Hello and welcome to my first ever blog! I really never thought I was gonna do this, basically I am a lazy butt when it comes to writing stuff down, taking pictures, creating photo books… not exactly a strength of mine…BUT after different requests from friends and family (you whiners know who you are) I decided to try it.. so let’s see where this “Blogger-career” is going!
Nooow, most of you probably know why I am spending the next 6 weeks in Sri Lanka.
For those who don’t… long story short: I was given the amazing opportunity to write my Bachelor Thesis with a practical focus on Sri Lanka. And no, I have never visited this island before and I was not exactly known as a lover of topical heat (really not! Snow is great… or Springtime, or Swiss Summers, not 2016 tough) and despite the fact that I love Curry, Papaya and Mangos, no Asian countries ever really were on top of my “places to go before I.. – List.” However, as I was looking for an external Advisor for the Bachelor Thesis, I really wanted to work with an NGO and, after numerous mails, countless rejections and one or two nervous breakdowns, I finally got a promising message. Yves from the Swiss organisation Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Völker (Check it out – important work going on there!) was interested in providing me with an assignment and we agreed to meet in order to discuss what topic I could work on. And what should I say? Martina, pretty much planless and without a proper idea besides “something social” was lucky to meet Yves, an enthusiastic Sri Lanka specialist who knows the country and its people like the back of his hands and is very involved in different projects mainly in the Tamil dominated areas in the North and East of the country. So Yves, who probably pretty quickly realized that I really did not have much of a clue what I wanted to do, suggested to write a thesis about the tourism development in Sri Lanka and to find out ways how tourism could be established in a more ethical, local and social (yaaay that’s what I wanted right?) way. So from there, the way was long and freaking challenging but also unbelievably interesting! Especially as Eric Dieth entered the boat and, with his knowledge and passion, added so much substance and meaning to the topic, things were accelerating and the result was a thesis with the title “Cooperative Tourism vs. Authoritarian Capitalist Tourism, A tourism Project in multi-ethnic post-war Sri Lanka.”
Now my “something social” turned into something that made me read and write about topics such as human rights, capitalism, concepts of violence, cooperation and integration and of course the history of Sri Lanka as well as the currently ongoing tourism development. In addition, it became clear to me that, in order to be able to write a profound thesis, I had to travel to Sri Lanka and get some first-hand insights into the situation in the country. Fortunately, Eric decided to join me on my first trip to Sri Lanka and so we embarked on this journey in March 2016. The 10 days were filled with interviews, discussions and writing for the thesis (and yes we also enjoyed some temple visits, boating, the great food etc. in Nilaveli oh and also the Air-condition because, lucky us, a heatwave decided to get stuck over Sri Lanka while we were there, that’s at least what the locals said and remember how much I love tropical heat? If not.. scroll up!). I never learned so much about a country and its people in such a short time as I did by talking to guesthouse owners, fishermen, human rights activists and even people from the Swiss embassy in Colombo. This short trip really basically changed everything. All my plans I had made for the time after the degree were put on hold and the day I left the country I was pretty sure to come back rather sooner than later. (So sure that Eric had to talk me out of buying a motor-roller right away so I would be free and independent when I was coming back to the East – Coast)
And here I am now! Thesis finished, sun screen, “Anti-Brumm”, harem pants and flip-flops packed, waved goodbye to my favorites, flights survived (and just for all those who reminded me daily that I was gonna eat rice and curry for the next 3 months – yes Sri Lankan Airlines did serve Curry on the flight, and yes it was delicious!) and ready to keep on working on the implementation of cooperative tourism in the area of Nilaveli. (Google it – pretty pretty!) Implementing Cooperative tourism in that sense means to establish a tourism package based on relationship with locals where all involved parties have to contribute but also benefit equally from the business. So locals get to earn money by basically sharing whatever they do in their everyday lives with tourists and tourists on their side have the chance to experience the authentic Sri Lankan way of life and get to hear personal stories from them. Such activities could be going on a fishingtrip with local fishermen, taking a cooking class in someones home and also sleeping in home-stays, boating and snorkeling with a local small-scale business man, getting tailormade clothing crafted and more. For this to work out, the locals and I have to get to know and trust each other and agree on a way of cooperation. All of this has to be set up and I honestly don’t know how the next 6 weeks are going to be and if I manage to do all the things I have in mind. It’s for sure not always gonna be an easy ride and there will be a few (or possibly also many) stumble blocks which have to be overcome. But I am ready to face the challenges and see how far I can go with the help of all these people who supported me so far and keep on doing so. Thank you!!
So…that’s enough for now I think. In the following Blogs you can read about my daily (maybe also weekly, depends on my writing motivation) adventures and the proceeding of the project. Have fun! Feedback very much appreciated!