We’re in Sri Lanka for the month visiting K’s family. Since I met K about 10 years ago I’ve spent many months here. I would have said I knew the immediate neighbourhood pretty well. The road we live on is curvy with numbered lanes poking off of it. I’ve gone on lots of walks and have been down each dead-end lane, surprising dogs behind the gates and drawing interested stares from kids in their yards. I hadn’t explored nearly enough, however, as I found out the other day.
On this trip I wanted to find a swimming pool where I could swim lengths. We mentioned this to K’s aunt who lives next door and she said she knew a place. And she knew a shortcut:
You go out of the gate and down the road…
…then, before you get to the main road, you turn down what I always thought was someone’s driveway…
…at the end of which, on your right, you will find a totally awesome secret passage!
…which leads to a well (Look in. Don’t fall in. No you can’t climb up. No you can’t throw anything down there).
Further down the path you find a metal door. Open it, walk past the stables, say hi to the horses…
…they’re really very pretty pointy-eared horses…
… and turn the corner to find this:
Ahem. This is about a seven-minute walk from our house. I never knew! I knew about the horses but not about the pools (and would never have found the shortcut). On previous trips we have piled into the car to drive to one of the fancy hotels where we pay a non-guest fee to use the pool. As of yesterday we have a one-month membership to this place and have already spent a total of five hours in the pool. Akka jumps confidently into the deep end and swims to the ladder (a new trick). Malli has yet to generate propulsion with his tremendous splashes but he’s learning.
The playground has seen better days. The swing set, a branch of which hangs over the baby pool, makes me think of nothing but tetanus shots but the kids seem to like it.
After swimming we rested in the shade with some drinks (if this place served beer and food I might never leave).
The seven-minute walk home took about twenty as we explored the new paths, sidestepping the brush fire and pausing to look down the well.
While they were swimming I read a book review in the New Yorker about how the over-protective, hovering parenting style common to North America is creating inept, spoiled, incompetent and frightened young adults. So while we walked home I did not tell them not to touch the fire and I did not tell them not to fall down the well. I must trust that at five and seven they can avoid hazards as obvious as these. (I will be reflecting further on the article and plan to discontinue all sorts of coddling things I still do for them out of habit).
The secret passage is delightfully strewn with drawing-rocks which had to be collected and tested on the walls.
The good rocks came home with us. No, I won’t carry them for you (spoiled! incompetent!) but I will show you how to carry them in your shirt; a life skill I believe to be valuable despite its ranking well below fire-and-drowning-avoidance.