Sri Lanka : Much I Have Learned from You

There’s Anna Martin’s blog on her  time in Sri Lanka on Facebook.
She and I were one of many guests at our friends’ wedding there.After the Wedding
I click on it, read it and share it  commenting, “Great blog. I learnt much from it.”
I thought I wouldn’t get away with that lightly. Then Anna  asked me, “Share what you learnt.”
It just tumbled out like this..
“I always wondered why people are racist (I don’t think I am racist), but I saw that for me it’s just fear of the unknown. Wherever we are we still need to communicate and connect and share the same needs and desires. We’re all different and that’s a richness we all can share in. I’ve never been in such a different culture and environment and I was fearful (at first), but all I had to do was listen and be mindful (still need to do more of that)! Now I have to take that and apply it daily.”
So what I really learnt was  this. When I’m afraid of being in a new environment and culture, my natural reaction is to treat people as stereotypes.  It would have then been easy to play the tourist but in truth I’m a guest in their country. Much like my conversationalist in the Introverted Tourist.

Road Rage. Cured. By Tuk-Tuk Races.

Nothing prepared me for the drive off the freeway from Bandararainke International Airport into the streets of Colombo.

We were met at our hotel by a bus. It was not on time but that didn’t matter! We then negotiated some minor traffic and entered a freeway. I started to relax. I thought: a couple of hours of Western-style cruising and sight-seeing in comfort. But it was not to be.

Twenty or so kilometres, we left the four-lane motorway and entered  Colombo.

Then the fun began. We went from normal traffic to a scene of almost complete confusion in seconds.

Traffic jam

Traffic Jam

Cars, buses, trucks and three-wheeled tuk-tuks moving forward in a churning mass. Traffic appearing and disappearing, from left to right and back again.  Cars entering the road from left and right, their drivers’ eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead. They did not see or weren’t aware of our bus lurching towards them. Trucks slowly inching their way forward as the traffic parted before them like herds of sheep.

Pedestrians both individuals or groups  either sprinting at speed or striding across the road fas if it were a daily slow stroll.  Bicycles, motorbikes and those dreaded tuk-tuks on the road, off the road and/or touching our bus. Horns being sounded seemingly at random. The driver of our bus conversing with his companion and the traffic all at once.

It seemed at first, to my untrained eyes,  like a scene of mass panic or complete confusion. But somehow it worked. No-one was hurt. No cars, trucks and tuk-tuks were injured in the making of this movie. Not even a scratch.

It helped that I felt reasonably safe in a bus. I suppose I was more fascinated than scared. So I didn’t get involved.

And the return to Colombo was even easier. It was Sri Lanka New Year’s Eve, so the traffic was extremely light even when we entered the city. Nearly no cars, motorbikes, bicycles only extra tuk-tuks who were trying to out-do each other.

But I felt myself starting to become annoyed. Normally as a passenger, I don’t offer any comment. If I do it’s rare.  Today I found myselfwalking that evil path towards Road Rage.

But I caught myself this time. I offered one comment. Then I started laughing. My thought was, “What difference would my road rage make here?” Nothing!

Sri Lankan Tuk Tuk

But then I had a better thought.

I said to the driver that Sri Lanka is obviously training the next generation of future Formula 1 grand prix car drivers and MotoGP motorcyclists. He laughed and agreed.

Or even tuk-tuk races. Now I’d like to see that. 

Road Rage! Cured.








From a Wedding, Hope

I’ve just returned from an overseas wedding in Sri Lanka.

It was nothing short of extraordinary.

The venue was beautiful. A seaside hotel (Chayya Tranz Hikkaduwa) with the couple marrying on the beach at sunset.

The ceremony was heartfelt. Two people I know well were taking the greatest step in their lives with open eyes and united hearts.

The reception was unforgettable. It melded tradition and culture in a thoughtful and touching way. There was a candle lighting ceremony, mesmerising entertainment and spectacular fireworks. The food and wine were sublime.

The guests too were an international menu. People from Pakistan, China, France, England, Belgium, Canada, Norway, Australia, etc, etc and Sri Lanka itself gathered together to celebrate this marriage.

And then I saw this.  Right in front of me, I could see that from the thread of different races, cultures and religions, a new cloth was being woven through the love of a couple, their families and friends.

New friendships were being made and old ones revitalised regardless of race, culture or religion.

And for someone more conscious of a world riven by conflict and sadness, that gave me hope.


Tony and Julia : Put Out The Welcome Mat We Need More People Like This!

As a political junkie, the most boring issue for me is how both sides of politics treat asylum seekers.

Nothing ever changes except the number of boats and sadly the death toll. Both sides treat asylum seekers as a law and order issue. Abbott on a regular basis decries them as illegal which is incorrect.The Government has worked through a laundry list of options including Christmas Island, Manus Island and concluding with the failed Nauru open prison experiment. Little wonder the asylum seekers there have mental health issues.

But this time they are really toughening up.

Now the Government is introducing community work restrictions and the Opposition will attempt to reintroduce temporary protection visas.  Besides Chris Bowen is now sending a message to Sri Lanka that the journey is dangerous (true) but that Australia isn’t an easy place to live in!

As Tony Windsor points out, it is veiled racism. If we are lucky, the new legislation may be challenged on the same grounds as the Malaysian solution. Let’s hope so.

There’s one small problem with all of this.  Anyone who flees their place of birth is courageous and resilient. Inevitably they make great  citizens.  See Fawad Ahmed who is playing for the Melbourne Renegades cricket team. Many other examples abound.

Australia is an immigrant country. As an immigrant country we need more people who are courageous and resilient. As an immigrant country, there is no place for racism. None.