Twenty three years later

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Western,
Thursday, December 15, 2011

As the aircraft descended into what appeared to be a sea of palm trees, my heart skipped a beat with excitement to be coming back to this island of serendipity, twenty-three years after Gerry, Michael and I first arrived here.

Comparisons flooded my mind on the journey from the airport into Colombo:

- gone are the numerous potholes that previously ensured a bouncy ride
- gone are the oxcarts and the bicycles that used to slow traffic down to a crawl
- gone is the sound of frustrated drivers constantly leaning on their horns

Only one week later, and my romantic notion of perfection has been replaced by a bit of reality. I must admit that potholed roads are definitely still the norm in many areas. Oxcarts and bicycles are indeed gone, but have been replaced by literally millions of tuk tuks (three wheelers) whose drivers create havoc with their traffic jams. And as for the sound of horns - well, I still think it has been considerably diminished, but is by no means eliminated.

Gerry and I came to Sri Lanka in 1988 as CIDA co-operants, mandated to establish a regional training centre specializing in agriculture and community development - rather a daunting task at any time, but particularly so in the midst of two wars: the JVP in the South and the LTTE in the North. Although not in my job description, I initiated research that ultimately led to the formation of seven “Women’s Productivity Groups”, with each group starting a small entrepreneurship project.  It is my plan to return to the area of my research in an attempt to locate the leaders of each of the seven groups, to see where they are in their lives, twenty three years later. But more about that in a future entry.

I have also been asked by SOS Children’s Villages Canada, to travel to Jaffna to collect photos and information that might assist in their fundraising efforts for a proposed new orphanage in the north. I find this opportunity to be fascinating, since Jaffna was out-of-bounds (due to the ongoing war) during the entire four years we worked in Sri Lanka.

But so far I have simply been in Colombo, hanging out with my Sri Lankan friends, Tania and Shireen. I have been fortunate enough to be invited to various dinners, to a couple of NGO functions, to a Sri Lankan drumming and dancing performance, and to a special exhibition of art and photography used as a means to work with children traumatized by the war. 

And each day brings smiles as I experience anew yet another aspect or activity of this country that I so admire.......and some that I could do without:

- observing the head wobble that indicates either yes or no.....and is surely meant to confuse
- indulging in all the delicious versions of rice and curry, tasting so much better when eaten with the fingers
- watching the women attempting to keep their beautiful saris from dipping into the puddles during a rain storm, and marvelling at how this fashion icon has been kept alive
- tasting buffalo curd with treacle (something akin to yogurt with maple syrup) in a specially made pottery bowl
- standing in line for three long hours at the Department of Immigration, waiting for an extension to my initial 30 day visa........knowing full well that the entire process could easily be completed in fifteen minutes or so
- strolling along the oceanfront at the famous Galle Face Green
- attempting to “get rid of the touts” who are determined to be my guide for the day. It’s amusing how they so often start off by saying “I don’t want any money, but.........”
- sampling all manner of tropical fresh fruit including rambutan, woodapple, and papaya......but not yet durian!!

Enough already - that’s more than I intended for an introduction. Tomorrow I’m off on a train journey to Kandy, where the hot and humid weather will hopefully be replaced by some cooler mountain breezes.
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Liz Jennaway Eaman on

Happy Christmas Sharon!
Good to hear from you after a year and know that you are continuing your journey traveling the world
All the best from balmy England, no White Christmas for us or you!
All the best

Lila Engberg on

Oh Sharon! I lost you for awhile,hoped for a visit. I loved my visit to see you Gerry and Michael in Kandy, admired your entrepeneurship - doing things with soya. Was that 23 or 24 years ago???? I wish you well, now that you have returned and continue with good will for humanity. No snow here yet
and this is C ANADA. Love, Lila

Heather Phaneuf on

Merry Christmas Sharon! Pete and I are settling into a home-based holiday - temperatures are frigid but interestingly enuf, it doesn't impact the warmth of the logs on the fire! How wonderful to be back in Sri Lanka - I will live vicariously through your blogs and imagine walking in tea estates, having coffee at the Galle Face Hotel and getting to know you and your family so many years ago there. Memories are strong as is the affection. Hugs.

Doreen and Anthony O'Sullivan (Cankiwi) on

Merry Christmas Sharon,

We have moved to a new home in Kemptville, ON. good to be closer to children and grandchildren and great be back in the country where we can see the stars at night. Although not as bright as in the Andes in Peru.
We finally have enough snow to call it a white Christmas and it is very cold today. It is great to read of your travels and good will. The true meaning of Christmas played out in your good work.
Take care and stay safe.
Doreen and Anthony (Cankiwi)

Charlotte Anokwa on

Dear Sharon,
It is always good to hear from you. The thrill is I never know where the "hello" would be popping from. I remember all the stories and the wonderful pictures you and Gerry shared after your return from Sri Lanka. I am glad you have returned to get a first hand info on all the efforts you put in there.
A very Merry Christmas to you and good health in the New Year.

Claudia Thierry on

Wondered what you were up to these days. I knew it would be something exciting. We have just had a snow fall, after fearing we would have a green Christmas. I even had my first cross-country ski of the season this afternoon.

Now preparing for 22 people family dinner here tomorrow evening.

All the best for a Merry Christmas and happy new year!
Baie d'Ufrfe, QC

Louise LaBerge on

On Thursday evening I wrote to friends telling them that we were going to have a green Christmas then winter arrived on Friday morning with a few centimetres of snow and -15 C. Enjoy the hot weather in Sri Lanka and Joyeux Noël!

Chris on

Sharon - I am looking forward to learning much more about Sri Lanka from reading your posts! It's good to know you have arrived safely. Keep the posts and photos coming our way!

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