We’re in Mirissa on the south coast, a picture-perfect paradise. I write this sitting in a Sri Lanka cricket T-Shirt in the shade of a palm tree, with only a pure white beach and mile upon mile of Indian Ocean separating me from Antarctica.
We’ve been in Sri Lanka ten weeks now. It’s surprising how quickly time passes, and how quickly memories of London life are slipping into the golden-hued realms of nostalgia. Increasingly we’ve been able to travel and see more of this country. We’re putting together a picture of this place, of the communities and vistas that make it. I’ve been lucky to travel widely with my new director to visit clusters of village groups supported by South Asia Partnership. Faced by such engaged and proactive people, I do wonder what I can ever hope to achieve.
We’re in Mirissa following a meeting with two community groups in nearby Matara. They will be part of the project I’m working on. This was the first meeting of its kind and heralded, in some ways, a real beginning to this work. It is the start of a long process to build relationships with groups around the island and to work with them so that, collectively, local people have a stronger voice.
The journey down yesterday followed the coast south, through local markets selling the day’s catch and skirting palm trees roped at their tops for the practice of toddy tapping. Along the way remains of ruined huts destroyed in the Boxing Day tsunami were barely visible now through foliage, and in each town, headstones peeped out of the long grass just above the beach. Amid the bustling seaside scenes where visitors and locals enjoyed the water and cool breeze, they were a fleeting but stark physical reminder of the hardship people have faced, a topic not openly discussed here.