Canadian Visitors view of Arugam Bay

Tsunami Scars and Wounds

We awoke in our cabana on our first full day in Arugam Bay. No conventional windows in our nest on stiltsa??just large drop-down and lift-up shutters that open unglazed sea-view portals allowing balmy tropical breezes to flow unimpeded through the large room.

Arugam Bay. Beach. Not exactly overcrowded

Clapboard–gapped in places–provided rudimentary walls that did little to stifle the predominant thunder of the breakers below. I was the one who had the pleasure of opening up the room on our first morning and looked out across this beautiful bay in brilliant morning light, amplified in the golden sand receiving the white surf to the whitely, lightly hazed horizon, all under the bluest sky. Topical birds with colourful sounds sang pagan matins from the palms around the exquisite, but rather neglected groundsa??for here, as it would become apparent in the rest of Order silvitra Arugam Bay, motivation seems to be still floundering in currents of hopelessness left over from ebb and flow of conflict and tsunami floods. After our small dinner of cold vegetable rotis from the previous night, we were very hungry for breakfast; so after dressing and a quick visit to the water’s edge to anoint each other with the waters of the Indian Ocean, we headed out to the main road where we hoped that our experience of unmotivated food vendors of the night before would look like something different in the morning light View From Our Room at Rock View

View from Rockview guesthouse

View From Our Room at Rock View
. We were surprised to find little change. One rather busy place seemed to have its clientele, but refused to tell us their prices for food until it had been checked out along a chain of people into the dark inside. We were invited to enter with no answers provided, until our insistence brought an answer of exorbitant prices for what was basically street food. We learned over the next couple of days that this was a Muslim restaurant that exclusively served Muslim customers from the Mosque next doora??a sort of closed business unless it could steal from a couple of adventurous white folk. We waved and greeted the staff daily and they enthusiastically responded or even initiated greetings; but when we decided to give them another opportunity to sell us food the day before we departed, the results were the samea??bald faced attempts to exorbitantly overcharge.

We did find a little place, the “Bread Line” restaurant, not too far away, cobbled together out of unfinished timber, empty except for the beaming smile of an otherwise anxiously over-exuberant Muslim proprietor, Khan, and his two young sons (Ia??ve changed the name of the restaurant and proprietor to preserve his dignity). We stepped in and asked for a price for our curds, fruit and honey breakfast, along with tea and coffee. We could see his mind calculating what would be reasonable to hold us but not so much that would drive us away Rock View Lounge Area
Rock View Lounge Area
. He calculated fairly and we became his customers for this breakfast and a few subsequent meals. And it was here that we were to get our first stories about the tsunami and the wreckage of lives left behind the waters that receded six years ago.

Khan was eager to coddle us and we got the distinct sense that we had been his only customers for days, if not longer. He told us that three members of his family had died in the tsunami, one of them a child of six. An Italian family renting a holiday cottage on the grounds had survived it and then remained to provide assistance to survivors in the aftermath. Khan said that since the tsunami, the area has seen little or no financial support from the government for rebuilding; and indeed, there is much evidence of the ruined remains following the disastera??partial walls and whole lots with barely a sign of anything above foundation stones of buildings large and small. Khan told us he was not able to afford food for his children the previous evening to our arrival.

During our breakfast a man from the local tourist board stepped in and asked us to do an official survey of services to tourists. He too confirmed virtually no post-tsunami assistance except for a new main highway that runs through Potuvil and Ceftin prices walgreens Arugam Bay that nobody wanted Terence At Local Restaurant
Terence At Local Restaurant

We decided to have dinner at Khana??s eatery that evening. When we sat down to dinner, we were served by a Sinhalese schoolteacher friend who was clearly there for some other support we were yet to be surprised with. Before we left, Khan asked us to invest in his establishment by paying off the equivalent of a $2000 loan that was past due on his business.

In the days that followed, we heard other stories with no requests attached for aida??five family members dead; thirteen family members dead; six family members dead; and so on. Except for a handful of surfers from Australia and Europe, Arugam Bay is deserted; and the low-budget surfers confine themselves to riding the magnificent waves at the southern point of this huge bay where, when the tide is right, they run at right angles to the shore for very long distances. The skeletons of hotels and guest houses that once stood along the beach that runs north still mournfully echo the disaster beneath the sound of the thundering waves nearby.

Next door to us is perhaps the best hotel on the block, called a??Hotel Tsunamia??. At first we thought this a sick way of capitalizing on the tragedy until we noticed a sign added below the main sign to disabuse others who might think as we did–a??established in 1999a?? Arugam Bay Beach – Deserted
Arugam Bay Beach – Deserted
. Even so, it seemed to us a bit like naming your boat a??Titanica??.

There remains a slightly haunted look about the faces of those who survived the disaster and who mechanically go about the work of surviving day to day these six years later. For me there was also a palpable sense of resentment and even enmity barely below the calm surface that may be as much connected with Aragum Bay as a post-war as much as a post tsunami survivor. One PhD student we met from the UK who is here to present at a Colombo conference on replanting of mangroves as a barrier to any future tsunami observed that little seems to be happening in the area. She said shea??s noticed a couple of NGOs present whose personnel ride around in jeeps, but other than that they seem to be functionally absent.

It seems clear that if Arugam Bay is to recover and thrive, tourism must be a part of a diversified economy; but if there is no concerted support, I could see the energy of forlorn hopelessness surfacing and drifting sideways into future currents of conflict in this little corner of paradise.

With little else to doa??for Nancy and I are a little past learning to hang five, or whatever the surfing term may bea??we kicked back and enjoyed the pristine sands of this glorious bay that is safe enough for swimming as long as one stays close to shore (rip tides can surprise). We drifted into, through, and out of each of the four days were stayed like flotsam on the tides, and averted our eyes as needed from the constant reminders of the horrors experienced here.


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