How I survived my teen years in Sri Lanka

Hi everyone, this post is one about my teen years in Sri Lanka and how I survived those ever so important days. I hope you have a comfy seat and something to sustain you as this will take some time…

So, after my childhood in Zambia, my dad completed his last contract and we moved continents back home to Sri Lanka. This was the beginning of the 1990’s. Since my siblings and I had been schooled overseas, we continued our education in international schools which taught in English. Funny thing, if you look up international schools now you’ll find them in most of the main cities but back then they were concentrated within the capital city, Colombo. Our family home was an hour-long drive from the capital so you can imagine our daily grind, stuck inside a vehicle for over two hours a day, up and down!! Gruelling is how I’d describe it now. Back then, it was just life. It was an adventure!! Part of the journey took us on a wide dirt road which on a good day would give us vistas of random cows, barking dogs and farmers working on the rice fields along the sides!! These days an expressway links the outer districts to Colombo making travel much easier!! Despite what might sound as hardship those years will always be the more memorable ones for my siblings and me. I made some good friends at high school and strengthened connections with extended family. My love for reading grew along with my fascination for the world around me!!

six-grid box with images. top right three kids seated on brown sofa. middle two images of kids outside and at birthday party. left bottom three kids with bike near white car outside house. right top girl in yellow top in front of wall with carved elephants. bottom right same girl in yellow posing next to van door. small orange box between says 'My teenage years!'
Teen years in Sri Lanka…

During the school holidays we would visit our relatives in the hill country area where it was cooler and celebrate birthdays, the traditional Sinhalese New Year and the Christmas holidays. Although we were Buddhists, the Christmas holidays coincided with a longer break and we all enjoyed the interesting movies that went on television then. Mind you, with my siblings, it was an excuse to go mad with our cousins playing countless crazy made-up games, and most of all annoying the older sisters, which was me!! Surviving their pranks and antics was a serious thing for me then, which would explain my default option of diving into the pages of a book as an escape from the madness around me even back then. FYI, it still works, with a funny or quirky read!!

Okay, a little geography lesson. Sri Lanka sits just above the equator in the Indian Ocean not too far from the southern tip of India. Maybe many millions of years ago when all the land of the world was one continent Sri Lanka and India was squished together but now they are two separate countries. Sri Lanka’s land rises as you travel inland and you will find yourself in a hilly region we call the hill country. As you drive from the coast you get white sandy beaches, then you meet rice fields and farms, lush forests, and finally you are greeted by terraced tea plantations that hug the hills in the centre. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, it would be the ideal destination for those after something new. Although Sri Lanka sits in a unique position on the globe, it has a typical tropical climate subject to monsoon rains. Turns out there are four types of monsoon seasons in any given year!! In other words, you need to be prepared for rain every day!!

four-grid box. top left image of green rice fields beside grey road. top right image of coconut trees beside beach and waves crashing. bottom left image of hills and mist. bottom right image of rains falling down road soaking purple leaves. small blue box in middle reads 'Sri Lanka's natural beauty...'
Sri Lanka’s unique geography

I distinctly remember those sticky and hot days being stuck in our van as it hurtled over potholes on our way home from school, while the rains lashed down on the windows! There were days when we would stay home and watch the torrential downpours flood our small vegetable garden. We would always be at the mercy of this force of nature. Power cuts were a common occurrence and I had to complete homework under the light of a thousand odd candles!! And the symphony of rain, lightning and thunder beating down on our tiled roof!! Sometimes a tiny leak would spring and we’d all rush to place buckets under them. I know, it sounds dire, and you wonder, how did she survive this? You forget, I had two younger siblings who would entertain the whole family with silly stories and made-up games. Ah… those were the days when they would sit somewhat patiently and listen to me reading from their favourite books!! This was also the era of the VHS recorder which my mother would wield out so we collected some hilarious adventures together over those years. Sometimes the simplest things become the best things in life. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything in the world as I truly believe they were ones that helped mould my character. 

My family can be labeled as a middle class family who had access to a decent sort of life, but we, along with the rest of the country, were at the mercy of the weather. I have a distinct memory of driving back home from visiting our relatives and being caught in a torrential thunderstorm. My father ended up parking the car on the side of the road under a street light as the rains pounded against the metal. We played games while my mother prayed under her breath. The rains were so intense that we couldn’t see beyond four feet in front of us. It took a couple of hours for the rain to ease so that we could make our way home!! 

It was events like these that enforced my family into a strong unit. We knew we would always support each other and I believe this has helped us persevere and keep going forward. I know now that the bonds forged as a family in those early years helped me become the woman I am today. We have, as a unit, overcome many obstacles along the way and I hope in my heart that my siblings share my thoughts. I know, my life does seem like a somewhat privileged one compared to other people living in Sri Lanka. Yes, there were relatives who were worse off, but I think when you’re young, you tend to ignore these and just enjoy the companionship of others rather than material wealth. That was a lesson I learned quite early in life!!

Okay, that’s my teen years done. I could elaborate and tell you about school plays, sports events, weddings and even births of baby cousins and deaths of elderly aunts, but I don’t want to waste your precious time. The only thing I should add is that the teachers I had in those years helped me make the most important decisions of my life. More on these at a later date!!

For now, I will have to leave you to reminisce on your teen years. If you had similar experiences I would love to hear from you!!

Stay safe and keep reading

Miss Mahee

large image of river flowing along forest and mountains. man in black in middle foreground beside river. large quote in white letters along tree-line. quote reads 'Survival can be summed up in three words - never give up. That's the heart of it really Just keep trying.' Bear Grylls
What survival means…

2 thoughts on “How I survived my teen years in Sri Lanka

  1. Loved this post sis! Those years in Sri Lanka were some of the best from our childhood! They were also the years you helped me discover the joy of reading. I think it was the BFG that got me going, we took turns reading out loud and after that I was hooked! Thanks for being so patient with us xxxx

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