The Motherland

As my flight was beginning to land in Colombo, I felt nervous. I didn’t know what to expect since I was returning to my birthplace after 25 years. I have no recollection of the first 2 years of my life that was spent in Sri Lanka but I was very excited to see what could have been. From the window all I could see was lush, greenery for miles. Already I was feeling awe from how beautiful my motherland looked from above.
Colombo reminded me of the big cities in Tamil Nadu right away – the cows on the street (not as many as India), the autos, people traffic, noise and pollution. The city is split into smaller areas and where I was staying with my family is well-known as a Tamil area. Everyone speaks English, and a lot more people speak Tamil than I had thought, with loads of different accents. It’s the second time in my life that I have been in a country where I know the local language which makes me feel not like a tourist at all. I can understand, read and get by; I have never been more grateful for learning my mother tongue.
The military presence was obvious as soon as we got on the road. There are soldiers with AK-47s standing at various intersections and checkpoints are a plenty. I wasn’t sure if this was for our safety and protection or for other reasons. The government has its reasons to be paranoid so I began to see it as a precaution for the people.
This being a family vacation (I’m travelling with my mom) I had strict rules, one being that I was not allowed to venture out on my own. In Colombo I stayed with my grandma and my uncle, so I was able to only explore the city with him escorting me around. In a way I felt like I was in an Islam nation, but all these precautions are taken because of how unsafe it really is. Theft and kidnappings are not unheard of, especially after dark. The streets are crowded with men standing around, looking for someone or something. The women generally stay home to cook, and watch TV.
Hikkaduwa Beach
 I finally understood the expectations that were placed on females even outside of Sri Lanka; this is where it all stemmed from. Paranoia is at the root of Tamils due to the past and present state of distrust and corruption.
Due to this the streets of the city are dead after 9pm. This means the general day begins at about 5 or 6 am, right after the sun rises. These hours are the best because the heat isn’t damaging yet. Once lunch is completed around 1 or 2pm, it’s nap time. The intensity of the heat allows for nothing else. You need to rest to get through the humidity because air conditioning is a treat, most houses are only equipped with ceiling fans. Tea time follows nap time (my favourite part of the day) and the evening brings cool breezes along with pesky mosquitoes. Dinner is late at 8pm or so at which point the heat has exhausted you yet again.
It’s a laid back simply lifestyle that at first glimpse I took to be boring. But I really  can get used to this.
I spent a day at the Colombo national museum where 2 floors house the history of this country. There are numerous artifacts including the throne of the last king to rule Sri Lanka. The majority of the history was centered on Buddhism and the Sinhala kingdom, but the northern provinces and its kingdoms had some importance. I found it to be very informative and a good start to getting to know the culture and history of Lanka.
We also ventured south of Colombo to the beaches a day after I arrived. The west coast is off season at the moment, it’s monsoon season. Luckily we haven’t encountered any rain since we’ve been here. The sandy beaches are beautiful and an excellent getaway from the humidity of the city. In an hour or 2 you can explore numerous beaches on Galle Road which are all isolated. We spent some time in Hikkaduwa where I spotted real tourists in bathing suits swimming in the warm water. Unfortunately for me, hanging around in a bathing suit would only attract unwanted attraction for my brown skin, so instead we got a glass bottom boat to explore the corals. The fish come right up to shore and this beach is well known for snorkelling and diving.
Being a tourist area the restaurants and shops are very expensive. This strip reminded me of all the beach towns in Thailand but the difference is that there is also a lot of internal tourism in Sri Lanka as well but of course, it’s the wealthy population that is able to afford such a luxury.
Not far from here lies Asia’s largest reclining Buddha (although Bangkok claims the same). This Buddha is housed in a village, on top of a small hill in an ill kept Buddhist sanctuary. The donation board shows that numerous foreigners have also heard and found this place. We only came to know of it because of our driver, the inside sources always know. Along with the statue there were numerous paintings and statues of Bodhisattvas. The paint is wearing off and the temple is small but the donations are meant to help the monks renovate the place. The statue itself was pretty impressive and driving through a Sinhalese village was interesting. But to venture off track wasn’t entirely worth it.
Next stop – Jaffna.
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