Time is flying …..

I can hardly believe I have been already one month in Sri Lanka, it feels like I have been longer, I think it’s because I have settled into life so well.  My Residence Visa came through yesterday!!  I can safely live and volunteer here as well as travel outside Sri Lanka and more importantly return with ease, all before June 30, 2017.  Yahoo!  It’s all thanks to my colleague Firasa and her excellent knowledge on how to navigate through the visa process.

Life is very good here in Colombo.  The apartment is lovely (you saw the photos) with great facilities (gym and pool) and it’s about a 20 mins walk from the office.  For the first few days I walked to work in the morning, but ended up a Puddly Mess, so now I take a three-wheeler to work and walk home.

When I arrived, I received dire warnings on using three-wheelers:  under no circumstances was I to use them at night because the drivers are usually drunk, always negotiate the price if it’s not metered, have some idea of the direction you are going so you can let a roar out of you if he’s heading the wrong way.  All good advice.  You can tell they are not really trusted.

Fortunately for us, Ansel has ended up being our quasi-personal three-wheeler driver.  I spell his name like this as the only other Ansel I know is Ansel Adams, but I bet I have the spelling wrong.  Ansel brought us to work a few times at a reasonable price.  He works 7am to 10pm with a break in the middle to pick his daughter up from school but is available at all other times.  As we got to know him and he got to know us, we got comfortable with one another.  So now we book him ahead of time or call him when we need him which works out perfect for us, and gives everyone who worries about us in three-wheelers, some peace of mind.  I think one has ‘arrived’ when one has a personal three-wheeler 😉

Our location is perfect.  We have a choice of three supermarkets (Arpico, Keells and Cargills) all within walking distance and we now have got to know which one has good fresh produce on what days.  The local Arpico has a beer store with a small selection of wine, and there is a fully-stocked wine store across the road from where we live.  It’s important that we have our priorities straight.

There’s no decent coffee shop closeby (sigh) but maybe that is a good thing to better manage my daily caffeine intake. And the good coffee Nikita gave me as a gift from Bhaktapur is gone.  We have a day off today in lieu of Diwali on Saturday but most stores remain open.  I am currently sitting in Hansa Cafe where they serve Sri Lanka’s first specialty coffee. It’s good stuff!  I got the double espresso (no half measures when it comes to coffee).  And I’ve bought some arabica beans to french press later.  I’m raring for the day and hope the hairdresser I’ll be going to later, has also had a good coffee to hone his cutting skills.

During one of my weekend walkabouts while Maheshie was visiting family, I discovered an area with many restaurants and bars relatively close to our apartment.  So with great excitement, we went ‘out’ last Friday night after we got home from our respective work trips.  We had some delicious small plates and even got to try the local arrack, a fermented drink made from unripe coconut flowers.  It’s rather lethal with a high proof and tastes harsh the first sip, but then it gets nicer … oh dear.  I actually like the stuff!  With a little drop of water it is perfect.

Although I am not usually a beer consumer, I am enjoying a Lion Beer – a mild beer that some do not consider a ‘real’ beer, but that is probably why I like it about once a week when I can’t take the heat & humidity for one second longer.  The Lion Brewery is part of the Carlsberg family – they are everywhere.

It’s not all bad-ass living.  We go to yoga classes twice a week (actually Maheshie goes up to four times a week), I like my sleep in you see.  And we make good use of the apartment complex’s gym and pool.  We’ve also been eating very healthy thanks to our culinary skills.

Maheshie’s Mum back in the US has been giving us lots of Sri Lankan recipes, as have a few of my colleagues at work.  Although Sri Lankan by birth, Maheshie has not cooked much of her native cuisine, so it’s been a time of discovery for both of us.  We have been cooking up a storm, here’s our latest meals that have even impressed some of our sharpest critics at work!

The Polos we are told is particularly difficult to get right, and the general consensus by our colleagues was that it tasted great but the colour could be a little darker.  We then realised we had not roasted the thunapaha (which is an unroasted spice mixture) – shock and horror!  We will get it right next time, we promise.

We have a few social events planned this weekend, attend a documentary, a choral performance and Sunday Jazz Brunch (it’s a hard life).  And somewhere in between our yoga class and exploring more of Colombo, finish my 3rd assignment for a Storytelling course I am taking.  I’m enjoying it not only for the writing aspect, but also getting to know the Land O’Lakes global team that has come together for the course.

Team members are based in the US, Lebanon, Bangladesh and there are three of us in Sri Lanka, everyone with diverse and very interesting life experiences.  We connect via good ol’ GoToMeeting, phone only though as internet connections are not broadband enough for videoconferencing for most of us.  I’m really enjoying the course.  This writing lark might be a thing for me.

I’ve been travelling quite a bit of late and am heading north again next week.  Life is very different outside the city in many ways, and I welcome the break from the city lights openly.  Stay tuned for that post as I gather my thoughts.

In the meantime, Happy Diwali!


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 the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation www.bomkarlsson.com and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. 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 the 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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3 Responses to Time is flying …..

  1. renu says:

    Happy Diwali Kates! you’ll have a fab time there for the festival of lights.

  2. Heather says:

    Happy Diwali Katie! Love reading about your adventures. Makes life in rainy Vancouver seem a bit dull(!) Take care x h

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