Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sri Lanka's Long History of Fasting

If you follow Sri Lankan politics then you will have heard or read about National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa's fast in prison last week in protest over the High Court rejection of his bail application.  Unfortunately he had to be transferred to hospital after only three days. But I suppose that outcome was expected given the reasons behind his prison fast. What interests me is not the politics behind Wimal Weerawansa's fast, but the historic precedence of fasting in Sri Lanka and why it still has significant importance (maybe now more than ever) from a medical, spiritual, and philosophical perspective.

By definition, fasting is a voluntary or willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. It has been practiced for thousands of years. In fact, many religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism have all practiced fasting in one form or another. In ancient yoga, fasting has been used as a method of natural healing. And even the ancient philosophers, such as Hippocrates, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle praised the benefits of fasting. Philippus Paracelsus, one of the three fathers of Western medicine was quoted as saying "fasting is the greatest remedy - the physician within".

Sunday, March 5, 2017

UPDATED: The Question of Medical Insurance for Expats in Sri Lanka

The question of medical or health insurance for expats is one of those critical things that needs some proper attention. To be honest, a decade ago, I didn't think too much on it because of my personal circumstances, which was essentially that I was young, healthy and not 100% sure about my plans for living in Sri Lanka. I had some travel insurance to cover me for the initial period, but after that I considered Sri Lanka's free public health system as "good enough" should anything happen. Plus, at that time I thought myself low risk in medical terms. Of course these things change over time and you learn through experience about the health system in Sri Lanka, both public and private, and that helps with making better informed decisions about medical cover and healthcare options.

I also recognize that not all expats are the same and therefore each person's circumstances and requirements may be quite different. For instance, a foreign assignee (and family) might have medical insurance built into their expat deal. But a young expat adventurer may weigh their options and decide not to take medical insurance based on personal circumstances and low risk factors. Or the expat entrepreneur who runs a business in Sri Lanka and has a young family that wants good medical insurance cover has a preference for private healthcare as that's what is the norm back in their native country. Or the expat retiree who has come over on the "My Dream Home" visa programme which requires a valid medical insurance policy applicable in Sri Lanka will make a choice based on their age and medical needs.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Expat News, Articles of Interest and Diary Events #7

For a short month February was certainly a busy and event-filled one. We were lucky to have a few long weekends owing to the public holidays and that was a delight. I for one made the most of those and headed out of Colombo for some fresh experiences and opportunities to connect with the locals. 

All-in-all it was a good month and I can't complain at how the year is starting to shape up. Of course, the challenges still abound, but you have to roll with punches. I think you learn this as part of your life training in Expat 101 when you move to a foreign country.

I have a few interesting blog posts on the horizon. With trying to balance work, travel and being in the moment it can be difficult to find the time to put regular posts up, but rather than churn out blog posts, my aim has been to publish fresh and relevant posts that I'm interested in writing that are filled with experiences or tips that might be useful to fellow expats and travelers.

So, enjoy the February round up - there's been a lot in the news if you need to catch up.  Plenty on if you're looking for something to do around Colombo, particularly around International Women's Day. In any case, I hope there won't be too much March madness to navigate through...

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Myth-busting and Tips for Cooling Down in a Tropical Climate

We think we know what it takes to cool ourselves off in a tropical climate, but the truth for most expats and travelers from parts of the globe that have more than one season a year, is that we have no clue. And why should we? We've grown up learning about how to deal with four seasons and the challenges of getting through cold and grey winters where you really begin to question if the sun is a figment of your imagination. So when we move thousands of miles across the ocean, to an island like Sri Lanka with a romantic notion of tropical days and warm balmy nights, the truth of it all really sets in within a few days.

We don't have the local knowledge that would truly help in this kind of climate. And we don't necessarily go in search of finding it out either. If you're like me, you drink a little more water and go swimming to cool off. But then I started to wonder what the locals do. I mean they don't look like they drink a lot of water, nor are they a nation of swimmers or beach-lovers. If they're at the beach, more often than not, it's because their livelihood requires it, or they enjoy the water by being near it, but not in it.

As the years have gone by and the island has experienced some increasingly hot weather with plenty of dry spells and delayed monsoons, I've become more interested in learning about how locals cool down. It goes without saying I've been lucky to have people share their knowledge with me, and I'm about to share what I know with you. Hopefully, you'll find it useful to acclimatizing to the tropical heat.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 17

As expats I find we fall somewhere in-between immigrant and traveler. For some expats, it's closer to immigrant because roots have been planted and time has been invested in this foreign land we call home. While for other expats, it's closer to traveler because Sri Lanka is really just a short stint on the life journey of opportunity and experiences, or there's a "let's see how the first year goes" attitude combined with minimal nesting. 

Of course we are all travelers of a sort. We travel everyday to get from A to B and back again. We travel for adventure and to experience destinations around the island and beyond these shores. We travel to visit loved ones and to reconnect with our native countries. And beyond this physical travel, we travel through the internet, within the stories in books and, in the realms of our aspirations and dreams.

Traveling in Sri Lanka is both a wonderful and challenging experience for visitors and expats on multiple levels. Foremost, it provides an opportunity to experience the island's people, places, language and culture. I don't mean the kind of traveling where you jump into a private hire vehicle or your own vehicle, but the travel where you're rubbing shoulders with the locals on public transport (i.e buses, coaches, and trains) and getting the full experience of life on the island. I have learned so much from these kinds of experiences - from commuting on buses and trains in Colombo, to long-distance travels by bus, coach or train, and also off-the-beaten-track tuk-tuk rides as well.