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.

There is no other country like Mexico!

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I grew up listening this, and Mexicans really buy it. However for me it was a different story as my father always said: and there is no other like France, Greece, Russia, etc.(with a sarcastic humor).

WHAT are you doing with Mexican toys displayed at your Japanese cultural station? I asked my Japanese coworkers. They looked at me and reply: What are you talking about, these toys are Japanese!! I googled Mexican toys and show them the pictures (spinning top, cup & ball, etc.), they were shocked. And we debated of who was the creator haha.

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Mexicans believe that many things exist only in Mexico like Flor de Xempazuchitl that is a “traditional” flower used for our DAY OF DEAD. And how amazed I was when I arrived in Bali, Indonesia and this flower was everywhere (literally since the toilet at the airport before crossing immigration LOL). In Bali it is called gumitir flower and it is use for the “offerings” to the spirits & gods , which is very interesting for the “similarity” of use we give to it.

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On my last dinner before leaving Bali, after spending 2 years there. My team took me to eat “tamales” but they call them “buras” (sort of salty or sweety cake)once again my jaw dropped. And yes if you look for it, it’s wrapped in banana leaf, it look exactly the same like in Mexico and it says it is originally from Indonesia if you google buras. By the way they also eat this in India and Philippines, etc.

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At this point my Mexican world was falling apart, it felts like someone was shaving my mustache and stealing my horse, just kidding. I was fascinated to find the “same flowers, food, toys” in other countries on the other side of the world, and not only that, but it was also considered part of their culture. WOW!

What about “aguas mexicanas” (Mexican flavored water) all my life I thought that to drink a delicious “Agua de Jamaica” (Rosella ice tea) was only possible in Mexico and probably USA because of the migration to that country. However,in 2016, after living 2 years in Thailand on my last day with my Thai team, we went to eat in a local restaurant some delicious Thai food and guess what…YES, Agua de Jamaica, with a name in Thai that I cannot remember. Now when  I actually google about it, the plant is natural from Africa, how AMAZING is that!

And vocabulary is another amazing thing, I just find so many similarities or even same words in languages as Japanese, Bahasa, Filipino, Sinhala, etc. and of course French, Italian, Portuguese as they have the same roots.

I love to teach people around the globe how similar we are and also how unique we are. My idea is to demonstrate how many things that we believe to be the owners of, or the “original” ones, in fact might exist somewhere else with slight variations or being exactly the same, and that my friends is WONDERFUL!

Knowing some History will of course help you to make the connection so when you discover that the word BREAD in Spanish it’s pronounced PAN and in Japanese as well, and in Portuguese, French, Sinhala and so on, and you do some research, you will find out that Portugal had their first affiliation with Japan in 1543 and Spain in 1549, for example and of course there will be words, traditions and food that are imposed or adapted.

Let’s get out of our shell thinking we have the best food, the most beautiful language or the original whatever. At the end “We are the world”, we are colors, food, languages,traditions that are linked to each other more than we realize.

What are your thoughts?

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.

 

A Mexican pirate & the floating mountains

10325575_10152834613080888_483446532607690834_nThis was like a scene from a pirate movie!, our wood boat approaching these floating mountains, raising it´s red sails through the fog, feeling the salty breeze on our faces and feeling small like ants in the middle of the ocean in Thailand, it was just stunning.

I was seriously expecting in any moment Jack Sparrow appearing from anywhere with his funny boots. The surface of the ocean was changing color and looked like sparkling water, soon the boat stopped and some people in kayaks appeared from nowhere inviting us to go in so we could continue our adventure.

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Let´s go!! my Korean friend and I jumped in and followed the instructions given. There is a particular way to get into a “secret bay”. The corrosion by the ocean created some spaces between the water and the rock and while in the kayak we needed to lay ours bodies to the right and left side or completely down to avoid being hit when passing under the floating mountains. Then after few seconds of darkness BOOM we were there, on the other side of the mountain in a secret bay of incredible beauty, with a blue sky and jade water and… with another  50 people in different kayaks, so… haha not very secret right?

 

Phuket has so many incredible spots but mostly crowded, we need to assimilate that while we get mad at the touristic spots being packed, we are part of the crowd so let’s enjoy our humanity.

We headed to James Bond island, called that way because of the movie filmed there, and guess what, it was also packed, mostly with Chinese tourist as Thailand is a popular destination for them. However this didn’t diminished the beauty of the place and the particularity of this big rock standing in the middle of the water as if god put it there strategically likes a tower on a chess mat.

Nature create beautiful things all around the planet, some discovered tons of years ago, some still awaiting or perhaps hiding, trying to remain untouched and magical.

I left this amazing place feeling like a pirate, adventuring myself in a land thousands of miles away from home, with strange languages that I cannot understand, trying exotic dishes and fulfilling my soul with adventure but always wanting to conquer more!