7th May 2000
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West meets EastClosing doors, opening doors

So my time here is eventually coming to a close. I sit here in my half- emptied apartment with my bags packed in preparation for further adventures, this time in India and with a certain reluctance, realise that it's all too true what they say 'all good things have to come to an end'. 

Within the emotions of loss and sadness however, there is another feeling - one of regeneration, new beginnings and opening as well as closing doors. If there's one thing my stay in Sri Lanka has taught me it's that there is a whole world to discover beyond my own doorstep and a world of opportunities and difference well worth stepping off the security of your own doorstep for. 

My stay here has been characterised by adventure and new experience (not always but more often than not of the pleasant surprise/serendipitous variety). Notable achievements have included; learning how to converse in basic Sinhala and therefore engage in 'equal opportunity' transactions with trishaw drivers, tackling the local buses at rush hour, adopting the useful 'non-committal' head waggle and a laissez faire attitude that's so laid back it's virtually horizontal. Experiences have varied from the self-indulgent -Ayurvedic top to toe massage and residing in the sumptuous natural surroundings of The Kandalama Hotel, to the downright self-punishing - the strangest of which was probably the Sri Lankan 'Hash Run' meetings that involve lots of crazy ex-pats and locals (and on this particular occasion me) following trails of paper across paddyfields at a rather fast pace for a good hour and a half. 

There has also been the bathing with elderly elephants at Kegalle's Maximus Foundation Elephant Bath or 'elephant retirement home' as it's fondly known (and may I urge visitors to the nearby Pinnawala Orphanage to make the effort and seek out this less discovered elephant utopia too- it's well worth it). An experience that I will remember forever as one of the funniest, at the time unbelievable and ultimately most rewarding of all my adventures. 

'Discovering' Trincomalee's 'out of bounds' serenity also ranks amongst some of the higher points, as does racing to and reaching the summit of Adam's Peak for an awe inspiring day break. Kandy's regal splendour and the palatial 'Castle Hill Guest House' I discovered overlooking the lake there, Habarana's jungle life viewed from a treehouse and my mother's face on our personal discovery of Dambulla's breathtaking caves and the story behind them. 

There have been simpler moments of recognition too, the conversations with newly found friends, local beach sellers, Buddhist monks and educated elders with a fascinating history to tell. 

Compassion and humanity as well as anger and frustration with regards to the bloodshed and violence of the war that continues to affect everybody's lives to varying extents on this small and otherwise quite tranquil isle. All experiences that have been part of my education here; from political to cultural to personal. 

I am however ready to leave Sri Lanka whether it be temporarily or otherwise. Ready to take the experiences gained here and use them in my life elsewhere. I look forward to seeing the 'green green grass of home' in the British summertime - though believe me I'm fully aware that it's always somewhat greener from the 'other side.' 

Only one thing blights my departure though and that's the escalating situation up north and therefore in the rest of the country too, at the moment. In discussion over dinner last night with several friends from both local and overseas backgrounds but all either permanent or fairly long-term residents here, the chat turned to my departure. 'Good time to get out!' remarked someone. 'But I'd be worried to be leaving now' offered another friend who although not born in Sri Lanka has spent all her adult life and brought up two young children here. "Not for myself but for my country I wouldn't like to leave as it is now,' she added. 'I'd feel like I was running out on someone I love when they were down.'

I share that emotion to a fair extent, but like all Sri Lanka's residents can only hope for change for the better in the near future. This only goes to prove to me, that for this last six months, throughout my albeit temporary stay in Sri Lanka, it has indeed become my spiritual home and this will last in my memories, my heart, my mind and in my soul, forever.

What you missed

We are publishing below the following paragraphs that had inadvertently been left out from Neville de Silva's Thoughts from London column, titled 'Not a gentleman's game any more':

The business of sport is not a sporting business. You can bet your last rupee or whatever currency you deal with in these days of globalisation and free capital movement, it is just not cricket. 

Cynics, of course, will argue that to expect business to be sporting-that is fair and gentlemanly- is as ludicrous as expecting pigs to fly or President Mugabe to embrace his country's white farmers and bequeath to them even more land.

Those who rise in high dudgeon at such denigration of the business community are reminded of that story from ancient Greece. There was this fussy old philosopher who went round the market place with a lantern looking for an honest man. Search as he would, Diogenes could not find one.

Naturally, say the cynics. Only a fool would look for honesty in the market place. If anything has changed today it is for the worse.

My own understanding of ancient Greece, unfortunately, is limited to the theories of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and the like and classical theatre. I could never wrap my mind successfully round Pythagoras who added to the miseries of our schooldays with the usual confusion worse confounded.

Whether the cynics are correct and Diogenes' failure to find an honest man in ancient Greece was because grease and oiling of palms goes that far back is a matter that is best established by those who dig into the past, metaphorically speaking.

But it is interesting to note that the greatest sporting event in history began in Greece. 

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