Sri Lanka; trains & tea

A taste of Sri Lanka

There was NO WAY I can get into the packed train which finally arrived to Peradeniya station. I was shocked and a security guard helped me to break the “Law of physics”. I was on my way to Nuwara Eliya the perfect place with tea plantations, mountains, cold and fog.

I have been living 10 years by the beach so I mostly look for cool weather whenever I travel.

The train trip supposed to be about 3.5 hours but it became 5. I was on the 2nd class, sitting on the floor but with a VIP view. My hair was flying around like a medusa and my eyes were happy to see such a beautiful scenario between mountains, tea plantation, traditional houses and kids saying goodbye with their tiny hands. Next to me a couple from England traveling with no water and no sanitizer, so I shared mine as they still had another 3 hrs to go.

Once I got out of the train, the new adventure started, to get transportation to my hotel…the little detail was that I booked one of the most expensive hotels and it was 1hr away, and of course I didn´t want to get ripped. I sorted it out and when I arrived I was so pampered by the staff as one person opened the door, 1 carried my luggage ( 1 medium backpack LOL), one person came and served me some clove with sugar and another one served me tea. OHH tea yes! because this hotel used to be a Tea Factory and that´s why I chose it, besides the landscape.

I love to have all kind of experiences, so I traveled on the 2nd class sitting on the floor of the train, I invited my tuk-tuk driver in Colombo for some beers sitting on the rocks contemplating the sunset and I also hire private drivers or pay for a nice hotel. Why not?

Experiences are everything to me, and I love nature. When I felt the cold wind on my face and my eyes perceive how the fog was wrapping my hotel until it disappeared I knew I was on the right place. I am not into very touristic activities but as it was raining all day I decide to join to Tea plucking activity. They dressed us as locals, gave us baskets that were hanging from our head and the lady explained us how to cut the tea leaves and then explained us all the procedure and how the machines work.

After my 45 minutes cold activity I was having some tea on the sofas of the hotel when I noticed something moving …

I was shocked to realize that it was an old lady covered with a green plastic, barefoot and carrying 2 full baskets that she came to deliver to the hotel. I asked if I could take a picture and somehow I wanted to give her money that I didn’t have at that time. It was a moment of excitement and disappointment; why she was barefoot and wet, what if she gets sick, why this expensive hotel don´t provide her with equipment. I also felt stupid for doing this activity to be entertained by something that represents the poor lifestyle of so many people until today. They earn 4 usd per day if they get at least 20kg of leaves…otherwise they get paid less.

I felt guilty and I kept this in my mind, I wrote to my parents and some friends…life is so unfair. Of course I thought about the same conditions of people working in agriculture in Bali where I live or in Mexico.  Sometimes I feel that the world hasn´t improve much.

These memories always reminds me how lucky I am to travel, to learn, how I should stay humble and grateful, how can I help people and to keep my feet on the ground.

A Mercedes Benz & A Maid

The Mercedes Benz was at the entrance of my house. Your godparents are here!! my mum said.

Once per year I visit my parent´s home in Mexico. My godparents would come during this time or I would go to visit them as part of my holidays ritual.

We were all sitting at the living room, including Cristi “their maid” (horrible description I KNOW!) because she was part of the family and always go everywhere with them. But is she really part of the family or is it a nice way to say it? (Well, she has been living in the same house for about 15 years but she will never get an Alfa Romeo or BMW like my cousins). Suddenly the conversation end up being about I don’t know which family and their “cleaning lady” and how expensive it was becoming and that finally they will get health care by law, etc. I was sitting in the corner of the room thinking: This is just so…ridiculous? ironic? Or normal conversation? Which could be the word? Am I the only one thinking that while they talk, complain, compared rates and details about our cleaning saviors, one of them is sitting in the middle of us without a voice(because she will never say a word) and even if she say something, I doubt that my godfather will really listen. In my mind I was watching the scene in black & white like if it was a movie and everyone around Cristi was quite blurred.

I grew up in a flexible middle class family, I say flexible because sometimes we had no money and my mother will create dishes out of nowhere, and sometimes we were all on holidays renting a boat and private instructor for me to learn water ski, also I was taking lessons of everything: French, swimming, chess, rolling skating, classical guitar, electrical guitar, etc. We also had a “sirvienta” (maid); sometimes a permanent one living on the third floor of my house, sometimes when they missed their village, go on holidays there and never came back, we will get another one that will come twice per week to clean, sometimes we even had 2 so they also cook and do the washing, etc.

The one that we loved the most (as was coming to my house for about 12 years) was Rosa, we call her “señora Rosa” (Madame Rosa) as the word “sirvienta” sounds quite classist like “maid” . She was always very kind, and never forgot anyone´s birthday. We were always giving her the furniture we were changing in the house like, sofas, dinning sets, washing machine, stove, etc. Also I will always bring her something from my trips.

Laughing, singing and joking is part of my dad´s daily life (besides reading tons of books and newspapers) so he enjoyed Madame Rosa´s company and always practice the new jokes he learned on the tv or newspaper with her before using them on the weekend family gatherings, sometimes also he will explain her what was happening around the world.  He has a magical power when he speaks either by phone or in person, and will get things done for his convenience; he get discontinued books, special prices, etc. so he helped Rosas´s kids to get scholarships and special price in the English school as he convinced her of how important was this nowadays, and also encouraged her to force her kids to study until university. It was neither easy nor cheap but they made it.

When both kids got graduated and got good jobs I think we were as happy or more than our lovely señora Rosa. We felt like part of the accomplishment, If I remember well my father sent to the daughter flowers or extra money and also for the boy.

Doña Rosa was getting older and tired and our house was not shrinking so one day she announced she was not going to come anymore, my sister cried her a river! It was like losing her aunty. She continued to call us from time to time and in our birthdays, I believe that we didn’t return the calls.

Was she part of the family? I think so, perhaps in certain way. She had the keys of the house, ate the same food, we laughed together and felt part of her family successes, but when she left…she left.