Sunday, February 3, 2013

Private and Public Life in Colombo

In this busy busy city we spend most of our time on the streets. So we get to have a feeling for the public life that takes place in front of everyone. From that maybe we can guess about the private life people have behind curtains, doors, or walls.

The public life is noisy and out there. Though we see women there are mostly men. Groups of men, men by themselves, men squatting in dirty sarongs, men in uniforms in front of guard posts, men hawking wares, young men walking in groups.

It's the tropics and many of the walls you see are rotting. We looked at housing yesterday that I guess was from the late '40s, about the time of independence. Maybe Soviet-inspired, maybe funded by the USSR. Pretty crowded and decrepit like the streets around them in Slave Island. A block away we saw an elephant in shackles, looking pretty sad, looking like it just tolerated the human being who was following it.

The public street is full of the sounds of horns, beeping, honking, sporadic, steady. And the sound of traffic, wheels careening around curves, trucks and buses jangling in the potholes. Behind the walls there is a kind of quiet, like behind the walls of our house, and family life takes place, women and children, who you don't see many of in downtown colombo. Nut you also see children being taught to beg, dirty children with bare feet, in contrast to the children of our hosts, quiet, obedient, studious.

Somehow the streets we've walked on seem to have less in the way of foods or wares to sell. So the feeling is distinct from Mexico, where it seems the streets are packed with merchandise. We haven't been to the Pettah though, where this kind of action is probably more apparent.

After a night spent mostly awake my mind isn'tworking too well this morning, so I'm not writing up to speed, but here are some good photos from yesterday!

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