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Today we decided to walk the five-or-so kilometers to town for a cheap breakfast. Well the walk took quite a lot longer than planned, with many, many detours around teams of fishermen hauling in their giant nets and even more stops from friendly strangers to have the oft-repeated Sri Lankan Special conversation (“Hello!”, “How are you?”, “Where are you from?”, “Where are you going?”, “How do you like Sri Lanka / Trinco?”, “What do you do in Canada?”, “I have relatives in Canada!”, “Goodbye!”).
One not so cheerful individual, highlighting the tension that remains in the Trinco area between Tamils, Muslims, and Sinhalese, stopped us to say simply but fiercely that he loves George W. Bush and hates Muslims. His point made, he did a quick about face and walked away leaving us speechless. With so many distractions along the way, our breakfast in town ended up being a lunch.
After lunch, we headed further South to check out Trinco Beach. On the way we stopped by a roadside Salvation Army of sorts selling used clothes. All were priced at approximately 80cents apiece and we were surprise to be told it all came from Canada. Kim ended up picking out some pants and me a shirt for a combined price of $1.25.
With our new clothes in hand, we arrived at Trinco Beach, which to our surprise was even more stunning than Uppuveli… and even more deserted. Besides one lifeguarded area at one end where some locals were swimming and the odd shore fisherman, this tranquil golden sanded beach with emerald waters minutes from the heart of town was deserted.
We set up smack dab in the middle of the empty part of the beach to cool off, practice handstands, and relax. Within no time, we were no longer alone, as a group of guys aged 20-25 attracted undoubtedly by Kim’s bikini, but seemingly just as much by my hand stand prowess, rolled up to hang out and chat. After starting off with the Sri Lankan Special conversation, we touched on a variety of other topics. Without any provocation from us, they (all Tamil) made a point to stress their open and unreserved dislike for Sinhala people and Sri Lanka in general. Unlike other parts of the country, where people we talked to would point out that they had both Tamil and Sinhala friends, there seemed to be very little mixing of cultural groups in Trinco. Though sad, it is not surprising given the recency of the civil war.
While they were very open about the topic of Tamil/Sinhala relations, when Kim asked them about girls they were interestingly not nearly as open. Wondering why a group of seemingly eligible young bachelors was spending their Sunday at the beach without any chicks, their only reply was some vague, “girls are pretty” and then an attempt to change the conversation.
Despite their unquestionably good intentions, after a certain amount of choppy conversation interspersed with them staring at us and whispering comments in Tamil to each other, we started to run out of things to say and feel a bit uncomfortable, so it was time to leave. We found a tuk-tuk and headed back to our guesthouse.
On the way back, we made a pit stop to have our new favorite refreshment in Trinco: coconut water and lime. At the place we stopped, the guy was short a couple of key ingredients (lime and sugar). Undeterred, he told us to sit down, then he – a large, heavier man about fifty years old – took off running down the street. Even our tuk-tuk driver was perplexed. A few minutes later, the man returned huffing and puffing with the missing ingredients and went about preparing our drinks. We felt almost bad at the end that for all that work the total cost was 80 rupees (67 cents), but he seemed content and we were refreshed. That’s Sri Lanka in a nutshell.
- If you’re planning on booking an overnight train from Trinco to Colombo, do so well in advance. When we asked to book the day before we were disappointed to find out the tickets were sold out.
- Although we didn’t check out the place, if I returned to Trinco I’d check out the Dyke Guesthouse on Trincomalee beach. It has good reviews, and not only is the beach nicer than Uppuveli (in our opinion), but it is also much more conveniently located closer to town.
- We had countless, probably one hundred to not exaggerate, “Sri Lankan Special” conversations. It was almost impossible to stop in one place without being quickly approached by a friendly stranger looking to chat. We enjoyed this greatly. What I realized just now, however, is that it was only men who did so. Not a single woman approached either Kim or myself the entire time in Sri Lanka
- It’s eye-opening to see how relaxed young men are in Sri Lanka with each other in things that would make Western guys uncomfortable. For example, they felt no embarrassment in exclaiming I had a “beautiful body” in an admiring and not at all ironic way. Also, when sitting together on the beach, guys my age would lean all over each other in a similar fashion to a group of puppies without second thought. There actions are certainly closer to natural than the restricted way young men interact with each other in the West.