautiful sight..." may be stretching your credibility a little too far.... But I will put that down to the sun-stroke you were suffering
    looking forward to the next installment
    Pat & Cheryl Connolly

  4. Ha, sunstroke does do the weirdest things....everything has settled down now, so running out of things to write, hoping an evil twin will arrive !!