The expansion of the hotel-chain Anilana on the east-coast is the main reason why we were visiting Sri Lanka (ref previous post Destinies).
“So are you gonna return and take on this job Martine?” they asked me. Sri Lanka is magical. But can I work in a country so different?
We got almost royal-like treatment by Asanga and the Anilina-team. For example, one day we had seats in the presidents’ box at the festive cricket-match between India and Sri Lanka. But, because Alf Martin wasn’t wearing a tie we weren’t so welcome. So we sneaked out to feel the vibe and rather hang out with the “normal crowd”.
We also invited ourselves on ginger beer to the drivers house with his slightly nervous family as a backdrop. They thought we were strange who visited them, as they had never had foreigners in their house before. The service staff at the boutique Anilana-hotel in the hill country, where Alf and I were the only guests at the time, also thought we were strange as we wanted to cook ourselves. They stood around us in the kitchen ready to cut tomatoes or peel onions in case we changed our minds and wanted their help. And it topped it for them when we invited them to eat with us. They laughed their heads off…
The 5 weeks of culture-shock, tuk-tuks and scents of exotic spices have been truly diverse and we’ve gotten a thorough first knowledge of the tourism industry and the development of the Anilana hotel chain, trough both office-hours and by traveling the country.
And there are plenty of stories from this amazing country that Marco Polo described as “the most beautiful island in the world”. Cause the island offers absolutely everything in such a small place. We wave-surfed on the East coast and kite-surfed on the West (in reference to previous post when I got stuck in a fishing net). We fed wild turtles in the rough sea, went horseback riding in the hills in the mist of cotton- and tea-plantations, we rode elephants inland by the elephant orphanage and watched Sri Lankas most extravagant festival, a Buddhist parade from a rooftop.
We felt like being right in a scene from Slumdog Millionaire as we sat their; Alf, Stuart (a UN-guy we got to know) and I, eating popcorn and drinking illegal beer that we had smuggled up there in newspapers. The procession, Perahera, celebrates the tooth of Buddha with more than 80 fabulously decorated elephants and hundreds of fire-jugglers, acrobats, traditional dancers, musicians, whip crackers, torch bearers and thousands of barefoot pilgrims and swordsmen to name but a few. It is held at night in the streets of the cultural city with the many ancient.Buddhist temples and with the edible name, Kandy.
I envision this all very vividly. I also see the orange-color of the robed munks carrying flowers on their way to prayers. It is the same color as the intens golden sunsets that are blinking to the tear shaped island, every night. I can still feel the slow sway of the silk sarongs and floating heads (their diplomatic way of saying yes and no at the same time). I can hear the sounds of enchanting Indian rhythms and the kinetically energetic buzz of Sri Lanka´s many markets.
And I can hear the conversation from the last dinner in “our” apartment with Asangas parents. Asangas parents have been around the block a few years, witnessing British colonial times, 30 years of war, a deadly tsunami and much more. Asangas father even sat next to the former prime minister Bandaranaike, his uncle, when he was shot on the verandah of Tintagel (an amazing Colombo restaurant) in 1959. But now Asangas parents are witnessing peace and times of prosperity. And they are witnessing their son’s project of building 8 hotels on the last untouched stretch of the Indian ocean.
“So are you gonna return and take on this job Martine?” they asked me. Sri Lanka is magical. But can I work in a country so different? It wasn’t so easy to understand the business and the cultural “codes”, but it is now time for negotiation and deciding-making. And I will keep you posted. Until then; blink blink from Oslo with love to all our new friends in Sri Lanka. Whatever happens next our bags are filled with loads of fantastic memories, colors, scents and sounds. A million thanks to you all “machangs” (brothers)!