• Evelyn Roberts

Sri Lanka


2017


I love airbnb. Went from my simple but lovely little beach location in Kerala to this stunning house in the middle of Colombo. So far this country is pristine, and the people incredibly warm, it feels very much like Bali in terms of friendliness.


Cricket mad is an understatement, and I am standing (lounging), slap dab in the middle between Lords in London and Melbourne Stadium, (apparently 8,500 kms and change in either direction). A nice bit of almost useless info, gleaned from where I had dinner.


How spoiled am I.


The fascination has begun; day 1 in Colombo.


So far, my 1st impression of Sri Lanka is that she has the pace and feel of India lazily waking up from a nap, after a jolly good scrubbing. All the colour and mystery of India, but much less populated, calmer, and very clean by comparison, and predominantly Buddhist. Much as I adore India in all her chaos, and of course I haven't even scrapped the surface of this country with my pinkie nail yet.

It is a bit ironic that I don't really give a hoot about jewellery, yet where I'm staying there's a gem market every 10 feet, and I have SO many friends, (to say nothing of a daughter), who'd appreciate this so much more than me.


I know I'm completely missing something, but I can only take so much of ANY city. 2 days of pounding the pavement here, and while I most respectfully bow to its history, uniqueness, and indomitable spirit, now I just want to take the fastest train out. I have been to some of the arguably most beautiful cities in the world, (St Petersburg, Prague, Paris... and many more that don't begin with "P"), and still I am ever itching for a rice field, forest, empty beach, or jungle.


I just want to beam myself to the next quiet little empty corner, ASAP. Although here I shall be wearing bells around my ankles at all times, Sri Lanka apparently has the highest incidence of death by snake-bite in the world... but also lots of wild elephants. In my book the elephants completely cancel out the snakes, (but I shall still be looking down a lot).


5.30 am in yet another railway station. Trincomalee, here I come.


Now there are more trees than people... yeah. Apparently crossing bridges to get to platforms is optional.


I am on a train in the middle of Ceylon, and I can't find a cup of tea for love nor money.


How cool to be able to hang your head out of a train window while on the way to a new beach. So far there are countless amazing colourful birds, and lots of peacocks perched in trees... and you can hear them over the train whistle. I'm quite nervous about dropping my iPhone out of the window, as I get so excited. Has no-one come up with a camera strap for these things yet?


An art I have mastered; finding the quietest, least tourist ridden beaches, and then wondering why on earth I can't find a restaurant anywhere.


I am staying with a lovely Hindu family who have lived through a civil war, and a devastating Tsunami. They have had to leave, come back, leave again, and rebuild their lives many times over. I'm suddenly in a place where griping and moaning about DT seems trite, (although of course it isn't).


In between appreciating the wildness of this ocean, I can't help imagining how it must have been to see it out of the blue roaring towards them with such force. They lost 27 neighbours, and had a 6 month old baby when it hit.


You know business is slow when you finally find a restaurant and the 18-year-old waiter insists on taking a selfie with you.


From many 1,000's of miles away and with an almost obsessive desire to read all the news I can find, (when I can get wifi), it feels scarily as though quietly and subtly this monster, (DT), and his band of dark cohorts are becoming normalised.


With typical western ignorance, I know almost nothing of the history of other countries... until I am sitting on their land and hearing their stories. Here in Sri Lanka they had a long and bloody civil war, rooted in misunderstanding, jealousies, prejudices, and random stupid violent acts, (correct me anyone if I am wrong here).


We are NO different, our democracy and our freedoms are fragile, and frankly our karma not good. And now we are running zig zag through a minefield.


Although not a US citizen, my children are Americans, and much of my life has been there, and the entire planet will pay for the greed and selfishness of those who now hold power in the USA.


This conversation needs to be kept going, or as the frog in the pot of cold water discovered, before you know it you are being boiled to death. Just as importantly, I need my personal friends, (Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, or whatever), all over the world to know how enraged so many of us are, and how this lying, narcissistic, racist, bigoted "so called" president does not in any way speak for us.


WE CANNOT LET THIS MORPH INTO "NORMAL".


Amazing day wandering the area on my "pink pony"(scooter). Highlight was the Hindu temple, Koneswaram, located on a stunning promontory. Dating to 205BC, but destroyed by the Portuguese between 1622-24. Although they managed to bury many statues as the invaders approached, and even pushed many into the sea. It was not "discovered" again until 1950, and since then they have been excavating for those buried, and even reclaiming some from the sea.

Spent the day thinking of all my wonderful Hindu friends, in both Bali and India.


Local Hot Wells a bit disappointing, although being called wells instead of baths should have given a clue. You couldn't get IN them, and just used buckets for dousing. And as anyone who knows me can attest to, true soaking is one of my addictions. There was also apparently a cobra on the loose there, so I must say it hightailed it out rather quickly.


Thoroughly brazen crows, leave for one minute and they'll swipe your whole breakfast (it has happened to me). My feelings waiver between annoyance and admiration.


Tricomalee


You've got to wonder when the highest price ticket you can buy for an 8 hour train trip costs less than $2.50.


Sri Lanka; free health care for all, with both traditional herbal and western medical care available.


90% literacy rate, education is free, as are text books and school uniforms. Free university education that includes subsidised housing. 45,000 university places are given a year, and these places are only awarded through merit.


After university there is a 5-7 year required commitment to remaining in the country, as payment for what the country has invested in you.


50 public holidays, so they basically work half the year.


The 3rd world, would that we in the so-called "1st" were so civilised.


Loving Sri Lanka. Visited the stunning ancient Buddhist caves of Dambulla.


Early tomorrow we climb Lion Mountain (Sigiriya).


Happiness is an elephant in the wild.


A day of climbing Lion Rock, (1,000 + steps and vistas forever), with all its amazing exotic history. Then the gift of seeing elephants in their natural habitat, there are about 3,000 roaming wild in Sri Lanka. Quite a day.


Travel: Full Immersion in the University of Life Amongst Our Marvellous Human Family, the Uniqueness of Our Different Corners of this One Little Planet, and the Creativity this Inspires.


Sri Lanka has given me yet another in-depth crash course in how different peoples live their lives. I now feel more educated, aware, at home on the planet, hopeful for our species, ever more amazed at what we have achieved over the ages, and touched by how kind and gracious and beautiful people generally are.


To say nothing of the breathtaking natural beauty.


After searching for tea in all the wrong places, suddenly there is nothing but tea terraces for as far as the eye can see. The weather is very cool, and everything is even more British than England, (apart from Hindu and Buddhist temples dotted around everywhere).

Racecourses, cricket fields, golf courses, and slightly rundown sprawling Tudor style homes.


In this delightful old colonial style hotel, (built in 1876), all the staff have Victorian manners, bow-ties and white gloves. Dinner attire is formal and leaning far more towards Downton Abbey than madam here's rainbow hippie chic.


However, I have discovered the 1st bathtub I've seen in Sri Lanka, so it's a long soak, red wine in a teacup, and cream crackers for me. Let the rest of them eat roast beef and Yorkshire pud.

Bliss.


P.S. Then just when I thought it couldn't get any better, they came by with a hot water bottle, in a flannel cover... and placed a tropical flower on the pillow.


Tea pickers homes, they live in pretty abject shanty towns and are always Tamils. Something to think about when trying to find the cheapest tea we can get. Our guide is however adamant that buying Fairtrade makes not a whit of difference to these people. In Sri Lanka tea is always bought by the grade and not by the plantation. So yes there is free medical care and education, but someone always falls through the cracks, and apparently many tea pickers children leave school early as the salaries are so low. Everyone in the family needs to work.


Elephant crossing. Sadly, if people start feeding them, they only live about a year and a half more, because they rapidly get diabetes. Their bodies can't assimilate breads and sugars. Like us they get addicted and keep looking for more, and some stupid humans keep giving it to them.


The day began with a leopard, deer, crocodiles, peacocks, boar, monkeys, and endless stunning birds, and then it ended with this hotel view. Please don't hate me because I'M HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE.


Leaving the shores of Sri Lanka this morning at 6:30 am, and heading in the general direction of Antartica. We came across a pod of blue whales. All photos taken only in my head.


Oh my goddess, just when you really are sure it can't get any better, I find an incredible room for the next four nights. I wished to see and hear the ocean, with no barriers, and here there are no windows, just as I wanted.


The local bus getting here was the most colourful I have ever been on.


I just realised I have one more day here than I thought. I gained an entire 24 hours ?somewhere?, complete head adjustment needed. Another day on this beach certainly isn't going to hurt.


Also, I am about to fly to Boston, and it's March... and I don't even own a pair of socks. I can layer the cotton and sarongs, but even I am not eccentric enough to wrap my feet. I am a green card holder, so there'll be no waving red sarongs in front of those Trumped-up TSA boys.


A shopping I must go (on my newly acquired day).


I am sitting in a beauty shop, surrounded by the most stunning women preparing for a traditional wedding. They are breathtakingly beautiful, but several are having skin whitening treatments. Why, why, why, when there is so much beauty in their many shades of gorgeous brown. Actually, I know exactly why, and it makes me furious that this warped and damaging thinking from colonial times still exists.


Then I get asked if I would like my hands and feet whitened... and get rid of my hard earned wimpy little tan, not a chance.


It also just struck me that I have waited until my very last day to get waxed and pedicured, right before I return to the winterish land of zero body exposure. The socks I am about to buy will hopefully appreciate their private viewing of my beautiful new red toe nails.


Air travel can be looooong, (especially when at 3 am you are just beginning 30 hours on 3 different flights), and sometimes tedious, but there are few places as multi-cultural as airports. The family travelling with 5 kids has me riveted right now. It is bizarre to be in the UK, in Heathrow, so close to my daughter and countless other great friends, and yet unable to see them.


I always feel a thrill to be here, even in unideal situations like this. Don't know if others feel this way about places they grew up in, but there is something in the air that is so familiar and comforting. I'm not one for roots, but if there is anywhere that can make me feel the tug, it's here.


Even with the predictable grey everything, and the baffling disorder. Doha's airport transfer process was like a calm and steady zen walk, compared to Heathrow's shambolic monkey cage chaos. Regardless, I love it... and astrology-wise it is definitely my place, (Jupiter on the IC is beyond happy).


In six weeks I'll be back for a proper visit.