Teaching has been my life for almost 9 years but I am still restless to find lasting spiritual peace. After a generally troubling week in India, I felt enthusiastic about visiting my parents’ homeland and even more hopeful about learning of our heritage.
After two weeks, Sri Lanka has not disappointed. Dana and I have seen the bustling capital of Colombo, the ancient cities of Sigriya and Anuradhapura, the beachside haven of Trincomalee, the largely army-controlled Jaffna and now, the beautiful tea country of Nuwara Eliya. All these places have been at once, foreign in terms of social codes and geography but also somehow, deeply familiar to me. The tone and rhythm of the spoken English language, the exquisit cuisine and the friendliness of the people seems to extend from out my earliest childhood memories to welcome all travellers… As I sit in Heritance Tea Factory in Nuwara Eliya, I am surrounded by tourists from across the globe and I feel curiously proud!
I will never forget my four nights in Colombo with my Uncle Lennie and Aunty Junie. Their strong faith in the face of personal adversity and the unwavering humility shown by my extended family around them, is typical of Sri Lankan people generally. Though they do not have what we take for granted- like hot water and a reliable supply of electricity, they offer it all willingly and enthusiastically to guests. Their generosity of spirit is truly humbling, even for those without their faith.
So to a brief report card for our two weeks in Sri Lanka:
Climate: Consistently warm and humid by mid-morning. Generally beautiful!
Hospitality: Extraordinary! Prompt, thorough and always friendly. Mostly carried out by males in immaculate uniforms. Superb value for the Australian dollar.
Culture: Deeply devout and quite proud and disciplined (except for road use!).
Vibrant colours enrich the many Sri Lankan Hindu temples which are intricately crafted and are simply spectacular. Smooth, white bell-shaped Buddhist Stupas are common, with enormous golden Buddhas often adourning mountainsides. All were built with as much pure devotion as shown by the approximately 70% of Sri Lankan Buddhists who make regular pilgrimages to offer their prayers and worship at these sacred sites. To my suprise, Christian churches and Muslim mosques are far less common to reflect their minority status. However, their are countless smaller glass cabinets on roadsides that encase treasured statues from all of these relgious traditions. All belief systems co-exist peacefully as a model for the rest of the world!
Governance: Sri Lanka is self-consciously putting its troubled history of civil confict behind a hive of activity and development. Comprehensive road works are underway in every part of Sri Lanka we have visited so far. Many of these extensive projects are carried out by local women who like their male counterparts in hotels and restaurants, work exhausting hours every day for only modest returns. The downside to this burgeoning progress in terms of strengthening Sri Lanka’s road networks, is the considerable lost time in travelling between cities.
Conversations about Government corruption, the rising cost of living or army autrocities against Tamil civilians are often whispered and always short-lived but there is genuine and universal relief that the war is over. Government propaganda promoting a united Sri Lanka is now quite prominent.
Sites: Decent and more historic than I had expected. Beaches are to be experienced to be believed!
With Kandy, Galle, Negombo and Mount Livinia still ahead of us during the next 9 days, Sri Lanka has proved to be both personally fascinating and also very relaxing. Credit to Jodie from Vida Travel in South Yarra for her incredible job in planning our itinerary meticulously, including organising Prasaana- our sensational driver whilst in Sri Lanka.
So while Australia remains the best country in the world, Sri Lanka has emerged in me, as the paradise my parents had to leave behind in order to give my siblings and I, the best possible chance in life. I feel very blessed to have this chance to come home.
With Kindest and Warm Regards to all and seeing you from August 25th,