Flooding in Sri Lanka

There is quite severe flooding in the south and south-west of the country with at least 91 people dead and many people still missing.


We are currently in Kandy which is right about the center of the country and nowhere near the affected areas. We have had a little rain here, but nothing worrying.

Our sympathies go out to all of the people affected by this extreme south-west monsoon, and let’s hope the rain lets up soon.

The Travelling Page Family

Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple

Whew, that title is a mouthful. From now on I’m calling it Nainativu, which is the name of the island where the temple is located. This temple is very famous here in Sri Lanka and in the many countries that took in Tamil refugees during the civil war.

To give you an idea, we met a woman there who lives in Toronto and hasn’t been back to Sri Lanka for 27 years. She was visiting with her family from the Jaffna area and absolutely had to come to the temple on Nainativu for puja. One of her brothers who was there lives in Germany and also hasn’t been back for almost 30 years. This is a very special place for Tamil people. Check out historical information and details here.

To get there, you have to take the bus I ranted about in my last post. Bring earplugs. When you get off that racket-mobile, you wait on a dock in front of a very sturdy, reliable looking coast guard type boat. Beside it is a bunch of high-sided, low-ceiling tubs which look like they ought to be transporting refugees or illicit substances in the dead of night. We naively thought we were going on the coast guard boat because we read that the “ferry” is run by the Navy. Nope.

Tractor and ferries.
Behind the two-wheeler tractor are the “ferries”.

We piled into the diesel-fume filled tub with an armful of questionable life jackets and settled in for a quick ten minute cruise to Nainativu Island. The arrival is spectacular, getting out of the ferry tub to this view:

Welcome to Nainativu!
This is the view down the pier from the ferry.

The two temples we explored in Jaffna ask women to dress modestly and men to take off their shirts. This one is easy to comply with because it’s so dang hot. It seemed strange at first because we were used to Buddhist temple rules which stress modest dress for everyone.

The list of temple rules:

Rules rules rules.
Most of these are easy to follow. Some you’d have to know ahead of time.

The interior of the temple is spectacular, and again there are no photos allowed so you’ll have to visit yourself to see it. There are enormous murals depicting scenes from various Hindu stories as well as sculptures and various implements used in ceremonies.

We arrived in time for the noon puja which involved taking a small statue out of a locked alcove and mounting it on a 1 m high cow statuette. The people then lifted the whole rig and walked around the inside of the temple. The parade includes horns and drums and people swinging pots of fire around. It’s really quite interesting even if you don’t understand any single thing they are doing.

Bus rides in Sri Lanka

Our recent trip to Nainativu island started with a busride, as many of our days do. This bus was notable for one thing really, and it falls into a theme here in Sri Lanka ( and neighboring countries as well, I’ve heard).

Bus Drivers and Loud Music

This phenomenon is common, ubiquitous even; music blasting at full volume, with 8 inch speakers distributed throughout the bus so there’s no escape. It’s always local music, some of which I enjoy some no, just like any style of music. It’s also always too loud. You get used to it.

Another phenomenon is the beeping and honking; drivers honk when they are going pass someone, and then honk when they have successfully passed. They honk when approaching a corner, honk when they’ve cleared the corner. They honk when there’s a cow in the road, a pedestrian looking to cross, a bird flying by, a nice looking car, tree, building, or dog. They honk when they’ve had a good night’s sleep, a decent meal, an intellectually satisfying conversation.

They honk a lot. You get used to it.

The bus to Nainativu, however, was a next level kind of experience.

The bus driver blasted the music and honked for all the usual reasons, with one new wrinkle. Instead of tapping his fingers on the wheel along with the music, he honked. Monotonously, repeatedly, loudly honked along with the beat AND the melody.

Does the driver need an intervention, or a psychiatrist?

This is borderline sociopathic behaviour if you ask me. You can’t participate in music with a one note bus horn, and you can’t be so self-involved that you don’t consider the 45 people behind you in your bus and still be a sane person. You have to keep in mind as well that we were driving through a quiet, rural area with houses, paddy farms, and the occasional school.

These people are just going about their quiet, rural day when this guy comes blasting through 5 or 6 times a day ( in each direction) and honks 37 times at the left turn and 23 times at the cow that is always tied up near the road, every day, all year round.

I don’t know how they don’t put spikes in the road. I don’t understand how the conductor ( there’s always a conductor dealing with the tickets and yelling for everyone standing to move forward, move to the front) stays sane riding with this guy all day, every day and doesn’t choke him out or change careers or something. It’s a mystery.

I sat down to write about our trip to Nainativu, and this is what came out. Next post will be about the temple, I promise.