It has been a while since the last Blog-post so it’s time for another update! As I am writing, I am spending my last days here in Sri Lanka. In less than 48h I will be in India… Crazy how time is flying!
The last weeks have been busy. I met nearly all of my business-partners again to finalize our agreements and so my cooperative tourism package is all lined up and ready to be tested. In April next year, I will come back and conduct the first tour – exciting! (Also, I am looking for “Versuchskaninchen-Travellers” who are keen on exploring Sri Lanka and would have time and money to participate in the tour. If you are, contact me and I will be happy to provide you with more information about the content, price etc. of the package)
Besides working on the package, I also spent some time with Yves, who was my external advisor for the Thesis, and some activists of a local NGO. Together, they organized workshops in local communities who are negatively affected by the aggressive mass-tourism development – and I was lucky enough to be able to tag along with them and learn about the issues of the locals are facing. The workshops were extremely interesting. Even though I could not contribute too much content wise, it was just very informative and it was a great chance to meet many hard-working, committed and inspiring individuals.
Travelling to all these meetings required some adventurous bus rides. I wouldn’t say the local buses are extraordinarily comfortable but I still enjoy using them. (Maybe because I have always been lucky so for and was able to grab a free seat) However, the mix of no AC, double the amount of people than seats and the somewhat adventurous driving style makes it a quite touchy, sweaty and sometimes scary ride. Oh and also, no need for music and headphones because no matter how rattly the bus is, the music boxes work, perfectly. And they are on. Always. And loud.
Traveling the local way however also provides the opportunity to meet people. No matter if you are squeezed in between a group of ladies on a family trip who keep offering you food (but also keep taking selfies – smiiiileee) or if you get off the bus and be invited for a cup of tea while waiting to be picked up – it is always an adventure and especially when travelling solo, people are really open and interested in talking to you.
So after all the workshops were over and the package was finalized, it was time to say goodbye to the guys at the guesthouse (which was not easy but I know I will be back in a few months so it’s not a long goodbye). I decided to once again take one of these legendary bus rides since I wanted to spend the last few days in and around Jaffna which is the northern most part of the Island and has been badly affected by the war. Compared to other regions, only a handful tourists find their way to this area and tourism infrastructure is only slowly starting to be constructed. There are also not many options for booking trips, however I found a company called Sri Lanka Click with offered really interesting tours and so I signed up for a bicycle tour through Jaffna Town for the first afternoon. Our local guide Mohan possessed incredible knowledge about the history of the place. Luckily also, Belinda, an Australian lady joined the tour and she also showed great interest in the history because of her professional background and education. So the afternoon was interesting and full of great discussion – oh and some delicious IceCream (the first I ever tried here in Sri Lanka). After the tour, Belinda and I went to Mangos, one of the few restaurants which is well known among locals and tourists, and we soon found out why. We tried a typical “Dosa” and some “Cheese Kottu” and both was very yummi. We also decided to go for a full day tour the next day which would bring us to all over the northern region to historically significant places. 300 km were waiting on us and our scooters so we started at 6 in the morning in order to be back in the evening in time so that Belinda would be able to catch the night train to Colombo. So during nearly 12 hours, Mohan showed us different places and I learned a lot on the tour. For the next day, I had arranged to meet a priest who used to work in Germany for a while and is now back in Sri Lanka. He spontaneously agreed to spend the whole Saturday with me and showed me different projects he is working on. One was a fishing net factory where 70 war-widows are employed which is a great chance for these ladies who otherwise to not get any support to feed their families. After a delicious lunch at his house, we visited a second project he is running which is a housing scheme for resettelment. He raises funds and then builds homes for 500 fishermen families who are land- and/or homeless. After showing me around the community, I was again invited to eat with him. His commitment for the people, his generosity and openness were really impressive and I hope to go back to Jaffna soon to spend more time there.
After these eventful days in Jaffna, I “enjoyed” an 8-hour bus ride, incl. one flat tire, back to Negombo where I will be spending the last days.
And now, as I am preparing to leave curry-country (well I will go to another curry-country so this is at least something I will not have to miss), I am looking back on 7 weeks of great encounters, good food, hooooot days, swims in the sea, many aha- moments but of course also some lonely hours, some creeps crossing my way oh and mosquitos (if there is anything in the world which really truly is loyal, it’s the mosquitos).
But overall, Sri Lanka has been good to me and taught me much. I did not see many places or participated in the typical tourist activities. And still, or maybe exactly because of this, I feel like I got to know the country pretty well. So for me, it is all about the people I met along the way. Most of them were friendly, helpful and caring. Especially those, I was lucky to work with. Not one person refused to meet me but rather took a whole day to talk to me, show me around, invite me for lunch or dinner. Moreover, no matter where I went, the people I met would always call me up later to make sure I got home safely and was feeling good. And this, to me, are small signs that make me feel at home, make me feel safe and appreciated and it makes me happy to know that I will be back soon and see my new Sri Lankan friends again.
That’s it from the island for this time – the next Blog will be about my first days in India!
- Go to Jaffna and book some tours with http://www.srilankaclick.com/ – the best, most informative, personal and safe way to explore the north
- Check https://busseat.lk/ for long distance travel. These Buses with AC are super comfortable and reliable and you can book your seat online
- People stopping me on the streets or in a shop to take a selfie happened nearly daily – so get used to that!
- If you go to the North, be careful with political statements and do not force people to talk about politics, war etc. on the streets. Many Tamil people are scared to share their views as Government critical statements might still get them in trouble…!