Published: October 15th 2011October 15th 2011
Belgians are found all over the world. I'm one of them. I moved to Sri Lanka in 2000. Not without giving it a second thought: since we married four years earlier, I had traveled many times between Belgium and Sri Lanka, and the lure of moving had been built up slowly.
So, after my mother had departed for another world, it was my time to move on. To the exotic island of Serendib, cradle of all spices, home to endless tea plantations, elephants, rice&curry, tembili (the King under the Coconuts - also taembili or thambili), straw-covered fishing villages, huge Hindu and Buddhist temples, and a culture at least twice as old as that of the 'old' world.
What was I going to do there?
Frankly, I hadn't the faintest idea. Having been a teacher for nearly 20 years, it seemed evident to try teaching something. I tried, it failed. No basic English available that was sound enough to build on it.
After a couple of months doing essentially nothing, I was offered a job in a factory. Took it, and did it for more than 8 years. Liked it too, and it fed the family. A large family too: six children (which my wife already had before we got married), and an appropriately sized 'extended family' that depended partially (or largely) on my income.
But life was good and cheerful. Until the end of 2004, when the tsunami hit. The country was shattered. What little savings we had, was poured into help. With the support of numerous people all over Europe, we kept helping for about 6 month: each weekend, relief aid was brought to the southern coastal areas, where major damage was done (as well as on the east coast, but that was inaccessible at the time, because of war activity).
Slowly, long-term aid was started up by national and international organizations, and in the next years, life became almost normal again. Wounds healed, prices went up, but tourist didn't come back. That took several more years.
Then in 2008 the economic crisis came along and hit hard, and the factory almost had to shut down. Lots of people, including me, lost their job. So back on square one. At least I had time on my hand: I survived on two part-time 'hobbies': freelance translations and motorcycle tours. With a little more effort put into it, the translations have become my major source of income, organizing motorcycle tours on demand, and started traveling in between: Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Thailand, Cambodia, India.