I travelled to Jaffna last weekend.
At 5 p.m. on Friday, I went to the Mahiyanganaya road in Badulla and started to hitch-hike.
It went well until it became dark. I had a couple of LED torches with me but it looks like Sri Lankans don’t pick up strangers at night.
I don’t know why. It is safe to travel here.
“Sri Lanka – no Ali Baba”, – one driver told me. He used to work in Kuwait where, like in Iraq, they call criminals “Ali Baba”.
This is strange because Ali Baba was a good character in the story. However, nowadays, Ali Baba is a bad name in Mesopotamia.
Maybe I did something wrong, or took a wrong road, or didn’t figured out the tips of hitch-hiking at night in Sri Lanka yet, but at 8 p.m. I stuck in Bathalayaya where the traffic almost absolutely disappeared. Rare vehicles passed by and didn’t stop.
At 10:30 p.m. a Jaffna bus came and I jumped in.
So, the task of hitch-hiking at night in Sri Lanka is still an unsolved problem for me. Maybe I’ll learn how to do it in my future trips.
Anyway, I was glad to travel along the Mahiyanganaya road. It has a special atmosphere. It has its own soul. The road to Colombo doesn’t have it. I breathed in this atmosphere as much as I could. You will not get it if you travel by bus. The bus isolates you from the road.
On the way back, I hitch-hiked from the morning till the evening, and covered the whole A9 road from Jaffna to Kandy. I also spent a few hours in Vavuniya.
When I reached Kandy, I was too tired and the sun was already set, so I continued by bus.
At one point on the road to Jaffna, the bus stopped and everyone’s ID cards were checked. As I am a foreigner, they told me to go out from the bus, and directed me to some registration point. There, they took a photocopy of my passport, and an army officer asked me questions (like, why I am going to Jaffna, where do I work, when I am going to return from Jaffna, what is my phone number, etc). He wrote down my answers to a one-page form, gave me to sign it and let me go.
Foreigners, don’t forget your passport if you go to the North. There are many army check-points there, and they will ask you questions.
Jaffna treated me with delicious food, beautiful music sounding from every corner, and its hot air warmed me up and comforted me like a caring mother warms and comforts her child.
Like in India, in Jaffna they asked me: “May I know your good name, please”, and in shops they said to me “sollinga”.
The Palestinian group was really the best at the festival. This was their second time in Jaffna. They had already performed here two years ago, and they seemed to have fallen in love with the town.
When they greeted us, “Good evening Jaffna!” it sounded pleasant. It didn’t sound like just a formal greeting.
As I also was in the state
(defstate i-<3-jaffna), I was perfectly tuned to their mood.
They didn’t do any sophisticated performance, didn’t have colourful dresses but they looked like they were happy to be here because they loved Jaffna.
And because they were happy, they were making happy everybody else at the festival.
I got so much energy from them that I felt as if I could hug the whole world.
An officer of the Sri Lankan army is enjoying a Palestinian folk song:
One of the songs that they performed was “janna, janna, janna” meaning “Heaven, Heaven, Heaven”.
In the middle of the song, they said: Now we are going to add one more letter “f” to it, and make it: Jaffna, Jaffna, Jaffna.
So they, and the whole of our crowd were singing:
Jaffna! Jaffna! Jaffna!