I was lucky enough to time my trip with Vesak when I headed over to Sri Lanka last month (this wasn’t done on purpose!). This is a huge festival in Sri Lanka, sometimes informally called "Buddha's Birthday", marking the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.
The mood leading up to the first day of celebrations was frantic and excited. Big lanterns were being constructed in many towns and cities across the country soon to be unveiled competitively and strings of smaller lanterns (Vesak koodu) adorned signposts, shop fronts, temples, houses and basically anywhere they could be hung from post to post. Some were fancier than others, painstakingly made from matchsticks (are you kidding?) and on this occasion bigger really did seem to be better.
On the first day of celebrations, most people downed tools for a national holiday, many made long distance visits to their hometowns and public transport was packed fuller than usual. Queues of people patiently lined up outside food stalls set up by local Buddhist devotees. Known as dansalas – the stalls provided free food and drinks to everyone. Some dansalas handed out drinks to cars and buses – passing the delicious juices in through the windows. And everybody smiled. Especially at me, eating food the Sri Lankan way with my right hand – a little messy for a non-expert but worth it for the smiles (and laughs) it brought to those around me as they watched me struggle to shovel the delicious food in!
Loud chanting blasted from speakers along the roadside and everyone was in festival mood...
Lisa, our head Customer Ops genius, went over to Sri Lanka to visit our projects in May. You can find out more about Sri Lanka over on the RG website: http://www.realgap.co.uk/sri-lanka.