From Rescuing Turtles to Rescuing Pineapples (II)

September 8, 2010

Breakfast is rice and dhal. There's also watermelon left over from lunch yesterday. We eat with Suni who spoke at and moderated a forum at the center yesterday about community organization and the roles of NGOs and POs. Currently, he's a drama teacher in Columbo but he's really interested in community development. He's lived and worked in several parts of Africa. We got into talking about the attitude of Sri Lanka and American people towards government. He also filled me in about how the current president of Sri Lanka is trying to get a constitutional amendment through that will allow him to run for a third six-year term. Apparently, this a rather cyclical occasion in Sri Lanka history.

After breakfast we start at second row and get about halfway finished before we hear the bell for tea. It's already gotten quite warm and my ball cap is soaked with sweat. Jean is looking flushed. We're thrilled to give the pineapples a rest for a bit. We gather up the hoe, our gloves and water bottles and walk back to the dining hall.

I grab a cup of plain tea (Tea, tea has milk in it. Plain tea is just super saturated with sugar) before retiring to the bungalow. I throw my work shirt over the line to dry, hop in the shower and then don shorts and a fresh shirt. Since Kefalonia Jean and I have developed quite an affinity for the midday siesta time. Hopefully, “the real world” will have adopted the practice by the time (if ever) we make it back there.

Siesta time is filled with a myriad of activities. There's napping, washing, reading, writing and for me a some computer gaming. Reading about old school metallurgy, glass making and animal husbandry in the archaeological museums in the UK, Greece and Turkey has given me the hankering to pick up the computer game Dwarf Fortress. It's an open ended game where you take seven dwarfs and build a civilization from what ever you can grow or dig out of the earth.

Some afternoons I'd have Colin (you can name the dwarves), my furnace operator dwarf, hard at work smelting hematite into iron to mix with carbon (from the coal vein my miners Dave and Stephanie found). Tempering the substance with lime from the limestone quarry near the river he would produce steel from which my metal smith Dan could make all manner of armor, weapon and cutlery. Tom, my mechanic dwarf, builds all manner of water pumps, windmills and grisly contraptions to keep the goblins and lava men at bay. May, the farmer, cultivates plump helmets and cave wheat in the subterranean fields. From that harvest my chef/brewer dwarf Sheryl makes tasty plump helmet biscuits and dwarven bitter beer the latter of which Colin the dwarf is really fond of.  

Some days we would take the short bus ride into the city of Kurnegala for lunch and shopping. Today, I  am doing some cleaning. First objective, the bathroom. The life of a pineapple farmer is nothing if not glamorous. Deva comes by about one.

He calls from the porch, “Aaron!” They always call me so we're still not really sure if anyone knows Jean's name.

“Lunch. We go village.” Chaminda usually makes lunch for us but he's out on some project today so we'll grab something in Yakalla. I change into a pair of trousers. Jean and I meet Deva around the dining hall and take the two minute walk into downtown Yakalla. We head over to a shop with an attached outdoor cafe. There's no menu as they only serve one dish. Deva orders rice and dhal for all three of us. We talk about our recent Nurwela excursion over lunch and head back to the center.

Around three Jean and I change back into work clothes. The tea bell rings about a quarter past. I grab another cup of the saccharine substance before throwing a hoe over my shoulder and ambling back into the field. We start back were we left off yanking out weeds in the mid section of our second row.

Day in and day out the work can be a little tedious. Jean and I have taken to listening to our mp3 players. Before leaving for our trip I downloaded loads of audio books from the LibriVox web site. I've weeded my way through Joseph Conrad's, The Secret Agent, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arther's Court by Mark Twain and several episodes of This American Life. Today I'm listening to John Bunyan's allegorical story The Pilgrim's Progress. Jean has listened to Catch-22 and Philip K. Dick's short stories The Minority Report and We Can Remember it for you Wholesale.    

Around five the daylight begins to show signs of fading a chanting drone drifts in from a nearby Buddhist temple. We finish the second row and start a third. I start clearing the berm with my hoe and almost immediately come upon some large suspicious looking holes. I uncover more and more as I work down the row. The berm looks like Swiss cheese. I poke around with the hoe and fill in a some the holes.

The day is overcast and at half past five the light is already dim. Tomorrow is a program day so we want to give our clothes a much needed wash so we make an executive decision to cut our day a little short. We trudge back to the DDC, wash up and put our work clothes into soak. After showering I hang up the work clothes and check with Deva about dinner.

It's seven o'clock and the light has gone. I walk over to the dining hall. I see the beam from Deva's flashlight in the courtyard. He does frequent patrols during the evening. I think he's looking for snakes but I'm not sure. He steps in and takes off the rubber boots he's recently taken to wearing for these patrols.

“Dinner. Pumpkin.”

“Pumpkin sounds good. What time?”

He studies the clock on the wall intently. “7:30? No 7:45.”

I head over to the offices and step into the computer room. I flip a few switches to turn on power supplies, the router and the A/C unit. Then I pull the internet cable out of one of the office computer and plug it into our net book. For some reason, we never thought to do that until this week. We've been neglecting our blog over the last couple of months and have been making up for lost time over the last couple of days. I go to work uploading pictures. Jean joins me in the computer room after a while and about a quarter past eight Deva comes in. I show him some of the pictures from our Nurwela excursion on the net book.

“Very good,” he says smiling. “Are you hungry?”

“Dinner ready. Come!”

We join him for dinner of boiled pumpkin, grated coconut and bananas. It's tasty and welcome respite to rice and dhal. Over dinner he tries teaching us a few phrases in Singali and Tamil (the two languages spoken on Sri Lanka). As English is so readily spoke here Jean and I have been really lazy picking any of the local languages up. It's funny that we've been here over three weeks and this is the first time Deva's tried to teach us any words. Too bad we're leaving in less than a week.

After dinner we wash our plates and finish up work in the computer room. Most evenings we either hole up in the computer lab or in our room watching a movie. We hang out in the big airy dining hall playing cards or dominoes sometimes but when darkness falls the mosquitoes wake up and they wake up hungry.

By ten we're usually sacked out and basking in the breeze of our fan. And thus ends the day of the pineapple farmers.


sly said…
Thanks for giving us a peek into your life as a pineapple farmer. I'll be working on my helmet biscuit and bitter beer recipes!
Dave said…
Aaron and Jean,

Love the posts. Very interesting stuff. And for what its worth, I usually created a Dwarf Fortress woodcutter/hunterdwarf named Aaron.

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