Its not paradise, but lets not exaggerate

I can understand Ankie Renique’s frustration about people who think that living is the tropics and working as a remote freelance is idyllic, but her reaction is to pick on a number of minor issues, or those that say more about her than the country, rather than picking very real problems.Firstly, if you keep meeting people who think that a third world country that only recently finished a thirty year long civil war is paradise, the problem is with the people you meet. I have to say that I have met very few people who think Sri Lanka is a paradise. Many who like it, but few are that deluded.

Her first complaint is power cuts, and the resulting interruptions to her work. In the third world its normal. Buy a generator, an in-car charger or an external battery pack.

Her next complaint was that the bank was closed though bother businesses were open. After 10 years she has not worked out why every calendar in the country shows three different types of holiday: “public” holidays for the state sector, “mercantile” holidays for the state sector, and “bank” holidays for … can you guess? It is archaic, but it has a certain inertia and it would be hard to change if it meant depriving some people of holidays they currently have. It is a nuisance, but it is hardly a major issue.

The next is a failure to understand how she was to behave at a wedding. Again, she does not know a fairly common custom (did I mention she has lived in the country for 10 years?) and is then embarrassed when someone stops her doing the wrong thing. It happens, and its mildly embarrassing. Big deal, I am sure similar things happen to anyone in an unfamiliar culture.

Next, she is patronising at being a guest of honour at the wedding of a couple she barely knows. I am guessing she is a lot more affluent (or perceived as more affluent) than the couple. This is common practice in Sri Lanka: you get the most important person you can. If you have lots of clout you get someone like the president or an ex-president. If you do not have money of influence you get a freelancer who seems more affluent than most people around. It is not a practice I like, but in essence its fairly harmless showing off no worse than a lot of things people do at weddings (and a lot less harmful than spending more than you can afford on them, which is also common).

She then complains that she has to pay more for entry at tourist attractions because she is white. Simply not true. She has to pay more because she is not a Sri Lankan citizen. There are white Sri Lankans (now very few after decades of mixing and emigration) and they will pay the Sri Lankan price. She could have applied for Sri Lankan citizenship if she wants to pay local rates. Contrary to what she says, compared to the privileges many countries give their citizens over resident foreigners, paying more at tourist attractions seems pretty trivial. If anything, Sri Lanka tends to privilege foreigners over its own citizens (see below).

She then talks about how unfair this is to foreign residents on local salaries who pay taxes. Where did she find those? The last European I met who claimed to be on a “local salary” turned out to be getting well over double the pay of Sri Lankans doing the same job in the same organisation. I did once meet someone who was on a genuinely local salary: a temporary job while setting down. In fact, foreigners in Sri Lanka almost always get paid a lot more than locals (usually getting the western salaries that the Sri Lankans who could have done the job have emigrated to get, plus an expat allowance). In fact, people are often paid expat salaries for jobs that it would be easy to hire a local for far more cheaply: apparently some organisation cannot find Sri Lankans to do IT jobs (you know the sort of thing that gets outsourced to South Asia…).  Some organisations even have set separate local and expat salary scales. All this would be illegal in most (if not all) developed countries.

She then objects to referred called a “suddhi” (white woman), but seems to fail to understand that this is not a derogatory term. Race in Sri Lanka is not even primarily determined by skin colour, and the adjectival form even used by some families as part of the nick-name for the lightest-skinned member.

Next comes her objection to being disturbed by an exorcism that she describes as a “Hindu religious ceremony”. I believe that there are such things, but given where she lives it may have been a Buddhist ceremony, or even witchcraft and not a religious ceremony at all. She has a general prejudice against religion, the strangest part of which she is that she describes herself as “a non-believing, non-practising Catholic”. I used to be one of those: I called it “being an agnostic”. The Dawkins like tone of her writing suggests that she is an atheist: was it really necessary to the phrase “loopy shit”? It is a bit strange if you are not used to it, and I do not know much about it, but I am sure you can find quite a lot of equally strange stuff in any country. I do not believe in it, so, apart from the inconvenience of it being noisy, I do not care one way or another if my neighbours do it.

Next she complains about gecko shit. This is an entirely valid complaint, if you think it important or likely to have much impact on your life.

Finally a long rant about belief in karma. She expects this to be controversial, but its an argument that lots of people have made before.


4 thoughts on “Its not paradise, but lets not exaggerate

  1. Firstly, thanks for taking my article to bits. It means somebody reads me which is a compliment. Sadly you also failed to do so properly – huge amounts of what I write is tongue in cheek and should be taken with a pinch of salt and in fun. My blog is exactly that (and take most of the pinch of salt literally because I blog your own homelands recipes). I do not wish to insult anybody, least of all you. And this is the first time I have seen your blog. Most of your posts are not easy to read and very negative. Food for thought my friend.

  2. My “own homeland”? What made you assume that? How do you define “homeland”?

    The tone of that post does not come across as tongue in cheek: it comes across as angry and there was nothing in it that made me laugh. I think most people are likely to believe that your post is intended to be serious. Your last paragraph says “A controversial piece.Feel free to argue and criticise in the comments …… These are my opinions of my life here …… We all have our grievances – I just took the initiative to air them.” That seems that you do intend it to be taken seriously. You cannot simultaneously claim that it is all tongue in cheek and it does not matter that you did not get your facts right, AND claim that it is your honest opinion. Which is it?

    I do not think my posts are negative. They are serious and deal with complex issues. I have no interest in writing an online diary, and my blog serves a different purpose from yours.

  3. Visited here after seeing your comment and you sure have taken it apart. However although some points in the article are a bit exaggerated I personally felt it was funny. I personally feel she meant it to be funny although you don’t seem to think so.

  4. I am sure she meant it to be funny (as she says that was her intent), but it was not evident to me when I read it and I do not think it would be evident to all readers, and even those who think it is funny may take things that are stated as though they were facts were true.

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