Wednesday, November 30, 2016

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 16

It feels like it's time for another installment of "An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly". You're probably wondering how life has been treating me over the past few months. It's been busy in all aspects of life, but I've been reaping the rewards of all the good stuff I've been sowing for the past few years. If you've been following this blog it's been quite a journey. My intention has always been to blur the lines between expat/foreigner/immigrant (or whatever you want to call me) and local. Therefore, a lot of the things I have thrown myself into have been towards learning, exploring, connecting and embracing. As the years have passed, I've felt more and more connection to Sri Lanka, like becoming part of the furniture. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it's where I call home.

A few years back I started to grow more organic fruit and vegetables in my urban garden. If you've read my blog post titled "How safe (or toxic) is the food we grow and eat in Sri Lanka?", I had (and still continue to have) a lot of concerns about the widespread use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the agricultural industry in Sri Lanka and the lack of regulation to give confidence to consumers. One of my personal solutions was to expand the existing vegetable plots in my garden, and also look into planting more fruit trees. My efforts (with the help of my part-time gardener) have gone exceedingly well. So much so, I have harvested more organic produce than I can consume.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Expat News, Articles of Interest and Diary Events #2

This is the round up for the first part of November 2016. The main event seems to have been the release of the Sri Lankan Government's Budget 2017. I published a blog post about a week ago titled "Sri Lanka Budget 2017 - some highlights for Foreign Investors, Expats and Visitors" to sum up the big-ticket changes and implications. Other than the release of the budget, it's been a funny few weeks. The weather is very mixed and it feels like we're experiencing the late monsoon or rains. It's definitely a welcome change after the terrible drought conditions but you can't help but worry a little that it could turn to floods, which is something we really don't wish to contend with.

In Colombo this week each day is like an experience in two halves. The first half is sunny and tropical, and then it hits 2pm the sky turns grey (a bit like London in the winter) and the the rain and thunderstorms begin. Somehow the unpredictable and extreme weather in recent years is becoming the norm, and that makes me incredibly nervous. It has a significant impact on our agriculture, power generation and much more.

It's a strong and steady march to the end of 2016. There's plenty on the social calendar. I've also added some worthwhile local initiatives in a new section called "Opportunites for Generosity" if you're looking for somewhere to donate some money.  Happy round-up! Read on...

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sri Lanka Budget 2017 - some highlights for Foreign Investors, Expats and Visitors

Sri Lanka's Budget 2017 was presented in Parliament yesterday with the key theme of accelerating growth and social inclusion. The Finance Minister, Ravi Karunanayake made a comment in his Budget speech that, “No Finance Minister wants to impose taxes and burden the people. Every Finance Minister wants to give concessions to the people improving their lives.” Unfortunately, tax hikes have been imposed to lower the deficit.
Karunanayake also sounded emotional when he revealed: “No Finance Minister wants to impose taxes and burden the people. Every Finance Minister wants to give concessions to the people improving their lives.”  - See more at:

The full Budget Speech can be downloaded from the official website of the Ministry of Finance.

There were a few proposals pertinent to visitors, foreign investors and expats:
  • Foreign students who wish to study in Sri Lankan universities from 2017 will be offered five-year multiple entry visas
  • Overstaying tourists will be fined 
  • Increases to visa fees (new rates have not been specified)
  • Spouse residence visas will be issued for five-years instead of two-years
  • In addition to the existing pre-approved electronic visa, Sri Lanka will also issue one-month visas-on-arrival
  • Minimum room rate of a hotel to be abolished to ensure competitiveness

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Experiencing Buddhist Meditation, Retreats and Ordination in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has long been a favorite destination for all types of spiritual seekers, from those wanting to learn how to be calm and stress-free, avid meditators who enjoy long periods of solitude, seekers of the Truth, those with an aspiration to ordain as a Buddhist monk or nun and the rest that fall somewhere within all of that. Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka around the third century BCE, and it has remained predominantly Buddhist with over 70% of the population declaring themselves Buddhist at the last census.

So why do people want to meditate or learn about Buddhism? Well, the answer seems somewhat obvious. Life is demanding and stressful and some people seek an answer to either help them become successful, maintain that success, overcome stress in their lives or find inner happiness. But there are some who are seeking a deeper Truth or the answer to "Why are we here?". It could be said that those who seek out meditation are looking for something that is more internal and potentially lasting, and  doesn't involve alcohol, sex, or some other distraction. These days it's not just stereotypical spiritual seeker, but more mainstream. From politicians (like Hilary Clinton), professional athletes (such as LeBron James, Novak Djokovic, Shane Watson to name a few), high profile business leaders, law enforcement, students and everyday people like us.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Expat News, Articles of Interest and Diary Events #1

If you're active on Facebook, then you may have seen regular posts to the Adventure in a Tuk-Tuk Blog's Facebook page of assorted local news items relevant to expats (and travelers) and living in Sri Lanka; general interest articles; and a variety of local events for your diary. Seeing as some readers are adverse, less inclined towards, or not on social media, I thought I'd post a round up of all of this on the blog.

As I was compiling this round up, it struck me that it's actually quite a good overview of some of the everyday things we have to consider or respond to in living over here. Due to the drought and problems with power generation, we've had water cuts and power cuts to contend with, and ongoing challenges with increasing taxes and more. This installment has an entire month of news and articles, but I may publish this a bit more regularly than monthly. FYI, I've kept it free from the political stuff as that would go on forever, and I'm sure you can find it and read it for yourselves.

You will also find there is a lot happening with less than two months to the end of 2016. Can you believe how quickly this year has flown past? I'm not quite ready for the year to close... I haven't completed everything on my 2016 to-do list eek lol Anyway, I hope you enjoy the round-up!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Summary of Expat Forums, Associations and International Centers in Sri Lanka

One of the questions I often get asked on this blog and via email is about expat forums and groups in Sri Lanka, most especially in Colombo, Kandy and Galle. It's understandable that this question comes up, as most of us have left our family and friends back in our native countries in order to move to  Sri Lanka for work, sea-change, retirement or whatever other reason. But we soon discover that it's a whole different predicament as foreigners living in an unfamiliar country. Although it can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming when you don't speak the language, don't really know your way around, the culture is so vastly different from what you're used to, and you find yourself missing loved ones much sooner than you imagined!

Expat communities and groups can help with the adjustment process, as well as helping you to acclimate to the new environment, networking opportunities, social activities, advice and tips, and sometimes also discounts at local establishments. But mostly, you'll meet people from all over the globe who also want to connect. I'm often very surprised at the diverse nationalities and different reasons for being in Sri Lanka.

There are also some international centers (most are linked to foreign embassies) that organize, host or sponsor a variety of arts and cultural events and activities that will keep you connected to your home country or allow you to immerse in something more international while living in Sri Lanka.