Thursday, January 10, 2008

Did I say warmer?

Colombo is certainly warmer than Belfast. There are other differences as well. Yesterday I realised that driving lessons too are not the same - though given the traffic, that's not so surprising.

The appointed time was 1.30 so, naturally enough, when we arrived we were told that our instructor would not be there until 2pm. At least Maithrie was told (What do you think, Paul). We sat in the office, immersed in the sounds and smells of the street.
Unimpeded by door, wall or window, the sensations wafted (or blasted) from the road, across the rough ground in front, and straight into the room.

A minibus drew up across the road, and four of us stood up. "An interesting lesson this will be," I thought, as we weaved our way through the streaming traffic, towards the vehicle.

With seven of us wedged into the back, the minibus started slowly, unsteadily. For at least one of us the lesson had begun. As we weaved slowly through cars, buses and trishaws, parked, whizzing madly, or unexpectedly and randomly stopped, Maithrie and I realised we were heading right back where we had started from. Where we had caught that trishaw, rushing for our mythical deadline.

We meandered slowly onwards, yet backwards, the instructor gently nudging the wheel when the student's shaky course seemed desperately attracted to sudden death by bus or lorry, or to instant carnage for pedestrian, cow or passengers, or by a horrid fascination with the trenches that ran, hungry and inviting, along the roadside. Maithrie too had her turn in the fateful seat, reversing and threading ever closer to where we had started.

One hour later, and further than ever from our destination, we dismounted and ran for a bus. It stopped, half off the road, half in traffic, and we searched for a seat by a working wondow. It's good to breathe and watch as death and mayhem lurch slowly by!

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