As grown adults we don’t often get the opportunity to take a few months off and do nothing. Just wake up each day with no external expectations, walk down the beach, have a swim, cold beer or just lay in bed the whole day. For the last two months, we’ve been privileged to live that life and have met some amazing people along the way. One of the reasons why we have been shielded from any pressures is also support from our families who have taken care of some of life’s normal stresses, so thanks Mom, Dad, Ma, Pa and Francesco!
We’ve spent the better part of the last two months, meeting people, exploring the local surroundings and enjoying two of the countries biggest festivals, New Years, which is a drunken two day extravaganza of local cheap whiskey, driving recklessly on the beach and very loud music and Vesak, Buddha’s birthday which is a much more spiritual occasion.
We recently spend time on the lagoon, close to Hikkaduwa, where we were really surprised, as it wasn’t exactly a lagoon, but more an ocean, as it was that big. We started with an extraordinary foot exfoliation, which was pretty weird, but my feet felt beautiful afterwards!
The lagoon is scattered with hundreds of islands and there is an amazing Buddhist Temple run by monks. We all received blessings from the monk, which would cover us for 12 days of good luck. I’m hoping the translator meant twelve years! We also managed to leaf through the Buddha book of wisdom, which was 600 years old. I’m still a little perplexed that they let you page through a palm leaf 600 year old book at your leisure, but hey, this is Sri Lanka, most things go unexplained here.
One of the beauties of where we stayed was that it was literally on the beach and each evening the local guys would play cricket and volleyball, which was really great, but I’m quite certain that they don’t have much hope for SA cricket based on my 2 month average! It really was the quintessential waterlogged bat and old tennis ball beach cricket. What made matters worse was they half of them would have made the SA 20/20 team.
Although the water is warm and idyllic, the waves are very big and the currents strong. I may be bad at cricket, but growing up around surf helped me to save a Chinese tourist who got swept out to sea, thinking she was swimming in a pond. Sri Lankans may be good at a lot of things, but they don’t enjoy swimming in big waves and by the time got in to help her they were all standing watching, not wanting to go in. I guess the old adage “swim where the locals swim” rings true.
As I mentioned above, we were really lucky to spend time here during Vesak, The streets are filled with lanterns, which represent the light of Buddha and for some reason, little old Hikkaduwa held a parade rivalling Carnival in Rio. It was a massive sober occasion, as no alcohol is allowed to be sold on this day, being extremely important to Sri Lankans. Even the most hardened alcoholic tends to stay dry for two days, so you can imagine the run on the bottle store at the end of the festivities!
Kai and Kerala, got extra special attention when we visited Buddhas Temple on Vesak, with all the local kids beautifully dressed up in white for the occasion.
Our home at Cinnamon Gardens became a wedding venue for two separate couples last weekend. Close to 700 hundred people pitched up over the two days of festivities. It was great to be part of the occasions and the kids were a big hit with the guests as they put on their best clothes and joined in, dancing, eating and having fun. We also got to see how much food needed to be prepared for the guests, starting with 25 kilo’s of rice. Weddings here, are very similar to a South African wedding, except that they start at 10h00 in the morning and by 14h00 most people are ready to go home as the whiskey is finished.
One of our goals this year was to give our kids the opportunity of spending time with the local kids in a school environment, learning the language and understanding some of the customs. The school we chose was a very basic Montessori, based in Galle Fort, and turned out to be an amazing experience for them. We decided to spread some South African love at the kids farewell party!
So, what else is there to say about this country. We came not knowing much, but are leaving a lot richer for it. We have to mention some of the people who have made our stay so amazing and that’s the staff, owners and all people involved at Cinnamon Gardens, Samatha, Janith, Janicker and Charmarin to name but a few. You guys will live in our memories forever for your kindness, especially to our kids. They have grown immensely because of the love you showed them.
Sri Lanka is a country where its difficult to scratch the surface as a tourist, even if you spend three months here. So many things happen around you and without speaking the language it just goes over your head. It works one day, broken the next, he’s here one day and gone the next, who knows why. If you ask, you’ll get 20 different answers, but that’s the great things about being here, you never have to get involved.
The last two months has been a life reset for us. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, we realize how privileged we are to have this time together. But, as they say in the movies, all good things must come to an end. We’ll miss Sri Lanka and all of the wonderful things she has given us, but Europe awaits with all its wonderful architecture, art, food and culture.
And the journey continues…