Friday, February 15, 2013

Paradise or Pit?

People often approach me to ask what it's like to live on the teardrop island known as Sri Lanka. Sometimes it's difficult to find the right words. Quite possibly there are no "right" words, but rather, it's an experience that really needs to be evaluated firsthand. Of course the experience will be unique for each person, most definitely different for Sri Lankans versus foreigners. And, it also makes a difference if you live in Colombo, Kandy or in smaller towns across Sri Lanka.

I have been residing in Sri Lanka, on-and-off for over five years now, predominantly based around Colombo. Initially, I felt some resistance, but my intention was always to embrace the new, the different and be adventurous. For one, it's a totally different culture than what I've been brought up in. It's Asian rather than Western in its history, culture, people, views and workings. Though surprisingly, there are very western parts to modern-day Sri Lanka. Historically, Sri Lanka has been colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. The legacy of this resonates throughout the island in quite a few ways - from architecture, urban planning, education system, legal system, street names and much, much more. I have to stifle a chuckle whenever I meet a Cyril, Neville, Percy or Angelo.

In my first year in Sri Lanka the phrase "amidst chaos there is simplicity" echoed in my mind. I inhaled the busy congested traffic, maniacal bus drivers, messy buildings and crowds of people.

But yet I felt there was order and a natural rhythm in the midst of it all. Local people seemed relatively happier or content compared to their counterparts living in London, Melbourne or Singapore. All three cities are places where I've lived before. This is not to say that everything is peachy on this little island, no, far from it. But, there is something different here. And for the past few years, this is what I've been exploring and seeking out.

I genuinely want to know if I am living in paradise or a pit? I want to know the true Sri Lanka. What defines this island, its people, where it comes from, and where it's heading. Naturally, you don't figure this out in a day, a week or a month. It takes more time, more experiences, travel and interactions. As the years have passed I've had a great deal more insight into the culture, politics, way of life and the multitude of changes on this teardrop island. And moving forward this is what I'm going to share with you in this blog.

In my opinion Sri Lanka is definitely more paradise than pit, but you can still find the pit in a handful of places if you look hard enough. And I have to admit that it's in the most unexpected places on the island that they reveal themselves.

But for now, I'll share with you my early and slightly superficial perceptions on Sri Lanka, which are best shown in pictures.

Beautiful beaches

Tea plantations or estates

Precious gems and jewelry

Amazing wildlife

And... the national sport of Cricket!

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