Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Girl with the Pearl Earring

We spent our last week in southern Sri Lanka beach bumming. This was not J's choice, as you would all know, but I just didn't see how we could be all the way over here in Sri Lanka and not check out any of it's world class sand. After much (much) deliberation, I settled on three golden stretches. First, was Tangalle, then Mirissa and, finally, Unawatuna. Tangalle was the most absolutely perfectly sublime beaches I have ever seen in my entire life. It was absolutely breath-taking. The kind of place where, more than a few times, I just stopped and looked around in awe: 'I can't believe that I am actually here!' There were very few tourists, no pesky beach hawkers, our cabana had hammocks, I found a book I hadn't read before in their book exchange and there was a fabulous breeze. Without a doubt, we spent 95% of our days there horizontal. The other 5% of the time I spent cooling off in the turquoise water. It was paradise. Well, I thought so. J even concluded that it was only 'mildly horrible.'

We moved down the coast to Mirissa. It was much more touristy but the sand was hard and perfect for strolling, there was a (half) local restaurant with delicious food, AND there were massive waves (by far the biggest I have ever seen) which I had planned to spend many hours frolicking in. Who doesn't like to play in the waves? (Besides a certain boring Mr. Mooney... and not one that is my dad-in-law) Wave wars!! It was at this beautifully breath-taking beach that the tragedy struck.

It was all going as planned. My days were organized in intervals of sitting and reading in the shade, strolling along the beach and then jumping around in the waves like a kid on vacation (ok..maybe I am a kid on vacation..). The waves were enormous. I waded out to waist deep water and the waves crashed over my head! The first wave was terrifying (and resulted in my drinking a litre of sea water) but I quickly got the hang of it. I was wearing my sunglasses. Because I always wear my sunglasses. If I don't, I think it is a very real possibility that I will die-or go blind. My eyes are so sensitive to the light. I never go anywhere without sunglasses and I wear them all the time, all year round. I do realize that perhaps wearing my sunglasses in the waves isn't the best idea I've ever had. J even makes sure to ask, 'Are you sure you want to wear them while swimming?' But, I argue (in my head, with myself) that I've got these waves all figured out, I hold them on when I go under water, and its not like the waves sneak up behind you...I can prepare for them. Right....

I am out swimming by myself because my former lifeguard of a husband hates swimming. (It doesn't make any sense to me either). There is a couple beside me in the waves wearing cool surfer clothes. Billabong shirts and shorts. They are masterfully riding the waves into the shore by jumping at just the right time into the wave and riding its white top all the way in. Wow! Maybe this is what body surfing is? I don't know- but I do know that I can most certainly do that to! I think... I try to imitate them. Mistake #1. I pick the biggest, meanest most ferocious wave for my first go. Mistake #2. I turn my back to the wave (Mistake #3) and prepare to allow the wave to guide me on its crest to shore. (I'm just going to stop counting all the mistakes now..) Needless to say, it doesn't work out quite like I am expecting. (Read: its a disaster).

It's not a nice wave. It has no interest in allowing me to ride its wake like those super-cool body surfers. No, instead, it wants to kill me. The wave (with the power of the entire ocean behind it, it seems) totally crushes me. Complete devastation...of my body. Surprisingly, I'm caught off guard by this. The wave pushes me down, down, down to the ocean floor in the 'enth of a second. Darn. As I'm hanging out down there, in the sand, pinned down by (probably) the biggest wave that this beach has ever seen, except (maybe) the tsunami, two increasingly terrifying thoughts cross my mind. #1.'It would be really crappy to die like this' and then #2. Ohhhhhh NO! My SUNGLASSES!!' The mighty wave continues to press me into the sandy bottom (where the sun dances beautifully through the crystal clear water onto the golden sand- not that I am noticing any of this at the moment). The wave pushes harder against me, allowing millions of grains of sand to find their way into my bathing suit and burrowing my head, and more importantly, my hair, deeper into the sand.

I wave my arms wildly (well, as 'wildly' as one can while being pinned down by the world's largest wave) hoping for any chance that my glasses had yet to stray to the middle of the ocean. Sigh.. (gurgle). No dice. And, to top it off, I was getting a little low on oxygen. After my body had been sucessfully wrangled into a flat pretzel, and every crevice was full of sand, the wave finally released its vise grip. Much in the same way a champion wrestler would after an utter and complete knockout of his unworthy opponent. At this point I wold have been wonderfully impressed by the awesome power of mother nature if (A) I didn't just nearly die and (B) if my sunglasses had somehow, in this show of ultimate power, magically reappeared on my face. This didn't appear to be the case, however. This because when I checked my eyeballs again they were squinting into the blazingly bright golden sun, sans the aid of the said glasses. Sigh. How stupid of me! Why was I wearing my sunglasses in the waves? And more importantly, why did I think that I could ride the waves with the same pizzaz as thse two (probably) Aussies? I mean, they had Billabong shirts on (obviously they were experts!). Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I started what turned out to be a fruitless search and prayed for a miracle. As I mentioned before I was quite convinced that I would literally die without sunglasses. So I figured it was grounds to pray for a miracle. The enormous wave had stirred up the otherwise perfectly perfect golden sand in the abnormally amazing crystal clear waters. And right then I couldn't see a darn thing. I meticulously made a search plan and felt around with my feet and hands systematically back and forth, back and forth and back and forth towards shore. The waves, albeit smaller than before, continued to crash down, jumbling everything all about. My search had made it to the shoreline, where hopefully my precious sunglasses would have washed up with THE wave. I was sad that my glasses didn't appear to be here, but happy when I saw my loving husband at the ocean's edge. Good. I could use some sympathy. A wave just tried to kill me, after all. Failing that, it stole my sunglasses and ran. And I was sunburned. I pouted a bit at my husband, standing there with his big 'ole sunglasses on. He must have seen all that just went down.

'Well, that was stupid,' he quipped before turning around and sauntered back to his shady hideaway.

My husband, who has a reaction not dissimilar to that of a vampire when it comes to the sun, had come all the way down to the beach just to tell me how stupid it had been to where sunglasses in the waves. Helpful. I gathered that he was probably not going to jump into the water and help me with my search.

I faced the waves again, still hoping for that miracle, and swung my limbs around wishfully. Eventually I gave up and came to shore still hoping that maybe my glasses would wind up on the beach at some point.

Let me take this opportunity to say that, really it wasn't these specific sunglasses that I had any sort of emotional attachment to. I had bought them way back at the beginning of the trip at MEC in Vancouver, because I needed sunglasses and they were on sale for $16.99. I had successfully not lost them for the last thirteen and a half months. This is a record of sorts for me. Usually sunglasses don't last a month before I lose them, sit on them, or lose them. So, not only were these sunglasses way past their expiry date, they were also scratched to smithereens. Everytime I put them on I thought about how nice it would be to get new ones when we get home. Ones, that when I wore them, my eyes didn't have to make special adjustments just to see through the scratches. Of course, there had been countless places to buy cheap, crappy sunglasses back in South East Asia, but I had read somewhere that low quality glasses are bad for your eyes- and I have expensive eyes, so I didn't want to risk it.

Anyways, I was frustrated when I came back up the beach. This meant it was the perfect time to stub my toe. Hard. Stupid toe. Stupid sharp rock just barely jutting out of the stupid sand outside the gate to our stupid guesthouse. My middle toe. Who stubs their middle toe, anyways? And oh boy, did it hurt. I wanted to scream. A near death experience courtesy of a sunglass stealing wave and now my toe felt like it was going to fall off. It started throbbing. And going purple. A dark, mean, deep, painful purple. Nothing good has ever come from this shade of purple. I gingerly showed my toe to J. 'Your toe nail is probably going to fall off,' he says. Nice. SO apparently I married the days bearer of all news that is bad and obvious. First he tells me how stupid it was for me to go swimming with my sunglasses (obvious) and now I was going to lose my toenail. (bad) Sigh.

I slump down into my shaded beach chair and contemplate what my life is going to be like without sunglasses. As it would be, we are in a middle-of-nowhere beach town in Southern Sri Lanka, the only country on our trip which has exactly no beach hawkers selling sarongs, beach balls, or sunglasses. It was an aspect that I found fabulously refreshing-until this moment.

As I was sitting there, dividing my time equally between feeling sorry for myself and glaring at the Bad News Bear (aka: my husband), I watched my fellow westerners frollick in the waves merrily (none of them stupid enough to be wearing their sunglasses, I noted.)

A couple of Eastern Europeans came out of the ocean. They had something in their hands. I got excited at the off-the-wall prospect that they might have somehow discovered my glasses. They had had goggles, I remembered (because I had been super jealous of them when I noticed). Darn. They were just holding their goggles.
But THEN- what was that? Something else in their hands too? They seemed to be inspecting whatever it was with a reasonable amount of curiosity. Since they were staying at our guesthouse they came up the beach towards us. The object was the right size to be glasses... the right colour....but the odds were just too low. I just lost my sunglasses in the OCEAN. A needle in a haystack. A grain of sand on the beach....

The couple took a last look at their newly discovered treasure and laid it down on their beach towel with their goggles. I peered from a distance, holding on to the glimmer of hope- and then, in a quickness that shocked even myself I ran down towards the (slightly startled and maybe a little worried-looking) couple. 'MY SUNGLASSES!!!' I shouted, again maybe a little too loud and with no small amount of excitement. The couple, whom I'd never met stared at me blankly (probably in shock of the wildy crazy woman who had chased them down the beach and was now screaming in delight right in their faces. They might not have even spoke English for all I knew. 'You found them!! Thank You! Thank You! THANK YOU!' I shouted, dancing around. The couple is now staring at me more than a little bewildered. Maybe its because I'm yelling and talking really fast or maybe its because I'm claiming that these sunglasses that they had just randomly plucked from the ocean, as my own. Either way they smiled and said 'You're welcome,' probably realizing it would be the easiest way to be rid of me. I couldn't believe it. My sunglasses that moments ago, I was sure I would never see again, were now sitting in front me. I tried them on, just to be sure. Yup. Still scratched to near uselessness. But they were mine- that much was certain! CRAZY.... lucky.... crazy! Really- what are the odds? I lost these suckers in the OCEAN!

it wasn't until the sand settled much later in the day that the real tragedy of all these shenanigans came to light. In the end, the ocean most definitely won the battle. It had quietly, sneak-ily, without my noticing succeeded in stealing something that had actually mattered to me, something that I was actually emotionally attached to- one of my favourite pearl earrings. I had bought the pearls months ago in Halong Bay in Vietnam and had been wearing them ever since. I was completely smitten with them.
And now they were gone. It was a very, very sad turn of events. I was/am very upset about the matter. J says we can go back to Vietnam and I can get another pair... one day. That made me feel a little better- an excuse for another trip.

So, the tally at the end of the day shows a clear winner.

The ocean re-claims my perfect, prized pearl...

And all I'm left with is a lousy pair of sunglasses...

A purple (maybe) broken, or (probably) sprained but (definitely) ugly middle toe...

And a sunburn.

'You know, this is all so characteristically you,' J says to me that evening as I am recounting my whole sob story (yet again) over a delicious rice and curry dinner. Its a hat-trick of unhelpful comments for the Moon. (J: I am becoming increasingly certain that I am married to Amelia Bedelia).

To make matters even more interesting...

Later we were strolling(me-hobbling) along the beach as the sun was setting. I was walking along the waterline in hopes that the sea would allow for a second miracle of that day and my pearl would magically wash ashore at my feet as I was passing by. Just when I was thinking what a wonderful story that would be- a ten rupee note washes up with a wave and lands directly atop my purple toe. The ocean was offering a meager condolence for all the trauma it had caused me that day. J, enticed by the cash, rushed forward (dangerously close to the water) and plucked the bill from my toe. Dangerous because J hates salt water. Yes, the man hates sun and salt water. And sand. He probably hates palm trees, puppies and Easter chocolate too....

'Well, its no pearl earring- but I'll TAKE it!' he exclaims, happily, shaking out the sopping note. I glare at him. For the record, dear family and friends- ten Sri Lankan rupees is worth approximately nine Canadian cents. CENTS. (J: In my defense, regardless of the amount it was a bill and not a coin. A ten cent bill would be more exciting to stumble upon than a one dollar coin, don't you think?)

K: It was nine cents.


Sonia said...

well I hope your toe is feeling better, and that Jonathan found something useful to spend his money on! It is interesting how when traveling the small things take on greater meaning - kudos for getting those sunglasses back and as for the Pearl....I do believe we would be free to go back to Vietnam with you anyday and get another one! :)

Anonymous said...

def broken from the look of it. not much can be done though :( tape it up, might make it hurt less walking. Not too tight though. Poor Kristen.
love Erica

Anonymous said...

I remember a time when we were at the cottage when sunglasses went missing in the water!!!