Thursday, July 20, 2017

Capturing nature and birdlife

One of the aspects of life in Sri Lanka that has not changed in the time I have lived on the island has been beauty and proximity of nature. If you follow my social media feeds then you'll have noted my love of all things nature. Proximity plays a key part in all of this. Whether it's around home, along a walking track, or venturing out of the city - it's very much part of everyday life.

Each day I remind myself to take in the sounds around me. There's usually dogs barking, birds chirping, squirrels squeaking and the rustling of branches or leaves. Tropical life is vibrant and thriving all day round. And not a day goes by that I don't see butterflies, birds and some unusual sight. Just the other day I was walking to the train station and I saw a pig or boar foraging through a mound of rubbish on one of the neighborhood side streets. Sure you see cows roaming the Lankan streets like they're part of the everyday scene, but pigs, not so much.

Anyway, I've been thoroughly enjoying this ongoing fascination with native birds, flora and natural settings around Colombo recently and so I thought I'd post some of my photo captures...

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Expat News, Articles of Interest and Diary Events #11

This has been a tough kind of a month for me personally. I fell ill earlier in the month in what turned into a dengue scare. I had some of the symptoms for dengue such as high fever, muscle and joint pains, pains behind my eyes, nausea, headaches and lack of energy. Given the seriousness of the dengue epidemic in Sri Lanka, I went directly to get the dengue antigen and full blood count tests at a local medical center. Thankfully, two hours later my tests confirmed a negative result for dengue. If you do happen to fall ill and you're worried that it might be dengue, don't hesitate to get a blood test. Better safe than sorry.

In my case, it turned out I had contracted some sort of viral fever that seemed to be doing the rounds around Colombo. I'm not usually prone to illness, but when I do fall sick I'm not a very good patient. And this viral fever really tested me physically, emotionally and mentally. It's at these times that homesickness can be triggered and the inner child's voice that cries "I want my mummy". Yeah, yeah, I know... it does sound rather pathetic, but when you're feeling low, all the ugly hangs out too.

My mother, who I didn't tell I was sick until after I recovered, demanded that I return "home" for medical tests and also for a bit of r&r. Bless her, she's a dear, and I love that she still looks out for me from afar. As much as it's sometimes not-so-easy being away from family, it's also hard for family to be away from me. It's easy to forget this when we have social media, messaging and video calls. I interact with my closest family members on a daily basis, so it often doesn't feel like they're that far away. But this recent bout of illness reminded me of the oceans and time zones that separate me from them. Luckily, I have a good support network in Sri Lanka and there were people to take me to the doctor's, organize my medicine, feed me and check that I was recovering slowly, but surely.

So, all-in-all, June has been a bit of write-off for me. What has helped me to get back to my usual self has been consuming more fresh fruit and vegetables, keeping hydrated and being more with nature.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to turning the page into July 2017... Bring it!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

UPDATED: Expat News, Articles of Interest and Diary Events #10

May has historically been a terrible month for Sri Lanka when it comes to natural disasters. With the onset of the southwest monsoon comes thunderstorms, strong  winds and torrential rains. Last May our little island experienced terrible floods and landslides after being hit by a severe tropical storm followed by a major drought. Prior to the May 2016 floods Sri Lanka was suffering a major drought. And tragically this year is proving no different with the island having experienced the worst drought in 40 years at the start of this year,and now in May, the current floods said to be the worst in a decade.

The island seems to oscillate between major drought to severe floods and landslides with increased frequency. And the Sri Lankan Government's poor record with respect to planning, preparedness, early warning systems, and crisis management in these situations is worrying.

Life on the island doesn't get more frightening than being on the sharp end of natural disasters and Sri Lanka has  certainly had more than its fair share. But as much as there are challenges in the face of these natural disasters, the resilience and generosity of the island's inhabitants is amazing to witness.

Earlier this year, a local friend living up near Kegalle shared a prediction she had heard from a third party regarding possible floods, landslides and potential dam bursts in late May 2017. I was shocked when this prediction came true on the predicted dates for this current tragedy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

An Expat Perspective on Why You Should Grow Your Own Organic Fruit and Vegetables in Sri Lanka

I was reading an article a few days ago titled, "SL fruits could fetch better prices in int’l markets" that reinforced my concerns about food safety in Sri Lanka. In this article, an Agriculture Economist at the Ministry of Agriculture was quoted as saying "Sri Lanka has a better chance to gain good market prices for fruit exports in the international market compared to other South Asian countries due to local farmers using minimal quantities of agro –chemicals for fruit production unlike in vegetables".  

The fact that agro-chemicals are used heavily in food production in Sri Lanka isn't news to me. But, to have it confirmed and supported by the Ministry of Agriculture is another matter. I've been concerned about this for some time and have written a few blog posts on this topic. If you haven't read these, then check out "How safe (or toxic) is the food we grow and eat in Sri Lanka?" and "Sri Lanka: Pint-sized Plastic Garbage Island?"

Food safety is probably one of the main reasons that would force me to leave Sri Lanka. The only reason I haven't done so is because I've taken food matters into my own hands by growing my own organic produce. Concern over chemically-treated food and GM crops has been greatly debated in Sri Lanka and across the globe. It is undoubtedly a global issue, so moving to another country will have similar challenges though possibly less apparent due to government spin, posh wrapping and deceptive labeling.

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.