Lovely waking in the beach hotel to the sound of waves and to not have a 6 am wake up call. I went back to Galle to wander the streets and walk around the bastion ramparts. Then we went back to Colombo. It is a gentler city than the other Asian cities, without the huge crush of people in Mumbai nor the traffic jams of Delhi. I wandered around Colombo, there was a huge Hindu temple with a facade packed with gods. The festival we had seen earlier in the week was also being celebrated here with dishes of fruit being offered. Just down the road was the Anglican Church. They advertise their Friday night miracle session from 5 till 7every week, I wonder what their miracle success rate is?. There were about 50 people there with their arms aloft singing and chanting, being lead by a smooth voiced evangelical man at the front.
This has been a great holiday. I have enjoyed the contrasts of Sri Lanka. Biking was also a great way to see the country and I enjoyed the tea stops in the villages and talking to people then. The Sri Lankans are very warm and welcoming, extraordinarily nice people. We also had a great guide, Suresh who delighted in fixing things and did everything he could to ensure that we enjoyed ourselves and appreciated his country. I was last in Sri Lanka 30 years ago and it has developed hugely with better roads and communications. It is interesting to compare Sri Lanka and India, the former has a visibly better health and education system. But Sri Lanka suffers from having less political debate and no effective opposition. Rajajpaksa the current president is busy trying to deify himself. I read Gordon Weiss's book “The Cage” about the civil war and the last days of the Tamil fight when thousands of civilians were stranded in the Nandikadal lagoon with the Sri Lankan army bombarding them. This was a war crime but the current government has avoided censure. Both Canada and Australia had questioned whether Sri Lanka should host the commonwealth Heads of government meeting (COHOGM) in Nov 2013 because of the genocide in 2009, but the meeting is going ahead. Weiss notes the absence of journalistic freedom in Sri Lanka., this is a huge contrast with India with its lively opposition and a active media.
I was sorry that I did not go up to Jaffna, the capital of the Tamil area, especially as I had discovered a tomb-stone there with my Dutch family name “Mom” in 1982. Stacey, a Canadian girl in our group had been there and had seen both the war destruction and the active rebuilding programme. She visited a hospital filled with people with post traumatic stress disorder. The effects of 30 years of civil war will take many years to ameliorate.
On my last morning I met my Sri Lankan friend Indira Kahawita for breakfast. she has lived most of her adult life through a civil war, the first serious Tamil riots were in 1977 when she was at school. She was relieved to see the end of the war. She lamented the absence of an effective opposition. She also commented on how well Sri Lankans do when they are abroad and hoped that this could be replicated back in Sri Lanka. Many people are learning Tamil as part of the peace process and her daughter speaks it easily. Maybe these measures will help.
We were a companionable group, we gelled and everybody talked easily and supported each other in different ways. The Ozzies were fit and good at enjoying themselves. There was a group of fast cyclists who raced ahead. I was happy in the slow group, savouring the landscape and taking photos.
This holiday has been interesting, challenging and refreshing and I have returned with a love of beetroot curry a Sri Lankan specialty.