‘ONLY IN SRI LANKA’

My latest book, titled ‘ONLY IN SRI LANKA’, was published by Jojo Publishing in September this year. This story is based on my introduction to Sri Lankan life, its culture & customs, as experienced by my Singhalese daughter-in-law, my Australian son, and my three Aussie/Sri Lankan grandsons. It’s the story of village life, the time of the civil war and the tsunami. It’s the story of coming to terms with losing my family to another culture and another country.

You can buy the book at https://www.elankashop.com/

‘I found this book a warm, loving and vulnerable account of our journey to explore/understand the new cultures of both Sri Lanka and 20th century grand-parenting. It blends two very ‘current’ interests to baby boomers , travel to less well-known places and cross-cultural grand-parenting. I got to learn about SriLanka from the inside. I’m enriched by reading the book because I know more now about Sri Lanka because of it.’  Sandra Watson.

 ‘I absolutely loved your book. You have a way of writing that brings the people and places to life, and I now want to go to Sri Lanka. You’ve also captured so well how we distant grandmothers feel.’ Linda Raine

Hi from Sri Lanka

When I set off from Chewton in March 2013 for a visit to Sri Lanka the main purpose was to visit my three young grandsons who live there with their Aussie father (my son) and his Sri Lankan wife Anusha.

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The Lavanga

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Street scene in Hikkaduwa

They had just opened their new joint venture hotel, the Lavanga, (meaning aroma of cinammon) in the coastal town of Hikkaduwa. As a family we all shared one of the deluxe family suites, with me being the first official guest of the hotel. As such, the staff were told they were now on ‘Mother Duty’. Translated this meant they were to  be at my beck and call, not that I relish being fawned over.

However, I did enjoy the tropical fruit platter delivered daily to my room – a large dish of fresh papaya, pineapple and watermelon slices, with guava and sugar bananas. Not to mention the blended mixed lime and fruit juices, and the homemade banana bread for breakfast. Their head chef, Shanta, has worked in Sydney, the Maldives, and Colombo, and is not only a top chef but prepared to learn new recipes and be innovative. I wanted to take his tandoori chicken and his fish curries home with me.

Apart from enjoying getting to know my half Sri Lankan grandsons again, I had some interesting experiences and met some very creative people. Such as Juliet, an English journalist who lives in the historic Galle Fort precinct with her Moslem husband and two young sons. She has her own book publishing company and has herself written eleven books on all aspects of Sri Lankan life.

web.lighthouseOne of the highlights of my stay were my many visits to the Galle Fort area.  Built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, captured by the Dutch, then the British, it retains the original still fully functioning lighthouse. The beautiful old buildings within the Fort area are heritage listed. Today the Fort is home to over a thousand people of diverse backgrounds and is a maize of quaint narrow winding streets full of cafes, gift stores, art galleries. In recent times the Dutch government has poured megabucks into the Fort’s restoration.

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A visit to a turtle farm introduced me to the farm manager who told me he lost his entire family in the 2004 tsunami, when some 35,000 Sri Lankans lost their lives. Today he runs the farm himself, giving guided tours to groups of school children. He explained how turtles are the 3rd most endangered species in the world. He saves their eggs and breeds them then releases them into the ocean. He also rescues them when they become entangled in fishermen’s nets.

One evening my daughter-in-law invited me to a funeral in Colombo of her 87 year old uncle. We visited the widow and bowed heads before the body which was laid out in the living room on a white embroidered bed, fully clothed in grey suit, shirt and tie, looking very peaceful, his hands wreathed in a garland of white jasmine.

April 12 and 13 I helped Anusha’s family celebrate Sri Lankan new year. According to custom people go on a spending spree, shops were crowded and offering huge New Year discounts, particularly on clothing.  On their New Year’s Day everyone then donned their new outfits. I was given bags of homemade sweets made from mung bean flour and jaggery (a sickly sweet sugar), and in the evening watched as firecrackers were let off along the beach.

The relentless heat and high humidity was hard to take. Interestingly, the locals were also complaining, saying it was much hotter than normal for this time of year. Everyone blamed this on climate change.

Saying goodbye to my young grandsons was not easy. The youngest two were too young to remember me. Jai, the six year old, still has lots of memories of visiting me in Chewton, of seeing kangaroos hopping across our back yard, of playing in the park, of eating Onn Ho’s famous Berry Flan at the Bold café.

He is now bilingual in English and Sinhala, and was often my interpreter.  He wanted to know why I couldn’t stay in Sri Lanka and live with him.

‘Because Australia is my home’, I explained.

When I said my final farewell he hugged me and said, ‘I love you nana’. Music to my ears.

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Anusha and first grandson Jai

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My grandson Ruki

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My baby grandson Tarsh

Before It’s Too Late

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