Sri Lanka

A wee brew in the Glenloch Tea Plantation

The last few days have been absolutely brilliant. At the start I was feeling unsettled and anxious due to having none of my own stuff but now I feel I can relax a bit more and just buckle in for the ride.

We spent two days in Kandy – the majority of the first day was spent walking around and just taking everything in really. The next day I treated myself to a long lie (half 8 rise instead of 7am…UFT wild child I know) and went for breakfast at the local women’s refuge site. All proceeds go towards vulnerable and disabled women across Sri Lanka, giving them food, money and also employment. For example, the women running this particular shelter were directly affected, being disabled or vulnerable themselves so it was a great thing to both see and support.

We had a bit of time to kill after this before our bus to our next destination which was brilliant as for the first time since arriving, I still had to pack. I’m being genuinely serious, in my excitement to have all my clothes within sight I got a bit carried away and started emptying my packing cubes at lightning speed. I didn’t however stop to to think about what it would be like trying to get it all back in again. Oh my GOD. My roommate was actually staring at me either in bewilderment or amusement as I crammed everything back in again, rejoicing every time I got it to zip all the way round then going absolutely skitzo when I turned round and saw ANOTHER pair of shorts that still had to go in. Where did it all come from?? Eventually it was all packed, zipped and ready to go and I promised myself I’d never unlock it again for the rest of my trip. I was sweating before I even left the hotel.

In all honesty the best part about having no bag was seeing how well I could survive on very little material things. Yes its nice to have a change of shoes and a different bag for different outfits but in reality we don’t need all that much to survive and when put to the test it really shows, as a species, how adaptable we really are. Now don’t get me wrong I had a lot of help from my new pals loaning me their spare shirts etc, without them I’d probably have been a lot worse off and also smelling not very nice at all. But the reality is those are luxuries to have, and it seems odd to think of a change of clothes as a luxury until you see the countries that thrive regardless of how much ‘stuff’ they own. The western world when you think about it is largely driven by the desire to work hard and attain these ‘luxuries’. Clothes, jewellery, holidays abroad etc yet we also have amongst the lowest rates of general life happiness across the globe.

This isn’t a dig about what we are used to back home, not in the slightest. I’ll be the first to admit that I am very accustomed to being able to walk into a doctors office and leaving 10 minutes later with a prescription and a remedy for whatever is wrong with me. But what we do need to realise is that although sometimes we have to wait a little longer on appointments and in waiting rooms, there are people in other parts of the world who won’t consider going for the simple reason that they can’t afford it.

Sri Lankan’s are amongst the happiest people I have ever come across. The locals will go out their way to do things for tourists and for each other and are willing to share whatever they have with you, regardless if it is their last apple they will happily split it down the middle and give you half. The argument that they are happy despite having nothing could also be counteracted by the theory that they are happy because they dont know anything else. They are happy with what they have. And that is what seems to be our downfall, we’re always wanting something more, the next new thing. But do we really need it?

The locals simply get on with their day to day life, they have enough food to eat and a roof over their heads and for them that is more than enough. For example at the Glenloch tea plantation we witnessed countless women working long hours picking tea leaves in the fields. Their shifts normally start around 7:30am and finish close to 5 o’clock. Our tea plantation tour guide informed us that the majority of tea leaf pickers are female as they are cheaper to pay than men, which not only angers me but saddens me that the gender equality gap is still so prevalent in these parts of the world. The women workers at the tea plantation were absolutely lovely, telling us everything about the process, smiling for photos and even demonstrating the machinery to show how the tea is dried, cut and fermented before being put into bags and sold at markets to many large corporations across the world. Their work looks back-breaking. Bent over in fields with a large sack attached to their heads and hanging down their backs to collect the tea leaves once they are picked, earning a mere 260 rupees per kg of leaves picked, or the equivalent of £1.30.

The entire tour was absolutely fascinating, particularly when discovering that the tea trade was first established by our Scottish ancestors over 150 years ago. It was heartwarming to see their smiling, happy faces as they described the industry that they are evidently so passionate about and a must see if ever passing through the Kandy hills. However it does come with its downsides when you see the conditions of the workers living and working conditions, making you realise how much we really do take for granted.

We are now in Nuware Eliya, a bustling lakeside town south-east of Kandy with jet skis skidding along the water and prone to torrential downpours, which is why I’m indoors writing right now. When the rain calms we’ll be exploring the nearby towns& hills in yet another beautiful part of the Central Province.

Sri Lanka is a proud country bursting with cultures and traditions. They love nothing more than to hear you are having a brilliant time in their country and you can tell this by the massive grins they permanently have on their faces. We can learn a lot from the Buddhist culture, that inside everyone there is a good spirit and to never be so quick to judge someone for their actions but purely for their heart. Sri Lanka has massively opened my eyes to the amount of work that needs to be done to bring the gender gap closer and promote equal opportunities across the planet. It is a country set back slightly in time, but with their positive attitudes and outlook on life, maybe they’re really not missing out on anything at all. Maybe it’s us who have gone too far, too fast.

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