The Coolest Hawkers I Have Ever Met, Sri Lanka
Everyone who travels around this coconut runs into hawkers. They try to sell you everything from bongs to plastic models of the Taj Mahal. Many just will not leave a person alone. They follow you down the street putting tubes of tiger balm or fake Rolex watches in your hand. They all know two words in English “good price”. Some know how to say “me poor, need money for family.” 99% of the time they are selling some POS I have no desire to own. I try to say “no” nicely. The second time I say it a bit louder. The third time I usually stop, look them in the eye and kindly but firmly say “I do want that POS.” I do not use the acronym when I do. In the Themal , the tourist district of Kathmandu, I walk down the street with my head down mumbling “no,no,no,no, no, no, no” even during the short periods of time I am not being offered anything. In my youth (when I wish I had visited Kathmandu) I might have been interested in one of the hundreds of offers for hash, but since then I have seen the movie Midnight Express. Enough said. However, in Sri Lanka my wife and I found the coolest “hawkers” EVER.
We were leaving the “hill country” of Sri Lanka, the tea growing region. They were typical third world mountain roads. The normal way of driving in Sri Lanka would land a person in jail in the USA. There are 2, 3, and 4 wheeled vehicles here besides the trucks. The only convention that keeps traffic flowing is that that the two wheelers (motorcycles) and the three wheelers either stay to the right (oops, make that left, this Is a former British colony) or quickly move to the left when honked at so we in the sedans can pass them. But the roads are so narrow that you must pass in the oncoming lane and hope there is nothing bigger than a two or three wheeler coming the other way around the next bend. Those stay to the left leaving the center of the road for oncoming traffic. What I have not mentioned are the busses. I am not even sure I can discuss them and keep this a family accessible blog. I will leave that alone.
About half way down the mountain we stopped at a beautiful waterfall called Ella Ravana. Ella means waterfall and Ravana is the Hindu word for the monkey god. AT least tis is what our driver told me. Wikipedia says different, but like his story better. The waterfall area is run over with monkeys, tourists and hawkers.
The hawkers here sell coins and rocks. Say what? Yup coins and rocks. First the rocks.
The mountains here are full of many different types of stones in a rainbow of colors. From clear crystals to Dodger blue crystals.
While I picked some stones, another hawker tried to sell my wife a bag with one hundred US quarters. She protested that she did not live in the USA and we and no need for quarters. He asked where we lived. She told him the UAE and he promptly returned with a bag with a hundred one Dirham coins. Of course to say we were perplexed is a bit of an understatement. She asked what was up. He told her that banks here do not accept coins, only paper money. (Sri Lanka has no coins) So she laughed and gave him a 100 Dirham note in exchange. That is about US$27.
All this time I was choosing a handful of pretty rocks. I got asked by a few hawkers “my little girl collects coins, do you have any coins from your country you can give me for her?”
We finally figured it out. Visitors from other countries gladly give a few quarters, Dirhams, Drachmas or Pesos to the hawker ” for his little girl” and when they get a hundred they exchange them for paper money and head for the currency exchange. What a cool way to make a few bucks!
After another hour of the combination roller coaster ride and narrow misses we finally reached the flat lands.
I asked our driver, Farzan, “in your language how do yo say lunch?
He told me that “cavall” meant food and that “dama” meant mid day and you say the two together to say mid day meal.
When he did not take the hint right away, I asked how do you say “now”. The word is ding. So I turned to him and. Said “cavall dama ding.” I remembered that for the rest of the trip.
So we moved on.
My next few posts will be from Sri Lanka’s fabulous beaches. One post will be about the “Boxing day Tsunami” that devastated the area. another about seeing albino turtles and the last from Sri Lanka will be about getting up close and personal with BLUE WHALES from a panga. So keep reading! Thanks for coming along to the Ella Ravana falls with us, and consider yourself lucky you did not have to be in the car!