Mingling with the locals

Trip Start Feb 17, 2014
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Monday, March 31, 2014

From Mirissa, we took a bus to Galle for the day.  The old fort had a historic feel from the Dutch influence.  There wasn’t too much to see apart from some nice views and we pottered around, walking along the walls of the fort.  We had numerous interactions with the locals though.  There was a school group who had an assignment to talk English with foreigners so we were immediately targeted.  An old man who walked along the fort walls everyday to keep fit came to talk to us and asked to see British money.  We only had a penny on us, which we gave to him, but he asked to see a 5 note (which we didn’t have).  Another man, who we thought was drunk, talked very fast and told us he made lots of money but gave it to the poor.  He later confirmed our suspicions when he said he also liked brandy!  Lastly, we met Ronald and his family whilst watching the sunset.  Ronald ended up telling us about the war and his views on the current UN Human Rights Convention investigations.  Whilst the war is over and people are trying to move on, it is apparent that it has had a big impact on the local population and the memories left behind are still sore.  

We stayed in Galle for dinner and ended up at a family run restaurant which sold 10 homemade curries.  This restaurant is noteworthy as it made us realise that there are no barriers in the way to local entrepreneurship.  The family establishment used to run a juice bar but they had customers asking for food too.  In the end, they decided to sell curry instead.  There was no paperwork and licensing changes - they just did it.  We thought this was great that locals could set up businesses this easily (as long as they remained clean and hygienic when it came to food!).

Our trip to Galle became most memorable because of the bus trip back to Mirissa.  We hadn’t realised that the following day was the presidential elections.  Therefore, the buses were finishing early.  We reached the bus stop and we asked a man waiting where to catch the bus to Mirissa.  He was most helpful and went with us from bus to bus until we found the correct one.  It was the last bus and very full when we got on so we stood right at the front by the door.  More and more people boarded.  It was a tight squeeze and very hot.  Despite there being no space to even breathe, the conductor still squeezed his way through the bus to collect the fares.  When we thought that no one else could fit on, people started to hang off the side of bus.  I was thankful that we were on the inside rather than the outside. This bus driver too thought he was a Formula 1 driver so we raced along the coast back to Mirissa.  The erratic stopping meant that I was slammed into a stranger’s sweaty back continuously.  As I became acquainted with Mr. Sweaty and we could not see where our stop was, because it was dark and the bus was going so fast, I asked him whether he could tell us when to get off.  Mr. Sweaty coordinated with the conductor and the driver wonderfully and we slid between the sweaty mass and slipped off the bus at the right place.
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