Not so proud to be Canadian, in Sri Lanka
Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
296Trip End Ongoing
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It's been more than three months since Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to visit Sri Lanka for a Commonwealth Summit meeting, citing among other things, human rights abuse. Not knowing what to expect, with the arse falling off of our nation's once friendliness towards all countries on the planet, Elenka and I severed the Canadian flags from our backpacks before coming to Sri Lanka
We flew here with Emirates Air, via Dubai, on the big two storey Airbus. For the first segment of the flight the passengers were mostly Arab. When we left Dubai for Colombo, aside from a few native Sri Lankans, it felt like a white-man's pilgrimage - mostly older Europeans.
What we found when we got here wasn't hatred towards us, but dismay. Because Sri Lankans are among the most friendly people we've ever met we at first chose not to hide our identity. That being said, once we told them we're Canadian, they'd give us that, why do you hate us, beaten dog look. Telling them that we didn't vote for our ultra-conservative government felt lame. So we decided that for the balance of our journey we're going to tell everyone we're British. We're mostly asked if we're English anyway, so it fits.
During our three hour train trip from Colombo to Unawatuna Beach on the south coast, an older gentleman named Sunil, befriended us. When Elenka asked him for the best way to get from Galle, where the train stopped, to Unawatuna, he made a call. When we got off the train we had a free ride to Unawatuna with Sunil and his friend as we went in search of a place to stay for the night. On the way to Unawatuna, Sunil asked us about Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford and his appetite for crack cocaine. Since Sunil's English wasn't so great and I was still flummoxed by the Harper affair I simply said, "Rob who?" and got away with it. Later, in Unawatuna, I blew it again, telling a man that we were Canadian. He looked at me, seemingly wondering if I was wicked or stupid. I took a different tack, staring back at him as though a tree was growing from his ear, adding crazy to the befuddling Canadian controversies
Last night the manager of the Lucky Tuna hotel where we're staying plied me with Arak, a coconut distillate, in hope that we'd take one of his inland tours. By night's end no tours had been sold, but we'd made a trade agreement whereby I'm going to ship Johnnie Walker whiskey to Sri Lanka and he'll send Arak to Canada. Soon, monkey's will begin flying from both of our butts.
While doing my first dive this morning, my mind was far from the reef. Instead, I thought of Stephen Harper and Rob Ford. From an international perspective, Ford's way ahead of a distantly chasing Harper, both on their own paths to infamy. I wondered where Ford might sit on the "most well known politicians" list. Third's my guess, right behind Putin and Obama. Sorry, Mr. Prime Minister.
Photos to follow. The Lucky Tuna's Internet connection is wickedly slow.