Sri Lanka - thoughts and tales

Trip Start Oct 26, 2007
Trip End Oct 26, 2009

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Thursday, December 20, 2007


My six weeks in Sri Lanka were full of sun, sand, superb people.  I didn't write as much along the way in Sri Lanka, and will probably retroactively update.  I'd sum up by saying my lengthy stay in this beautiful country confirmed for me my love of the place.

I had spent just a week here in October 2005, less than a year after the tsunami of Dec 26, 2004.. and I was so taken with the beautiful country, and the even more beautiful people I met.  After spending six weeks, I know it is a country I will return to again and again, to see friends, as well as to watch its development and progress.. which I pray happens sooner but I fear will happen later.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, filled with truly beautiful people.  But it is also a country steeped in a seemingly endless civil war, poverty, and slow development.  Tourism is not pretty in Sri Lanka, there can be a neediness, and unpleasantness about it.  I chalk that up to a lack of female involvement, especially in the guest houses/tourist accommodation.  The male proprietors often lack a diplomatic, welcoming, customer oriented style.  Some can come across smarmy and overdo the gratuitously deferential treatment.  Clearly poverty-stricken vendors beg you to buy their trinkets, or just plain put out their hand and ask for money.  It's wearing, and I find it hard to pass by without my Irish Catholic guilt rearing its head. 

My guilt surrounds being born into a free and developed and rich country.  I am incredibly wealthy in relation to most people I meet on my travels.  Recall that witticism "I've been poor, and I've been rich:  rich is better."  Rich in spirit is my aim, as well as letting go of the guilt of my hard earned "riches", or current circumstances.  As my profile on this blog reads, I've worked for 30 years, with a strong work ethic modeled on my single mother of four.  She didn't have much help raising her four children, a year between her first three, and a mere two year break before her last. 

I don't know how my friends and sisters do it today, never mind how my mother, who was under 30 year old immigrant from Ireland, managed with four children below 10years of age.   My family didn't have much in relation to our US peers, and paying for food with stamps was a source of embarrassment to me.  Yet in relation to the whole world, we were rich, even as a welfare dependent family.   Maybe that's why I'm more comfortable with the time rich/cash poor, rather than cash rich/time poor types.

Back to Sri Lanka!  Signs of corruption, apathy and neglect abound.  The ongoing civil war has taken its toll.  I'm writing this in the middle of a round-the-country expedition, and it ceased being "fun" days ago.  The lessons, again, for me involve how unsuited to one or two days at a place I am.  In future I will plant myself and get to know an area. 

CINNAMON ISLAND:  Linda, Ali's friend, arranged a day trip to Cinnamon Island, off of Unawatuna's shores.  We ventured out before dawn in two boats - Linda, her mother, myself, Lara, and two couples from the UK, Jeremy and Sue and Patrick and Ian. 

Watching the sun come up as we glided soundlessly over the dark water was a wonderful sight.  It was cool on the water.  We paddled to the island, and were greeted by the family we would visit when we docked our boats.  They then showed us how cinnamon is  harvested.  Now I had no idea that cinnamon is rolled bark from a tree.. I suppose if I sat down and thought about it, I might have hit upon the notion.  It was fascinating to watch the young boy of the household shaving and peeling the cinnamon bark.  We passed around freshly cut cinnamon, and inhaled deeply.  If you were observing, you'd have thought we were in some drug den! haha 

Our pre-teen host and his little sister were lovely guides.  After showing us the cinnamon ropes, we were ushered into their small house to sit around a table to a huge meal.  We enjoyed the most beautiful traditional SriLankan breakfast, featuring rice and fish curry, and crab, and vegetable curry. 

In this lovely land you could seriously eat rice three times a day, and many do.  For me, it was unusual to have such a savory and large meal so early in the day, but I dug in with gusto, and you can tell from the photos that others did too.  It was a real off-the-beaten-track stop, and another of the experiences I'll treasure.  I'm trying to avoid the tourist traps, but the fact remains I am a tourist every where I go.. so when you find a situation that reflects real life in a real remote part of the world, you really cherish it!

Really.. I think I'll work on limiting the use of the world "really" from here on in.  Enjoy the photos..

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