It was a long but pleasant flight from Chicago with a pit-stop in London, then arrival yesterday afternoon in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city. A cab took me to the Vision Fund office, and after awkwardly opening the taxi’s driver side door (they drive on the ‘wrong side’ here) then quickly playing it off like I was just being super polite (judging by the chuckles around me I don’t think they bought it) I got a first glimpse of Sri Lanka through the cab’s passenger side window. Initial impressions?
Winding through the curvy city streets, Colombo immediately struck me as an intriguing place. The little three wheeled ‘tuk tuks’ are ubiquitous. They duck and weave through traffic just like motorcycles, which is cool. But when all the other cars and trucks on the road drive as if most traffic laws are more like traffic suggestions, it makes an already confusing traffic scene to this ole right-side-of-the-road guy downright dizzying.
The country’s like 70% Buddist, with Hinduism, Islam and Christianity each getting about 7 or 8% a pop. The religious assortment becomes apparent by the massive, colorful (darn near kaleidoscopic), religious statues and iconography that dominate the cityscape. It’s cool. I like to think of it as a big birthday bash for Budda, Jesus, Mohamed and Vishnu.
So the cab took me to the Vision Fund office where I met up with Megali and Dianne from Vision Fund (both of whom have been awesome to work with thus far) for a security briefing. After that I had a quick, spicy Sri Lankan dinner then headed off to bed for an early start today. I’m looking forward to doing more exploring in Colombo next week. But right now (and for the next few days) I’m in the rural, northern-central province.
Puttlam. It’s a small town four hours northwest of Colombo. We got here this afternoon in order to interview a Vision Fund client, Geetha, who is a straight up cashew mogul. Did you know where cashews come from? I just found out today. I guess I’d always assumed they grew in the ground like peanuts, but they actually grow on trees like fruit. They’re picked, dried for about four days, shells are removed then they can be roasted or eaten raw (the fresh raw ones are sooo good – soft and creamy flavor). Gita showed us how her company gets it done. Very interesting stuff so far and we’ll head back tomorrow morning to start filming.
Well, that’s about it for now. I’ll have a lot more to share with more pics soon so keep reading.