My guest today is Devika! She writes contemporary romance and lives in Sri Lanka. I adored these ten facts about Sri Lanka, mostly because many years ago I lived in India and they really struck a chord.
#1 had me flummoxed for ages and #8 almost got me into serious trouble! I didn't know about cinnamon though ... I think I have just the place for that little nugget of information in my WIP - thanks Devika! And thank you for being my Téa Time Treat today.
1) If a Sri Lankan shakes his / her head, that probably means YES and not NO. It is common to move the head in a kind of wagging-swaying-tilting side to side movement that confuses most foreigners. It takes some practice to get it right. People do use the more vigorous and common head movement for no, too.
2) Sri Lanka was the first country in the world to have a democratically elected head of state who was a woman. Yes, all you feminists out there, let’s celebrate! Here’s an official summary: Sirimavo Bandaranaike was elected Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 1960. Bandaranaike became the world’s first woman head of government, after her husband was assassinated in 1959. She took over her husband’s position as leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. She served as PM three times, 1960-65, 1970-77, and 1994-2000.
3) Elephants play a very important role in Sri Lanka. In the past, they were used for hard work and for religious ceremonies as well as a means of transport. In some villages, this is still the case. Many temples have specially trained elephants for processions. As the first country in the world, Sri Lanka founded an elephant orphanage in 1975 in Pinnawela. It still serves as a home for orphaned baby elephants, wounded and disabled tuskers and the occasional troublemaker.
4) Something I as a reader and writer am very proud of: Hardly any other developing country has a literacy rate as high as Sri Lanka’s 92,5 %. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: Its youth literacy rate stands at 98 %, computer literacy rate at 35 %, and primary school enrolment rate at over 99 %. I can testify that even in the most rural areas, children go to school, know how to read and write, and can understand at least basic English. An astonishing number of people is well versed in how to use mobile phones and computers, and the internet plays a very important role.
5) Cinnamon is thought to originate from Sri Lanka, where it was discovered centuries ago by the Egyptians. The Latin name for the spice, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, is derived from the island's former name, Ceylon.
Cinnamon peeling in the olden days (photo from lankapura.com)
Especially from the 16th through the 18th centuries, cinnamon was the Holy Grail of foreign invaders, becoming the main article of trade for the great Dutch East India Company. Today Sri Lanka is still the world's leading source of cinnamon. (On a personal note, there is a suburb in the capital Colombo named Cinnamon Gardens. It’s where the rich and the high-society live to date, and apparently it was full of cinnamon ‘gardens’ those days, which is what made the first inhabitants so wealthy.)
6) Don’t expect punctuality from Sri Lankans. Whether for work, for a visit or for an appointment, coming on time is an unknown virtue. If you are in a position of power, it’s almost a must to let others wait. That’s part of why I hate going to the doctor here, and why visits to government institutions are planned with at least a one-hour margin before and after the appointment.
7) Sadly, many know about the terrorist war waged by the Tamil Tigers that nearly strangled the island for three centuries – hardly anybody is aware, though, that religious freedom is held in high esteem here. The overwhelming majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhists, but we also have Christians, Hindus and Moslems living in the country peacefully. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, the most
important Buddhist temple of the island (my photo)
Every holiday is celebrated, you find all places of worship in every town, and many customs have crept into everyday life. You’ll see Christmas decoration all over the place in December; you have Christians adhering to principles like checking for auspicious times and comparing horoscopes as the Buddhists do it; lots of people of Buddhist faith flock to the Hindu temples to make donations and pray for a favour.
8) Beware of using your left hand! It is considered unclean (because it is used for washing yourself after a time-out in the restroom), which is why Sri Lankans use only their right hand for eating, passing you something etc. The polite way is to use both hands or touch your left hand lightly to your right arm when you give a present, serve somebody ‘higher’ than you food, or hand something over in an official way. The official / ceremonial greeting is made by folding both hands in a worshipping gesture.
Ayubowan, May you enjoy a long life,
the traditional greeting (stock photo)
9) Are you a fan of bananas? Then Sri Lanka is your holiday destination, even though it’s not a ‘banana republic’ per se. Depending on how you categorize them, there are 18 or more than 40 different varieties of bananas available, from tiny to huge, from green over yellow to reddish-brownish-purplish. Some plantains are used exclusively for cooking, and many are differentiated by their supposed effect (cooling, good against stomach problems, not to be eaten at night, perfect for dessert, bad for phlegm)…
10) Sri Lankans are very direct. Unlike the Japanese who are so proud of their mask of impenetrable calm, people here wear their heart on their sleeve. A new acquaintance will think it perfectly normal to tell you about all 50 members of their family and ask you personal questions. If you’re an introvert (like me), it can be hard facing their never-ending curiosity and their urge to share every detail with you. Be prepared to walk out and have it pointed out to you that you sport a large pimple on your forehead or have put on weight… On a positive note: Sri Lanka is also called the “Nation of Smiling People”. You will always find someone who smiles at you, who shares some happiness, who cares and helps. No wonder that Sri Lankans are famous for their hospitality.
Now meet Devika .... and thank you so much, Devika, for a wonderful armchair trip.
Almost as soon as Devika Fernando could write, she imagined stories and poems. After finishing her education in Germany and returning to her roots in Sri Lanka, she got a chance to turn her passion into her profession. Having lived in Germany and in Sri Lanka with her husband has made her experience the best (and the worst) of two totally different worlds – something that influences her writing. Besides being a romance novel author, she works as a German web content writer and as a translator. When she’s not writing, she’s reading or thinking about writing.
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When I see your Face
Cathy has had enough. Having run away from her abusive husband, she tries to pick up the broken pieces of her life in a remote village, focusing on her dream to start her own cake business. Finding true love is the last thing on her mind. When she comes face to face with a man who looks exactly like the one she is struggling to forget, life throws the biggest challenge yet at her: Should she give in to his charm and care or is history going to repeat itself?
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