Let me start by saying this lockdown has been the real deal. At the start, no one was allowed out at all, and you’ll still find police checks at most junctions to make sure people aren’t outside without a valid pass. From the 11th of May some of the restrictions were lifted, and they will continue to be lifted slowly over the coming months. At this stage, the government only wants essential staff in the workplace, and for reduced hours. We have decided to keep our staff at home for the next few weeks at least as we see how things pan out.
When we first went into lockdown it was incredibly hard to get supplies online and delivered. We would regularly get the message of ‘we have fulfilled our quota of orders today, please try later’ or you would get everything into your shopping cart, only for the site to crash. Most companies have it down pat now and as food trucks continue to make their way around the neighbourhoods we are getting used to this online world of food and essential deliveries.
We have staff dotted around the country at the moment, most in the Colombo area but some are staying with family in places like Negombo and Kegalle. They have been doing a great job working from home however in a country like Sri Lanka you can sometimes lose internet connection. It makes things a bit more difficult, but we have all been doing the best we can.
Like other countries wildlife has been moving back into areas where they haven’t been seen for quite some time and the air is noticeably cleaner in and around Colombo, so much so that you can see the mountains from the city.
In general, Sri Lankans are very resilient and due to their religious beliefs they see this current situation as a part of life, and have just rolled with it as best as they can. It's Vesak at the moment which is usually a time for celebration and it is also Ramadan, so these auspicious times have been impacted in a major way.
Life outside lockdown
Having lived in Colombo for more than two years now, I’ve certainly got some inside knowledge about the best things to see, do, eat and drink. While we’re stuck in lock down at home, I wanted to share some of my favourite things my family and I would normally be doing, to give you a better insight into the life of an expat in Sri Lanka.
Are you an architecture nut like me? You’re in luck then because there is a plethora of colonial buildings to admire throughout Colombo. The old Cargills department store in the Fort area is one of my favourites because I like the chaos of it, and the National Museum is also pretty special. Another highlight is the many buildings by famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, including the Gallery Café which is in his former offices.
One of my favourite things to do with my family is to take a sunset stroll along the Galle Face Green. You’ll see families flying kites and many vendors serving up some of the best street food in the city. The best way to finish your walk is with a Lion beer, or an arrak if you like something stronger, at one of the pubs around the Dutch Hospital.
It’s impossible to live in Sri Lanka and not fall in love with rice and curry. In fact, when I’m away now I miss it far more than I care to admit. Spicy black chicken or battered fish are my staples now and will set you back about LKR400 (roughly AU$3.30) per person. On the weekends we would normally like to get out and try to find some healthy food. Places like Seed Cafe at Prahna Lounge and Milk & Honey have delicious healthy bowls, and in my opinion, you’ll find the best baristas in town at the Black Cat Café or The Grind. The YAMU app is also a handy guide to find what’s good each week.
One of our new family traditions is to head out to the Good Market beside the Colombo Racecourse on Saturday mornings. I love having a refreshing king coconut juice (thambili), drunk straight from the coconut – who even needs a straw? I then get the vendor to cut it open for me so I can eat all the pulp. It’s a delicious but very healthy snack. You’ll also find king coconuts sold on the side of the road throughout Sri Lanka for around LKR60-100 (roughly 50-80 AU cents).
Something I have learnt about the Sri Lankan people is that they generally don’t raise their voices. This has taught me to be more tolerant and patient, and also not to take myself too seriously.
I also want to mention to those who might feel hesitant to travel to Sri Lanka that I have always felt incredibly safe in Colombo. It really is an amazing place to live, and I hope that when the travel restrictions are lifted many more Australians will get to come and experience its charm – particularly if it’s on a Bunnik Tour!