12. Avocados and LDRs
Updated: Apr 19
Do I still have time to join the avocado party? There’s late and there’s fashionably late. Maybe after that comes that really awkward lateness where someone joins as everyone else wants to leave and then they feel obliged to listen to the newcomer. Probably inside they hate that person. That person is me. But a couple of day ago I had an avocado, tomato, and cheese roti (it seems like in most places in Sri Lanka cheese dishes means something which looks like a triangle of Dairylea is stirred in) while eating with people from the hostel in Mirissa and, after years of denial, I’m now a convert. Watch out for an ‘Avo nice day’ tee next time you see me. Completely unabashed.
This meal was on the first of two days out. It’s easy to get stuck in Weligama (and not at all a bad thing) with it’s surfing, nice local and Western cafés and food places, and like-minded people in the hostels. Just ask my friend Charlie, the only person I’ve met and possibly one of the only people in Weligama who knows where Goole is. He’s a skydive photographer (yes, that is fucking cool) who works in Lincolnshire and he’s been in Weligama over a month-and-a-half. It was really nice to have a good mate still in town after leaving to the travel the interior of the country and returning, and we’ve been surfing and hanging out (which for Charlie usually involves eating two full meals at a time) a lot in Weligama. But we decided we needed to get out. In Mirissa we walked along the black sand beach to Coconut Hill, a mandatory spot to visit in the area, and a place where at any given time you can see at least a dozen people pouting and posing for that perfect Instagram photo. It gets especially busy during sunrise and sunset. Did that. Felt very uncomfortable, as the attached photo proves. The best bit was swimming with two massive sea turtles in the bay right next to the famous knoll … apart from the goggles I brought and used to save money on renting a snorkel mask were so bad that I was told by friends I nearly headbutted one of the creatures without me even noticing it.
Yesterday a group of us jumped on a train to Galle, a key tourist attraction in Sri Lanka. The Dutch fort, a remnant from colonial times, stands on the edge of the Indian Ocean and houses within it’s walls streets full of quaint shops and eateries. It was alright. Okay, the fort was really impressive and looked like an old settlement lifted from the south of Spain, or similar, but I can’t say I’m much of a shopper, so it was something of a relief when, after a short walk on the outer wall, some delicious food, and one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had, the heat generated a lethargy which meant most of us wanted to just get on a bus back to Weligama, which we did.
We arrived back just in time for beach games. Organised by the hostel, we set up camp on Weligama beach and found three sticks to shove into the sand. We started playing cricket with a tennis ball and soon had a few curious passersby stopping to watch. A handful of Sri Lankan kids joined in and a big group of adults pulled up seats on the ledge by the road overlooking the beach to enjoy some top class slogging into the sea. One of the local lads was revered by his peers for his super quick bowling. I mean, he was throwing it, but apparently being eleven makes that okay. I said it was unfair. I was overruled. Apparently I’m not good with the concept of ‘cute’.
Today is February 4th, which marks the 72nd anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence from the British Empire. A lot of the shops in towns and cities are closed for the day. Fortunately, the surfboard rentals are open and a bunch of us arrived as the dark sky was lifting at 6.15am this morning to enjoy a morning of really small but fun waves. But it’s a different kind of relationship I want to talk about here, not that between countries. To remain calm through the heat and the hectic bus journeys I’ve been listening to a lot of Amy Winehouse. My new definition of relaxation is: listening to Amy’s first album while swinging gently in a hammock chair on the Spindrift hostel balcony watching the sporadic troops of monkeys throw themselves around nearby trees in the afternoon sun. I’m kind of thinking of growing my hair and having it styled into a beehive. I think that would suit me. I'm amazed I’ve only just truly discovered her stuff … or maybe it’s not so coincidental. Lots of her music is about relationships and love; stuff I’ve had on my mind for some time. Long-distance relationships are hard. Really hard. The thing with LDRs is the limited time you spend together every so often can be intense and full of doing things, as opposed to taking things steady and hanging out in wider friendship groups. When you’re together and enjoying the time you’re spending, the feelings are present and strong. But then you have to part ways for months again, and even with the ease of communication in voice and video calls in the modern world, naturally those feelings slip just a little bit, however substantial they are. You have to remember the good times spent together in order to keep things going. People are often divided on the topic of long-distance relationships, and when I’ve spoken to people who’ve been in one, many, or none at all, there seems to be no correlative answers. Some say they’re never a good idea. Some argue relationships need work in order to survive, and LDRs can definitely be worth the work. The problem is, intuition plays a big part in relationships. ‘When you know, you know,’ they say. But LDRs can mess with this saying, because the time spent apart confuses the feeling of knowing. And there are times when it’s difficult to go to bed alone while those around you go in pairs, or watch people holding hands walking down the street when you know you have months of being without ahead. But in instances like these it’s important to remember good times. Little moments you’ve felt confident and content. Moments of intense and real connection. Or those funny moments you’ve shared and will always remember They're important moments. Because it can be really tough.
You wouldn’t think Amy Winehouse’s music marries up very well with the other type of music I’ve been hitting hard whilst here. When I’m feeling tired and need a perk up or when I’m just feeling good and want to exaggerate that feeling (usually before and after a surf respectively), I stick on some heavy punk, metal, or hardcore; loud. I owe a lot to bands like Parkway Drive, August Burns Red, A Day to Remember, and Your Demise for these moments. It’s music that makes your eyes shoot open, even if for some reason it’s stigmatised a little and some think of it as not even being music, but noise. Those people probably think Ed Sheeran is Britain’s answer to Bob Dylan. You have to be open-minded. There’s so much to this type of music. Lyrically as well. Take Australian hardcore band Deez Nuts, for example, whose debut album is entitled Stay True. Okay, they’re not my favourite band ever – I even find them corny at times – but they lay down a heavy riff, pummel a bass drum pedal, and the lyrics to their songs are words I can get behind; often about being yourself and enjoying the things you like without giving a single shit what other people think or say. This is the type of music I listen to before tucking into a full portion of local food from Zam Zam, the cheap restaurant in town. It’s just under a quid per meal and it takes courage and belief to complete … then you usually pass out. Not last night though. After surfing in the morning and running wild and free on the beach playing cricket all afternoon, after Galle, I took Charlie as my inspiration and ate a Zam Zam pasta dish (exactly the same spices and sauce as for the kottu, just a different type of carb) followed by another meal at Hangtime, the cool café overlooking the bay. It was BYOB open mic night there last night, so we listened to a local bust out some classic Sum 41 and Blink 182, as well as other songs from talented backpackers. There was a really strong atmosphere of a group of people being a long way from home and having an intensely relaxing, fun, and important time (i.e. someone played a Ben Howard cover). A really nice evening to top a great day. I think it was a day I may have been bitten by – along with a hatful of mosquitos (seriously, it looks like I have chickenpox on my back but I’m not worried just yet) – the travel bug. I’m thinking of defecting once more when I get home, by booking a flight out to somewhere almost immediately. Trying not to worry about any potential consequences of doing this. Perhaps they're all in my head anyway.