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Mar 06

Journalism and Writing Articles

Journalism and Writing Articles

 

I was writing regularly for a magazine and when I told them I was going to Sri Lanka they commissioned this piece:

Discovering another island: a personal reflection.


We flew towards the sunrise as we approached Sri Lanka.
The outskirts of Colombo; busy, noisy, horns blaring, cars, motor bikes, tuk tuks weaving madly in and out, beaten up buses, cyclists and pedestrians all apparently oblivious to the concept of danger. Heat and humidity, signs in English although the main language is Sinhala, road-side shrines and statues of the Buddha but also churches and a mosque. First impressions: a kaleidoscope of colour and sound and smells.

Two and a half hours from the airport to our hotel in Bentota, twenty two hours door to door and we arrive exhausted.
From our room we walk out onto a stretch of grass and trees, Terminalia Catappa with white blossoms known as Temple Flowers, Pandamas Variegatus with its strange roots, and Coconut Palms. Then straight onto the beach and the pounding surf. Squirrels scamper across the grass, crows and myna birds swoop possessively, a kingfisher flashes into view and a monitor lizard strolls majestically amongst the roots. An elephant ambles along the beach mornings and evenings, on the way to and from work.

Rain in the evening brought an impressive display of thunder and lightening. In the morning opening the patio doors from the air conditioned room was like stepping into a sauna.
A traditional local fishing boat was being dragged ashore at 8am and the beach boys were already out plying the tourists with fruit, sarongs, cigarettes and towels along the beach.

On day three we took our first, hair-raising ride in a tuk tuk, a cross between a motor bike and a rickshaw, to visit friends in Kosgoda. Our driver proudly told us he had driven an armoured vehicle in the army. I said I thought he was an excellent driver but to please remember that a tuk tuk was not a tank! He thought it was a huge joke.

On the beach we saw giant turtles on several evenings as they came up to lay their eggs, from one to two hundred in a clutch! The local boys wait and collect the eggs and take them to the nearby hatchery where they are paid 8 rupees (about 6 cents) an egg. There they are buried in sand and labelled with date and type until they hatch and are kept for three days before being released into the sea. The survival rate in nature is less than 10%. The baby turtles have an umbilical wound which bleeds and the scent attracts predators. After three days it is healed and the survival rate is over 70%.

We took a boat trip on a lagoon seeing water monitors, eagles, owls and water birds and monkeys in the trees and, as we turned, huge numbers of birds coming in to roost. As they settled in for the night we sailed gently back towards the sunset.

A trip to Galle, a fortified town dating back to Dutch Colonial days, took us past the memorial to over 1,200 who perished in a train that was swept aside in the tsunami of 2004 and part of the actual train, a sombre reminder of what the local people are rebuilding and recovering from still.
A labourer earns 700 rupees a day (about 5 euros) and evidence of poverty is clear in the local areas but the people are invariably smiling!

New Year was celebrated on 13/14 April and we were privileged to be invited into a Sri Lankan home. The New Year meal is eaten at the auspicious time divined by the monks, this year 8.10pm. After fasting from midday the countdown is broadcast on radio and everyone breaks their fast, with milk rice, at the same moment.
A highlight of the holiday was a two day trip to Kandy. We visited a pineapple plantation and stopped for lunch at Pinnawala, to watch the elephants from the elephant orphanage take their bath in the river.
After a quick shower we left the hotel for the local Cultural Centre and a display of Kandy Dancing with drums and colourful costumes and masks. The finale was a spectacular demonstration of fire walking.
On next to the Tooth Temple: one of the most holy Buddhist Shrines. Our guide, Percy gave us a detailed and fascinating insight into the rituals and stories surrounding the Temple and Buddhist history.

In our hotel overlooking Kandy Lake we awoke to the sight of monkeys on our balcony. Forewarned we had brought fruit.
A visit to the Botanical Gardens and a trip to a woodcarving shop and a tea plantation saw us on our way back to Bentota and one more day before leaving for home.
So much to see, so little time; already we are determined that we will return.

Sue Almond
May 2008

(Category:Travel Writing) Blog 19 Tags: Setting,Styles,Creative Writing,Journalism,Description

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