Friday, February 28, 2014

Loyalty Counts!

I am fiercely loyal.

Especially to my hairdresser!

I went to the same hairdresser in the US for decades and I’ve been going to the same woman for the whole 12 years I’ve been here in Sri Lanka

Okay, so I might have dabbled with 2 other hairdressers, just for a change, but I’ve gone running back to Asoka Tillakaratne at 7th Avenue Salon like my feet were on fire!

I can’t remember how I found her, situated in an old house (now demolished) on Galle Road, back in 2002. Living down south in Weligama, there wasn’t anyone to choose from except the local barbers who thought mullets were the ‘in’ thing, so I headed north every 4-6weeks. A 5-hour drive.

I was such a bumpkin back then. My typical garb in Weligama was a colorful T-shirt and sarong, which was fine in Weligama, but Colombo was a bit more sophisticated. Not being one for too much sophistication when it’s 32C (90F) out, I didn’t care that people in Colombo wore saris and fashionable sun dresses. I have always been one for comfort and there’s nothing more comfortable than a sarong!

Asoka has always been on the cutting edge, but when I told her I wanted my hair tri-colored (white blonde, yellow blonde and brown) in wide swatches, she whined, ‘I can’t do that!’

‘Oh, sure you can,’ I said. ‘Just try it and see how it turns out.’ We had a good laugh over the possible crazy outcomes, but I was sure she could do it. After all she’d been giving me a good haircut for several months and had earned my trust.

When Asoka stripped the foils from my hair, washed and combed it, I looked like a tri-color zebra. Exactly what I wanted! She had done it! Each color was the perfect shade.

When she moved to a larger place in the Galle Face Hotel, I followed her. And now that she’s moved to her new 4,000 sq. foot salon – fancy, fancy! – on Greenlands Lane, off Isipathana Mawatha, I followed her there.

I’ve since let my hair grow to its natural silver so there’s no more sitting for hours making it blonde and her haircuts are still great after all these fashion changes in my life (from sarongs to jeans).

Asoka even did a full make-up job on me for a fancy party, and ever better - a total makeover for my Halloween birthday! Scared us both when she was done!

I’ve always said that I’d change husbands before I’d change my hairdresser! - Lucy

(Thank goodness I'm a better photographer now
than I was with these photos of the below
photos of Asoka and me!

'Oh, I can't!'

Perfect dye-job!

The 'in' style in the US!

The following photos were taken by
Lipton Jayawickrama, my talented photo partner.

Au natural!

Asoka looking great 12 years later!

Done! Another wonderful haircut!

Asoka's new 7th Avenue Salon!

Halloween make-up by Ashoka!

Check out my photography website at:
© ShadeTree Productions

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Paan in the Morning!

There are several bakeries near my house. One within walking distance so yesterday I ventured to walk there and get paan (bread) for breakfast.

I was a bit hesitant to walk by the school adjacent to our lane as the little fellows who go there once shouted, ‘Blah blah blah Grannie!’ at me last time I walked by. Grannie! Not even Auntie! I shook my finger at them at said, ‘I’m not your Grannie!’ It appears I was great entertainment for them. Next time I should arm myself with a water pistol and get the little buggars!

It’s typical for people here to address an older person by calling them Auntie, or Uncle. Most people don’t mind it, but I did hear one Sri Lankan man shout at a fellow who had called him Uncle, saying ‘I’m not your Uncle!’ It still takes me aback when someone addresses me as Auntie. I’m not sure what we’d say in the US, but probably, ‘Excuse me, Sir. Excuse me, Ma’am. ‘ Or just plain, Excuse me.’

As for catcalling youngsters, I’d rather hear, ‘Hey you old bat!’ than Grannie!

At the corner of the main road, there’s a hub for three-wheeled taxis; tuk tuks. The drivers sit around playing cards until they get a hire, or simply chatting. They apparently all know where I live as I’m the only foreigner in the neighborhood. I took the old man’s tuk tuk once into Colombo. It’s not the best tuk tuk of the lot; its passenger seat is about as thin as a piece of bread and there are no shocks to soften the bounce over potholes and speed bumps. I asked him to go slow, hemin, and he did. I could have walked to Colombo faster!

I discovered a tailor on the main road, sewing away on his old-fashioned machine. It’s amazing what you see on foot that you completely miss when you’re in a car. Now I know where I can get the cushion cover zippers fixed that have been broken for the last two years!

The bakery usually runs out of bread mid-morning and I got there just in time for one of the last two loaves. Kade paan (shop bread) is just the best bread ever. Not PC 9-grain brown bread made with no flour, but just plain yummy homemade white bread! Lipton will eat ½ a loaf with dahl (a mixture of lentils, onions, curry leaves, hot green chilies, spices and coconut milk), I’ll have one slice with the dalh, if it’s not too spicy. Otherwise it's bread and peanut butter for me.

When I first came to Sri Lanka, I made a stop in Kuala Lumpur. For breakfast the hotel had a buffet. I took what looked familiar and a bit that didn’t. My first bite made me gag! My mouth was on fire. My lips were on fire! People in my group poured water for me, told me to eat sugar. I dumped a spoonful of sugar into my burning mouth. Nothing worked. Only time. But I was wrecked for the day, I couldn’t eat anything. Apparently I had chowed down a spoon full of hot green chilies. After that, anything remotely spicy makes my skin crawl. Sri Lankans like their food spicy, that’s for sure! When we photograph weddings, we are provided dinner, but I usually end up eating just a bit of rice as the rest of the foods are off limits for me!

Too bad because Sri Lankan food is yummy - if it just weren’t so spicy!

The tuk tuk hub and drivers.

The vegetable man on his morning rounds.
He calls out certain vegetable names as he
goes around the neighborhood.

The tailor.

Last two loaves.

Shop girl.

The mobile bread man!
Who plays (loudly) It's a Small World! on loud speaker.
How annoying is that early morning?

The bread man's bread.

Yummy kade paan!

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© ShadeTree Productions

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Another Safety Pin, Please!

Do you ever worry about your clothes falling off?

I did!

I didn’t know what to wear to a wedding in a small village. I wore a tight silk dress one time and almost passed out from heat stroke, as there was no AC in the small village house. There was one fan, though, and the mother of the bride let me lie down on her bed with the fan directed right on me. I did feel sorry for the others in the front room where the wedding was being held, but not enough to avoid the imminent faint.

Going to another wedding at the same house, I didn’t know what to wear besides shorts and a T-shirt to keep cool. That being inappropriate, I asked my fashion-designer friend, Mano Caderamapulle, for her advice. She suggested I wear a sari. I laughed! She said, ‘I’m serious, it’s the perfect thing for a foreigner to wear to a wedding.’

I’ve always thought that unless a foreigner was stick thin, a sari would make them (me!) look like a cow!

Mano insured that my fleshy parts would be covered with the under blouse. I just had to find one. After looking all over Colombo to find something I liked, I decided on wearing my favorite wife-beater T-shirt – it even matched. And hid all that needed to be hidden.

Wedding Day came, and I went to Mano’s for her dresser to dress me. Mano had kindly offered one of her gazillion saris for me to wear. The problem was, the sari fit her and she’s half the size of me. Now a sari is long piece of material, six to nine yards in length, elegantly wrapped around the body. Mano’s sari must have been six yards as it did the one-size-fits-all – it made it around my body - but there was nothing left to drape over my left arm in typical fashion.

Her dresser wrapped and rewrapped but there was no way I was getting a drape. So she pinned and pinned and pinned safety pins everywhere needed and I was finished. Ready to party! Well, ready for the wedding. There would be no partying in my getup!

With each step I took, I feared the worst – that the whole wrap would fall down and I’d be standing there in my knickers and wife-beater T-shirt! I took tiny steps the whole day long, careful not to step on the yards of gorgeous silk.

Instead of making me look like a cow, the sari actually made me feel slimmer. I loved it! And all these years I’ve been avoiding wearing one. I'd even given away a gorgeous one that I had gotten in India. Sigh.

Compliments abound. The bride’s family was ecstatic that I wore a traditional sari. They felt honored. Many people bobbed their heads and pointing to me said,’Lasanai,’ (beautiful). I felt like a star. A Bollywood star!

I finished the day completely intact and just had to find and figure out how to undo all those safety pins. I laughed, thinking just how frustrated brides must feel on their wedding night, with their grooms impatiently waiting for them, to find and undo the multitude of safety pins that held them together!

Madam Lucy in her well-pinned sari!
(See the short drape behind my left arm?)

Check out my photography website at:
© ShadeTree Productions