I have been here in Nilaveli for a while now and I think it is time for a little update. I got quite some stuff done but I also have to admit that the heat is taking a toll on me and I am (happily) adapting to the somewhat slower pace of living here.
Nevertheless, the days here start early because the morning hours are fresh and somehow magic. I like to cycle down to the beach around 7 o’clock to take a swim and then get some fresh fruit or whatever I fancy on my way back to the guesthouse. I love these quiet moments at the beach as around this time, hardly anyone is there. Only some boat drivers are either getting ready for their tours or are already coming back from the very early morning dolphin- and whale watching tours. Other than that, it’s only sea, sand and Martina.
After this morning routine, I get back to the cottage, ready to start the day. Some days, I just stay at the cottage, writing, reading, working for the project and talking to the guys (however the communication with the employees is still rather limited, remember the language barrier? Also, I do not prove to be extremely talented with the Tamil language..). So during these cottage days, I spend most of the time on the veranda in the shadow together with my laptop. However, from time to time I follow the guys around and try to help with their work or go and control what they are doing (on their request!). While in the morning, they are usually busy (or relatively busy) cleaning around the guesthouses, they then spend the afternoon working in the back parts of the property with mainly doing gardening work (which basically consist of gathering and burning everything that shouldn’t be there). Since I do not just want to stand there and watch them work, I started some attempts to join them in their work. The first time I did this, the guys instantly stopped working and started filming me. So judging on their reaction and their surprised faces, doing this kind of work as a woman (a white one even crazier) is not a normality here and after they had processed their first “shock”, they would, not surprisingly, tell me to stop and “sit down, Madame”. Ah here we go – I knew they would not let me work for long. So back to my “office” then!
Oh and besides my attempts to work, there is one other major reason for confused faces on the side of the Niyas, Safer and Co. My eating habits. To them, a meal without fish, meat or rice simply cannot be counted as food. So If I am just having a salad or a fruit smoothie or similar for dinner as I am used to from at home, they feel like I am not eating enough. It happened more than once now, that they brought me food from at home even though I keep explaining that I am perfectly fine and I am not eating salad because I cannot cook or something like this but I am rather just not very hungry from only sitting around all day. Whatever they offer me to taste however, is incredibly delicious and refusing to eat it would probably come across rude.
The evenings of these cottage days, I partly spend in the garden in front of the TV with the guys and partly reading or watching movies on my own since the choices of the guys mainly consists of quite badly made Tamil movies featuring either an absurd love story or just violent conflicts among people and security forces. Since such storylines are not really my cup of tea (and also I do not understand much) Netflix has become a good friend of mine since I am here.
So beside these cottage days, I also met some of the cooperation partners as for example Priyanthe who is operating a boating company and took me out to find some nice snorkeling spots which could be included in the package. I also did two tours with TukTuk driver Kumara who I met in March and will also be a cooperation partner for the package. His knowledge about Buddhism and Hinduism is incredible and he also know the region very well. So he showed me some beautiful and very interesting spots which I will also be including in the tour.
One of the highlights of the last days was the invitation to attend the monthly meeting of the fishermen from Trincomalee which really was just one big lucky coincidence. I met Kamal, the treasurer of the society, already in March and contacted him now for a further meeting to discuss how he and his fishermen friends could get involved in tourism. So I went to Trincomalee to see him and we sat there for quite a while and talked about his life and his family (his daughter lives in Switzerland) the fishermen community, the business, everything. By the end of the meeting he told me that they had their monthly gathering the next day and that he would like to introduce me to the rest of the “gang” and that I should present my ideas.
So the next day I went there again. And what should I say? The whole thing was quite an experience. Image 13 men sitting on one side of the room, 7 women on the other and the president, the treasurer and the secretary in front. As I entered the room I was looking for a chair to sit in a corner on the back where I could overlook the happenings. But no – my chair was already there, in front of everyone… jeeez! People who know me are probably aware of how much I love giving presentations in front of a crowd… not exactly my favorite, especially since I did barely know anyone! So anyway, I sat there, in front, saw all these expectant faces on the men side and the rather skeptical ones on the women’s side of the room and the meeting started. Ones it was my turn to speak, everyone listened attentively and Kamal translated what I was saying. We gathered some ideas for activities with their involvement and agreed on a day where I was gonna join them for a day to see how they are working. My personal highlight of the meeting was it when I asked the women’s side for their input since they did not participate in the discussion so far. They did not respond really; however, I could see their faces brightening up just for having been asked about their own opinion specifically.
So, I could go on forever with little episodes about my life here in Nilaveli including flat bus tires, guys climbing huge trees like monkeys, bird rescues and crocodile watching, skype sessions, dinner invitations, english-tamil discussions with the employees, etc. but I think it is enough now. I have to get ready to catch that night bus which brings me to Negombo where I will be participating in a workshop with a focus on the tourism development and related issues in Sri Lanka. I am super excited since I will be meeting some familiar faces including Yves, who was the Co-Advisor of my Bachelor Thesis and also Sumesh, managing director of the company I will be working for in India in November and December. Furthermore, I will meet some partner I talked to back in March and most of all I will have the chance to meet many new people who are active tourism professionals, campaigners, activists etc. So these days ahead will for sure hold some inspiring discussions, knowledge exchange (where I as a complete newbie will mostly just be learning from those who look back on many years of experience and involvement with Sri Lanka specific issues), and hopefully new friendships! Adios amigos and thanks for reading!
- Get up early to enjoy the cool mornings (and take a nap around noon when the heat is on its max)
- Be spontaneous! The meetings mostly worked out best when I just called the people up and met them a few hours later. Works much better here than planning ahead – Mostl, when I tried to arrange things some days before, they were cancelled and did not happen.
- Don’t refuse food you are being offered – it has always been delicious so far!