Oh, my pictures of the Perahera? That’s what you’ve come to see? I was hoping that The International Man of Intrigue’s guest post would distract you. Hmm…well…how do I put this? Let’s just say after agonizing over the pictures, and after much soul searching, I came to grips with the fact that I’m a writer, not a photographer. I think rather than water down my blog with a bunch of crappy pictures I’ll just stick with what I do best and write for you. I really struggled with this because I feel like a good travel blog needs lots of gorgeous pictures. Really, a good travel blog, a good travel magazine, a good travel book, they all have great pictures. I don’t. Then I realized, Bill Bryson doesn’t clutter his books with lots of pictures, and people still love to read his writings. I know I’m no Bill Bryson, but I do think I’ll just go with my strength on this one. I will still include the occasional picture, it’s just not going to be a focus, or in focus for that matter.(Ba-dump-bump-ching!)
Anyway, do you still want to hear about the Perahera? It was amazing! We walked the two blocks down from the hotel. As we got closer, a carnival atmosphere filled the air. There were vendors everywhere. There was all kinds of food and some of it smelled delicious. Wooden carts filled with corn had little platforms with flames burning on them. The salesmen would roast the corn right there and hand it to you. Of course, being westerners, we didn’t eat any of it, since we had no desire to spend the next week living in the bathroom. As anyone who has done it can attest, when you move, or even travel, to a
I’m the master of distraction today, no? Blame it on the fact that my kids have interrupted me about every third word. I’m not a slow typist, so that’s pretty often. As I was saying, the Perahera was amazing. We had VIP seats on a raised platform, so everything was up close and personal with a great view and none of the elephant poop that could hamper a good time if one was sitting at street level. (Poop again, I know.) The parade started off with young men in local costumes with what I first thought were huge pythons wrapped around them. The pythons were actually whips and the young men started cracking them with such speed that they sounded like firecrackers.
Well, crud. I stopped after writing this paragraph a couple of days ago, and here I am, trying to blame it on my children and the fact that the movers came Wednesday night at 7:30 and brought our stuff and I’ve been unpacking ever since. This is officially the longest blog post ever. And by longest, I don’t mean number of words. I mean amount of time per word. The Perahera was on February 7th. It’s now February 25th. You’d think that would make the writing better, since I’ve spent about a day per sentence. I’m a good writer, but not that good. Anyway, tonight is the night. I’m finishing this blog post and this beer I’m drinking and then going to bed. Now if the International Man of Intrigue calls me over to see another picture on Facebook of a friend of his I’ve never met or some cool thing he’s done on the Playstation, I’m going to scream. I have to write this Perahera stuff and then never promise you I’ll write about something again, because it just gives me writers’ block on the subject and makes me want to write about all kinds of other cool things, like the people who work for us or the room under our stairs.
ANYWAY, the parade, which I think was actually considered a procession since it was marching a relic of Buddha from place to place, went on, with the first elephants coming by. They were completely decked out from trunk to toe. They even wore masks. Many of their gowns were intricately decorated, beaded, or embroidered. The first elephants and the ones at the very end of the procession, nearest the Buddha relic, had little lights running up and down their masks. I set Amelia Earhart to the task of counting the elephants. I figured it would be good practice for her to keep track of something while she was excited and there was lots going on, and I knew I’d immediately get distracted and forget to count so I could tell you how many elephants marched in the procession.
There were lots of other amazing sights. Kandyan Drummers dressed up in their intricately beaded red and white costumes, Buddhist monks, some not much older than the Little Explorers, marching two by two, and my favorite, Cane Dancers. I searched the internet to try to link to a video, but I couldn’t find anything. I had seen these dancers when I watched from the breezeway at our hotel. From that vantage point, I was impressed by the rapidly spinning and spiraling groups circles of dancers, weaving in and out of one another. From the ground, it was an entirely different story. It turns out that these male dancers, who were in two concentric circles, with one guy in the center of the smaller circle, were all connected and interconnected to one another with bendable pieces of cane. The guy in the very center of both circles seemed to be holding the ends to all the pieces. They all walked along in formation until it was time to perform. Then, the guy in the center dropped to the ground and began spinning. All the other dancers in the two concentric circles began twirling and weaving in and out of one another at a dizzying speed. It was like the most insane Maypole dance ever, but the guy in the middle was the Maypole. I couldn’t believe it!
The Perahera went on for hours. The Little Explorers enjoyed it, but we could sense it was getting dangerously close to a melting point. One spilled water, one miscounted elephant, and this was over for us. We rounded up the kids and got ready to make our way back to the hotel. There was only one problem. The procession went down to a certain point, turned around and came back down the same street. Right now the beginning of the parade was just making its way to the point where we were sitting. It was double parade right down the street we needed to walk up. We did what we had to and walked two blocks in the *opposite* direction of the hotel, dodging elephant poop and people who wanted to touch Gertrude Bell’s blonde hair. When we turned off of the main parade route to double back, there were plenty of tuk-tuks waiting to rip off tourists. Normally, we wouldn’t consider letting the kids ride in the three wheeled, open sided cabs, but it was late, we were as exhausted as the Little Explorers, Gertrude Bell was going to have a meltdown if one more person touched her, and there wasn’t much traffic. Lucky for us, we didn’t show up in Sri Lanka yesterday (more like a month ago), so when the first driver tried to charge us triple what a fare should have been, we laughed and kept walking. We’re the Intrigue family. We know better. Sure enough, ten steps later, there was another driver who was willing to take us for a decent price. We all squished in the back seat and held on to the kids as tightly as possible. The girls decided it was almost as much fun as a ride at Disneyland, rushing down the back streets of Colombo toward our hotel. The full moon was bright and the breeze helped cool us all down.
So, there you have it. The Perahera. I am sure we’ll do many more exciting things during our year here, but I think I’ll always look back on the Perahera as a big deal. Walking through the crowds, experiencing the sights and sounds, that was what I really imagined it would be like to live here.
And, on that note, it’s way past my bedtime, and I’m out of beer. But, hey, I finished this post, right?! Oh, and Amelia Earhart counted sixty elephants. That's a lot of elephants for one parade!