Tag Archives: Colombo

Sri Lankan Adventures: Trincomalee

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Alicia got to Sri Lanka last weekend.  We were together for two days, and then she took a trip to the field while I stayed in Colombo for a bit.  We met up in Trincomalee, but only after I took an 8 hour night train.

Eventually my train pulled in, and after rushing around frantically, I was shown by a beetle-nut red-mouthed man my first class cabin. The description said that it would be air-conditioned.  This was a lie from the pit of hell, which makes sense I suppose when tickets for such a long train ride are only $6.  There were two bunks, with a shared bathroom (see the door on the right in pictures), with a hole for a toilet through which I could see the railroad ties.  Fortunately I did not have to share the room, but as I laid down a massive cockroach (they come in sizes) scuttled down the wall and over my pillow.  I tore off my sandal to kill it but it was too late, so, after staring out the window for a bit, I laid down on the oily sheets and tried to sleep with my roomate.

I woke up with calls for Trincomalee at 6:10AM.  Meandeared over to my hotel, and slept for a few hours before my wife joined me.  That day we went to the local fort, which has changed hands between the Dutch, Portuguese, British, and French maybe a dozen times.  Admiral Nelson called the Trincomalee harbor the best natural harbor in the world.  We also went to a hindu Temple.

We then took a walk along the beach, which as beautiful, but growling slum dogs kept popping out from behind beached fishing boats to push us into the ocean, where there were millions of sharp fishing bones in the sand, especially vertebrae that seemed like tiny invisible sea urchins, and they got into our sandals—a strangely stressful experience, but an interesting one.   These slums were right next to beach resorts.

We then made friends with a local man who could explain to us what foods were good to eat, I swam to a rock outcropping, and it was beautiful.  But those pictures are on another camera.

The next day, we went up North to Nilavelli, Sir Lanka’s most famous beach and was often visited before the war.  Now it is starting to come back.  After eating lunch on the beach, we took a trip over to Pigeon Island, which as beautiful and

Alicia and I on Pigeon Island

has, we are told, some of the best snorkelling in Sri Lanka.  It was Alicia’s first time snorkeling and it was a success.  We saw corals, sea urchins, dozens of different types of fish, but probably the highlight was the sharks.  We saw several blacktip sharks, one just over a meter long, that came right at us before veering off at the last second.  I was clutching Alicia so she would keep me safe!

Afterwards we took a bus home for $3.60 each.  It came up as I was buying some local treat, and the folks outside yelled at us “Colombo!  Come!  Colombo! Come!”  We jumped on board and were crammed together for 8 hours, perhaps 2 of which Alicia had a man leaning over her with his crotch more or less in her face, but besides that it was fairly good, though we were glad we brought ear plugs.  They like their Sri Lankan jams!

Now we are back in Colombo.

BTW, thanks for all the feedback all over facebook on my civil war post.  It has been very interesting reading.

Sri Lankan Church Bulletin Quotes Teddy Roosevelt

Today I went to the Grace Evangelical Church here in Wellewatte, a southern suburb of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and ran across a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that was printed in the bulletin.

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood…and who…if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Right now I am meandering through a colossal audio series of 90 lectures on American history, and I am eager to get to Roosevelt.  The man was uber egotistical, great, and terrible, but besides the elitist desire exhibited in this quote to be set apart from lesser, more timid souls, I think he is right on the money.  I had a hard time paying attention to the sermon cause I was thinking about Teddy and failure.

More and more, I have come to feel comfort in failure because it is a sign that I am in the game.  Of course, we should never love failing, but we can take pride in it.  There is great dignity in having your business fail, a lover leave you, or receiving rejections from potential employers or schools.  All one can ever do is give it their best shot, and God and luck do the rest.  Instead, honor dies when our energy wans—when we remove ourselves from the “arena” of judgement so that we can pretend ourselves to be immeasurable.

Mostly unrelated to that: I find it interesting that so many great American politicians were never presidents, and were often more powerful figures than their contemporary presidents, and yet considered themselves to be failures because they did not become presidents: Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, Stephen A. Douglass…ok, I’m only to the 1860s.  I was trying to think of great politicians in modern times who did not become presidents, and I could not, at least not anyone of the stature of these men.  Any ideas?

Comfortable Estrangement on my Birthday

I have not lived in a very foreign country since I left Taiwan nine years ago (England doesn’t count as “very foreign”).  But walking down the street yesterday in Dehiwala, Sri Lanka I felt that I was home.  I did not fit in, I was white, I was wearing weird clothes, and I walked down the street completely chillax as people stared at me a little more than normal.  Here I ask stupid questions.  I constantly try new things.  I do not know what I am doing.  This was my life for years, and, after 9 years, the rediscovered feeling of estrangement was comforting.

In America, nobody stares at me, at least not usually.  I usually know what is going on, but not as much as people think.  I don’t like asking dumb questions.  I don’t stick out, even though I sometimes feel like I do.  Here, even though Sri Lanka is very different than Taiwan, I feel the way that I look: I am a foreigner.  There is no pretending.

So I felt very much at peace yesterday, even though it was my birthday, and nobody knew it within about 1,000 miles, my wife was in Houston, Texas, scared she might not make it to Sri Lanka this summer, and we are both worried about how to pay for grad school, finding jobs, getting my book published, and I am sad that Elinor Ostrom died that morning.  (My online community was very lavish in birthday affection though.  Thanks!)

In my newfound comfort, I enjoyed going to Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park).  It is a public park next to the National Museum in Sri Lanka. It is the oldest and largest park in Colombo and situated in front of the colonial-style Town Hall building.  A caretaker gave me an impromptu tour.  He then asked for money, and I gave him less than a dollar.  He was not pleased with me : )

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I also had some videos, but apparently I have to upgrade my wordpress account to post those :  (

Sex in Sri Lanka

According to local sources, extra-marital affairs, and PDA, is acceptable in Colombo, but not the rest of the country.  Homosexuality is not acceptable anywhere, though there are plenty of secret gays–at least that is what Anuhas tells me.  I thanked him for this information on behalf of my blog readers.

Unrelated to that, here’s some pics from a trip downtown the other day.

50% of Cliftons Head to Sri Lanka

…the other 50% head to Texas.

Yesterday was my last day at Habitat for Humanity International HQ in Atlanta, GA.  Last night Alicia and I packed for Sri Lanka.  We’ve been camping out in our apartment for about 2 weeks on an inflatable bed, eating on folding porch chairs, washing the same dishes over and over, and making meals out of frozen edamamme we’ve had in the back of the freezer for possibly 2 years (Alicia is a genius with random foods). We went to the airport together, and now I am sitting here waiting to board for Chicago, Abu Dahbi, then Colombo, Sri Lanka while Alicia is somewhere else in the airport getting on a plane to Texas.

Alicia still does not have her VISA, but we expect it to likely get to DC at the end of next week.  She will then fly to DC, get her visa at the Sri Lankan embassy, and then fly to straight to Sri Lanka, with us only being apart for a 10 days.  Worst case scenario: Alicia’s visa never comes, I live in Sri Lanka for the summer, and she fullfills her internship requirement in Bolivia or somewhere…hmmm.  Please pray that Alicia gets her VISA soon.  We just had a very sad goodbye.  The emotion kinda surprised us both.

Otherwise, we are very excited.  We will be staying with a young lady named “Ha” in an apartment 2 minutes from the beach.  I will be chillin at the beach and exploring Colombo, Sri Lanka’s major city.  I’ll try to post some pics when I get there.