Nothing like it in my life!

It’s been festival after festival of late in Sri Lanka, and here I thought Nepal had the most.  Vesak is under way currently and oh my goodness, is it ever a beautiful festival.

One of the many thoranas (electrically-lit pandals) we saw tonight

What is Vesak you ask?  It happens on the May full moon and celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha in one bumper festival.  It’s known as Vesak here in Sri Lanka, and as Jayanti in Nepal.

Vesak is celebrated across Asia and besides paying homage to Buddha by decorating the city with an array of light displays and lanterns called kuudu, devotees are also required to bring happiness to others by wishing one another well and offering dansalas (free food) to passersby.  You could eat your dinner with the volume of free food if you were so inclined!  It’s a time of joy, of being with family and here in Sri Lanka, it is celebrated not just by the Buddhists, but by most Sri Lankans, irrespective of their religious leanings.

I am told the celebrations in Colombo draw people from all over Sri Lanka, arriving by truckload after hours on the road.  It’s true, I saw many trucks loaded with people coming into the city earlier today.

It’s a pretty big deal here.  India’s Prime Minister Modi will be Guest of Honour at tomorrow’s opening ceremony and none other than The Right Honourable Bidhya Devi Bhandari, President of Nepal will be the Guest of Honour at the closing ceremonies in Kandy on Sunday.

I’m fortunate that most of the festivities are right on my doorstep.  Fellow volunteer Joe and I headed out for a few hours tonight and we were like kids in a sweet shop, in awe with all the lighted displays.  We wandered around for a couple of hours and took a ton of photos.  I usually trim the number of photos for blog posts, but this time, they are so impressive I will show you most of them in this slideshow.


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It is now a little after 1am and there does not seem to be any let up with the celebrations, it’s like rush-hour outside my balcony that unfortunately faces the street.  There will be more celebrations again tomorrow ….

Happy Vesak everyone!


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 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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One Response to Nothing like it in my life!

  1. Mick Canning says:

    Happy Vesak, Kate, It certainly looks a great festival.

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