Showing posts from August, 2016

A Tribute to TCF

Nothing makes you feel more like a giant than sitting on small wooden chairs surrounded by tiny first graders in their classroom.  For a classroom observation, we are supposed to slip into a class quietly and just sit in the back. We’re not to make any comments and neither is the teacher supposed to pay any attention to us. The idea is, of course, to observe a class as would be without your presence.
My favorite class to observe is always in the pre-primary section where the students weigh almost the same as their chunky book bags and want at any point in time to color in their workbooks. The children are curious and bright-eyed, they keep peaking over their shoulders and giggling when they catch my eye. “Are you our new teacher?” they would often ask (in their minds all females on school premises are teachers).
There is one special memory from these classroom observations that  sticks out and makes me smile even now. The teacher was walking around the classroom, talking about plants o…

Ceylon Dreams V: Suffused in Tea

One of my favourite slogans, aptly carved on a wooden sign outside a chai shack in Karachi, is: “Live Life, Love Tea” and the drive from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is perfect for living life and loving tea.
Bernard had very kindly arranged a driver and car for us to take us on the rest of our journey (he told us if we wanted to keep it cheap, trains and buses was the way to go but a car was more convenient) and we had another wholesome Sri Lankan breakfast before leaving the next morning. Our driver was pleasant, providing interesting facts about the animals or plants at an interval of 20 miles.
The clouds were still low, a beautiful blue-gray that made the green of the hills and plantations stand out even brighter. The color of tea-leaves is a special green, so vibrant it’s almost gold, a fresh young green that seems to be lit up from the inside. Our driver had promised to take us to the more famous of the tea factories that lay scattered around the hills, some shabbier than others.
The one…

Ceylon Dreams IV: Sweet Kandy

You know the kind of vacation in which you wake up late, stretch luxuriously in a soft bed with creamy white sheets and feathery pillows and then keep lying for another hour or so, languid and lazy? The kind where you spend half the day indoors on a comfy couch in front of the TV or by the hotel pool ordering pink cocktails and mango juice? Yeah, I don’t do those. I guess you could call me annoyingly perky and organized but I prefer the word adventurous or the phrase ‘making the most of a holiday’. And you might curse me when it’s time to wake up but later on you’ll like me – when we avoid traffic and long queues or see a beautiful garden or a quaint cafĂ© all without getting lost more than once. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy getting lost and just strolling aimlessly in a neighborhood but I always have a plan A – and usually plan B.
Now my husband – not so much. It’s kind of like a see-saw, it takes a few tries but eventually you can reach that balance in which neither of you is stuck…

Ceylon Dreams III: A Dramatic Train Ride

Hemingway stood crookedly by the sofa, his head bowed, his eyes droopy, his tail wagging sadly. He closed his eyes and wagged his tail with a little more enthusiasm as Fahad scratched his back and then flopped down, curling up contently on the cool cemented floor, nuzzling Fahad’s fingers.
It was a strange setting for a lounge, the couches and chairs actually faced one another, there was no TV for all eyes to congregate on and a beautiful wooden coffee table rested in the center, with an ashtray and two glasses of water (set without coasters, little drops of condensation cooling on the rim). The wide doors and all the windows in the house were open, but the clouds had drawn together in the sky like a thick gray woolen blanket so it was dark inside, the sweet dim light of a very rainy morning. A beautifully light cool breeze filtered into the room, the faint sweet scent of wet earth and freshly bathed green grass hung around us. The smoke from the Malay lady’s Gold Leaf hung lazily in t…

Ceylon Dreams II: Temple Stroll

Breakfast was served in the kitchen, with the door firmly closed to prevent Daisy from eating our eggs. There were string hoppers, steamed rice noodles, to be had with potato curry and coconut, chopped and fried with onions and red chilies, an absolutely delicious combination. The bread was thick and charmingly uneven, wholesomely dipped in the runny yolk of sunny-side up eggs, fresh juice and a cup of dark brewed steaming Ceylon tea. Just remembering the breakfast is enough to lighten the dreariness of a Monday at work!
Our hostess cautioned us to avoid the roads between 12 to 2, which is heavy traffic time due to the schools getting off around then and we promised to be back well in time for a taxi ride to the train station, since we were leaving for Kandy the same day.
We took a tuk-tuk to one of the more popular temples. Like Thailand, the tuk-tuks in Srilanka were snazzier versions of the Pakistani rickshaws, clean and neat, fairly standardized in solid colors save for a few outlie…

Ceylon Dreams: A House with a Hundred Stories

The air felt washed, as if it had just rained. Things were quiet outside the airport – there were no signs directing us what to do or where to go like the solemn signs and arrows and officials of Bangkok so we followed the first man who offered us a taxi ride to the city. He quoted us a number and we automatically chopped Rs1500 off it, he politely chipped back Rs500 and so we agreed on Rs3000.
As we drove towards Colombo, the taxi driver asked us what multiple taxi drivers, tuk tuk drivers and one random man in downtown Colombo would continue to ask us all over Sri Lanka: “Where you from? India?” “Pakistan,” we would correct. “Oh, you are Muslims?” and we nod, me more surely than Fahad, and he asks us cheerfully, “Yes but you are good Muslims right, not bad Muslims who do bombs!” “Yes, most of us Muslims are good and peaceful…” I trail off awkwardly. I guess if you’re a Muslim traveler it might help to have a few Islam-defenses prepared, to be whipped out and presented in a witty, relat…