Thursday, February 04, 2016

1976 Roberta's India Letter -Feb.3

February 3, 1976
Dear Family,

Hello am now in Hikkaduwa – a real tourist spot – we (Mike, Mary & myself) have really been disappointed here as it is very expensive, and very tourist oriented.  I don't know if I told you but they thought they had a small house here for 2 weeks – but that did not work out – so the three of us together got a nice room at a small hotel (3 rooms in all) right on the beach!  In the morning the waves are nice – but by the afternoon & evening they really get big!

I'm enclosing some stamps for John – it's up to you if you want to send them to him or wait till he gets home in March.

–– Now Wednesday morning –– almost 7:00 – everyone else is still asleep so good time to write letters – you'll never believe what I'm learning to do – play cards.  It's a good past time here.  So far I've got pinocle (sp?) down pretty good – sometimes I mess up bidding – tend to bid to low!  I always think – gee – if you all could see me playing cards you would not believe it.

We have had fun here – twice we rented goggles to see the fish & coral areef.  But because of the necessity for my glasses I could just set the goggles on the water and then look down – which let me see some fish & some of the coral reefs – but nothing like what I could have seen if I could have gone under swimming.

I'm beginning to get a tan – but the back of me is RED – laid out too much on my back one day!  The water here is really clean – but the people are unbelievable.  They walk around w/ a sheet around them – then on the beach they lie nude on the sheet!  I'm not talking about the natives.  I'm talking about the young people from the U.S., Europe & Australia.  They all try – it seems – to take the prize for being disgusting!  Also you walk past them and they want to borrow $ for food, for a way back to Colombo where they have $ waiting for them (according to their stories), etc.

Because of all this – we are willing to leave the beautiful beach – this morning we are going to Ratnapura –  that is what is called the gem mines of SRI LANKA.  Ceylon is known for its gems – everywhere they are sold – but you have to be careful – or you will get something cheap for a high price.  Also BATIKS are sold everywhere!  That is cotton w/ designs in it – done by hand w/ wax and dyes – I'm not sure exactly how.  You can buy really nice wall hangings, shirts, long skirts, etc. – Alot of batik work is done here – also alot of mask making.  Masks are usually very colorful – and very unusual designs.

To get to Ratnapura – which isn't all that far away – if you would go the way the crow flies – we will spend at least 6 hours – if things go right!  We 1st go to Kalutara (north of here on the sea) then to Ratnapura by bus from there.

I'm not sure exactly what or how much I had told you all about Mike & Mary.  They are from Iowa – a good Catholic family – have 12 children in there family.  Last year (1974) their father died in a car accident.  Mike taught English in Afghanistan.  He has already traveled through Bangkok, Malaysia, etc. – really anxious to get there because he says it's Western w/ a touch of the Orient.  They keep saying – come on & go w/ us – I would love to but don't feel I can take the chance to get the same charter flights they have out of Calcutta & Burma.  Also my $ isn't enough to be buying plane tickets home – to live on, I have plenty, but not for both.

Mary is just a year younger than me – she has worked at Nantucket, Mass the last 3 summers – which is where she made her $ as a waitress.  Has always worked in Restaurants so we have alot in common.  We always laugh here & say we should teach them to be efficient – restaurants here are very slow – food comes in shifts – Food here is very expensive & spend about $2.00 a day for food.  In India I never spent that much!  Here instead of rice it is noodles.  Alot of foods are rationed here – sugar for one thing.  We should have brought sugar from India!  In India on the streets they sell sugar cane juice and also pieces of sugar cane – whre you chew them, get the juice out and then throw away the pulp.

Fruit here is cheap – every morning we have fruit.  Yesterday I had prawns – they were devilled – really hot – kept eating bread & butter which help cut it a little!

The bugs here are bad – mosquitoes, flys, etc. – we bought these coils you burn which help alot.  I don't know why where you have nice climate you have to have bugs too!

I hope you got my message saying that from now on to send my mail to YMCA Guest House, New Delhi.

It's time for breakfast – I'll add more later –

– Now  in Ratnapura – What an experience getting here – just had to take 3 different buses – cost us about 6 Rupees each – less than 50¢!  But took almost 8 hours!  When we got here we saw a nice hotel right near the bus station but we figured that might be too expensive – so we walked 1 mile about in one direction to a guest house – but no rooms – so we ended up at the hotel near the bus station – paying $7.5 Rupees a night each.  That is about 60¢.  The room is nice – the bathroom is down the hall.  We all get 1 room together – last night we played some more cards – when I get home I'll be ready to take all of you on ––

This is beautiful country – hilly – everything nice & green.  But here as in India you can see great poverty – I've had some of the best curds & honey here – it's a desert [sic] – also people eat it for breakfast.  Ate egg hoppers one day – something like a fried pancake –

Please tell everyone hello for me – I'v written few letters & I hope people understand.  Just 5 weeks & I'll be home ––

Love, Berta

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