Archives - ‘Sri Lanka’

Sortir de ma zone de confort

February 14, 2019 | Melody, Spécialisé - Dév. international et mondialisation, Mineure Communication, Sri Lanka, Uniterra, Kalkudah/Passikudah Guest House Owners Association, Marketing Officer

L’idée d’aller à l’étranger me traversait l’esprit depuis deux ans, mais j’hésitais de passer à l’action. Après quatre années d’études et de stages coop au Canada, j’ai réalisé qu’un stage sur le terrain me permettrait d’enrichir mes connaissances et expériences, ainsi que ma compréhension de la chaine d’intervenants en développement international. Aujourd’hui, je suis heureuse de profiter des opportunités de développement personnel et professionnel que j’aurais manquées si j’étais restée dans mon cocon à Ottawa!

Cela étant dit, je suis au Sri Lanka depuis un mois maintenant. Dans ce magnifique pays insulaire d’Asie du Sud, le climat tropical, les paysages verdoyants, les cocotiers et les plages créent une atmosphère relaxante. Mais c’est surtout, l’hospitalité des Sri Lankais d’origine cingalaise et tamil, de confessions bouddhiste, hindoue, musulmane et chrétienne, qui fait que l’on se sente comme chez soi. Je me suis facilement faite des connaissances dans le quartier. Elles m’invitent souvent manger des plats au curry délicieux (très épicés) chez eux, m’aident à explorer la ville et à comprendre la culture. Bien que l’Anglais ne soit pas très parlé ici, vu que le Cingalais et le Tamil sont les langues officielles, les Sri Lankais s’efforcent d’échanger avec moi. À part la langue que j’essaie de parler, je n’ai pas eu de difficultés à m’adapter.

Je travaille à Pasikudah (Province de l’est), une ville côtière où le tourisme est un secteur en essor, après la guerre civile de 30 ans qui s’est arrêtée en 2009. En tant que Marketing Officer, je soutiens la Kalkudah Pasikudah Guest House Owners Association. Fondée en 2011, sa mission est d’être reconnu comme le corps représentatif des maisons d’invités (Guest houses) et chambres d’hôtes (Bed & Breakfast) de Pasikudah et Kalkudah. Elle vise ainsi à développer une approche commune en matière de tourisme, à partager les bonnes pratiques et à trouver des solutions efficaces aux problèmes touchant ses 24 membres.

En ma qualité de stagiaire, j’ai l’honneur de les appuyer avec leurs stratégies de e-tourism et l’apprentissage de l’Anglais pour les hôtels, afin d’améliorer la visibilité des guest houses et de la ville, face à la compétition des grands complexes hôteliers près des plages. D’ailleurs, j’ai eu l’occasion d’accompagner mes partenaires à une formation de trois jours sur le e-tourism, qui a facilité mon travail en me donnant accès à des rapports faisant état des besoins et possibilités d’amélioration en marketing des guest houses. Grâce à cette formation, j’ai pu améliorer mon plan de travail auprès des hôtels, en mettant à leur disposition les moyens de gérer leur image, les revues des clients et de rester en contact avec ces derniers sur les réseaux sociaux.

D’ici la fin de mon stage, je compte les équiper avec une brochure des principales attractions touristes de Pasikudah et des villes/villages avoisinants, afin de garder les visiteurs longtemps dans la région. Je compte également visiter d’autres villes du pays, abritant des sites archéologies et des plantations de thé. Bref, je ne regrette pas de m’être lancée dans cette nouvelle aventure!

Summer in Sri Lanka – Recap

August 20, 2018 | Hailey, Specialization in International Development and Globalization with an Additional Minor in Business Management, Uniterra + WUSC in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, Marketing and Communications Officer with Kelani Valley Plantations

I cannot believe how fast my 3-month internship went by. The final few weeks had left me filled with so many mixed emotions. I was happy to go (home) but so sad to leave (Sri Lanka). I think that I felt the most anxious during the last 2 weeks. Between finishing up all the projects that I have been working on for the plantation, packing to go home, and exploring areas of Sri Lanka which I hadn’t seen yet; I was exhausted. I also felt as though I had not accomplished all that I had come here to do.

There was still so much that I wanted to do for my organization. In addition to the work that I had previously mentioned in my last blog post, I had completed a big project proposal to open a bed and breakfast on Edinburgh Estate, and I had just started to work on an even larger proposal to convert an old tea factory into a backpacker’s lodge.

The old tea factory is huge; the bottom 2 floors will be renovated in order to allow for small scale production. The second floor will also include a small café, where tea and coffee will be served. In the café, guests will have an amazing view of the plantation and the railway station. The third floor, will be converted into large family size rooms and a social lounge where all guests can hangout. The top floor is designated to have multiple rooms which consist of single beds and private washrooms.

As you can probably imagine, this was not a quick and easy business proposal that could be written in under 2 weeks. I am very passionate about this project, (because I know that the community will benefit immensely) so I told my boss in Sri Lanka that I would continue to work on it after I left. Now, being back in Canada, I am so busy with my personal life that I am finding it hard to fulfill that promise.

Throughout my last 2 weeks, I was also busy running around town busying souvenirs for my friends and family, so luckily packing has never been hard for me. I had a bedroom in a home with a family, so I did my best to squeeze everything that I had into 2 suitcases, a duffle bag and a backpack. Similarly, feeling as if time is of the essence, I wasn’t able to travel the whole country, as I had hoped to. When I realized that I only had a few weeks left in Sri Lanka, I did my best to pick the destinations that I absolutely had to see before leaving. Knowing that I only had a few days left was very sad because there is so much that I wanted to see that I did not have the chance to. Similarly, I was very sad about leaving my coworkers, as we had grown so close after spending 3 months together. They were my Sri Lankan family; for ¼ of a year, I spent 5 days a week with them, so it makes sense that I am having a hard time adjusting to life without them. I think that knowing that they will miss me makes leaving harder. For my birthday, they threw me a party and planted me a tree, which is probably the sweetest birthday present that I have ever received.

I think that leaving Canada to work abroad really taught me the definition of “valuables”. It didn’t take me long to realize that there are some things that I use every day that I cannot live without. For example, my tooth brush, tooth paste, face wash, moisturizer, hair brush, hair elastic, glasses, and deodorant. These are my valuables; everything else (other than clothing) is a luxury item. I was very nervous to return to Canada, because I felt like beauty standards at my workplace in Canada (a casual fine dining restaurant) was so completely different than the beauty standards of my workplace in Sri Lanka (a tea plantation).

Overall, as I mentioned earlier, I am happy to leave but sad to go. I will miss the amazing people that I met in Sri Lanka, but I am also happy to return to Canada. My work experience in Sri Lanka was hard, and my travel experience was even more difficult, but I am so happy that I chose to utilize those opportunities because now that I am back in Canada, I feel like a renewed person with a slightly more holistic view of the world.

Summer in Sri Lanka

July 5, 2018 | Hailey, Specialization in International Development and Globalization with an Additional Minor in Business Management, Uniterra + WUSC in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, Marketing and Communications Officer with Kelani Valley Plantations

I have been thinking a lot about how to summarize my living, working and travelling experiences in Sri Lanka thus far. I thought about it on the train from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy and I thought about it on the beach in Trincomalee, but I decided to take a few moments in my “home town” of Nuwara Eliya to write about it.

I will start by asking a question: what are some things you think of when you think about Sri Lanka? If you asked me this question 2 month ago I would have said beaches, tea plantations and temples. Although there is an abundance of all the above, my understanding and appreciation for this beautiful country has grown immensely in the past 2 months. I am particularly enthralled with the immense nature and wildlife of the country; there are so many different species of flowers and animals which seem to inhabit every part of the island.

Additionally, the people in Sri Lanka are incredibly welcoming and hospitable, and the culture is unbelievably rich. Between the 4 prominent religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity) it seems that there is always some sort of festival or celebration happening. Most notably, the monthly public holiday called Poya which occurs when there is a full moon.

To me, the most amazing thing about Sri Lanka is the diverse landscape and climate. In about 4 hours you can drive from the Oceanside capital city of Colombo to Nuwara Eliya in Hill Country. At an altitude of about 1,868m, Nuwara Eliya is located in the misty mountains of Central Province. The terrain is picturesque; endless acres of tea trails that are bordered by lush jungle. It is also the coldest region in Sri Lanka; the temperature difference between Nuwara Eliya and neighbouring towns can be very dramatic. Before arriving in Nuwara Eliya I knew that it was the start of monsoon season, but I was very unprepared for the constant heavy rain, blustering wind and frequent power outages. According to locals, the monsoon season starts a little earlier every year (thank-you climate change), and this year it was particularly severe. Dealing with weather extremities was rather challenging throughout the first month and a half of my internship, however the days seem to be getting sunnier which leaves me hopefully that monsoon season is almost over.

The vast differences in landscape and climate also means a large variety of activities that can be done in different parts of the country, so it is no surprise that Sri Lanka is becoming a popular tourist destination. Some attractions include surfing, snorkeling, diving, whale watching, kite-surfing, hiking, touring tea plantations, golfing and safari excursions.

In Nuwara Eliya, I am working as a Marketing and Communications officer with Kelani Valley Plantations; a partner organization to Uniterra + WUSC Sri Lanka. Before arriving, I had no idea what type of work I would be doing, nor did I have any preconceptions of the work environment that I would be emerged in for three months. I am stationed at Tea Train, which is a small café located on Edinburgh Estate (one of the many Kelani Valley estates). Aside from redesigning menus, managing the restaurants social media pages and updating the Trip Advisor profile, I also get to work on business proposals for upcoming ventures which will further Kelani Valleys position in the hospitality/tourism industry.

Soon I will be starting a new project that I am pretty excited about: I will be sorting through 5 years of photographs in order to showcase the social work that Kelani Valley Plantations has done to improve the community. I will select photos then write captions in order to create posters which are to be displayed at Tea Train.

The end of my internship is quickly approaching, and although I am sad that I will not see the final product of the business proposals which I have been working on, I am looking forward to coming home to Canada. That being said, I will be back to visit this alluring island, and Nuwara Eliya will definitely be on my itinerary. I am hopefully curious to seeing how my work will be expanded upon in the future.

Sri Lanka: State of Reflection

March 21, 2018 | Sarah, Masters DVM, Uniterra Sri Lanka - Women's Development Center, Communication officer

As my time in Sri Lanka comes to a close, I am reflecting on the plethora of things I have seen and experienced here, which range from horrific to incredible. I can’t deny that things have not always, or even frequently, been easy. I have witnessed (and in some cases, directly experienced) poverty, violence against women, harassment of women, mistreatment of animals, racial and ethnic-based tensions, and environmental issues. Little over a week ago, the country was placed under a state of emergency after outbreaks of communal violence in my area of Kandy. Though I was safe and had the support of my NGO and local partner, others were not so fortunate. My closest friend at work lives in one of the neighborhoods were Muslims and Sinhalese were burning each other’s homes and businesses. While the situation has since deescalated, tensions are still apparent and Sri Lankans have been hauntingly reminded of the violence and fear that pervaded throughout the not-so-distant civil war.

Being here as a foreigner during the civil unrest really made me think about my position as a privileged, white, Canadian. I had done much research and reading about Sri Lanka’s past before coming, so Buddhist nationalism wasn’t new to me. However, I have to say that it is very different to read about a concept and to see images of ‘extremists Buddhist monks’ smashing store windows or screaming at Muslim market-vendors. When driving around Sri Lanka, you see shrines to Buddha everywhere, and while these may seem quaint, serene, or beautiful at first glance, it’s also important to realize that every symbol of Buddhism is not apolitical. I have learned a lot about Sri Lanka, and Kandy in particular, but the civil unrest really drove home that I still have no idea what it’s like to grow up in a culture with a history of racialized and religiously based conflict. It became very apparent to me that the tensions of the Sri Lankan civil war are still lurking under the surface of much of society and government. In reading local media and discussing with my Sri Lankan friends, I came to understand that this was something that Sri Lankans also have realized they need to reckon with, especially younger generations.

Aside from an increased awareness about the underlying political and cultural issues in Sri Lanka, the period of unrest also highlighted to me how resilient and kind Sri Lankans are. Even throughout police curfews and restrictions on movement, neighbors checked in on each other, provided food for those who ran out, and tried to call for anti-racist practices online. Protests in support of unity and religious tolerance were held in cities outside of the curfew zones, and were joined by Muslim clergy, Buddhist monks, and everyday citizens of many religions. My neighbor, a friend, and I spent evenings cooking together and keeping each other informed about what was happening (information was mostly received ‘through the grapevine’ of SMS and phone calls, since social media and the internet were unreliable). It certainly cannot be said that everyone’s experience throughout the unrest was as neighborly or respectful – many people lost their homes or businesses and some people were injured or killed. But aside from religious fanatics, nationalists, and those caught up in mob mentality, most average Sri Lankans bonded together and tried to help each other as much as possible.

While the state of emergency was certainly an exceptional instance, I do think it speaks to the character of much of Sri Lanka. Differing cultures and religion are rich and can be defensive of their place in society. Depending on who you ask, the government ranges from a peace-keeping and productive authority to a corrupt, racist, and oppressive regime. People are generally kind and hopeful, but also live in a political climate that can easily become reminiscent of past trauma. As a foreigner here, and one associated to an international development organization, I have been considering my role in position in Sri Lankan society. All in all, I’m very glad I came because my worldview has been greatly enriched and diversified, even (and especially) when things were challenging. Despite having lived for a year in India, and travelled many places in Asia, Sri Lanka has thus far been the most condensed assortment of diverse landscapes, social circumstances, and human connections that I have experienced. Without being too dramatic, Sri Lanka is not an easy place to be, but it will change your life.

Sri Lankan Pace of Life

February 23, 2018 | Sarah, Masters DVM, Uniterra Sri Lanka - Women's Development Center, Communication officer

My friends would affectionately categorize me as bordering on neurotically busy and organized. Multi-tasking is my middle name, and productivity is the game. The pace of life is sometimes problematic and unrealistic, and nothing makes that more apparent than a month in Sri Lanka. Life here moves very slowly, people are not hurried to complete tasks, transactions, meetings, or social events. Having previously lived in India and visited Indonesia, I was anticipating this cadence of daily life, but I underestimated how much it would affect my capacity for professional productivity. I also underestimated how much I would enjoy it.

I can’t deny that I find some aspects of an unhurried lifestyle and workplace to be very frustrating. A meeting at nine in the morning really means a meeting at 10:30. A report deadline for the end of the week will find its way to your desk at the end of the month. A three-hour bus journey can easily end up being a five-hour bus journey and a 30-minute trishaw ride. Mostly I am able to shrug off these delayed events, but sometimes I resentfully mourn every wasted minute of this short three-month internship. Certainly, patience is a virtue that I could still stand to improve. However, aside from practicing patience, this pace of life also offers the chance to interact with the world in a different way, one which we are often taught not to value in Canada.

While waiting for buses, meetings, friends, information, there are opportunities to meet people, do reflective or applied research, and observe the smaller details of Sri Lankan life. Because while things might progress slowly here, they are never still. Sri Lanka is bursting with a constant, albeit, languid buzz of energy. I am trying to navigate my understanding of the rhythm of this energy, as well as my role within it, in regards to my internship. I am working as a Communications Officer for the Women in Tourism Project, based out of the Women’s Development Centre in Kandy. The project’s mandate is to improve the participation of women in Sri Lanka’s booming tourism sector. My mandate is to help facilitate and organize events, networking, community awareness and radio recording programs, and to do general administrative tasks. This involves deciphering a lot of emails, trying to wrangle participation in events, and communicating with various community actors. Given the context, these tasks predictably often involve a lot of patience. But they also involve the opportunity for experiences and relationships that might not be possible in other contexts.

A perfect example was illustrated yesterday, when my usual work day took an unexpected turn. I spent the morning making follow-up phone calls to people who had not answered the emails I sent on behalf of the WiT Project a couple weeks before. Then my supervisor asked if I could make those calls while on the go, because she had just received a last-minute invitation to speak about our project at a community meeting. Next thing I know, we’re in a jeep clinging to the edge of a narrow mountain road to go to the meeting, which ended up being a five-hour affair at a remote hilltop Buddhist temple surrounded by tea plantations. I spent the afternoon being fed delicious food, observing the presentations (all in Sinhala so I didn’t present) and meeting the women of the surrounding villages. Nothing happened quickly or clearly throughout the entire day – I spent most of it having no idea what was happening, where we were going, how long we’d be there, etc. Despite feeling like I was temporally removed from reality, I had the precious chance of meeting with women and monks that I would never encounter in my regular office interactions. Their interest and reactions to the presentations were a clear reminder of the value that development work can offer, and the need for diversifying the employment available to rural women.

While there have been many, this was just one recent example of how a different communication style and pace of life never ceases to offer possibilities for broadening one’s perspectives. Overall, my time in Sri Lanka thus far has been a beautiful (and occasionally challenging) lesson in how to re-evaluate how productivity can be measured and understood. Navigating my own role in the pace of life has provided opportunities for self-reflection, and new ways of engaging with others both personally and professionally. It’s also provided the chance to travel to incredible places, and to meet people in a more genuine way than traditional tourism can offer. I can’t wait to see where Sri Lanka takes me next, and am excited to go with the flow wherever that may be.

Official last week in Sri Lanka

November 20, 2017 | Dhyeya, DVM, Sri Lanka, Uniterra, Communication Officer, Women's Development Center (WDC)

Well, I have officially begun my last week here in Sri Lanka. I cannot find words to explain how I am feeling. This past week I have just been focusing on tying up all the lose ends. I went to visit people to say goodbye, and things got pretty emotional. I also find it quite comical that now that I am leaving, I have huge workload. With 4 days left, I am still in the middle of writing multiple reports, finishing up case studies, and writing newsletter articles. My direct supervisor even expressed that she just began loving to have me around, and now I am leaving her.

One of the more memorable experiences in this month was a field visit to a village about an hour away from Kandy. We went to Delthota village to run an awareness program on our project, Women in Tourism. It was eye-opening to see – in person – the barriers that development workers sometimes face. The session was informative and participatory, discussing the opportunities open to women in the tourism industry, including hosting, HR work, and kitchen work. A lot of the women that day were interested, but mentioned that it was unlikely they could pursue because they needed to ask their husbands permission and most anticipated the response as being “no”.

What I noticed is that even though the program was open to all community members, only women were present. The invitation was open, but somewhere along the way our message was not targeting all demographics. That made me question, how could we hold awareness programs which catered to all community members? And would simply increasing the outreach make the project closer to reaching its objectives?

That day, two young women around my age approached me. They said they were waiting for their O/level results. Based on their results, they said they would contact us again if they were still interested. Having these girls approach me and tell me this showed me that these awareness sessions actually are effective.

What I’m trying to point out is that this experience has been exactly what I had hoped for. A challenge in which I was exposed to the reality of working in development in the field. Despite thehardships I had to endure, I wouldn’t change anything. I think it has been difficult for me to accept that I can feel stressed and overwhelmed, yet still be completely grateful for this opportunity.

I spent my final weekend saying goodbye to those who showed me hospitality.

I went on a picnic in the mountains with some neighbours, went out for some dinner with colleagues and friends, gave some gifts to the café staff who supplied me caffeine, and went to say goodbye to my fruit guy. At the central market in Kandy, my “fruit guy” quickly became my “fruit friend”. While I waited for him to package my fruits, he would feed me free fruits and I would tell him stories about my travels while he would tell me about his family. I ended up buying him a box of Lindor, which is a favourite for Sri Lankans (or so I’ve been told). He was so happy that he gave me my last batch of fruits entirely free. He doesn’t have an email or smartphone, so I got his address so that we could be pen pals, and we even made up a handshake. These are the experiences for which I will be forever grateful. Of course, working and travelling was fun, but what I know will draw me back to this island is the people who showed me kindness.

Challenging my perspectives

November 1, 2017 | Dhyeya, DVM, Sri Lanka, Uniterra, Communication Officer, Women's Development Center (WDC)

I’m currently in my final year of undergrad, in International Development and Globalization. Most courses within my program address the effects that cultural differences have in a context of development, including how they can shape relationships between local populations and expatriates. Although I didn’t have to travel abroad, my main motivation to take part in an international internship with uOttawa was to acquire personal growth, and take responsibility as a future development agent by challenging my perspectives.

My initial experiences were hectic, so I would advise future students to be ready for change, and lots of it! Before departing, the initial position I had applied for was changed, and once I had arrived here in Sri Lanka, that position was changed again. I ended up working as a Communication Officer for a Women’s Development Centre. Specifically, I am working on a project titled “Women in Tourism”.

Tourism is actually one of the leading industries in Sri Lanka right now, yet only 7% of the workforce is made of women. There is a stigma associated with women in the tourism industry, and there are many misconceptions about the safety of the sector. Our goal is to increase the professional opportunities for women of the Central Province in this industry; we provide training sessions, create connections with job banks, and use different outreach methods to challenge misconceptions.

In this position, my tasks vary, and I am assigned to new assignments every week. So far, I have developed case studies on women, drafted reports, drafted contracts, assisted in the entire web design process of the organization, produced content for the social media accounts, and maintained networks of the project.

Working at the Women’s Development Centre has really opened my eyes to the frustrations, communication delays, and clash of ideas that are experienced during development projects. Not only this, but I have had the chance to observe the academic size of development in practice by being forced to apply the skills I have learned in courses.

To elaborate, the organization that I intern with runs a project in a tea estate village where the nearest town is 30 minutes away by vehicle. In this village the organization has initiated a women’s committee and a children’s committee for them to socialize and discuss critical issues. On one occasion, after pre-planning a meeting, we arrived only to learn that a woman in the village was getting married. Due to the wedding preparations, all the women were too busy to attend the organized meeting, and because they were busy, they were unable to bring their children to the children’s committee meeting. This situation happened because of a miscommunication, and the assumption that not all the women would be attending this wedding. The project organizers were forced to question how they could avoid this situation in the future, considering that sitting in a meeting was not always a priority for many of these women or their children. The approach was then restructured to be more bottom-up thus involving the women more in the planning process.

Aside from the internship experience, the personal experience has been both beautiful and harrowing. It took a while, but I was able to find a little coffee shop that serves the best coffee in the city I live in – and I go there so often that the owner and staff know me. I am their only regular customer and they have become my safe place. I have also very much enjoyed taking my weekends to travel to distinct parts of the island. Because I am here for such a short period, I have made it my mission to leave the city every weekend at 5 PM on Friday, and explore some place new. I had the chance to meet many wonderful people along the way who were eager to help me. So far, I have hiked up mountains at 5am to see the sunrise, taken jungle safaris with wild elephants, swam with sea turtles, and slept on a countless number of hammocks. Of course, there are moments when it is hard to adjust, and you are forced to see the inequalities that are hidden in plain sight. But in those moments, you mustn’t forget that those same inequalities – especially in terms of patriarchy – exist in the West, but manifest in different ways.

I feel that this internship has really given me the chance to grow both personally and professionally. I have learned how to function better in an interconnected world because I have been able to improve my intercultural competence. I’m sad to be leaving so soon but happy with all the challenges I have overcome – as hard as they were. I have already made valuable connections in Sri Lanka, and I’m planning to come back here after my degree.

Trouver l’équilibre

October 19, 2017 | Corinne, ECH mineure ANT, Alternatives, Sri Lanka, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) - Officer management and report writing

Travailler pour une organisation non-gouvernementale dans un pays si récemment ravagé par la guerre offre une perspective nouvelle du conflit. La guerre civile du Sri Lanka est officiellement terminée depuis mai 2009. La fin d’un conflit ne signifie toutefois pas la fin des hostilités, ni des tensions.

Pour un court trois mois, j’ai la chance de travailler avec NAFSO (National Fisheries Solidarity Movement), une organisation non-gouvernementale locale. L’organisme milite pour de nombreuses causes, dont les droits de propriété des terres. Ces derniers comprennent le droit à une compensation en cas de déplacement, le droit à une terre alternative, ou dans le cas des familles déplacées par la guerre, le droit de retourner chez soi.

Depuis le début du 21ème siècle, le gouvernement du Sri Lanka déploie un nombre élevé de politiques visant à augmenter le tourisme au pays. Toutefois, ces méthodes sont souvent contraires aux règles de l’éthique. La Stratégie de Développement du Tourisme de 2009 ne fait pas exception à la règle.

La région de Kalpitiya, l’une des nombreuses visées par la stratégie, est composée de 45 îles de toutes tailles, et est reconnue pour ses récifs de corail, ainsi que ses dauphins et tortues. L’un des volets de la Stratégie de Développement comporte l’addition d’environ 6000 unités d’accommodation des touristes (hôtels, gîtes, villas, etc.), un restaurant sous-marin pouvant accueillir près de 100 invités, et plus encore dans les environs de ces îles.

Le problème de ce plan, et de beaucoup d’autres, est le suivant : pour arriver à ses fins, le gouvernement a, à la suite du tsunami et de la guerre, saisi un nombre énorme de terres sur la côte. Cette saisie devait déplacer les habitants des villages côtiers, afin de vendre les terres à des hôtels et autres compagnies privées. L’argument du gouvernement se voulait que la construction d’un marché touristique plus solide augmenterait de façon exponentielle les revenus du pays ainsi que le nombre d’emploi, enclenchant ainsi le développement plus rapide et la solidification de la paix.

Ce serait peut-être le cas si ces gens déplacés pour le développement recevaient des compensations, ou si l’on les consultait d’abord. Malheureusement, la réalité est bien différente, et l’exemple de Kalpitiya n’en est qu’un parmi tant d’autres. Aujourd’hui encore, nombreux sont les camps où les gens déplacés par la guerre vivent, et ce depuis maintenant 27 ans, sans recevoir d’aide du gouvernement. Certains de leurs villages, généralement près de la mer ou de denses forêts, font aujourd’hui encore partie des fameuses terres promises.

Avant d’arriver au pays, j’ai fait de la recherche sur les problématiques sur lesquelles NAFSO se concentre. Je connaissais donc l’existence de telles pratiques. Toutefois, je suis également arrivée ici avec l’intention de voyager ici et là durant mes temps libres. J’en arrive donc à éprouver un conflit éthique : d’un côté, je connais trop bien la désolation dans laquelle les citoyens qui vivent dans les camps ressentent. De l’autre, je trouverais bien dommage de ne pas visiter le pays durant mon séjour.

Mon dilemme repose principalement sur le fait que les mesures prises par le gouvernement affectent directement les gens pour qui NAFSO milite, et donc pour qui je milite par défaut. Souvent, d’ailleurs, les gens les plus affectés font partie de la communauté tamoule, le groupe ethnique minoritaire du Sri Lanka. La stratégie de développement a d’ailleurs été accusée d’avoir pour but la « cingalisation » du pays par l’entremise de la vente de terre à des entreprises cingalaises dans des régions majoritairement tamoules.

J’ai donc pris la résolution d’être une touriste équitable. Je réussis bien à manger localement, et à trouver des petits hôtels abordables appartenant à des Sri Lankais, là n’est pas le problème. J’essaie d’éviter les plages privées, souvent accessibles au travers des grands hôtels. J’éprouve cependant davantage de difficulté lorsque je visite un musée, ou un endroit où les prix sont affichés de façon à différencier les locaux des touristes. Mon plus grand malaise s’est manifesté lors de ma visite au musée de l’aviation, géré par l’armée. J’étais franchement réticente à payer un billet d’entrée pour un endroit entretenu par un groupe qui pille ses citoyens sans remords. Je l’ai tout de même fait, oui. J’ai franchi la porte d’entrée alourdie d’un sentiment de culpabilité franchement lourd.

J’essaie encore aujourd’hui de trouver un équilibre entre encourager le tourisme et militer passivement contre les efforts de développement du gouvernement. J’invite également les prochains stagiaires et les touristes à faire de même, pour l’amour de la liberté et des droits humains, pour la décence. C’est parfois ardu, certes, mais trouver un équilibre entre convictions et désirs en vaut la chandelle.