The kindness of Canadians
Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
59Trip End Jul 11, 2012
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We spent a couple of days, then, exploring the bustling streets of Kandy, walking around the lake, and stopping in to eat and have tea at various places. Anywhere you go in Sri Lanka, we have learned by now, you can get an excellent pot of tea that is so strong that it looks like coffee coming out of the teapot. The tea is brewed to perfection when it arrives on your table; no teabag or leaves linger in the pot to make it bitter. A pot of heated milk and coarse sugar complete the serving, which is always in teacups and saucers. I love being in a place where they know how to make tea. We are, after all, in tea country now, Sri Lanka’s "hill country."
We followed back alleys off the main downtown streets to check out the commerce there and found a busy hole-in-the-wall breakfast place where they make hoppers and string hoppers on a grill by the street. Hoppers are like small pancakes made with flour, and string hoppers are made of noodles. They come with a variety of curry dishes. After the hoppers and curries were plunked down on our table, we realized that there would be no concession here to Western sensibilities; we would finally have to use our hands—right hands, that is—to eat. And so we did, after looking around at the other diners to see how they squished the hoppers and curry in the fingers of their right hands and scooped the portion into their mouths
In our wandering, we came across signs for an Education Expo. Dan wanted to check it out, although it sounded a bit like work to me. We inquired if there was a fee (none, just a registration) and entered the mall to see booths of schools, universities, and vocational training programs, with representatives of each organization ready to hand out promotional material and explain what they do. The scene was familiar to me from the exhibitors’ halls at ESL conferences, but the target audience was mainly older teens and their parents making decisions about next steps after school-leaving. We came to a stall advertising university transfer programs with American and Canadian universities, among others. As I approached the man sitting behind the booth, I could feel my persona shifting: my carefree traveler’s self gave reluctant way to my professional self as questions came to my mind—which universities were partners? How was the articulation managed? The man behind the booth listed a number of Canadian partner universities including York and UBC. On learning I was from Vancouver, he said that he had been at the NAFSA conference in June; I also attended that conference and made a presentation
Later that day, we were walking on a street filled with small shops selling everything from household knick knacks to rice to dried fish to electronics and jewellery, when a man asked us our country. Almost everyone who greets us asks us this, so it was not unusual, but as soon as we mentioned Canada, his eyes lit up and he whipped out from his shirt pocket a small piece of paper in plastic with his brother’s address in Markham, Ontario, penned on it. His name was Mohammad, and his brother had experienced much kindness from Canadians so he wanted Mohammad to show the same kindness to Canadians he met in Kandy
The Jan 28, 2012 edition of Ceylon Today had some interesting stories. These included one headlined, “Countrywide ops to nab quacks”: “The police have commenced a countrywide operation to arrest 50,000 fake doctors who are currently operating in the country.” According to the story, legitimate doctors go overseas or die, and then opportunistic medical assistants step in and use their medical license numbers to set up their own medical clinic in which they diagnose and treat illnesses and prescribe drugs. In another story, the Boycott Sri Lanka Team (Tamil Nadu) in India is protesting the sale of Sri Lankan made products such as biscuits and chocolates “because of the genocide committed by Sri Lanka on Tamils.” At the same time, media activists challenge the government to prove that they are on the LTTE (Tamil Tiger) payroll as the government claims, even though the government claims to have eradicated the Tamil Tigers. And a letter to the editor lambasts a politician ignorant of Sri Lankan cricket wins, headlined, “Minister Dullas Alahapperuma’s cricket bloomer/howler.”
And so passed a pleasant sojourn in pronounceable Kandy, where the kindness of Canadians is amply repaid by the kindness of Sri Lankans.