Thousands of kilometers away from tax havens, in South-East Sri Lanka, a handful of farmers has been resisting for several years to land grabbing by the army, which wants to build a tourist resort.
Entrance to the occupied lands, where the army lets the inhabitants – and the tourists – go through
Somasiri, 41, is a community leader. He participates actively to the fight for the lands; several court cases are still in progress. Families’ houses were burnt down: they are left to demonstrate that the army perpetrated this. They also have to prove, in the absence of land titles, that they have been living and working on the land for generations; the presence of the little temple could act as a proof, and the monk supports them in their struggle.
Hin Aya in front of his house on the occupied land. It has all he needs, and there is always tea for bystanders.
Since the military have been occupying part of the site, their trash has been attracting elephants. Those have destroyed houses and fields several times. Hin Aya says he saw one the previous evening.
Community members in front of the house/shop where inhabitants meet at sunset, when the heat becomes a bit less sizzling.
At Somasiri’s place, a calendar from last year displays his inspirations.
Resistance gets organised
Meanwhile, a few hundred meters away, tourists enjoying the beautiful beach have no idea about what is happening here.
Is another type of tourism on the side of the rebel citizens possible?
Note: This post is available in French here
In the mountainous region of the tea plantations in southern Sri Lanka, tourists are invited to take a walk up to “Lipton’s Seat”, the lookout area where the Ceylon tea magnate was coming at the end of the 19th century to admire his work from above.
Staff is generally accomodated on the plantation. The best off enjoy a little field where they can grow some vegetables.
Amazing view but fragile habitat, in this fresh and rainy region
As women live permanently on the plantations, a whole village has developed, with its temple, its school…
All along the path, ecologist or frankly social quotes are plastered on the stone walls, to the exclusive intention of tourists. They are only available in English, and thus incomprehensible for the tea gathering women, all Tamil. It is said Lipton was one of the pioneers of advertising.
Right nearby, men, this time, spray pesticides and fertilizers, without any protection, and immediately next to women harvesting tea.
Each woman can transport up to 15 kilos of leaves in the basket fixed to her head, which she will then bring for weighing.
The right to retirement doesn’t seem to exist, but what a smile…
And as we were no strangers to incoherence, we had a cup of tea when we reached the top (and what’s worse, it was delicious)
This post is availble in French here
No one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
Your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
You only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
No one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
It’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
You have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
No one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
Go home blacks
Sucking our country dry
Niggers with their hands out
They smell strange
Messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
How do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
Or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
Or the insults are easier
than your child body
I want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
No one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
I dont know what i’ve become
but I know that anywhere
is safer than here.”
Poem by Warsan Shire, a Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer and educator based in London.
“So basically, you want to work in this field in order to travel?”
During these days when Ghana memories have been knocking on my door (and more specifically, sleeping on my couch), as we drive through the mountain roads and fight the (relative) cold with impressive amounts of hot chocolate, I keep thinking about our reasons to travel, our discoveries, expectations, unavoidable disappointments and happy surprises, intercultural communication difficulties and enriching differences. I remember some evenings, when I would have given a lot just to be able to speak my native language, or to eat food that tastes like childhood. And days of closing my eyes in an effort to save the beauty in my mind while forgetting the pain my butt was enduring in these seemingly never ending bus rides, the feeling that nothing could replace this moment, of realizing how fucking privileged I was, and wanting this road never to end.
So many years ago, when I applied for the training in Humanitarian Program Management and they asked me during the long recruitment interview, in a way that was supposed to destabilize me and test my motivation, if my real aim was to travel, I crossed my fingers under the table, stared back at them and answered a firm and definitive “NO”. After all these years, dear trainers, I can finally admit it: I (partially) lied.
In a few days, I will turn the age she was when she left us.
As by coincidence, I hear a program on the radio talking about our relation to our dead.
WHO defines a normal grieving period at two months. I would like to tell WHO to fuck off, as well as to these norms that define who we should be, where the limit is, when we should be sad and when we should be medicated.
There are still feelings of self-blame, anger, and of some kind of quirky irony to everything, but I don’t have these guilty dreams that often anymore. Somehow, we are closer today.
I have learnt there is not much to lose. And I have learnt it’s ok to cry for no reason, to celebrate her birthday, to do things she loved, to wear her clothes, to laugh with her daughters and to be amazed by them, to tell them about her, and sometimes not to.
I have hung a colorful portrait of Frida Kahlo on my wall, maybe because she is a model of resilience.
It’s still not easy and that’s fine.
Pic by a friend of hers-all my gratitude to him
Childhoods, under different skies. A smile, a stare, a moment in time. Wondering about their daily life, their future, how fast they will all become adults, and how smoothly.
They say you don’t need a time machine if you know how to remember. What do you keep from your own childhood?
Omar at his home in Zriba, Tunisia. Omar lives in a mountaineous village without access to electricity or running water.He held my hand for a long time in silence, before looking up and asking me to get him a bicycle.Dominican Republic
I leave to children exclusively, but only for the life of their childhood, all and every dandelion of the fields and the daisies thereof, with the right to play among them freely, according to the custom of children, warning them at the same time against the thistles. And I devise to children the yellow shores of creeks and the golden sands beneath the water thereof, with the dragon flies that skim the surface of said waters, and the odors of the willows that dip into said waters, and the white clouds that float on high above the giant trees. And I leave the children the long, long days to be merry in in a thousand ways, and the Nights, and the trail of the Milky Way to wonder at. Williston Fish, “A Last Will,” 1898
“Who still dares to love this country
And to say so?” Evelyne Trouillot
I was taught how to eat my plate clean so that the sun shines tomorrow. I was taught how to get back on my feet when I was falling, how to count apples and cherries and later to solve complicated and useless equations. I was taught how to swim as I kept falling through the ring. I was taught how to read, everything and more and more, I was taught how to like different music and movies with silences inside. I was taught how to ride a bike without the little wheels, then without using my hands, and then to drive a car, but not parallel parking. I was taught how to create multi annual multi donor budgets and logical frameworks with my eyes closed, I was taught how to dance salsa without getting my toes crushed, to meditate on something else than the pain created by the lotus position, to trust my feet when hanging on a vertical rock, to fight back with my fists and elbows, I was taught how to change baby nappies and to put a voting ballot in a box.
I was taught all this and still, nobody ever taught me how not to be scared.
I’m scared of the day they will discover that life is not always generous, I’m scared of bad choices, I’m scared of the phone call or the piece of news on the radio that will forever cut your life in two with a “before” and an “after”, of the way your heartbeat will stop, just for a split second, so that you can distinctively hear the shattered glass sound of your world falling apart. I’m scared of injustice, of the cruelty of kids and the madness of men, of irradiated vegetables, that the spring won’t come this year.
So every day, I learn how to scare my fears away.
What is it that throws us again and again on these dusty roads?
When travelling back to Southern Tunisia last month, I unexpectedly came across a bus, abandoned in the desert, which reminded me of another one…
“Sometimes he tried too hard to make sense of the world, to figure out why people were bad to each other so often.”
Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
The mountains are calling and I must go.” — John Muir
This year, my summer has been full of mountains, and codes seemingly strange: GR 10, 11, 5… Each one of them in changing and always good company including some funky random encounters, sometimes escaping for a day alone with my camera, and always with this indescribable euphoric feeling, which wouldn’t even disappear under a heavy layer of sweat, rain or fog, or when running away from a storm…
Truly it may be said that the outside of a mountain is good for the inside of a man. ~George Wherry, Alpine Notes and the Climbing Foot, 1896
“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” — Edmund Hillary