Culture

Friend-Friends and Other Observations

Confusing slang, seat-snatching monks, bizarre Spanish phrases, indecipherable head bobbles… all just part of learning to live with a new culture! These are some of our favorite quirks and misunderstandings from three months in Sri Lanka.

Tap that Toddy

We had seen toddy tappers at work a few times, high up in the palm trees around Jaffna and Trincomalee, collecting the liquid of coconut flowers into plastic jugs. The toddy can later can be distilled into arrack, but is one of the country’s favorite drinks even in its unprocessed state. And for nearly three months, we had traveled throughout Sri Lanka without ever trying it. We were being derelict!

Sri Lanka Reading List

Every time we head to a new location, we’ll hunt down novels which are set there. Books help satisfy our curiosity about the place, and deepen our understanding of its culture. Here’s what we’ve been reading during our three months in Sri Lanka.

The Martin Wickramasinghe Museum

One of our first mornings in Galle, we took a bus to Alanthgama with the intention of seeing stilt fisherman — one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic images. But whether it was due to the stormy seas, the time of day, or the recently completed New Year’s festivities, the stilts were unoccupied. Foiled! Now what would we do?

The Temple Town of Kataragama

A major center of Sri Lankan pilgrimage for Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists, Kataragama is a normally sleepy village which completely transforms every evening when a riotous spectacle of color, fire, music and worship gets underway.

Happy New Year!

Sri Lankan New Year, that is. The holiday, which brings normal life on the island to a complete stop for two full days, is observed on either the 13th or 14th of April, depending on astrological calculations.

Let’s Go Surfin’ Now at Arugam Bay

A laid-back village on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, Arugam Bay is one of the best places in the world for surfing, and has been a favorite of the long-term community for decades. Thanks to the steady presence of chilled-out expats, the town has a cool, low-key vibe which we’ve not seen anywhere else on the island. Great restaurants serving a variety of cuisine, comfy beach-side lodging, hip lounges, a happy mix of foreigners and locals… and of course, incredible waves.

The Kanniyai Hot Wells and Velgam Vihara

After a few days spent recharging our batteries on Uppuveli Beach, we were ready for some sight-seeing. Luckily, we didn’t have to go far. A tuk-tuk driver agreed to take us on a 500 rupee round-trip tour of two great spots near Trincomalee: the Kanniyai Hot Wells and the Velgam Vihara, which is an ancient monastery set near a picturesque lake.

Inquisitive, Curious Sri Lanka

Want to quickly gather together a massive group of Sri Lankans? Get into a car wreck. Want to play Twenty Questions with a Sri Lankan? Walk down the street. There isn’t a culture on Earth more nosy or curious than Sri Lanka’s. At least, I hope not!

Rules of the Road

Good morning, class, and welcome to Advanced Sri Lankan Driving. I’ll be your substitute instructor today, as Mr. Pinnaduwa was fatally injured in a brutal head-on crash last night. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

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