Grocery shopping in Sri Lanka

9 July 2009
By

fruit and vegetable stalls, Sri LankaSince probably most of you who are reading this have never been to Sri Lanka, I thought I’d tell y’all a bit about what it’s like here.

Fahim and I do most of our grocery shopping at Arpico, a department store with a grocery section and fixed prices.

Why is fixed prices important? Because I’m white. And being white in this country means that shop & stall keepers quote me 3-20x the price they would charge to locals. If my brown Sri Lankan husband were with me, they still quote that much. He’s paler than most Sri Lankans – he’s a programmer, a geek, and you know they never see the sun 😉 – and think he’s a foreigner, too. It’s only when my mother-in-law is with us (wearing a sari, no less) that we start getting local prices. She haggles, she argues, all in Sinhala or Tamil, she gets her way, and she knows what a fair price is. And she intimidates people. 😀

But because I’m white, even if I spoke the language and knew what a fair price was, I would never get it here. It just doesn’t happen. And that’s why we don’t shop at the produce stands where all prices are negotioable.

wing beansArpico. And this isn’t Arpico, but all grocery stores, and really, not just grocery stores, but all stores and shops. Sometimes they have something, sometimes they don’t. Stores do run out of things here – inventory control is not a fine tuned art like it is in Canada. And sometimes the produce is good, sometimes it’s iffy. We don’t go grocery shopping on the weekends because a. stores are packed and b. produce is even worse.

When grocery shopping, I can’t plan in advance what I’d like. What we get depends on what’s available and what’s good. And produce doesn’t stay good here for that long. Heat and humidity don’t help, but there’s also bugs, like worms, in the food. Which you probably didn’t want to know about. 😀 But I think one of these days, I ought to photograph ’em and share. 😀 Because I am that mean. 😀

The result? I plan what we’re going to eat based on what’s available and what’s good. I also plan our menu based on what produce is going to go bad the fastest. That means pak choy by day 2 or 3, cauliflower by day 3, beans by day 4 or 5, but carrots can usually last until day 7 or longer if they’re not old. Uncut squash can last a month, as can potatoes. Onions about three weeks. It’s an art. 😀

I also stock up – to a limited degree – on things like milk powder, sugar, flour, spices. To a limited degree because of bugs, heat & humidity, mold, and so on. But that’s a whole other topic. 😀

We get some imported food. Mayonnaise. Fruit like apples & oranges. Potato chips. Cheese. Milk powder. But, like all food here, selection is not even remotely approaching extensive – you get what you get and be happy with it or do without. At its most extensive, I saw four kinds of mayonnaise, for example, from two different companies. I’ve only seen perhaps a dozen varieties of imported cheese total in the six years I’ve lived here.

Arpico furniture, cows lounging in frontI mentioned Arpico earlier. We shop there most often because it tends to have the best selection and freshest produce. And yet, while Arpico is quite possibly the largest store in terms of floor space, it’s only about as big as, say, four Coles bookstores in the average Canadian mall. Despite selling not just groceries, but household items (plastics, appliances, dishes), gardening supplies, hardware supplies, clothing, furniture, and who knows what else.

Other grocery stores here, like Keells or Food City, are around the same size as an average 7-11 in Canada or the US.

Yeah, not at all like major cities in Canada where the super grocery stores (just the stores, not the parking area) cover a greater area than, say, the huge national zoo here.

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35 Responses

  1. #1
    Liz 

    Hey, this happens here in the US of A. I live in a leafy suburb and prices automatically go astronomic, be it a painting project or appliance repair. But I can drive to nearby towns for cheaper groceries without being sussed out as a suburbanite. I love your life of adventure! Please continue to share! <3 (But also: bugs! {{Shudder}}})

    –Liz
    .-= Liz´s last blog ..lizwebpage: @roadhacker Jiggity jig! Say it all the time, almost every time… =-.

  2. #2
    Laurie 

    Sure, but the prices don’t go up based on you being white and therefore rich because all white people are rich and the brown people have an obligation to take advantage of the stupid white people who don’t know how much something should cost, does it? I hope it doesn’t. Don’t shatter my illusions! 😀

  3. #3
    barbfmc 

    Laurie – can you order things in this store? Can you order things online?

  4. #4
    Laurie 

    This store, no, they don’t offer online ordering or, for that matter, ordering anything.

    There is one store that does online ordering – Keells Super. Fahim and I tried it out when it first went online a year or so ago, and it was fine at first, but went downhill quickly as these things do in Sri Lanka.

    But by ordering online – if you’re talking about special orders, that doesn’t happen here.

  5. #5
    Ariana (Finding_Bleu) 

    Very different experience from, say, going to big 2 story high grocery store.
    No, I have never been to Sri Lanka and what I knew of the country was limited. I find your experiences and perspective a fascinating way to learn. –

    I always enjoy local markets when I go to places and tend to try to avoid the ‘all in one’ stores like Arpico, but… I go as a tourist – so, if I overpay for 3 oranges, once, it really isn’t a big deal. You, however, have that as a day in reality! Oh well, at least it makes for interesting shopping experiences, no?

    Just wanted to comment… really, I just wanted to say something about the cows outside the store. I love that photo!

  6. #6
    Laurie 

    Interesting shopping experiences – oh, yes, I have those in spades, even with Arpico. 🙂

    And, um, I loved the cows outside the store, too. I’m strange, I know – the cows in this country just fascinate me to no end.

  7. #7
    purplesque 

    Reminds me of home. I always thought it would be much harder for a white American/Canadian/European national to settle in an Asian country than it is for Asians to settle in US/Canada/Europe, because of all the conveniences of daily life that are luxuries in Asia. You are brave!

  8. #8
    Laurie 

    It’s not just the conveniences, though, although that’s a part of it.

    It’s the white, therefore they stare factor, too. It’s the I’m white, therefore I stick out like a sore thumb factor. Everywhere I go, I’m stared at like no one’s ever seen a white person. At least in the major cities in Canada, there are people of all sorts of ethnicities & colours & shades, so seeing another Asian is just par for the course. Here, not so much.

    And there are the misperceptions of what foreigners are like, although that’s universal, I think. No one really understands what it’s like to live in another country or culture until they do.

  9. #9
    Anne/kq 

    Very interesting read.

    I also found it interesting that it’s called “pak choy” where you are. (Or where you are from?) Here, it is (and I have always known it as) “bok choy” (or sometimes “bok choi.”)

  10. #10
    Laurie 

    Where I am, not where I’m from. 🙂 I did some reading yesterday about pak choy, and realized that what’s selling here as pak choy is actually properly called bok choy, but is harvested very young. Pak choy is a real name for a vegetable that’s related to bok choy, but we don’t get it here, despite the name.

    But remember, turmeric is also called saffron here…

  11. #11
    Ann Evanston 

    What a great post! I love so many pieces of it. I have a brown skinned man in my life here in the US, and interesting to hear the reverse side of discrimination!

    And I buy from a woman who imports spices from Sri Lanka, so yummy!

    Thanks Laurie!

    Ann Evanston
    The Warrior is Within You
    .-= Ann Evanston´s last blog ..HootSuite: My favorite thing as I market online! =-.

  12. #12
    Laurie 

    Ann, thank you for recognizing it as discrimination. People here don’t see it as that at all and think I’m crazy when I bring up that word.

  13. #13
    joni 

    Can you order stuff online from companies that ship directly to your home and bypass the stores?

  14. #14
    Laurie 

    There’s only one company here thus far (that I’m aware of) that does online ordering. I mentioned them briefly in an earlier comment.

    We gave them a try, were happy at first, but, like all things here, it quickly devolved into lousy service and worse quality. Vegetables arrived completely dried out or rotting with icky rotten slime all over them or molding. The last time we ordered from them, fully half the produce had to be tossed because it was that bad. I salvaged what I could, but it wasn’t much.

    There’s no point in ordering from them again. They don’t care that the quality is in the toilet and they won’t do anything to rectify that. And I’m completely unwilling to pay for food that has to be thrown out.

  15. #15
    Laz 

    I am amazed to read your comments…if you find it so hard there…do the whole country a favor and leave. You make the country and the people sound so bad, I live in London and of course its different to the WEST….if you want malls and grocery stores like back home…go back home!! You have come to a “developing” country to be with your “brown” husband…this in itself I find a bizare desciption…come on just say his “Sri Lankan”…You are “Canadian”….if your husband called you his “white” wife…that would be equally as bad!!…to refer to your partner as a colour is not right regardless who does it. Reading through all your comments I wonder if you have met any nice Sri Lankans…Like for example when you are driving from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya…and you stop at someone’s house as you have a call of nature…and they not only say yes of course you can use their toilet but they make you tea and give you biscuits….and this by the way happened to me “Brown” and my wife “black”, my Uncles wife “white” and my cousins “mixed race”…I am only putting their colour so that YOU know that they were not all “Brown”!! And for the record you are right… coming to live in a forign country is hard…so remember that the next time you see someone who is an ethnic minority in your country and they find it hard to adapt to the western ways…because this lady Laurie is finding it equally hard to adapt to the Eastern ways….because lets face it people when in Rome do as the Romans!!…but the one thing Laurie wont have to worry about in SL is men with White pointy hats coming along and trying to kill or hurt her family!! As a Sri Lankan I had to comment as I am proud of my country!!!

  16. #16
    Fahim 

    Laz, first of all, chill 🙂 Then, if you ever come back here, take a big breath and re-read the post 😀 I don’t see her saying anything about it being “so hard” over here. She’s just explaining the differences to here vs. “there”. Plus, given that you’ve decided to live over “there”, why would you get so outraged about comments from somebody who actually lives over “here”?

    Colour is in the eye of the beholder. I often call my wife “white”, she’s after all, white. The whole “brown” thing is to make a point. (Hope you know the concept?) Do tell me that Sri Lankan’s don’t bow and scrape before a “white” person and it’ll either mean you’re totally out of touch with the country or are delusional. It happens here. And that’s how it is. We “brownies” or “locals” or what have you, don’t get the same treatment that a foreigner gets. In our own country no less.

    I’m proud of my country as well but unlike you, I choose to live in my own country and be proud of it. And my wife lives here with me. So before you get all high and mighty about “my country”, do at least come live here for a while before you go off all half-cocked 🙂

  17. #17
    Supun Jayasinghe 

    @Fahim

    To begin with, I thought geeks were meant to be educated. Seems like you’re not. Firstly, I’d like to tell you one thing. We Sri Lankans never bow down or scrape in front of anyone. May it be in front of whites, blacks, browns or even purples for that matter, Sri Lankans have never bowed down to any other race. As your name implies, your true roots does not lie in Sri Lanka. So that might be the case why you bow down to whites, may be it’s in your genes to do so. May be that’s why you think that brown people bow down in front of whites, because you first had to bow down to us so that you could settle here when your ancestors step foot in this country for business purposes. But please do keep in mind that a true Sri Lankan, will never bow down to anyone.

    We are the race of the Lions, we fear none and we bow down to none. Let me quote from history, when our great General “Kappetipola Disawe” was arrested and taken to be executed, he requested the executioner to behead him with a single stroke of the sword and when the executioner was not able to severe his head in on stroke, he stood up with a wounded and bleeding neck and showed the executioner the exact place on his neck to which he should strike to behead him at once. Now that is our race. They are our people. We did not and will not bow down to anyone even in our death bed. Furthermore, “Veera Puran Appu”, our great national hero, said that he does not fear being killed fighting the British in the 1815 rebellion, because his mother has 5 more children and thus losing one would not matter. Obviously my dear friend you don’t feel these and you’re not like us because you your self are not a proper Sri Lankan. So let me tell you, a Sri Lankan will never bow down to even God. So if you don’t know that and if you’re not a part of it, just do me a favour and stop de-reputing my country and its men.

    Let me tell you one more thing. I have done my Bachelors in UK and my Masters in Canada. I have lived several years in these countries including the US. However, for 37 out of 45 years in my life, I have lived here in Sri Lanka and I still do. I have seen many faults in the so called “developed” world. I have seen stores running out of stock in Canada and in UK. I have seen expired meat on the shelves of Provigo, Dominion, Price Chopper, Loblaw’s, Nofrills and etc in Canada to name a few. Furthermore, the number of times and the number of bread loaves that I have bought at Tesco, Sainsbury, Somerfield, Marks and Spencer and Iceland supermarkets in UK which were thrown because some of the bread slices were rotten and had fungus on them when they still had 3 more days to expire were numerous. Go buy a loaf of Hovis bread and you will still find fungus in the last three slices. But I have never ever found anything like that in Sri Lanka, even though we are still a developing nation. So even though I don’t like to say this, I still have say that if you ever came across worms or anything that bad in the produce grown in my country, I’m pretty sure you bought it from the dirties possible vendor. And now, that’s your stinginess, not the fault of my country or its men.

    I’d like to say, I myself have personally experienced loads of discrimination in Western countries. This is very true in Canada and UK where immigrants are scorned upon behind their backs. At least we don’t do that to you guys after all we have all the right to do it to the “whites”. Although we don’t do so, we also have a very good right to rip-off the “whites” because they stole every possible thing from our country and most of its natural resources including gold, lead, pearls and ivory to name a few. They taxed our people for having a pet dog and they also imposed taxes on the breast milk of our mothers who had infants, and the tax depended on how big their breasts were. They stole everything and left us to deal with all the misery they left behind. So please keep this in mind, we don’t need to and we never will bow down or scrape in front of a bunch of thieves who stole from our country or their descendents.

    Finally, remember this. In Sri Lanka, we are treated like kings. We are first class citizens here. We get much more respect than any foreign person would. However, in the same token, I would like you to remember that we are the most hospitable nation on earth. Therefore, we also treat foreigners very nicely unlike how foreigners do when we are in their countries. In our culture, we never send any visitor empty handed or empty stomach when they visit us. We give them to eat, make them tea and treat them nicely. So you better not misunderstand our hospitality and you better not think that us being nice to you guys is some sort of bowing down or scrambling in front of you. Our people have never bowed down to whites or anyone else and they never will.

    She might be your wife. It might be true that you need to respect her. But shame on you for sucking up to her. I am amused how spineless you are to run down the country that has given refuge to you and your ancestors and welcome you guys like their own. But then again I am made to understand that you’re not a true Sri Lankan and that’s why you bow down. A true Sri Lankan will never bow down to even God.

    Just for an afterthought, please keep in mind, Sri Lanka has a history of more than 5000 years. Unlike Canada which only has 400 years. We have our own well defined widely respected culture. We were here as a developed nation and a race when our counterparts in Canada were eating apples on trees stark naked. So that is one more reason for us to not bow down to anyone.

    We have tolerated everything that has happened in the past and we are still welcoming you guys in to our country after all what their predecessors have done to our country. Therefore, at least respect that and stop de-reputing our motherland and its people. We will not tolerate that anymore. So my last advice to you and your wife is that if you don’t like our country, pack up and leave. We surely won’t miss you!! :))

  18. #18
    Anonymous 

    @ Supun;

    That is why Sri Lankans fail. Because they are stuck up and proud about their pathetic state in life.

    I live in Sri Lanka too. I’ve seen first hand.

  19. #19
    jessiev 

    i don’t think that laurie was racist, and this is coming from a white woman who is married to a black man and we have a caramel child. color is an every day part of life, as you know. color influences everything – hopefully we are building a world where it doesn’t, but as of yet, this is life and reality.

    i lived in japan and my whiteness was constantly thrown in my face. and, yes, things cost more when you are an outsider in a different country. this is a well-documented fact of life for just about everyone living in a different place.

    i also think that laurie was just sharing a slice of her life in sri lanka. i’d love to hear more about other slices of life in sri lanka. we can only share what we know.

    peace.
    .-= jessiev´s last blog ..Foodie Finds: Best Place to Eat in Beaufort, SC =-.

  20. #20
    Melanie 

    Laurie, I followed your tweet to this post, and I have to say I have the EXACT same experiences with prices. Even my husband is a little less “brown” than the locals and they often think he’s a tourist, especially if I’m with him. Fortunately we have normal (by US standards) grocery stores here, but we buy the majority of our produce at the market.

    After we’d been here awhile and I was repeatedly ripped off by the vendors, I made a point to get to know two or three specific people, and now I only go to them. My husband has introduced me to a fish lady and a chicken lady, making sure they know my face so if I go alone they’ll still give me the good prices he’s negotiated. Nonetheless, there are STILL some things I just can’t buy because they triple the price on me.
    .-= Melanie´s last blog ..Twitter =-.

  21. #21
    righteous 

    I know what you mean, I’m chinese by descent but I was born in Sri Lanka. Every shop I go to I have to speak in Sinhalese or they try to overcharge me. While sometimes it’s funny to see their reaction when I speak the native tongue, it gets tiring after a while.

    Visit Sri Lanka
    [Edited to remove spammy link. Please see my comment policy.]
    .-= righteous´s last blog ..Nmake Makefile Tutorial and Example =-.

  22. #22
    Supun Jayasinghe 

    @Fahim

    To begin with, I thought geeks were meant to be educated. Seems like you’re not. Firstly, I’d like to tell you one thing. We Sri Lankans never bow down or scrape in front of anyone. May it be in front of whites, blacks, browns or even purples for that matter, Sri Lankans have never bowed down to any other race. As your name implies, your true roots does not lie in Sri Lanka. So that might be the case why you bow down to whites, may be it’s in your genes to do so. May be that’s why you think that brown people bow down in front of whites, because you first had to bow down to us so that you could settle here when your ancestors step foot in this country for business purposes. But please do keep in mind that a true Sri Lankan, will never bow down to anyone.

    We are the race of the Lions, we fear none and we bow down to none. Let me quote from history, when our great General “Kappetipola Disawe” was arrested and taken to be executed, he requested the executioner to behead him with a single stroke of the sword and when the executioner was not able to severe his head in on stroke, he stood up with a wounded and bleeding neck and showed the executioner the exact place on his neck to which he should strike to behead him at once. Now that is our race. They are our people. We did not and will not bow down to anyone even in our death bed. Furthermore, “Veera Puran Appu”, our great national hero, said that he does not fear being killed fighting the British in the 1815 rebellion, because his mother has 5 more children and thus losing one would not matter. Obviously my dear friend you don’t feel these and you’re not like us because you your self are not a proper Sri Lankan. So let me tell you, a Sri Lankan will never bow down to even God. So if you don’t know that and if you’re not a part of it, just do me a favour and stop de-reputing my country and its men.

    Let me tell you one more thing. I have done my Bachelors in UK and my Masters in Canada. I have lived several years in these countries including the US. However, for 37 out of 45 years in my life, I have lived here in Sri Lanka and I still do. I have seen many faults in the so called “developed” world. I have seen stores running out of stock in Canada and in UK. I have seen expired meat on the shelves of Provigo, Dominion, Price Chopper, Loblaw’s, Nofrills and etc in Canada to name a few. Furthermore, the number of times and the number of bread loaves that I have bought at Tesco, Sainsbury, Somerfield, Marks and Spencer and Iceland supermarkets in UK which were thrown because some of the bread slices were rotten and had fungus on them when they still had 3 more days to expire were numerous. Go buy a loaf of Hovis bread and you will still find fungus in the last three slices. But I have never ever found anything like that in Sri Lanka, even though we are still a developing nation. So even though I don’t like to say this, I still have say that if you ever came across worms or anything that bad in the produce grown in my country, I’m pretty sure you bought it from the dirties possible vendor. And now, that’s your stinginess, not the fault of my country or its men.

    Finally I’d like to say, I myself have personally experienced loads of discrimination in Western countries. This is very true in Canada and UK where immigrants are scorned upon behind their backs. At least we don’t do that to you guys after all we have all the right to do it to the “whites”. Although we don’t do so, we also have a very good right to rip-off the “whites” because they stole every possible thing from our country and most of its natural resources including gold, lead, pearls and ivory to name a few. They taxed our people for having a pet dog and they also imposed taxes on the breast milk of our mothers who had infants, and the tax depended on how big their breasts were. They stole everything and left us to deal with all the misery they left behind. So please keep this in mind, we don’t need to and we never will bow down or scrape in front of a bunch of thieves who stole from our country or their descendents.

    Finally, remember this. In Sri Lanka, we are treated like kings. We are first class citizens here. We get much more respect than any foreign person would. However, in the same token, I would like you to remember that we are the most hospitable nation on earth. Therefore, we also treat foreigners very nicely unlike how foreigners do when we are in their countries. In our culture, we never send any visitor empty handed or empty stomach when they visit us. We give them to eat, make them tea and treat them nicely. So you better not misunderstand our hospitality and you better not think that us being nice to you guys is some sort of bowing down or scrambling in front of you. Our people have never bowed down to whites or anyone else and they never will.

    She might be your wife. It might be true that you need to respect her. But shame on you for sucking up to her. I am amused how spineless you are to run down the country that has given refuge to you and your ancestors and welcome you guys like their own. But then again I am made to understand that you’re not a true Sri Lankan and that’s why you bow down. A true Sri Lankan will never bow down to even God.

    Just for an afterthought, please keep in mind, Sri Lanka has a history of more than 5000 years. Unlike Canada which only has 400 years. We have our own well defined widely respected culture. We were here as a developed nation and a race when our counterparts in Canada were eating apples on trees stark naked. So that is one more reason for us to not bow down to anyone.
    We have tolerated everything that has happened in the past and we are still welcoming you guys in to our country after all what their predecessors have done to our country. Therefore, at least respect that and stop de-reputing our motherland and its people. We will not tolerate that anymore. So my last advice to you and your wife is that if you don’t like our country, pack up and leave. We surely won’t miss you!! 🙂

    Regards
    Supun

  23. #23
    Fahim 

    Supun, thanks for the long rambling comment left for me but for somebody who claims to live in Sri Lanka, it’s funny that your IP should say that you’re from the UK. Perhaps you think that UK is part of Sri Lanka due to past transgressions by the British? 😛

    It’s all very well for you to talk about racial tolerance and being non-racist and everything but where your talk turns out to be just “talk” is where you start calling me an outsider and yourself a true inhabitant of Sri Lanka. Both the Sinahales and the Muslims are just settlers on this island – nobody is a native. Refer to the “Mahavansa” if you’re confused on this point 🙂

    There have been Sinhalese who didn’t bow down to the British. But there were also Sinhalese who actively aided the British. Are you trying to tell me that the British took the whole of the island by only bringing in armies from outside and all of Sri Lanka fought against the British? Don’t be daft!

    And a Keppetipola here and a Weera Puran Appu there doesn’t mean all of Sri Lanka are mighty lions who don’t bow down to anybody. Sri Lankans are, like everybody else in the world, just people. And you do get good people everywhere just as you do bad – it’s not dictated by their skin colour or where they live. It’s just who they are.

    Just go to any five star hotel in Sri Lanka and you’ll find plenty of Sri Lankans ready to bow down to a foreigner, or for that matter, anybody with money. Claiming some sort of superiority and a heroic we-don’t-bow-down-to-anybody attitude doesn’t change the facts of reality. Come live in Sri Lanka and you’ll find this. Oh, I forgot, you already live here though your Internet goes through the UK. My bad 😀

  24. #24
    Supun Jayasinghe 

    @ Fahim

    I appreciate your prompt reply. Yes my IP address says I have replied from the UK. However what I didn’t tell you is that I am a marine engineer working for the Sri Lankan Shipping Corporation. My job is to sail and hence I live 6 months a year off-shore. But the remaining 6 months I spend with my wife and children in Sri Lanka. My wife is fully Sri Lankan; my children are completely Sri Lankan. Not half way through. They are bought up according to our countries culture and values. So may I ask you, who, while boasting to live in Sri Lanka, have a wife who belongs to a culture where men have to compromise with the fact that their women have been pre-loved? Whose offspring will belong to neither the west, nor to Sri Lanka? Whose offspring will partially belong to a culture where men and women are allowed to have pre-marital affairs with anyone like uncivilised animals? After all not more than 1% of those pre-marital affairs end up as lifelong marriages in western countries. So now tell me, just because you live in Sri Lanka, does it justify all the above facts and make you a Sri Lankan? NO. In the same token, if a Sri Lankan lives abroad, and he maintains his cultural values and ethics, isn’t he Sri Lankan. Who is the better Sri Lankan? Him or You? It’s obviously him and not you. So it’s really amusing that you, who claim to have lived in Sri Lanka throughout, are still not truly Sri Lankan.

    Even though I really despised your ideas yesterday, I did not for a moment think that you’re so petty to bring up the issue of where a certain person replies from or lives in. Living in a certain country, eating there, sleeping and filling its septic tanks does not make you a patriotic citizen of that country. Where ever you live, what makes you a true Sri Lanka is the feelings, the courtesy and the love you have towards your country. What matters is the dedication you have to preserve your cultural values and hand them over to your future generations. What matters is how well you will safe guard the respect and dignity of your motherland. Do not forget, you call your country of birth “motherland” for a reason. It’s like your mother. Which true grateful son would de-repute his own mother? Which true son would not know who his mother is? In my language, one who does not know who his mother is or one who insults his mother is called an “Awajathakaya” or an “illegitimate child”. I guess the same goes for a man who is so blinded by his white wife that he cannot see what his motherland is. Your country was here for you before your wife was here for you. Don’t forget that. You, along with your wife are batting for Canada. At least she has a reason to do so because it’s her country, but what reason do you have to do so? No man, who hails from a respectable family, who has respected roots will ever bring down his country or its men in front of any one. Not even in front of his wife. Men defend their countries with their lives. Only pussies de-repute a country.

    I can complain a lot about Canada too. Did you hear me complain until yesterday when I came across some white lady dissing the shit out about my country? Why can’t I blame about Canada’s weather? It’s freezing bloody cold in there during winter and damn hot in summer. That country is one extreme place which is only made for polar bears. It goes to minus 30 in the winter and with the wind chill sometimes it’s beyond even that. I am telling you, as a marine engineer I have sailed to basically every country that has a shore on it. I have seen what you will never see throughout your entire life. Keep this in mind. If I rub the world atlas on yours or your wives face, basically every country that touches your face, I have been to. So eligibility and experience wise, I know much better about different countries and cultures and thus I can do many extensive reviews about them than your wife or you could. Yet, have you heard me de-reputing Canada until now? Did you see me saying bad about Canada even it is just to show the difference between Canada and Sri Lanka? No. Why? I might not like certain cultures or countries. But I keep it to myself because I know it’s not nice to dish the crap around.

    Let me also remind you another thing. Sinhalese are not settlers of this country. We are the true inhabitants of this country. Get your facts right Mr., because you’re asking for trouble here. Do you know how the word “Sinhala” is made? It’s made by the union of the two words “Sivu” and “Hela”, where “Sivu” means “Four” and “Hela” is another word for the island of “Lanka”. “Sivu” refers to the “four” original tribes of people that lived in Sri Lanka from the beginning. Namely they are the “Yakka”, “Deva”, “Naga” and “Raksha” tribes. Those four (Sivu) tribes of Lanka (Hela) made up to form the “Sinhala”. So forget your stupid idea that Sinhalese are settlers. We are not settlers here. We are the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka or Heladiva. You guys are the settlers, but I never said that you’re not welcome to settle, you are welcome. Also Sri Lanka has a much longer history than the Mahavamsa. The Mahavamsa is only one section of Sri Lanka’s history which was written by Mahanama Himi. He only wrote about the not so distant past. However our prehistoric civilisation runs even further beyond the Persian and the Egyptian civilisations. Today, it’s scientifically proven that King Ravana was a Sri Lankan king who ruled the entire civilised world during the prehistoric era of the Kashyapa Buddha. To explain this to you, I have to explain the whole concept of Kalpa and Yuga which I don’t have the time to do. However, there is proof for this. We have found stone tablets, archaeological sites, carbon dating and everything in the North, North Central, East, Central and Southern Provinces. “Mahasammata Manu” was our first ever king and both him and King Ravana belonged to the Yakka tribe. These are facts that have been proven to date. So isn’t it pathetic that, while boasting to live in our country, you still even don’t know its proper history. Doesn’t this prove that just living in the country alone does not help? Apparently, the only thing you have done is living in the country, which doesn’t help the country at all. So do you see that just living in the country doesn’t make you a true Sri Lankan at all? There are many Sri Lankans who live far away, who know these things much better than you do. After all their heart and souls are with Sri Lanka at all times and they have the spine to defend their country and to protect the reputation of its men, women and children unlike you guys who are like parasites who live to just suck up the blood from our lifeline. A parasite lives wherever they live to only feed themselves. By the way, parasites don’t go as true Sri Lankans.

    Additionally, keep this in mind. Do we charge a penny for you guys to visit Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa? No. We don’t even charge foreigners. It’s free. Those are our sacred archaeological sites. Still we don’t charge you guys when we should. But I went to visit Cambridge the day before and I was basically ripped-off. From every door to door they charged an entrance fee or asked me and my friend to buy a ticket. One more thing, have you ever studied in a foreign country. If so you may have noticed how these universities charge a zillion times more from international students. For an example, at University of Toronto, the tuition fee for an Ontario student was around CAN$ 5000 per year . It is CAN $20000 for an international student who studies the same course. These rates are for engineering degrees. In Quebec, a local student pays only CAN $ 1500 per semester. How about an international student? An international student studying at McGill University in Montreal pays CAN $12000. At Cambridge University in UK its £4000 per year for a home student. But its £16000 pounds for an international student. Can you see the difference? Can you see that the values are in fact 4 or 5 times higher in general and in Quebec province in Canada it’s close to 10 times higher for an international student. After all most international students come from developing countries, how fair is it to charge such thumping amounts? So don’t you think we Sri Lankans are much generous in that way?

    Finally let me remind you one thing. All the people who aided the British during our colonial era had mixed ancestry even though they called themselves Sinhalese. They were not true Sinhalese. They were mixed. Do your home work first buddy. Sinhalese never even worked for the British as in they never even helped them with day to day stuff. So what crap are you talking about us aiding the British. We are dignified nation. So we did not work for any one for money. We did not degrade our self to anyone to earn money. If we helped someone, that was with a pure heart and we just helped for humanity sake. We never expected money in return for that. Do read our history and learn these facts. Because we did not help the British in their construction works for money, they had to bring down Tamil people from India to work for them which sow the seeds for the civil war that was to occur a few years afterward. So are you trying to tell me, that a nation and its people with such qualities would bend down to a bunch of thieves or their descendents now? Hell no we won’t. We didn’t bend down that day and we won’t bend down today. Furthermore, may I remind you one last thing. With all due respect for your religion and ethnicity, I would still have to say this even though I would not want to. Our great heroes “Gongaley Goda Banda”, “Puran Appu”, “Deenis” and “Dingi Rala” were betrayed by a Muslim man. It was a Muslim man who disclosed his hiding place to the British. The man’s name was “Hadji Muhandiram”. Go search about him for yourself. Furthermore, Muslims took the side of the British during the “Wellassa Rebellion” and blocked the food and water routes to the Sinhalese soldiers. You guys did that for money. You guys betrayed us after all we let you live in our land and do your business. So you can see that even those days, you guys did not show any courtesy to the country that gave refuge to you and any respect to the people who welcomed you like their own brethren. So tell me now, who bowed down to the whites? You guys bowed down to the whites like puppets. And now you’re still bowing down to the whites and you’re bowing down to your wife. What a spineless man. We have forgiven you guys for those betrayals time and time again as we are Buddhists and it’s the nature of a Buddhist to forgive and forget. I am not telling that all Muslims are like that. I have Muslim friends who are much patriotic and better than you. However, it still seems that our hospitality, warmth and generosity have cursed us even to date in the pretext of people like you who de-repute this beautiful island nation, its culture and its inhabitants.

    This is my last post as I do not have time to keep on talking. I’m sailing back in a few days. So hope all the best for you and your wife in selecting wormless carrots.

    @Janith

    I have nothing to talk to you. For some reason, something tells me that the name “Janith” seems to be synonymous with the name “Fahim” as far as this conversation is concerned. Of course, not everyone here is like me. Some of them are even half cocked just like Fahim said earlier. But don’t forget that half cocked can have two meanings. Both literally and metaphorically.

    Regards
    Supun

  25. #25
    Fahim Farook 

    @Supun, man you’ve got issues 🙂 You obviously know a whole other world and a history than the rest of us know and given your world-travelling experience and the fact that you are a “marine engineer” with such dignity, tact, respect for others, and of course knowing all about everybody else without having met them, you are obviously the right person to go to for advice on how we should behave.

    Consider me well chastised, I will immediately leave Sri Lanka with my wife since obviously, if I didn’t, you’d know and call me out on such bad behaviour again 😀

  26. #26
    Anonymous 

    Yea totally. That supun guy is nuts.

  27. Your post reminds me so much of “home,” Laurie, as well as the three years I lived in Sri Lanka as a child (though I suppose technically the US is my home now, having lived here for almost 10 years, and being a citizen to boot).

    But I absolutely know what you’re talking about. It’s something my (white) American husband has experienced when visiting India (my country of birth) many times over… except that like your mom-in-law, I’m the battleaxe, so I don’t let ’em get away with it.

    This “reverse discrimination” seems to be ingrained in a few South Asian cultures, from my experience. And this is not to downplay how wonderful those cultures are in terms of warmth and generosity – but it’s almost as if it’s some deep-seated cultural payback for Colonialism. I wonder if it will ever change?
    .-= Shonali Burke´s last blog ..That’s a Lotta Snow: #snowmageddon 2010 =-.

  28. #28
    Laurie 

    Shonali, it’s difficult imagining you as the battleaxe, you know? I mean, kind, gentle Shonali… 😀 Ah, the imagery… 😀

    I expect that it’ll take a couple or three more generations to change. Younger, more educated people seem less likely to display this behavior from what I can tell.

  29. #29
    janith 

    Its true, there are some things associated with “white people” here in SL. mostly everyone think whites are rich. so i think people tend to charge you more for any services or goods. just go to a national park, you will see that if you are a tourist(not exactly if you are a white, but still..) they charge you 3x more. and if you are a white you will be more respected everywhere, people will be more welcoming and friendly towards you. everyone will smile with you, i mean they would smile a lot 🙂 Thats how the average sri lankan i know behave. I am a sri lankan too and i guess its there in our culture(we were under the British for a long time)…etc. But i don’t think this behavior has anything to do with racism(not that anyone of you associated this behaviour with it) ..etc its probably just people thinking white=rich. But if you are living here, you could get to know people and they would give you the normal prices ( i am guessing here, as im a local i have no idea what you foreigners go through).

    @Supun Jayasinghe
    Don’t be a racist. And by the way how locals treats foreigners doesn’t make them ‘bow down’ to ‘whites’. they are just having some perceptions about them and in general been friendly. not everyone here is like you.

  30. #30
    Laurie 

    Janith, the price differences are a bit more than 3x in some places. The first time I went to the Dehiwela Zoo, it was Rs.500 for a foreigner, Rs.25 for a local. However, my brown foreigner friend was charged at the local rate (she didn’t ask for it), whereas I was charged at the foreigner rate even though I’m supposed to be charged at the local rate because of my resident visa.

    At the Colombo Museum, it was Rs.65 for foreigners, Rs.6 for locals. Only this time I got the local rate since Fahim argued for me. But we had to buy two tickets even though I went in alone – the other ticket for the mysterious local husband. That was back in 2004, I believe.

  31. #31
    Scath 

    It’s never occurred to me to think Laurie was a racist just because she’s called Fahim ‘brown’ or herself ‘white’. I mean, considering they married each other. 😉

    When I worked retail, I had a lot of Mexican customers call me Blanca (white). Wasn’t an insult, just a fact.

    Of course, I am the whitest looking white girl you ever saw, despite the fact I’m about 2/5ths Native American (Cherokee/Apache). . 🙂

    Bugs in food happens here too. Weevils in the flour would be the most notable.

    Back when I was younger, I worked in a couple of grocery stores. Will never forget the customer who brought back a can of green beans because there was a grasshopper in it! 🙂
    .-= Scath´s last blog ..You Can’t Take Some Things Away No Matter How Hard You Try =-.

  32. #32
    Laurie 

    Yikes! A grasshopper in a can of green beans?

    When I’m talking worms, I’m talking in the eggplant or the cauliflower or cabbage, although I did once have a nasty nasty bag of flour with worms in it – that got tossed wholesale. Yes, we do get weevils and other bugs in the rice and flour, too, along with dals and such.

    I mean, this is a tropical country. Of course there are bugs.

  33. #33
    Scath 

    I know, right? The grasshopper was pretty slimy looking on his bed of green beans, LOL.

    We’ve shopped a few farmer markets and bought produce on the side of the road (I can’t pass anyone selling watermelon. Have to stop.) Bugs are normal. 🙂

    I imagine since it’s tropical there, and if central A/C isn’t commonplace, the bugs are probably worse than what we deal with around here.

    But then you have those monkeys, birds and such to make up for it.

    All we have is coyotes, rattlesnakes, fire ants and a lot of flat brown dirt. Sheesh. 😉
    .-= Scath´s last blog ..You Can’t Take Some Things Away No Matter How Hard You Try =-.

  34. #34
    Laurie 

    Um, yeah, I think I’ll pass on the rattlesnakes, although apparently Sri Lanka has quite a few deadly snakes that I also wouldn’t want to cross… Fire ants, I’ve been lucky enough to not encounter, and I’ll pass on the coyotes as well. 🙂

    And I definitely love watching the purple faced leaf monkeys, all the many types of birds, the cows, and all the rest of it. 🙂 It does make for its own kind of entertainment. 🙂

  35. #35
    Flying Saucer Jones 

    Fahim has answered a certain person with such intelligence and humour that my comment is really unnecessary. Nevertheless, I have to add my two cents worth.

    Laurie, I didn’t see anything in your post that was racist or demeaning. I was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when I was 10 but I remember it well. I especially remember Sri Lankans rushing up to cars containing white people crying “sudhi! sudhi” (sudhi means white). They did the same to me even though I’m brown skinned, albeit lighter brown than the average Sri Lankan.

    As a brown skinned Sri Lankan expat married to a white American I can certainly relate to your adventures.
    .-= Flying Saucer Jones´s last blog ..Happy Birthday, Master Builder =-.

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About LMAshton

Howdy and welcome to my site! I'm Laurie and I'll be your, er, hostess today. :)

I'm a Canadian expat currently living in Singapore. I'm married to a Sri Lankan and lived in Sri Lanka for nearly a decade. We also lived in New Zealand for half a year.

I cook Sri Lankan curries, sambols, and mallungs. I bake bread using wild yeast (sourdough that isn't sour). I bake on the stove. I experiment with Indian / Malaysian / Indonesian / Thai / whatever cuisines interest me. And I experiment wildly.

Life is an adventure. Join me! :)

If you want to know more about me, click on the "About" link in the navigation bar above. :)