I step back in time to explore my roots

The waves crash in the distance as my friend and I board the train to Jaffna. Still half asleep at 5 am, we settle into our seats for the 8-hour train ride.

I am anxious and excited about this trip for many reasons. I have never visited this part of Sri Lanka due to the civil war that was on for more than 20 years. However I am excited because I have heard so many stories of this area from my mother who was originally from there.

The Northern and Eastern  part of the country was out-of-bounds for many years because of the war. The Tamil Tigers, the terrorist organization was fighting for a separate state claiming discrimination. Most often the heavy fighting was confined to that part making it hard or almost impossible for anyone to get their. While the rest of the country did their best to carry on despite the war and the bombs that would go off from time to time in the city, the North and east were the most adversely affected.

However, the war was finally over about 5 years ago, and now with people moving back and trying to get their lives back on track, the North and east have become an attractive tourist destination.

Even though my older sister was born in that part of the country, I never had the opportunity to visit. This trip made me feel like I was embarking on an adventure that might result in finding my lost roots.

My friend Sue and I had debated for days about where we should go. Finally we settled on the 4 day trip to Jaffna and mapped out our journey which was going to involve a lot of photography and food.

After a very bumpy 8 hour train ride, during which we passed palmyrah trees swaying to the wind, bullet ridden walls and houses that were destroyed during the war, we finally reached our destination. Barely able to contain our excitement we stepped out of the train and headed to our hotel. The hotel I picked was close to the area my mother frequently mentioned in stories.

After having settled into the hotel, my friend and I finally headed out to explore the streets.  After experiencing the heavy traffic and crowds of the city, being in Jaffna was like a step back in time. The popular mode of transport was bicycles or motorcycles. There would be the random car or van which will whiz pass. School girls, boys, teachers, everyone rides a bicycle around. When it rains they still ride around holding an umbrella over themselves.

While at the beach one day we met a group of school children having a picnic, who were from a village and were on their way to Jaffna to see the only escalator in that area. I was sad by that. The fact that they would make a field trip to see an escalator, something we don’t really even think about as we step onto it.

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Picture with a couple of kids from the beach

I have to confess that through a tourist perspective there is not much to do and the city is being hyped up because of the war. However I enjoyed my trip because to me it was more about seeing a city that I have heard stories about from my family.

We spent the four days doing a lot of walking and exploring and taking pictures. The highlight for me was being at the most northern tip of the country. Here are some of my favorites I captured.

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Nallur Kovil

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Natural Hot water spring

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Taking a picture of those taking a selfie

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Its a long road

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Waiting

I put on my running shoes and head out for a long run. The sun is rising in the distance and the cows grazing as I keep going mile after mile.


During my three-month temporary hiatus from reality, the only consistent thing has been running. I’m constantly hoping that during a long run that there would be this aha moment or a clairvoyant telling me what my future holds. Here I am still waiting.

After being back home in Sri Lanka  for a month now, I’ve been tempted to move back. There is my family and friends and job offers, including one in a newspaper making it hard to decide.

However, every time I step outside and deal with the insane traffic, crowds and the inability to find decent coffee, I change my mind and look forward to going back to US.

Despite not having found the answer as yet, I keep hoping that one day soon, as I continue to run past the flower vendors, the couples taking pictures of their special day and the  beautiful scenery, that I will find the right answer to the questions in my mind.

Here are some pictures I captured during a 6 mile run.

 

Lotus Flowers

 

He chops coconuts which is made into coconut oil

 

Traditional Bridal couple 

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A peek through my lens

It has been a month since I got to Sri Lanka and I hardly got my camera out. I decided it was time to charge the battery and head out and capture some images. Today (Sunday) is Thai Pongal,  the harvest festival celebrated by the Tamil Hindu’s as aThank you to the Sun God for agriculture abundance.

It seemed like a good day to grab my camera and head out to the Hindu Temple, where most come dressed in colorful attires to celebrate this festival. So here are some pictures I captured during this festival.

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These feet are meant for walking

My last weekend in Germany was spent in Lübeck, the city where Marzipan originated and a city dating back to 1143. As you can imagine the city is overflowing with historical buildings. During the three days, despite the cloudy, gloomy weather and sometimes rain, I probably walked a total of 30 miles, exploring almost every nook and cranny of the city and visiting almost every historic site.

I started my visit at the most popular building in Lübeck called the Holstentor, which is the iconic gate of the city and St. Mary’s church, which is another famous symbol and where you still find bells that were destroyed by the British during the World War II.

During all my travels I have learnt that the best way to explore any new city is to put on some walking shoes and keep going.

Here are some pictures from my fascinating weekend.

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View of Holstentor from a distance

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Church bells destroyed in WW II

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533 steps to the top of the Cathedral

If anyone had told me during summer months that I would be running in below freezing temps I would have laughed really hard. But I’m definitely not having the last laugh right now.

It all began when my friend suggested that we make a trip to Cologne Cathedral and go to the top. When he said that it was 533 steps, I just assumed it was joke and that there probably is an elevator to get to the top. Construction on this church began in 1248 and is Germany’s most visited landmark.

The first 50 steps on the spiral staircase was fine, then I realized this was no joke, there is no elevator coming to my rescue and I had to keep going. I really wanted to turn back, but there were too many people behind me to do it, so despite the huffing and puffing I had to keep going.

This struggle caught me off guard, I consider myself energetic and fit, but instead I felt old and unfit and out of shape.  Staring at the view from the top I realized that while being on vacation I had thrown my healthy eating habits out of the window along with my exercise.

The smell of food was floating to the top from the Christmas market which was taking place around the Cathedral. Once at the market I forgot about the struggle of climbing the steps and indulged in a little of everything which was on offer. I consoled myself with the fact that 533 steps must have burnt a lot of calories which needed to be replenished and there is always tomorrow to start eating healthy and going running.

So now despite the cold and fog, I make the extra effort of going for a run, because who knows when I will have to climb another 533 steps.

Here are some pics from the top and the Christmas market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I come calling for the Queen

After my recent trip to UK, I decided to watch a TV show called ‘The Crown’. I have some fascination with the Royal family I can’t even begin to explain. I remember my mum taking me as a kid to see the Queen when she visited Sri Lanka many moons ago. I vividly remember climbing on a tree top, but despite that I did not see her.

When I applied for a visa to visit UK about 10 years ago, the visa officer asked me why I wanted to visit UK, I told her to see Buckingham Palace (It was no lie) but she thought I was being cute and therefore made me jump through hoops to get a visa. When I got there, even though it was a cold winter day in February, guess what I did? Yes, you probably guessed it, I visited the palace.  I remember standing outside with the throngs of people watching the change of guards and staring at this huge palace trying to imagine what it must be like. The highlight of that trip was when the Queen (I think it was her) left the palace and I was finally able to say I saw the Queen.

This trip wasn’t any different,  I found myself standing outside the palace again, telling my friend that the palace looks  old and shabby and it needs some revamping, but yet fascinated with it.

Where I am going with this story is beyond me. However, after having watched a few episodes of the TV show I decided it was time to sort through my pictures from the trip. However, my computer decided to flunk on me, but here are some pictures I did take with my phone.

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Big Ben

 

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The past can sometimes be exhausting 

When I packed my bags and left US, I had this dream of writing blog posts and posting pictures of my adventure or misadventure on a daily basis. However, the writing seems to fail me as does the creativity to take wonderful pictures.

The traveling continues and I can tick off London, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland off my list of places I have stopped even for a day, but now I am back in Germany, where it all started.

It is past midnight and I stare at the ceiling waiting for sleep to find me, but I realise that the coffee I had is not going to help sleep come my way. There is something about me and coffee that somehow gets my mind into overdrive and takes me down memory lane. I try to shift gear and instead focus on the hear and now – really who cares about my past, even I am exhausted by the never ending thoughts that swirl in my mind. Most of us have experienced heartbreak, it is nothing new, but we also eventually move on and I will darned if I don’t move on.

I grab my phone and listen to music to soothe my restless mind and hoping it would lull me into sleep. Song after song keeps playing in my ear, finally just when my mind stops working overtime I hear Adele whisper “the scars of your love leave me breathless, I can’t help believing we could have had it all” – from her song Rolling in the deep.

I agree we could have had it all, but we don’t and we never will. 

There are days that I am tormented by thoughts but for the most part time has helped and being away in a different country experiencing something new almost daily has a way of mending broken hearts and healing the pain.

Tomorrow is another day and I make a mental note to stay away from coffee and to do some writing. 
 

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20,000 steps to tranquility

The crisp cold air blows on my face as I take the first step outside of the hiking trail. I am not one to hike in woods or through mud riddled paths (I have a shoe fetish and don’t like them muddy). However, here I am in the city of Moss in Norway surrounded by nature, making it hard to escape hiking or trails.

Hiking was definitely not on my agenda until a passenger seated next to me on my flight started a conversation and suggested that I go hiking. Apparently that city is known for its great hiking trails. I did not want to tell him that I am typically a city person who likes running on the road and being part of the crowd. However, after my days in London being amongst the crowds I was ready for tranquility and bonding with nature.

Breathing in the fresh air I set off trying to keep track of my path. The tall pine trees swaying to the wind, while I hesitantly step on stones trying to steady myself and jump over mud puddles. The silence of the woods is deafening making me question my safety and sanity.  I continue trudging my way through till I come to an opening and paved road.

Besides a day of driving to Sweden to celebrate me getting a year older, I spent the rest of my days enjoying what nature had to offer.

On the final day I decided to check a trail which eventually leads to the ocean where I was promised an amazing sunset. Despite my scepticism, I did trudge through to find myself staring at a beautiful sunset.


I used to think of myself as a person who enjoyed city living, but after my visits and stays in less populated towns, I find myself being drawn into it. I no longer want to be in the midst of the crowded cities, I want to breathe fresh air and be able to hike or walk for miles before I run into anyone else.

As I get older I want tranquility.

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The adventure continues in Germany

Zooming on the highway on the back of motorcycle has my adrenaline pumping.  I look around and see cattle and horses grazing in the wide open space. The sun is peaking in-between the rolling hills shining brightly on the orange and yellow falls leaves.

We zip past vineyards and apple orchards, on the curvy country roads, as I think about my trip so far. It’s been a few weeks since I got to Germany. The experience has been absolutely wonderful so far. The food, the motorcycle rides, running a half marathon, the culture and history has left me excited and wanting to explore more. I fantasize about how it would be to live here, then I come back to reality fast.  As much as it would be a wonderful experience, the thought of uprooting myself, learning a new language, adjusting to a different culture, makes me realize that maybe I am too set in my ways to start again. So instead I turn my head and look again towards the rolling hills and enjoy the sights.

My friend did not have to talk me into riding on the back of a motorcycle. The weather has been perfect for it and I was not going to miss out on the opportunity of adding to my adventure. (click here for how I met my friend) He has shown me around the little country village he lives and turned my trip into an adventure. So here are some pics from my trip so far.

I wish the pictures could justify what I have seen, but despite not having a camera sometimes, here are some images I captured.

Nurburg Castle, built-in 1166.

 

Remagen Bridge

Bonn

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Bonn Cathedral

 

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I got 99 excuses, but I still continue to run

It’s Saturday afternoon and I could be exploring a new city, but instead I decided to go run a half marathon. I never thought I would be this person where I would be on vacation and that involves running 13.1 miles. I finally can admit that running is a major part of my life, because it keeps me sane.

Running through mud puddles and trails, I was out of my comfort zone and kept thinking of my shoes being muddy, but that by no means was going to stop me. I realize that running for me is such a mental sport, because most often my mind is ready to quit before my body does.

Running through the park where the sun was trying to peek through the trees, I kept finding excuses why this was a bad idea, but each idea was lame and I realized no matter how many excuses I could come up with, I enjoy it. It helps me push myself beyond my limits and force my mind to do this sport.

This race was different to what I am used to back home, there it starts in the morning and there is water stops every mile and people standing on the streets to motivate you to keep going. Here, it is you the muddy paths or tree-lined streets with signs directing you towards the finish line. I enjoy the fact that it just me and there are times there is no one close enough to me that I could actually start my off-key singing and no one would hear me.

I finally see the finish line and feel excited that I did my first half marathon outside of US despite my 99 excuses.

 

The start line

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The start line

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The trail

 

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I did finish, I really did!

 

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