Bas-es, Classes And Sunglasses

One of the many things I love about Sri Lanka, is that public transport is so cheap, you don’t really feel your budget has taken a hit on a travelling day. For example, a third class train ticket for a seven hour ride to Nuwara Eliya from Colombo costs 165 Rupees, 86 pence exactly. Sri Lankan buses can go one of two ways, they can be fun and humorous or they can push your patience to the very limits. On a good bus ride, or ‘bas’ as they call it, you could get a seat with just enough leg room, other times your knees will take a hammering the whole way, and that’s if you get a seat at all. Sometimes the Sri Lankan party/pop/fusion soundtrack will be at a reasonable level of volume and can be quite enjoyable, alternatively it could be at full blast to the point where the speakers, and your ear drums are ready to blow.

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You’re always guaranteed some in-bus entertainment with the hawkers who board at the longer stops. In a few hectic minutes you can get geography teachers selling maps of Sri Lanka, lottery ticket salesmen, magicians doing cheap card tricks and what I call the ‘soowoddy’ men who sell deep fried snacks and shout ‘soowoddy-woddy!’ One thing you can be sure of is that the driver will never drive safely and there will always be some kind of drama…

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Our bus stopped and let everyone off, just to look at this

In between travelling around, we’ve spent time partaking in some volunteering, yes working for nowt! Mi Ella is a small village situated in the Matara district, and is predominantly a Muslim area. At the small school we have been teaching English to Children from the ages of 5 to 10 and also tutoring young adults.

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Our ABC wall

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Playing on our hammock

Not many Westerners make it out to this part of Sri Lanka, so every time I took a walk through the village, I felt like a celebrity. Everybody wanted to shake my hand, ask my name, chat and I was once even asked to autograph a woman’s breast. We were invited into a few families’ homes for tea and biscuits on numerous occasions, it’s Sri Lankan ritual to have foreign guests at Sinhala new year time and is believed to bring good luck. Even though they couldn’t speak a word of English, they seemed quite content just taking photos of us eat. One villager let me shoot his riffle, but not before the entire family were invited over to enjoy the show…

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Back at the school, I was surprised at how rewarding it felt teaching, the kids were eager to learn and I was gaining something from the experience as well. In fact, I learned more from a ten year old boy than I did from some of the so called ‘top dogs’ in my previous line of employment…

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Our Flags of the world wall

When I was teaching a 23 year old man, one of the sentences in his text book mentioned The Beatles. He pointed at the word and said ‘What is this?’ I could not believe that he had never heard of the Beatles, considering a Sinhala mash up version of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da is a favorite on the local busses. So it goes to show Maccas, you haven’t conquered the world just yet…

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Firdouse and Family

Whilst waiting for our Indian visas to be processed, we stayed in Hikkaduwa on the South Coast. Hikkaduwa is one of my favourite beaches of all time, a long stretch of golden palm lined sand has a constant haze on the horizon, making this beach the most idyllic and dreamy place to kill time reading, playing carrom, practicing some yoga and eating some pretty good food…

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The cactus playing carrom

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My favourite place in town, Ranjith’s beach hut

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Beach Dog

The fine chap at the consulate decided to pull his finger out and get our passports back the day before our flight, bravo! After numerous trips to Hambantota I was glad to see the back of the place, even though we were now on first name terms with all the tuk tuk drivers at the bus station. This visit to Sri Lanka was only meant as a stepping stone to India, but its fine beaches, fine food, fine people, fine bus journeys, fine head wobblers and fine tuk tuk drivers who always say ‘OK, come’ have reminded me just how beautiful this country really is. Now, the promised land of India awaits!

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Like a stilt fisherman

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Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Bas-es, Classes And Sunglasses

  1. While I was riding on a bus in Sri Lanka, this guy got on. He brought a coconut with him. He started his act by praying to the coconut gods. Then he husked the coconut with his teeth!!!! When finished he gave it to me. I was speechless, I have never seen anything like that before or since.
    Great article it brought back great memories of my travels in Sri Lanka.

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