March 18, 2015

So Long Sri Lanka

In a perfect blogging world I would have written several posts about Sri Lanka by now. I would have written about riding an antique train to catch up with our friends in Kandy, and then stopping long enough to absorb a little of the wonder of Sri Lanka. I would have described how Maia fulfilled a childhood dream and had a sari made with babysitting money—and then how she discovered that it’s a bridge between cultures which lead to some of the sweetest interactions she’s had, as each woman she met needed to adjust it.

Some of my words would have been used to tell about the highlands, where tea is grown. How the green is so vibrant it made us think of New Zealand. But also, how the picking and processing of tea is so labour intensive that we’ll never take a cuppa for granted again. One entire post would probably have been about traveling cross country in company with three other boat crews—about the hotels we found (some nice, some infested) and what it felt like to hurtle down roads, passing every vehicle in sight, despite the lack of passing lanes and driving three abreast on a one-lane road.

The roads
Making hoppers--a yummy rice and coconut pancake with an egg inside
Sri Lanka has captivated us. We love the food, the people and the beauty of the landscape.

One morning in Anuradhapura we woke up early and loaded into a big jeep for a Safari through Wilpattu National Park. The park was closed for 26 violent years during the civil war. In 1984 when the LTTE massacred 24 park rangers, the terrorists went on the rampage poaching animals, taking timber and robbing archaeological treasures. The Government attempted to re-open the National Park twice. First in 2003, but then a group of visitors were killed in a landmine blast. In 2007 eight soldiers and park staff were killed by terrorists.

The park reopened for good after the war in 2010. But even in 2015 visits to the park are still a fraction of what they were. For us, this meant when our jeep passed through the gates and into the park, we soon wonderfully alone in the woods. Our guide was thrilled each time he stopped to show us yet another wonder. There was a jackal which looked exactly like an Egyptian Hieroglyphic, enough mongooses that we had to look up the plural of mongoose (mongeese is also correct), native peacocks and elephants.

When we sighted one of the parks 40 endangered leopards, I couldn’t help but cry.

In Anuradhapura we cycled through the 2000 year old city exploring the ruins. Samphat befriended us when we were looking at one excavation. He had worked as an archaeological assistant but because his hope is to travel he went to school to become a cook. Even as a cook in a good hotel he still only earns $40 a month. So as he showed us the ruins and taught us about Buddhism he explained his plan.

By the old bathing pool he gave us samples of the languages he’s learning—along with English, he’s taught himself some French, Italian, German and Spanish. As he showed us 2000-year relief carvings he told us how he was collecting foreign coins to represent his goals and showed us his small collection. Then he grew thoughtful and explained Buddhism teaches you to accept things, and maybe he’d never earn enough money to travel. So he showed us how to meditate to gain peace. 
But when he was done he told us he was a bad Buddhist because he still really wanted to travel.


Jonathan said...

Wow, what a post. Thank you. You and Totem have definitely moved Sri Lanka way up on my "must visit" list

Unknown said...

Love the photos. So beautiful.

Diane, Evan, Maia and Charlie the cat said...

Jonathan--Sri Lanka is dreamy--and it was so unexpected. We'd love to go back again some day. Thanks Dean!