Well it is has been a lovely little trip, but now it is time to return to our regularly scheduled lives. We ended up taking a taxi to Negombo, our last stop in Sri Lanka,and we glad that we did for otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to stop and see the whale, beached on the southern coast. Negombo, was underwhelming to say the least. The Brits, of whom we encountered plenty on this trip, would say that the beach here was “scruffy.” They are being far too kind. We wouldn’t go anywhere near that filthy water, nor did we care to fight our way through the packs of dogs that roamed the debris- and garbage-encrusted stretch of beach between the hotel and the water. It is a shame, because the beaches along the southern coast are absolutely gorgeous.

Unfortunately the town of Negombo wasn’t much better, offering nothing in the way of beauty or interest, save oddly a number (seven at least) of large and offensively ornate Catholic churches. I say offensive, for such a gaudy show of wealth among such poverty, which demonstrated such callous indifference to the needs of the people the church pretended to serve, must be offensive to any Christian of good conscience, to say nothing of the Lord whose name is being so maligned. Oddly there seemed to be very few restaurants or food stalls in town either. There were a few bakeshops, with the occasional table, but sticky buns were not what we were looking for. Living in a country where every third shop cooks some kind of tasty cuisine, we were perplexed to say the least. We finally found a coffee shop that had a limited menu, and got something that called itself goulash that consisted of potatoes boiled to near mush and a semi-meat topping. Get me back to Malaysia!

Sri Lanka itself is gorgeous: beautiful beaches, stunning hills with their cascading waterfalls and slopes of emerald green tea, a wildlife park that is extensive and varied in both fauna and flora; there is a lot to like. And the people are lovely and considerate. But the place is sadly lacking in cleanliness even by Asian standards. To make matters worse its infrastructure – rail, roads, buildings, sewers, and so on – is either rotting or crumbling. And unlike Cambodia, which is undergoing reconstruction daily, nothing much seems to be happening to repair the damage. A ring road is badly needed around Colombo to get to the airport from the south without having to go through the heart of the city. We did that yesterday and it took pretty close to three hours. A road has been promised, and contracts have been paid for, yet nothing has been done for over twenty years and the money just seems to disappear.

The civil war against the north has taken much of the country’s wealth and poured it into the men and machinery of war. Everywhere you see evidence of the militarization of the country, and it is disturbing. The army is the tail that wags this particular dog, and it may well take a generation before the young men of this country are reabsorbed into more peaceful and productive pursuits. Now, with nothing more useful to do, they impede the progress of the nation toward normality. Army personnel are everywhere. Checkpoints are everywhere; most of them totally senseless.

When we arrived at the airport, for example, there was a baggage check at the front door. Fair enough. But the traffic congestion outside the front door was enormous. Once through that blockade there was a guard standing at the entrance to the departure hall and ticket counters. The crowd around him was dense and growing larger by the minute. There was no sign or other information regarding what he was doing, but I found out that he was only allowing one flight’s passengers through to the ticket counter at a time. Who would know that? Why would they do that? Once we got our bags checked the departure hall itself was lovely; spanking new and well serviced. But there was nobody there because they were all still back in the bottleneck at the entrance!

This country has a long way to go before it is back on track to becoming the prosperous jewel in the Indian Ocean that it once promised to be. It is at present ill-equipped to meet the natural changes in seismic activity, like the tsunami of 2004, or the floods that are presently taking place in the north of the country that have displaced a million people. War, greed and corruption. What a mess we humans make of things when we fail to acknowledge that we will one day be held to account for our behaviour. How poorly we treat a world that He has made so beautifully.

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