Excellent blog post by a volunteer about the good and the bad of the relief efforts in the recent floods & landslides to hit Sri Lanka. As Indi brilliantly put it “Sri Lankans are actually amazing in a crisis, but if we were organized we could actually be effective.”

three sugars in my tea.

Endless lessons have been learned in the last week of witnessing and being involved in activity to help support families affected by floods in their time of need. Lessons we’ve learned on the go and after making mistakes, as this relief effort has by and large been a trial and error system put in place by thousands of concerned citizens. There have been overflows everywhere – in our rivers, in our lakes and in our hearts, as laid out in the observations below.

Social Media

I might spend time on it but I’m actually not a fan of Facebook. Until last week.

I was added onto two groups #FloodReliefLKA Volunteers and Flood Relief Sri Lanka – Volunteers – that were functioning as two large hubs for information exchange on needs and availability of items.
Long story short, it was a blessing and a curse. Blessing in that someone who needed…

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Vesak 2016, One Like No Other

Today is Vesak Poya (full moon) Day. It is probably the most important festival of the year in the Theravada Buddhist calendar. Buddhists commemorate the three most important events that took place in the life of Lord Buddha on this Vesak Poya Day (always the first full moon in the month of May). First is the day Siddhartha Gautama was born, which took place under the arbour of Sat trees in in Lumbini Park on the Nepalese border where Queen Mahamaya gave birth to him. The second event was Siddharta Gautama’s supreme enlightenment as the Buddha, under the Bodhi tree in Gaya. The third event was Lord Buddha’s Parinibbana (passing away) over 2,500 years ago at Kusinagar.


Lord Buddha’s Parinibanna

YAMU states that “Vesak is traditionally the most observed day of uposatha, the Buddhist day of observance. Devotees flock to the temples to observe ‘Ata Sil’ (the eight precepts), spend the day in meditation and attending sermons, and generally partaking in dana (giving), sila (observing precepts) and bhavana (meditation). Vesak usually attracts the most number of attendees out of all twelve annual Poya days”.

“Even the seemingly ‘secular’ celebrations around Vesak carry deep spiritual meaning. Offering flowers is a way to contemplate the way the flowers wither and die in the sun, just as every being does, and a reminder to be mindful of the fragility and impermanence of life. The eight-sided classic Vesak lantern is meant to represent the Ata Lo Daham (the eight vicissitudes of life – gain and loss, good repute and ill repute, praise and censure, and pain and pleasure), and the candle inside is to remember not to get attached or affected by these – lest it be a cause for suffering (as the candle touching the sides of the lantern causes it to burn down).”


Vesak Lanterns

As with all religious festivals (you need only look at Christmas), commercialism has left its mark, not always for the best. However, with the recent sad natural events in Sri Lanka with large parts of urban areas on the outskirts of Colombo and in the West of the country being flooded due to extremely heavy rains, and more disastrously several landslides more inland close to Kegalle causing nearly two hundred deaths (the definite numbers are not yet known as rescue operations are ongoing), this Vesak will be one like no other. I remember last year we were praying for Nepal during Vesak, now we are praying for the country I choose to call home, Sri Lanka.

Many relief operations are ongoing (see below if you want to help, especially the end note).

During Vesak the Dana (food) plays an important role. Every devotee gives alms. This symbolises sharing the joy and peace with people. Richer members of the community will usually donate food or money to poorer families and societies or just groups of friends will have collected money from the community in order to organise a local dansal (free gifts of food, coffee, tea and refreshments to people, in particular travellers on their way to worship at temples). In my village, Narigama in Hikkaduwa, the dansalas have been cancelled and the food and money collected has gone to help survivors of the floods and landslides.

If you would like to make a donation or help in any other way then this article has all the information you need:2016 Flood Relief by YAMU

2016 Flood Relief by YAMU

NB: if you are going up to affected areas with donations please use your common sense and do not hamper rescue operations in any way. If you do not have a direct contact where you are going I would advise you to bring your donations to a known collection point instead. In some areas supply is exceeding demand whereas other areas have nothing. There are also opportunists around who are all too happy to accept your donations with fake tears. Don’t go on the off chance you may be able to help – you won’t. By all means collect items that may be of use in the coming weeks BUT, LEAVE THE DISTRIBUTION TO THE PROFESSIONALS IN THESE EARLY DAYS. 

May the thrice blessed Vesak be a contemplative holiday for all.

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A-Z Introduction to Sri Lankan Food & Drink

This is a great A – Z guide to Sri Lankan food. Enjoy!

Style in Sri Lanka

Fresh, local produce is plentiful and widely available in a variety of mouth-watering dishes across Sri Lanka. There are also likely to be many foods you haven’t tried or perhaps even heard of before which alone is one of the many highlights of visiting this beautiful country; making your joyful way through the diversity of indigenous foods & local cuisine.

This A-Z list only touches the surface of Sri Lankan foods, offering an introductary insight in what springs to my mind with each letter- I hope you enjoy, do share your personal favourites in the comments below. As suggested with the image above- place your cutlery to the side and dig in with local style…I can assure you it tastes a whole lot better!

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Power Cut Prawn Curry

Now unless you live in Sri Lanka, I am 99% sure that you will have absolutely no idea of what I am talking about except for the prawn curry bit.

Basically, Sri Lanka has had some “issues” with island-wide electricity supply since Sunday the 13th of March when the entire country was without power for around 8 hours due to an explosion at a major power station. This caused another major power station to malfunction and (so we have been informed by various media sources and politicians here – make of that what you wish) that the latter power station was not built according to international standards and hence it is needing huge repairs, so daily power cuts of seven and half hours have been imposed throughout the country. Five and a half during the day and two at night. The citizens, residents and I expect the tourists not lucky enough to be in hotels with a generator are pretty pissed off. And with the power cuts come water cuts. A whole big barrel of laughs NOT.


Life by candlelight

People do take things like this in their stride though and Sri Lankans, who are notoriously laid back (in a great way) particularly so. People flocked to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with funny photos, comments and memes (#PowerCutSL). I meanwhile decided, as I didn’t want my laptop battery to die, to cook a yummy prawn curry. I had plenty of gas for cooking and plenty of candles (and wine!) so it really made the night time power cut bearable. Therefore, I thought I would share the recipe with you.


Power Cut Prawns

Power Cut Prawn Curry Recipe (serves 2 as a large portion or 3)


  • 20 large prawns, shelled and keep some heads aside
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 – 4 stems of curry leaves or 30 to 40 leaves
  • 1 thumb size of fresh ginger, sliced
  • 3/4/5 long green chillies, sliced (up to you!)
  • 2-3 small red onions, sliced
  • 4 cardamom pods, squashed
  • 1 tbsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 cinnamon, stick broken
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp. red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground turmeric
  • 1L coconut milk (fresh is best, but I used the powdered milk and cans will be just as good)
  • Oil (I used virgin coconut oil)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Lime to taste


  • In a large frying pan, add a little oil and cook the prawns in batches of 8 to 10 at a time, or about 1.5-2 minutes depending on the size of the prawn. Keep aside to cool
  • In a large saucepan, heat the whole spices and cook until toasted and aromatic.  Add your oil to the pan and then add the garlic, curry leaves, ginger, chilli and shallots. Cook for 2 mins.
  • Deshell the prawns and put the prawn heads in the saucepan with the spices.
  • Add the rest of the powdered spices with the coconut milk and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain to remove prawn heads.
  • Pour the sauce over the prawns in the frying pan, and season with salt, pepper and some fresh lime juice and you are ready!

Serve with rice and wedges of lime.


Power Cut Prawn Curry

There is always a silver lining behind every cloud!🙂

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A Translator’s Role Defined

A new document was created and published earlier this month that offers descriptions of linguist roles, i.e. translators, interpreters and terminologists. A BIG THANK YOU to the five professional associations and the industry professionals (see at the end of this post for the names) who worked on and supported this project, which is a valuable resource to all linguists and their clients.

You can download and read the document in PDF format here.

I wanted to highlight the Translator description, which also includes a description of what certified translators do.


(from ATA’s website)
“Translators work with the written word, converting text from a source language into a target language. This is far more than replacing one word with another. The translator must also convey the style, tone, and intent of the text, while taking into account differences of culture and dialect.
Often, the finished document should read as if it had originally been written in the target language for the target audience. But this is not always the case. Highly specialized content may require the translator to retain elements of the source language culture in the target language translation. A professional translator will have the expertise to know the best approach for the translation.”

Translators must be familiar with the dialects, registers, and terminology needed for the type of translation project they are responsible for. When working in teams, translators may be responsible for editing, proofreading, summarizing, localizing, and transcreating.

My Bible.

My Bible

(from the Interagency Language Roundtable website)
Translation “is a complex skill requiring several abilities. Consequently, extreme care must be exercised in hiring translators or assigning translation tasks to them. To do otherwise entails the risk that imprecise or even wrong information will be conveyed. Competence in two languages is necessary but not sufficient for any translation task. Though the translator must be able to (1) read and comprehend the source language and (2) write comprehensibly in the target language, the translator must also be able to (3) choose the equivalent expression in the target language that both fully conveys and best matches the meaning intended in the source language (referred to as congruity judgment).”

Certified translators can provide documentation indicating the certifying or assessment body, any subject area expertise, the proficiency level, the specific language combination(s) assessed by translation testing and the direction of translation permitted (see US Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, Procurement Series Translation and Interpretation. What Does It Mean to Be a Certified Linguist?). Certified translators maintain their certification through continuing education credits and are bound by a code of professional conduct. When translation certification exams are not available for a particular language pair, sample translations reviewed by highly-qualified third parties may provide an acceptable practical alternative.


Association internationale des interprètes de conférence (AIIC)
Mano a Mano
National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT)
National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC)
Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI)

Team Leaders
Helen Eby, Esther M. Navarro-Hall

Drafting and Editorial Team
Helen Eby, Esther M. Navarro-Hall, Carol Velandia, Milena Waldron

Contributors and Consultants
Jennifer DeCamp, Barbara Inge Karsch, Judith Kenigson Kristy, Uwe Muegge, Sue Ellen Wright

Further reading
On Advocacy: An International Joint Effort
Translator and Interpreter Descriptions

By Catherine Christaki from Lingua Greca

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Weird and Wonderful Vegetables of Sri Lanka

Going to the vegetable market is always fun in Sri Lanka. It’s pretty much pointless to make a shopping list for me because I never stick to it. I can be convinced that I’m going to buy potatoes, onions, cabbage and tomatoes but what I’ll actually come home with are sweet potatoes (the normal variety were small and the sweet ones SOOO purple… seriously colours get me every time), aubergines (tomatoes weren’t fresh), courgette (zucchini – my new favourite food), limes (just because) and yes onions, always onions.

I have lived here for nearly twelve years and I still don’t know what all the vegetables in the market are.

A selection at my local market

A selection at my local market in Hikkaduwa

Don’t let the picture above fool you. I live in a tourist destination and our market caters for that so you will find many vegetables popular with non-locals (with prices to match). It makes for great shopping but what really interests me are the veggies that are so indigenous that they don’t have an English name, vegetables that aren’t well-known and have no endless recipe suggestions when you do a Google search on them, vegetables that have health benefits that only Ayurveda practitioners or Sri Lankan grandmothers (Aatchis) know. Strange vegetables. Weird vegetables. Wonderful vegetables.

Attention grabbers include the gourds (bitter gourd, snake gourd, bottle gourd, ridge gourd etc.). These are related to squashes and pumpkins but seem to have many more health benefits, such as helping to lower blood sugar and eradicating toxins. Locally these are usually made into curries and sambols.

Snake gourd

Snake gourd

Baby bitter gourd

Baby bitter gourds

Another vegetable you are not likely to encounter in an average supermarket abroad is murunga, also known as drumsticks. They are eaten in a similar way to their chicken equivalent in name, you basically hold them in your hand and suck off the edible bit. Again they are said to be incredibly healthy, not to mention an aphrodisiac.

One of my absolute favourites to use raw in a spicy sambol are winged beans, aka dambala:



This strange looking vegetable is so delicious fresh; simply finely chop it into a sambol with onions, tomatoes, chillies and lime (with salt and pepper to taste). Providing it is not too hot I even eat that on a cheese sandwich. Seriously good.

If you have followed this blog for a while you will know that I love aubergines (brinjals, eggplant, wambatu, whatever). So I’m in my element here in Sri Lanka because they come in all different shapes, sizes and colours! Big, long, oblong and deep purple to tiny, round and white and green.

Brinjal heaven

Brinjal heaven

Another favourite of mine are snake beans. They can be prepared just as normal beans but they are much longer and in my opinion tastier. They are less stringy than normal green beans and make an absolutely fantastic curry. Peter Kuruvita has a lovely recipe here.

Snake beans

Snake beans

Then there are all the different kinds of leaves, ranging from spinach to the more exotic gotu kola. Your more familiar vegetables such as potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots can of course also always be found and increasingly vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, courgettes, peppers etc. are available at larger markets and supermarkets.

One thing that I simply cannot imagine any Sri Lankan market to be without (other than coconuts) is the wonderful karapincha. These are curry leaves. A mere crunch of these in your hands gives off such a Sri Lankan curry smell that it is almost overpowering. They grow abundantly in my garden and I would consider them a horticultural nuisance if they weren’t so tasty and healthy!

Curry leaf tree in my garden

Curry leaf (karapincha) tree in my garden

Karapincha are indispensable in any kitchen in Sri Lanka. They are added to almost every curry recipe or even just fried briefly in oil to flavour the cooking oil. It is a hardy plant and its health properties are numerous.

There are also dedicated karapincha dishes, like karapincha mallung (or mallum) and karapincha kenda (a herby drink). Karapincha kenda is a mixture of a cup or two of finely shredded leaves, grated coconut, chopped garlic and ginger, a teaspoon of mustard powder, and pepper and salt to taste. Mix the ingredients together with water and season with lime juice. Put the same spice mix with a couple of green chillies thrown in, through a blender to make a fine and healthy karapincha dip for your potato wedges.

Of course, Sri Lankan cooking is not just about taste. Combinations of ingredients and dishes are chosen to optimise nutritional balance and health, and often to address health issues. In that sense, karapincha is somewhat of a workhorse, adding much more than flavour. The native ayurvedic medicine system lists a variety of uses for almost all parts of the karapincha tree, from its leaves to bark, roots, fruits and flowers.

Its bark and roots are used as a tonic and a stomachic, and stimulant. The raw leaves, rich with amino acids and oils, purify the blood, bring down blood pressure, prevent diabetes and aid digestion. Studies have identified a compound that slows down the breakdown of starch, making it effective for weight control.

A visit to the vegetable market in Sri Lankan is therefore so much more than a shopping trip.


Filed under Healthy food, Sri Lankan food & recipes, Sri Lankan life, Travel

Peter Kuruvita’s Egg Rolls & Why Eggs are So Good

You know all those stories about eggs in excess being bad for you because they lead to high cholesterol? It’s all rubbish. The nutrition and especially the diet industry have in the last few years done a big u-turn and we are now told that fats do not make us fat after all, and eggs are in fact a superfood.

Having been on my own recent voyage of discovery regarding healthy foods for me (dealing with Hashimoto’s disease and pernicious anaemia – both auto-immune issues) I have come across multiple sources advocating up to four eggs a day. Yay. I love eggs🙂 – and have drooled over them previously here, here, here, here and here etc.

So, how to incorporate eggs everywhere? Another thing I love is Sri Lankan street food, aka short eats and egg rolls have got to be in my top 10 Sri Lankan foods. So here a quick recipe borrowed from Peter Kuruvita. Peter’s street food inspired Sri Lankan egg rolls are made with spiced tuna and potato, wrapped in pancakes, crumbed and deep fried:


  • 200 g tuna steaks, cut into chunks
  • 200 g new potatoes
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 300 ml vegetable oil, for frying

For the pancakes

  • 150 g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 ml milk
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

For the tempered spices

  • 100 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, leaves picked from stem

For the crumbing mix

  • 75 g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 ml water
  • 300 g breadcrumbs


  1. Place the tuna, half a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of roughly ground black pepper in a pot, and cover with water. Place over medium heat until the tuna has cooked through. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender. Remove from heat and drain.
  3. Combine the cooked tuna and potatoes in a bowl and mash until smooth but still reasonably dry. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. For the pancakes: whisk the flour, eggs and milk until smooth then stir through the vegetable oil. Set aside for 10 minutes until ready to fry
  5. For the tempered spices: heat the oil in a pan over a high heat. Add the cayenne pepper, chillies, onion, garlic and curry leaves and fry until the onions are golden brown. Remove from the heat and combine with the fish and potato mixture. Set aside.
  6. Make the pancakes by heating a little oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Once the oil is hot, spoon a ladelful of the mixture into the pan and swirl to coat.
  7. Once the pancake is loose enough to come away from the pan, flip it over and cook the other side. You dont want the pancake to crisp it should still be soft enough to fold without tearing. Repeat with remaining batter. Once all the batter has been used, set the pancakes aside.
  8. To make the crumbing mix, whisk the flour, eggs and water in a bowl and set aside.
  9. To assemble the egg rolls, lay a pancake on a clean work bench. Top with a small amount of the fish and potato mixture. Place an egg half on top. Fold each side of the pancake into the centre to form a square parcel. Use some of the egg and flour mixture to help the edges stick if necessary. Repeat with remaining pancakes and filling.
  10. Coat a roll in the flour and egg mixture, and then the breadcrumbs. Repeat with remaining rolls and set aside until ready to fry.
  11. To cook the rolls, heat the oil in a pot over high heat until it reaches smoking point. Add the rolls, one at a time one, and fry until crisp and golden. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Serve with a nice cold beer.
Peter Kuruvita's Egg Rolls

Peter Kuruvita’s Egg Rolls

Other than the fact that these have been deep fried in vegetable oil these are extremely healthy. For gluten free, skip the flour & breadcrumbs and use coconut flakes instead. For less calories – shallow fry in extra virgin olive oil.

Why are eggs suddenly the latest super food? Just think about it… one egg contains all the nutrients and building blocks required to grow an entire baby chicken.

Eggs are loaded with high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and various trace nutrients.

A large egg contains (details):

  • Only 77 calories, with 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein with all 9 essential amino acids.
  • Rich in iron, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5 (among others).
  • One egg contains 113 mg of Choline – a very important nutrient for the brain, among other things.

Eat the yolks, they contain pretty much all the nutrients!

Bottom Line: Eggs contain all 9 essential amino acids, are highly concentrated with vitamins and minerals and are among the best sources of choline you can get. Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs are best. Eggs also contain large amounts of the antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthine, which dramatically lower your risk of age-related eye disorders. Despite the fear mongering of the past few decades, eating eggs and cholesterol has no association whatsoever with heart disease.

So what are you waiting for?


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