Trinco – a happening place

I am slowly getting to grips with the array and sheer number of businesses the VEGA/BIZ+ project work with, a few of whom we visited last week.

I arrived in Sri Lanka just in time for fiscal year end and the staff meeting that goes along with that.  For the first time, the staff meeting was held outside of Colombo in a place called Trincomalee (Trinco for short).  It’s about 250km from the capital and is the administrative headquarters as well as primary port & resort city in the Eastern Province.  Although the roads are paved all the way, it’s narrow in parts and under construction in others which means it takes about 5-7 hours to get there, depending on traffic.  We left Colombo at the ungodly hour of 4.30am so we could lunch with our colleagues from Jaffna and Battiicaloa at Amaranthe Bay – the resort we were all staying at.

Here’s an 8-second video of how we kept ourselves amused on the bus 🙂

The journey only took 5 hours so we had a bit of time to visit one of the project’s grantees before checking in.  An ice-making factory!

Now, I had never seen ice making at a commercial level ever, so I was interested to see the process, given with humidity, the daily temperatures can get up to 40C.

Picture giant popsicle-like forms filled with fresh cooled water that are then immersed in salted water in large vats.  The fresh water freezes and before the salted water has a chance to freeze, the 50kg ‘popsicles’ are removed form the forms and stored in a cold room (which was bliss to stand in by the way).  The ice is used by fishermen, wholesalers and supermarkets – either in the 50kg blocks to keep the catch fresh on deep-sea fishing boats or distribution trucks, or in shredded form when selling to the consumer.

This plant is being extended (doubling it’s size), there is that much business to be had.  The project also purchased a refrigerated truck to allow ice to be delivered further than the immediate surrounding area.  This plant has met the targets of providing local employment and is viewed as a good example of a successful partnership.

Another successful partnership is that of Amaranthe Bay resort.  It was well funded by the owners but they needed resort-building expertise and other technical support which the project was able to provide.  Amaranthe Bay opened it’s doors 2 years ago and has been consistently booked out with a nice mix of foreigners as well as Sri Lankans on vacation.  I can see why!  It was luxurious to be a guest there:  my suite was to die for right by the pool with in-room jacuzzi (actually every room has one), the service was excellent, food delicious and location was just stunning.  This video (2mins duration) does a better job at showing how beautiful a place it is, than I could capture with my camera.

The husband of a colleague is 1 of  17 pilots who safely bring the ships into Colombo’s harbour, and through his contacts, we got to sail through security and visit Trinco’s harbour – a large natural harbour that many a sea battle has been fought to gain control of it.  It’s unique in that the harbour has many ‘tentacles’ which allow for many ships to come longside many docks dedicated by cargo.  We visited the cement dock.  Pretty neat to see it up close and personal.

Cement is being offloaded here.

Cement is being offloaded here.

There was a lot of work done too – I promise!  2015-2016 in review plus a look at each of the grantees, how they are doing and what is left to be done before the project closes next summer.

We had an outing to Pigeon Island for a bit of snorkeling among it’s renowned coral reefs.  This is your kind of place Maeve!

Many of the team did not swim so were brave souls going snorkeling!

Many of the team did not swim so were brave souls going snorkeling!

The sunrises are just gorgeous, I got up at 5am both mornings and headed down to the beach to see the dawning of the day.  And take a paddle in the Indian Ocean.

And we had a party on our last evening there ….. boated out to a little island in the middle of the Pillaikulam Aru river where the chefs cooked on BBQs and we danced our hearts out to Tamil tunes.  Great fun!

I know, more postings about food, but I cannot help it – the food is so delicious here!

I’m off up north to Jaffna next week, stay tuned for my thoughts on my visit here.  In the meantime, have a good week!

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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4 Responses to Trinco – a happening place

  1. Mick Canning says:

    A nice bit of luxury, there! Looking forward to hearing about Jaffna.

  2. Pingback: VEGA recognizing King Ice and the BIZ+ Team in Sri Lanka | Bowen to Bangladesh

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