For a country that won’t shut up harping on the fact that it elected the first female Prime Minister, Sri Lanka sure can’t stand to see a strong woman hold her own without giving into some innate need to tear her down.
A strong, opinionated woman who is willing to face her oppressors head on, an anti-thesis to the patriarchy most of them have been fed since birth. Conflicting with what they’ve been raised to expect from women – quiet, docile, and with a physical appearance for their pleasure.
I suppose it’s most visible online, since we’re all drowning in our digital existence [don’t deny it], and the comments and memes are too hard to ignore. While the harassment of women online is not specific to any particular type of woman, those who step out with confidence in themselves and in their convictions are going to get torn down solely…
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.”
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.
I might spend time on it but I’m actually not a fan of Facebook. Until last week.
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.
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).”
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:
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.
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.
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 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
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.
There is always a silver lining behind every cloud! 🙂
A blog about freelance translation as a digital nomad, travel, food & drink and all things Sri Lankan and Dutch.