Tuesday, March 20

Travel Notes from Sri Lanka | Day 2: Five Houses

Sishir Chang recently spent 5 days in Sri Lanka. His travel notes are reproduced here: raw, unedited, and uncut. One post for each day.

Day 2: Five Houses
The second full day in Sri Lanka started out early with the consulting engineer, Amitha, for the Sri Lanka Student Association project picking me up at 7:30 to go Kalathura to see their project. The drive to the site was through beautiful rice paddies and bustling towns. At one point we passed through a school group and saw several boys in white school outfits climbing onto a moving truck with a Sri Lankan flag.

["Minnesota Happy Structures"]

As we drove I talked to Amitha about a variety of subjects. Amitha is a civil engineer who works for a factory run by Koreans. One thing that he mentioned that was very interesting was that his factory hired a lot of Indians because Sri Lankans wouldn't do the dangerous steel work for as low a wage rate as the Indians. Also that Sri Lankans would unionize and ask for more benefits. This struck me as interesting for my knowledge of Sri Lanka was that they exported labor to work construction in countries like Singapore and Dubai yet here they were importing labor also for work that Sri Lankans wouldn't do. We also talked about the education system in Sri Lanka and that one big problem was that most education was being done in Sinhalese so that there were few English programs and also few people qualified to teach them. This made such programs very in demand but also was hampering Sri Lanka's development. I asked him about if Sri Lanka was developing an IT sector like India and he mentioned they were trying to and were sending people to India to study IT. One big problem he felt that hampered Sri Lanka was the ongoing Tamil insurgency which he blamed both on the Tamils but also do-nothing politicians. He also felt that corruption was a big problem.

[construction workers mixing cement]

At the project site itself the 5 houses in the project weren't quite completed. Three were nearly completed awaiting some finishing while the fourth one was getting its external finish put on and the fifth one was structurally complete but still had finish work just getting started. An official handing over ceremony though had been conducted on January 18th even though they weren't completed. The houses still lacked infrastructure and I was told that the government was planning on adding internal road access to them, currently access to the site was on unpaved paths but the site was adjacent to a new paved road. The government was going to provide water but the engineer felt that that might not be sufficient and so had dug a well at the site and was planning on building a central water tank for the 5 houses that could provide water during even the drought years. Amitha explained that well water in Sri Lanka was also of fairly high quality…

After visiting the site we headed back we passed by a large Buddhist monastery with a giant stupa in Kalathura. The story behind the temple was that a bridge crossing the river in front of the temple had been built a long time ago and at the time it was uncertain that bridge could be built. People prayed at the site and miraculously an island appeared in the middle of stream providing a middle support for the bridge. So the temple was built and people come to pray there for miracles.

We stopped outside of Kalathura to have lunch at a luxury hotel built on the ocean. I asked if this hotel had been affected by the tsunami and they said it had but only to a small extent and looking at the green yard leading to the beach it looked like if it did they had cleaned up quite well. He dropped me off in the early afternoon and later in the afternoon called a driver and headed out to check email. After I had finished checking email we went to a beach south of Colombo and I got to enjoy the sun setting over the Indian Ocean. This beach appeared to primarily cater to locals and there were several of them also enjoying the sunset, playing cricket or swimming. The beach itself was OK but wasn't white sand and seemed slightly dirty the water too wasn't particularly clear.

No comments: