When back home in Canada, people often asked what is the best part about living in Sri Lanka. This is not an easy question to answer, but it’s always the small encounters that stick out in my mind. The moments when you connect with people regardless of all the differences of culture. These are precious and often hilarious. Here are just a few examples of such fabulous encounters.
Everywhere you turn in Sri Lanka (and India as the pictured sign shows) there are examples of weird and wonderful English signs. My favourite is a little car I saw the other day boldly labelled the “Fag Express”. I believe it may deliver cigarettes! I tried to explain why I was laughing at the signage to a Sri Lankan tuk-tuk driver nearby and the conversation ended with him saying, “Aw, right , right , right” and bobbling his head when the expression on his face clearly indicated he thought I was nuts.
Our Landlord – Mr. S.
Mr. S. is a very sweet, elderly man who has made it his personal responsibility to ensure our safety at all times in Sri Lanka. He does this by keeping regular tabs on us. Every time we leave the house he asks, “Where are you going? Who are you going with? When will you be back? Have you eaten? Are you sure you’ve eaten enough rice?” He asks this while standing inches away, giving us each the longest handshake ever and staring into our eyes. Once we have satisfied his conditions of release, we are off to do our business, but it is always reassuring to see him peaking out the window upon our return to note our safe arrival.
Conversation with our Ladakhi Hiking Guide
Guide: You are married? Oh, I did not thing you would be.
Me: It must be because we look so young right?
Guide: No, that’s not it. (pause for my laughter) It’s just that in Ladakh we get married to one girl for life. Foreigners they get married 3 or 4 times.
Me: Well this is our first marriage and we’ve been married for 8 years.
Me: Yes, it is a long time, so this is when we traditionally start looking for a new husband/ wife.
Guide: Ah, right of course.
*I didn’t continue to mislead the guide for two long and clarified the scenario.
(a few minutes later, out of the blue) Guide to Shaun: You have very nice eyes.
Shaun (awkwardly): Thanks I guess. That’s a totally random comment, but nice.
Jeweler: I will show you a picture of my so0n-to-be wife.
Me: That would be great.
Jeweler: Yes, we have been together for nearly four years. She is Hindu and I am Muslim so we will be overcoming many obstacles to be together. She will have to leave her family and live with my parents.
Me: Sounds like it will be difficult. When will the wedding be?
Jeweler: First I must save money for the dowry of my sister and find her a match and then I can get married.
Me: I see. This must be a very special girl seeing as you travel all the way to Kolkata to be with her.
Jeweler: Yes, yes she is very special. You can not find a girl like her in Kashmir. She is so . . . simple.
Me (giggling a bit): Oh I think you have your words confused. In Canada when we say someone is simple, we mean they are stupid.
Jeweler: Yes, yes she is like that.