Can you believe I actually missed the local sounds? This was a really odd thing because I usually complain in my head about the sounds of tuks and sometimes just the general noise in my area. But the funny thing was, I missed those sounds while I was away. It was like my background track was noticeably missing, like being unplugged from your usual radio frequency.
For those that haven’t lived in Sri Lanka, this track is a mish-mash of bird calls (from the sweet whistling
of the black-hooded oriole; the loud call of the asian koel; and the high-pitched chattering of the yellow-billed babblers); traffic sounds (from tooting horns or noisy tuks or bread and ice-cream mini-trucks that play the sounds of Claire de Lune or It’s a Small World); and the floating chatter and laughter of people walking along the street.
Interestingly, I also missed the familiar smell of the island. Weird I know! But I think most places have a distinctive smell (or stench depending on how your nose feels about it) but most of us ignore it unless it’s really overpowering. Just think of riding trams in Hong Kong and breathing in the aromas of roasted meats; or walking through a market in France and picking up a whiff of cheese; or landing in London and getting the subtle scent of dampness.
Well, Sri Lanka has its own unique smell. For me (around Colombo) it’s a blend of the Indian Ocean; the kades that sell local foods like kotthu, hoppers and vadai; a faint aroma of ripened jak fruit; a whiff of traffic fumes; and perhaps a tinge of the open drains and uncollected rubbish too. It’s a tropical blend and you could bottle it and market it as l’eau de srilanka.
And then there’s the local food. I previously wrote a blog post on "Turning Lankan" - a checklist to help you figure out if you're going native! and I think loving Sri Lankan food is on that list. While away from Sri Lanka I was longing for the local food. This wasn’t necessarily about missing a particular restaurant or dish per se, but more about missing access to the unique array of fresh local produce from my usual weekend pola(s) excursions that would allow me to then cook up a storm. At the start of 2016, my ayurvedic doctor (yes, I have a few of them) had recommended a vegetarian diet and so I've been doing my best to stick to it. This has meant that I rely heavily on a Sri Lankan diet (with sprinklings of an adapted western diet) to survive.
And let me just say, it’s too easy being vegetarian and cooking at home in Sri Lanka compared to some other countries. Just the plethora of fruit and vegetables available to create tantalizing dishes - like jackfruit, drumsticks (also known as moringa), lentils, fresh coconut, cashew nuts, assorted gourds, leafy vegetables and more. It’s true that Sri Lankan’s are not strict vegetarians due to frequent use of umbalakada or maldive fish as added flavoring to vegetable dishes. Sigh! So if you are vegetarian or vegan, double check before taking that mouthful (or mention beforehand that you don’t want them to use it).
One of the big things I missed was being at home. It's an unusual thing to say because when you travel you're meant to soak up all that is foreign, new or different. But there’s nothing quite like tropical living (although the monsoon season has its challenges), natural air ventilation and the simple living I've grown accustomed to here in Sri Lanka.
Is there anyone else who has a hard time living out of a suitcase for any long spell? I guess it’s just nice to be home, around familiar surroundings, my neighborhood of quirky characters and island life. When you’re spending time in the dense urban jungle of a developed city and surrounded by really driven people, it can be suffocating (maybe even overwhelming) and tiring. Some of my trips are great reminders of why I continue to make Sri Lanka my home. It’s not a paradise by any stretch of the imagination (there are definite challenges - just live here, speak to the locals, and/or read the local news) but there’s a lot to be said for the laid back lifestyle, generosity, kindness, and the warmth of the local community.
Having said all of the above, traveling abroad is great reminder that Sri Lanka is still very much a developing country. I sometimes forget that while I’m on the island because one can get mighty complacent or used to the way things are. In contrast, life can be quite energized and technologically advanced in a developed country, which can make life easier.
Megapolis Project for the Western Province will deliver. The latest market video looks good, but until more details are released and the project delivers, we are all very much still in the dark.
And then there's the weather. Boy do I enjoy four seasons when I get the opportunity to make the most of it. Some cities even have four seasons in one day, but that's just a bit too much! Seriously though, a bit of cooler weather can go a long way, as can a hot day that isn't humid. Just saying. I was pretty lucky this trip because I got to enjoy some cooler weather so now it's back to muggy and humid for the rest of the year (and no complaints).
So, that's my ramblings on being away and being back.
It's always good to venture out to experience new and innovative things in other places, but at the same time acknowledging what's great about where you live.
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An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 1 on what it's like living as an expat in SL
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 2 on local attitudes, dual pricing, behaviors
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 3 on police force, corruption and stories
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 4 on garbage collection, waste and recycling
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 5 on the case for expat fatigue
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 6 on miscellaneous encounters at the post office, around the neighborhood, Mt Lavinia Beach and more
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 7 on New Year celebrations, firecrackers and dodgy doctors
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 8 on Avurudu, Sri Lanka T20 World Cup win and cooling fruits
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 9 on living as an foreign expat woman in Sri Lanka
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 10 on visa renewal process, helping Chinese tourists and enjoying roadside corn-on-the-cob
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 11 on things they don't tell you about living in Sri Lanka, Peenas oil, Colombo apartments and taxes on imported food items
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 12 on an unusual picture of a local man; gathering local plants for ayurveda; and commuting between Colombo and Kandy
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 13 on recent Sri Pada pilgrimage and dansel; harvesting season for cloves and nutmeg; attending a Buddhist ordination ceremony; and my Jar of Awesome Thing
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 14 - moving away from the expat bubble and embracing local lifestyle and culture in Sri Lanka