When there’s so much going on in the world – from the unexpected election of newcomer Gen. Michel Aoun to the Lebanese presidency to the slow transformation of America’s ‘great democracy’ into something like an oligarchy, like those it has schizophrenically both allied itself with, while fighting against for years – and I remain so silent (dare I say indifferent), this only means one thing: that I need a vacation. And a vacation I sure did take.
Following last year’s Vietnamese and Cambodian adventure (see “Going Further East”), this year was still about the east but a bit closer. Sometimes eclipsed by its bigger Indian neighbor to the north, but like a crown on the head of the Indian Ocean, this year I discovered Sri Lanka.
Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka may be best known for its tea and civil war, a 26-year conflict in the north of the country ending only seven years ago. But one doesn’t have to speak the language nor spend too much time to discover that there’s a lot more to Sri Lanka than that, obviously. The images from my beloved Canon EOS 600D will do most of the talking, but for the rest, I found friendliness wherever I went and love and respect for nature, stemming from the country’s Buddhist tradition. Colombo, like most capital cities around the world, is crowded and polluted, but step outside and automatically everything turns green, in all its different shades. Bargaining in the local markets can get as heated as the food is spicy. A democratic socialist republic that provides free education and healthcare to its citizens, wealth inequality exists but aren’t too flagrant. Religion doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue – as the country’s Buddhist, Hindus, Muslims and Christians live peacefully with one another – though history hasn’t always proven this to be the case. People complain about the high costs of telecommunications and the government’s monopoly on the sector, but appreciate that most of their energy comes hydraulic sources. A country where the vestiges of its former British colonial ruler are still apparent in its English accent and part of its services sector, but an independent republic with a strong legacy of women active in political life that have become presidents and prime ministers.
When faced with a Lebanese tourist, many Sri Lankans smiled without much to say. Others, to my initial dismay, announced they had friends or relatives that had gone to work in Lebanon. I was preemptively ashamed that they would tell me how these workers had been mistreated, but fortunately got nothing but positive feedback from their work experiences, so all was good. It seems the more tragic stories of Sri Lankan workers come from the Gulf nowadays, where many Sri Lankans are and continue to go in search of better job opportunities.
And while I wonder whether it is more fun to be a travel blogger than whatever is left to blog about these days, do stop what you’re doing for a moment, and let me take you to Sri Lanka…