sri lanka security

–Part 2 of a series of stories from my trip to Sri Lanka, 39 years after being an AFS exchange student. Read other parts HERE.

Fresh off the boat — aircraft, that is — Sri Lanka Customs tells it like it is. All visitors are greeted with this friendly warning:

extremely dire Sri Lanka security warning, No drugs.

don’t even think about it.

Since luggage searching sure seemed to be strictly voluntary, I suspect there are a few smugglers who sneak through.

At home base in Mt. Lavinia, all I can say is I hope we don’t have to escape this house for any urgent reason. The

 windows are huge but all are barred. The fence outside is concrete and has iron spikes along the whole top. Everything is triple locked, gated, barred, electrified, and alarmed. Oh yes, some doors are locked from the inside in such a way that only a key can open them. I don’t believe, though, that house fires are a big problem here.

Aside from the usual reasons people make their homes ultra-secure, this one has the added concern of being unoccupied (except for me and Aunty Lorraine for a couple weeks). My host sister Delanie and her husband Duleep, children now both living abroad, have bailed, and now have an equally secure luxury apartment in Colombo. Empty nest aside, a major factor in moving to the capital is that they could not tolerate their bedroom being just meters away from a cell phone tower, bafflingly erected on their next door neighbor’s roof. See Sri Lanka Stories, Part 1 for more about that.

I do feel much safer in general here than I did as a cute white teenager in 1975, obviously. Then, I was warned of rogues. Street youthes! I never went anywhere on my own, never.  Cheats and scoundrels targeted white people, who they assumed carried a shitload of money on them. Beggars were absolutely everywhere. I’m not sure what ensued in 39 years to change this, but being somewhat of a head-in-the-sand idealist, I choose to think that the government has poverty under better control and there are fewer poor. Please don’t burst my bubble on this.

That said, I still can’t travel anywhere on my own this time. Although there are now way more white people — largely European tourists– and I didn’t stick out as quite as much of a sore thumb, it just isn’t 100% safe. No place is. Sri Lanka Security forces are prevalent  and visible but the streets are more crowded and (((shudder))) unknown dangers may surely lurk around any corner! (and what is scrambling and chewing outside my window at night? Never mind, I don’t want to know.)

In all honesty, I am naive about so many things. How would I get help in an emergency? How do I call a cab, pay the driver, and where would I even tell him to take me? How would I know if he was cheating me on the fare? What if he didn’t speak English? So even disregarding safety issues, I won’t wander. I am at the blessed mercy of my hosts, and they not only keep me safe but have their friendly driver take me everywhere I go.

Ooh ooh. Another thing to remember to write about.. Tri-shaws! Later…

Gems protected by Sri Lanka security

Sri Lanka Security Guards at Raja Jewelers were armed with rifles

Something I want to remember: Our trip to Raja Jewellers in Colombo. What a place. I couldn’t afford a crumb of a stone there.

[This was a big disappointment. With my host father having died several years back, I couldn’t rely on his connections to get me deals on gems. In fact, there are probably no deals on gems, black market or otherwise now. More on shopping in a later post.]

Lovely stuff, though. Tons of wealthy customers, including one dad buying his teen-aged daughter a very expensive necklace. (I know what  you’re thinking, but the mom was there too. ) Lucky girl. There was close to one beautiful or handsome sales assistant to service every, say, 2 customers. In addition to this high concentration of store employees were three uniformed Sri Lanka Security Guards at the door, one brazenly holding a rifle! Death to shoplifters too, in a place like that, I guess. Oh to be a gazillionaire.

One more thing I will say about Sri Lanka security: it can’t keep nightmarish, literally (yes) traumatizing, 8-inch diameter spiders from coming inside. Being phobic, I can’t get this image out of my head yet. I think this is the last time I will mention it.