Monday, May 8, 2017

Sri Lankan Hand Jobs - Reasons Why You Should Eat With Your Hands

One of the mainstay Sri Lankan customs is the gentle art of eating with your hand. If you want to eat like a local then this is something you'll want to put into practice. Eating by hand is a custom in many areas of the world, including parts of Asia and much of Africa and the Middle East. I've seen a rough estimate suggesting that between one and two billion people worldwide eat primarily with their hands. This might come as a surprise to those who have never come across this custom and/or are conditioned to eat with cutlery, such as spoons, knives and forks or even chopsticks.

My first introduction to the "Sri Lankan hand job" was on a visit to my friend Chathurika's home. In fact, my reaction to the sight that greeted me in her kitchen was somewhat hilarious as I caught her being hand fed by her mother.  Given that Chathurika was well-past her teenage years, I was gobsmacked by the sight of (1) a grown woman being fed her mother and (2) the fact she was being fed by hand. I think my mouth dropped open and stayed open catching flies until they both realized I wasn't actively participating in their banter. I genuinely thought it was really sweet they had such a close relationship, but seeing it for the first time was a bit of a shock as it was so far removed from what I was used to.

Since that time I've become much more accustomed to seeing people eating with their hands, as well as eating by my own hand. Admittedly, it did take me awhile to get the hang of it and I will say I'm still probably not as smooth doing it as a local.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Expat News, Articles of Interest and Diary Events #9

Life in Sri Lanka isn't always easy, though it's easy to be misled by the Instagram feeds of many posting idyllic shots of travel and expat life on the teardrop island. But in reality, life on the island veers sharply left and right of those glamorous sponsored shots by the hotel pool or the view through a social media filter of a pristine beach or mountain vista. 

I really don't like misleading people and I have less and less patience for those willing to mislead others. Sure, there is beauty across the island but those areas are being challenged on a daily basis as the country grapples with fundamental issues. These issues are mainly centered around the delivery of essential services, infrastructure construction and the rapid development of the island. If you have read the local news and articles over the past few months it provides a picture of what things are really like. And I do encourage those that wish to move here, to do this kind of research.

Just reading April's news makes it seem like we are living in a literal garbage pit. The irony is not lost on me as my very first post on this blog, back in early 2013, posed the question of whether I was living in a paradise or a pit. At the time I concluded it was more paradise than pit, but in the past few years I've had growing concerns about the decisions being made (or not being made) to protect the island's food supply, water supply, environment, wildlife and more. Based on all the garbage articles this month and my own experiences, it feels like more pit than paradise these days. And I feel like a broken record having written about Sri Lanka's garbage and plastic problems for many years now. As an expat who has lived in Sri Lanka for close to a decade, I wonder whether the price for all the short view decisions in favor of rapid growth and development of the island come at the price of the decline of all that is wondrous and good... Something worth thinking about eek

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Daily Meditation and the Sri Lankan Police Force

I was fascinated when it was reported, back in February 2017, the Sri Lankan Inspector General of Police, Pujith Jayasundara, had ordered all police personnel to meditate before commencing their daily work duties. Apparently the Police Chief's objective was to introduce meditation as a means to improve service delivery and law enforcement; to address spiritual development within the force; and to help overcome mental health issues such as depression.

A daily schedule of meditation at all police stations across the island has been introduced for all employees between 8.30am and 8.45am daily.  They are ordered to undertake at least 15 minutes of anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) followed by metta (loving kindness) meditation to start the day.

Some would say it is timely move given the Sri Lankan police department's reputation for corruption and ongoing reports of police brutality and violence since the end of the civil war.

However, Sri Lanka is by no means leading in the area of meditation in law enforcement. In fact, Sri Lanka appears to be lagging behind other countries that have adopted this much earlier. It could be seen as somewhat ironic given Sri Lanka's ancient lineage of Buddhist meditation. But, better late than never as they say.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sri Lanka: Pint-sized Plastic Garbage Island?

Image source: CNN
An article was published late last year on the Midway Atoll in the North Pacific. It highlighted the devastation of plastic pollution on this tiny island located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The video imagery that went with the article showed evidence of the direct impact of plastic pollution on the island's natural environment, inhabitants, sea life and the harm caused to food sources. The article went on to highlight Sri Lanka as one of the five worst polluters when it comes to plastic pollution around the globe, based on a study published in Science Magazine looking at mismanaged plastic waste from land into the ocean. The other countries were China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. It projected that Sri Lanka would still be in the top ten of plastic polluters around the globe by 2025.

After reading the CNN article, I also watched a full-length documentary on Midway Atoll titled "Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch". In terms of shock value, it hit me right in the guts when I saw the impact of plastic and waste on sea life, bird life, other wildlife and also human lives. It has serious consequences on our food systems, ecology and health.

As an expat living in Sri Lanka reading that the island made the top five worst polluters list didn't really come as a surprise. Why not? Well sadly, the evidence is right in front of us. A visit to to the closest beach provides all the evidence you need. You can even  go a step further and look at the current issues across the island regarding inadequate and ineffective waste management (the devastating garbage dump collapse at Meethatomulla is a recent example); illegal dumping; and the public's propensity towards plastic consumption (from plastic bags, bottles, caps, containers, wrapping and more), which provide further evidence of the serious nature of this problem.

Sri Lanka is literally drowning in its own waste as the garbage problems spiral out of control and the pollution of the environment (both land and sea) is par for the course.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

UPDATED: Expat News, Articles of Interest and Diary Events #8


Can you believe we're in April already.  I was fooled a couple of times on April Fools Day. If you don't have a problem with feeling foolish, which I don't, then it's a nice way to start the month... with a few laughs and giggles. 

Expat life continues to roll on... it feels like there are more expats coming over to look for opportunities or on expat assignments. I'm pleased more expats are embracing the Lankan way of life and getting on with creating a life over here. It takes some getting used to, but it can be a real blessing.

March was a busy month for me. Plenty of challenges to keep me busy, which keeps things fun and interesting.

Things seem to be moving swiftly along with ever-increasing large-scale projects, infrastructure developments around the island, potential sale of State-Owned Enterprises, and new alliances and business partnerships with other countries. I can't help but think most of these developments are being pushed ahead at the expense of many things that are valuable to the island. Time will tell, but my fingers are crossed in hope that the things which are truly valuable to Sri Lanka, will not eroded at the expense of all this development.