A quick wave as I head over the causeway on my bike with a bell and a basket - thanks Jo.
A quick wave as I head over the causeway on my bike – complete with a bell and a basket – thanks Jaffna Jo.

The third stop on my farewell tour was in Jaffna, the small city in the very north of Sri Lanka that is known for its laid back atmosphere and people (especially the VSO volunteers), beautiful flat and watery landscape, and of course, the close to 30-year war that ended in 2009

While both the physical and emotional scars of the war still remain, life in Jaffna is slowly getting back to normal minus the large swaths of land still occupied by the army.

This was my second visit to Jaffna during my time here, and it reconfirmed that it would have been a great place to live and work. Surprisingly, the reason I like it so much is probably because it feels more like Saskatchewan than any other part of the island. I know it’s a stretch, but stay with me.

  • First, Jaffna is completely flat. One of the other volunteers joked that the highest part in the Jaffna peninsula is the road that goes over the train tracks.
  • Second, it’s small, but not too small. You can get a good meal, go for a bike ride or take a stroll without worrying about getting rundown by raving mad drivers or choking on exhaust.
  • Third, people are friendly without being annoying. They’ll acknowledge a foreigner, but they move on quickly if you don’t need any help. (However, this point does not seem to hold true if you’re a foreign female, who seem to still attract the creeps.)

Granted, the palm trees, temples, ocean and cows littering the road completely ruin my Saskatchewan comparison, but when you’re searching for any similarities between Sri Lanka and back home you have to be flexible.

***

The official reason for my trip was to run another course on mental health reporting with the journalism college at the University of Jaffna. A few of the students took part in the session I lead last year and it was nice to see they had been thinking about mental health over the past year.

The discussion was definitely elevated to a new level this time around and they had all sorts of thoughtful questions about suicide reporting, using graphic images and mental illness and violence. Again, it was one of those few times it felt I was maybe doing something here.

And, as time keeps flying by with only two weeks left in Sri Lanka, looking for the impact of my work here is constantly running through my mind these days. While the tangible, immediate results are minimal, the fact remains that there really is no way of telling how my work here will influence changes in the future. All I can do is hope.

Take care and here is a look at my weekend in photos.

Shaun

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