Posted By craig on May 25, 2010
So after my afternoon of recovery we gathered for a roti dinner in the common room of the guest house in Jaffna. We had a chat with the owner of the house, Roy. He told us about some of the things that he had to do during the war. He is Tamil, and has two sons. For several years during the high points of the war he did all he could to make sure that his boys were safe. He said one year he spent over 10 laks (about $10,000 dollars) to keep his sons in Malaysia to avoid them getting “recruited” by one side, or harassed by the other. During the last few decades it was not uncommon for people to go “missing” and he wanted to make sure this didn’t happen to his family. Keep in mind that the average income in Sri Lanka is around $1,600 a year. I don’t know how much he made, but I’m sure a guest house keeper doesn’t do so much business in the middle of a city torn apart by power struggles and cut off from trade for a majority of the time.
The next day we bid our farewells to Jaffna and started our way back south and then east to the beautiful area of Trincomalee harbor. I have to say that it is geographically one of the more stunning inlets I’ve ever seen in my life. It is one of the best natural harbors in South-East Asia, and was one of the focal points of control struggles of the LTTE and Sri Lankan Army.
We checked into a small hotel on the outskirts of town. Shami and I were treated to one of the only rooms with air conditioning (a much appreciated luxury for a guy who grew up with the idea that summer is a 3 month part of the year with the average temperature being around 68-73 degrees fahrenheit, not the year long 90 degrees with super high humidity). As we lounged in the common area of the hotel we opened a couple of beers, but were asked to take them to our room seeing as it was still the Sinhalese/Tamil new year and the sale of alcohol is controlled. It wouldn’t be such a big deal normally, but the only a few months ago the owner of the hotel had been shot dead by some drunken local fishermen for not selling them alcohol during the full moon (another time each month when alcohol is not sold). So, I completely understood the workers concern that we not be seen by the locals consuming a cold one at their hotel.
During our stay we got to go swimming in the ocean at Nilaveli Beach. This was a big thing for us, as Shami had been there one time before she left Sri Lanka in 2002. She had evaded the military’s strict control of travel to the north in order to go there and had always told me it was the most beautiful beach in the world to her. I have to admit that it did not disappoint, and I understand the sentiment as I hold some of the beaches of my dear southern Lake Superior shoreline with as much adoration. On our drive between Trincomalee and Nilaveli, we saw several signs announcing the coming of luxury hotels to the shoreline. As much as I can appreciate local culture and quaintness, I can also understand the significance of this. The government is really trying to stimulate development of the area as any tourist money can do so much to help this long closed off region.