Sri Lanka: Making Every Day Count
A place most renowned for the cultivation of quality tealeaves, with its exports served across the world as a symbol of lifestyle and splendor, Sri Lanka possesses a humble natural beauty that is unbeknownst to many. My first time being anywhere near India, this journey has given me the chance to glimpse into a world so different, yet in many ways so similar to ours. Eating curry rice using your bare hand while enjoying a cup of smooth and silky milk tea? Why not? Chopsticks are getting a bit too mainstream anyway.
Striving to recover from the devastation of a 26-year long civil war, the genuine smile on the face of the Sri Lanka people is not a plaster to cover the grievous wound, but is actually a manifestation of their inner vigor. With the privilege of not having to spend the nights in any of the pompously extravagant hotels, we had the chance to befriend the locals, and it was by then that I discovered the majority of the Sri Lankan pride themselves over their unwavering faith towards Buddhism and Hinduism. With that in mind, pork and beef are certainly a rare sight, but with chicken and fish and adding in the right amount of spice, simple ingredients can still be turned into mouthwatering delicacy.
In case you are craving for some complex South Asian sensation, I would recommend you one of my favorite short eats, “vada”– a deep fried dough mixed with mashed potatoes, subsequently seasoned by mixing it with black mustard seeds, onion, curry leaves and black pepper grain. Besides, “lamprais”, which is a kind of their special, congee-like curry, and “hopper”, what I dub the Sri Lanka pancake is also of great popularity among the locals. Sri Lanka people also share the same uncanny love for milk tea and coffee as us. The place is certainly a paradise for those who relish digging everything single edible bits out from a fresh coconut.
One of the most fascinating things about Sri Lanka is the huge difference in climate between regions. Travelling from the tropical, humid air Rideegama to the crispy, chilling breeze of Nuwara Eliya, just 5 hours of extremely bumpy car-ride apart and there is already a 20-degree difference. It was however worth the torture, as the scenery from atop of the mountain was beyond what your mind can fathom. It might lack the flamboyant colors of some of its Eastern counterparts, but the serenity and the simplicity of the greenery is enough to sooth your soul.
A service trip however was never meant to be mere relaxation, and we were happy to be able to really get into knowing the lives of the less fortunate. Those who are empty in their pocket fill it up with their contentment inside, and that is exactly the case for the poor people that we have encountered. They might not own a lot, but when treating their guests, they could go as far as to uprooting every single plant near their home just to make a meal for us (literally). They may not know a lot, but they still extended their warmest welcome, and made their best attempt in communicating with us, even though the only answer we can get back from “how old are you?” is “I am fine thank you”. They may not all have the brightest future, but they still make sure that they are making every day counts by wearing the biggest smile they can put on.
Sri Lanka is a lovely place full of lovely people. So if you are planning on going there next time, dig deeper than the usual beach resorts and water-diving tours to make sure that you are really appreciating the beauty of this place.
Submitted by Jonathan Wong, a Year 2 Journalism Student at HKU.