Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More from the Beach

I've spent a number of hours over the past couple days chatting with a german guy, Robert, who is living in the guest-house here.

He came here 10 days after the Tsunami, and was so shocked by what he saw, that he quit his job back home, sold his Porche, and moved here. He's setup 2 for-profit companies (one painting the cars of rich Sri Lankans, and the other washing the clothes of tourists for hotels) all of which pour the profits into a vocational education center he's built here. Thus, his two for-profit businesses are supporting the vocational center 100% - which is training 15 people every year to do construction related jobs (of which there is much demand here).

It's pretty inspiring.. he threw away a large salary and a fancy life back home, to live in a wooden house.. however, he employs over 70 people (who in turn support 10 people each with their salaries) - and thus, he is responsible for feeding over 700 people. Very very impressive.

However, not all is well... I've learned even more about how much things suck here for the average Sri Lankan.

It seems that after the Tsunami, the government set a policy that no permanant structures were to be built within 200 meters of the coast. What this means, effectively, is that the people whos land falls within those 200 meters, are now homeless. They are not allowed to rebuild their homes and businesses, and can only construct temporary structures for themselves (wooden shacks, and or tents). This is a ghastly policy - and only through bribery and trickery has the owner of the guest house I'm staying at managed to avoid this policy. Another place down the coast had 200+ police visit last week to knock down the new structure they had built - as they attempted to see how commited the government was to this policy. This, they found out.

I've spent the last few days chilling out, reading books, and going body-boarding in the ocean... It's fun, and it's great to have people taking care of your food/drink needs, but this sort of paradise isn't for the long term. I'm rapidly tiring of this, and I'll probably be moving inland tomorrow.. first, to Kandy (where the Buddha's tooth is supposed to be), and which will put me in a good position to explore the tea-growing hill country a bit.

My cellphone service sucks on the beach, and fear that it'll probably suck in the rural tea growing parts of the country too.

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