The North of Sri Lanka was an amazing set of experiences.
First of all, you are no longer in a Buddhist/Singhala becomes very much a Christian/Hindu/Muslim world, and feels like a different country. is so militarised...with bunkers and gun emplacements every few hundred metres, and soldiers, heavily armed everywhere. However the mood feels calm, and huge amounts of reconstruction;;;roads, schools, hospitals, colleges, housing, farming infrastructure is occurring. The railway, bombed and mined, is being re-built. Chinese teams are everywhere helping, with heavy machinery and experts..............and ulterior commercial and political motives.
People are amazingly friendly, eager to talk and very welcoming.
There is a sense of optimism, and things are happening after the area has been decimated by civil war for 28 years. As usual, the small and poor people caught in the middle of these conflicts are always the ones who suffer most. We heard tales from Tamil people who had lost family members...killed by the Tamil Tigers for not wishing to perform terrorist killings. Others were very relieved at the advent of peace, including the Muslims, who suffered mass killings at the hands of the Tigers.
There are landmines everywhere, and demining units from Denmark, India, Switzerland etc are working steadily all over the North, trying to win back farming land to make areas safe for habitation.
Think of all the NGO's you can..UNICEF, UNHCR, World Vision,etc etc...multiply it by 2 and add another 50 and you have some idea of the massive number of projects in place. They are all here.
Reconstruction post war...and also post 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in many coastal regions, is being done by all these overseas agencies, and by the Government.
We saw no signs of hunger, lack of clothing, and all kids, even in simplest rural villages were in functioning schools. Compared, to areas of rural India, it looked much more positive and had more to offer children and their families.
It was very sobering to see large areas of shelled and bombed homes...the walls pockmarked with bullets, and pieces of masonry thrown about.
To enter the North we had to go through miltary checkpoints and passport registrations, and passed frequently through checkposts. In all honesty, the military and police were also delighted to see us, were smiling, friendly, helpful and charming.
We saw about 8 Europeans in a week and a half.....some were tourists. We felt very safe....except with the threat of landmines likely to be almost anywhere. You watch where you walk!!!!
I need some time to think it all through. I've never spent 2 weeks in recent war zones before...but it was fantastic,,,sad, happy, ugly, beautiful....fabulous people......
It really places Sri Lanka in a set of new perspectives for me...