Hi everyone, I hope you’re enjoying the diverse reads I’ve selected for you this month. I must say that compiling the lists and reviews this month has been an exhilarating experience. In this extra post I hope to give you a glimpse into my own Sri Lankan culture and heritage.
To start off with I must let you know that this post is mainly about how my heritage and culture affected my life growing up. Although I was born in Sri Lanka, I had moved to Zambia after my father acquired a job there just after I turned two. Most of my childhood was spent exploring the southern half of Africa with the two siblings who came many years later. Despite the distance from Sri Lanka I grew up in a typical Sinhalese Buddhist family environment. Most of my childhood memories are happy, carefree ones filled with fun, school, friends and family, and food, lots of food!! My parents would make traditional ‘sweetmeats’ and our favourite, milk rice, for all special events and we would observe auspicious days with these foods. Yes, most of our memories are always around food aren’t they?! My parents made sure all three of us could understand our language, Sinhalese. I actually grew up learning to read, speak and write in Sinhalese thanks to the weekly Sunday school I attended as a child. My father, along with a group of Sri Lankan families in Zambia, had formed a Buddhist Society of sorts and they, along with the Sunday school and monthly religious events, also organised larger gatherings to celebrate important Sinhalese and Buddhist events. A way of keeping our culture and religion alive, and meeting up with friends; in my opinion, more to eat as much as possible and have fun!! And boy did we!! I distinctly remember the fancy-dress competitions, the egg and sack races, and the annual cricket matches!! Musical shows were also annual events. That top photo, the one with the cute little girls, that was from a play where we were the chorus! (I’m the one in the middle with the cute head tilt!)
I must tell you now, my parents’ friends in Zambia compiled of many families; mostly Sinhalese people, but also Tamil-speaking families and some of our good friends were also Christians. To this day, we have kept these friendships. To me this is the most important aspect of my culture and religion; our respect for all other cultures and religions. This was one of the most important lessons from my youth that I intend on carrying on with my nieces and nephews.
After turning fifteen, my family and I moved back home to Sri Lanka. We went to schools in Colombo and were taught in English but our home life was fully immersed in all things Sinhalese. Weekends would be spent with cousins at a beach or playing card games indoors as monsoon rains poured down outside. Despite the shadow of civil war, our lives were centred around school and family. I wish I could give you a story of despair and sorrow, but alas, mine isn’t one like that. The job my father had in Sri Lanka was a good one with quite a few perks which gave us kids good memories. Most of mine include school excursions or road trips with family to visit some of Sri Lanka’s famous heritage sites. That bottom photo of me beside a wall of elephants, that is the famous elephant wall surrounding the Ruwanwelisaya. The next photo shows the famous stupa at night maybe a few years ago. (Image not mine!) This stupa is one of the world’s tallest ancient monuments! If anyone does plan on visiting Sri Lanka, the heritage city of Anuradhapura should be on your itinerary; it is a breathtaking experience!
As I began my journey into adulthood in New Zealand, my culture was never forgotten. Or should I say, not allowed to be forgotten. Even here in Auckland my father joined one of the Sri Lankan associations in Auckland and helped with annual cultural events. Despite where we ended up in the world, my siblings and I managed to always live our lives embracing the lessons and values our parents taught us. Being Sri Lankan, in my eyes, whatever religion, is about being respectful, kind, compassionate and welcoming to others. Our little country in the middle of the Indian Ocean is proud of our 2500-year-old history and rich culture that’s been handed down by kings but I believe our compassion, held true by the majority of the population, will always prevail. I hope you liked this version of my culture, for more dates and other significant information, you may find the tourist sites on Sri Lanka quite informative. Please do visit if you get a chance, we boast quite a few stunning beaches along with history and culture around every corner and welcoming arms!!