Sights in Batticaloa

I am in Batticaloa, a major town in the Eastern Province all this week, completing a few business capacity assessments with some of our Grantees from the 1st round of funding 3-5 years ago.  Very interesting to be here ….. and a little heartstopping.

Batticaloa is currently in monsoon season although not a lot of rain has fallen, which worries the paddy farmers immensely as you can imagine.  It has a knock on effect on the local economy starting with those directly involved in the processing of rice:  rice milling, rice fumigation & packaging factories, rice flour manufacturers as well as poly bag manufacturers.  And this in turn impacts the overall local economy when people are spending far less than they should be spending.

Besides lack of rain, the locals are also calling our current temperatures ‘freezing’ and far too cold to be on their motorbikes early in the morning getting to prayers and work!  Personally, a balmy 24 C is perfect weather for me but I guess this creature needed a bit of warmth from the morning sun as I was out for my walk …

Taken from the dirt track past the hotel

A crocodile sunning itself!!  Taken from the dirt track past the hotel

Only later did it dawn on me that his extended family and friends might have been lurking around too …. there’s barely 1 foot from the water level to the dirt track.  And here I thought the grumpy swan at Deep Bay’s Lagoon was the worst of the wildlife I would ever encounter.

At one of the Grantees factory today, we had a quick look at the vegetable garden they have under cultivation:  brinjal, pumpkin, corn, okra and chillies that will be used to cook lunch for the staff, and where the excess produce will be sold to the staff at a low cost.  Pretty neat idea huh?  There are lots of ways to benefit staff, aren’t there?

Fledging crop doing well in what is a parched environment ..... that is hand watered.

Fledging crop doing well in what is a parched environment ….. that is hand watered.

This got us all talking about food and one of the finance guys asked if I would like to taste two sweet dessert dishes his mother had made for him over the weekend while he visited her in Kurunegala, some 4.5 hours drive west of Batticaloa.

Ketembilla - would be delish with curd or ice cream

Ketembilla – would be delish with curd or ice cream

Made from a Sri Lankan gooseberry called ketembilla, a very sharp fruit that looks like and is the same shape as a concorde grape.  It has a small stone not unlike that of a plum and the flesh is very juicy, albeit very sour …. which is why they add truckloads of sugar to the high pectin fruit, making the juice very sweet and treacle-like.  Quite nice actually – I could picture serving it with yogurt or ice cream.

Very very sweet mango swimming in sugary syrup

Very very sweet mango swimming in sugary syrup

The other sweet dessert dish we tried was mango … which sounds kind of ordinary but not this one.  It’s nearly like the mango is glazed in sweetness and then immersed in ever more sweet sugary syrup.  Stone included which makes it a little easier to nibble on when eating with my right hand.  Not quite my favourite taste but I can see why the sugar-loving Sri Lankans love it.

Birthday celebrations at the Batti office with a variety of short eats and banana & chocolate birthday cake.

And finally, the sun setting over the Indian Ocean, seen through the trees on the far side of Navalady Lagoon taken from my 4th (top) floor hotel window just I got home after a long day.  Beautiful huh?



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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