A Few “Whys” as We Say Goodbye
As our time here in Sri Lanka comes to an end, I must say I am still completely baffled by this country. Even after a month here, we walk through the streets in awe of how much more “together” this tiny war-torn nation seems to be compared to India. Every day, we ask ourselves why?
After thirty years of war, ethnic tension, religious extremists butting heads, massacres, bombings, corruption… shouldn’t this place be a wreck? Why are there so many package tourists taking their holidays here? Why does everything run with relative efficiency? Why are there so many perfectly organized grocery stores? For South Asia, this place is downright affluent.
When they made a mistake at the train station and I started yelling like I would in India, why did the station master run to my assistance and immediately solve the problem? How is that possible? Almost everybody can read, and a huge portion of the population can speak passable English. So what if the word “hotel” means restaurant, these people are going way out of their way to accommodate us.
And now that the war here is slowly coming to an end, how successful can this country become with its educated population, extensive tea and coffee plantations, beach tourism, and booming stock market, reportedly one of the world’s most successful in 2008. (And that was one hell of a bad year.)
True, as the war here winds down, the Tamil Tigers are scattering and there is a constant fear of suicide bombings. This place is clearly not perfect as you can see in the morning papers. But the military conducts its searches with an efficiency that India can only dream of. And even as bombs go off, most of the population speaks of the atrocities with reflection and asks us not to judge the Tamils for the actions of a small number of extremists. This is not a third-world country, it’s something more.
But there IS one insidious third-world habit Sri Lanka excels at, that nasty double-pricing system and constant price gouging of foreigners! Taxis, motor-rickshaws, buses, restaurants, hotels, and the monuments – don’t get me started on that again. Why, Sri Lanka, why?
But, hey, at least they smile with appreciation and pat you on the back with Buddhist kindness as they rip you off. Why can’t India learn to cheat you with kindness?