The wind in the coconut trees has a staccato sound like rain on paper. The sky is a pale blue haze over the fishermen’s boats in faded colours, partially covered with little thatched roofs, ready to be launched when the fish call. The boats are launched at dawn, but when the wind is right and ripples in the water give the fish away, these fishermen go out a second time, at dusk.
The beach is not a place of leisure, but a backdrop to industrious families. The men mend the nets and the women cook or mind the vegetable patch. The sea is a dangerous world, where only the ones who swim go the distance to find the diminishing bounty. The fish are smaller, the large prawns rarer. Their taste in light curry, something I want to take away. The villagers eat the crops of the season. The wet season is shorter, the dry season hotter, the climate is changing slowly, the consequences unimaginable.
Moors, Tamils, Singhalese, Burghers interact with each other with a slightly uneasy familiarity. The devil you know. We are the only foreigners for miles. The team at the small bungalow didn’t expect us to be Brown and eat spicy foods. They stare, ask questions through our driver. Aren’t real Canadians White?
So I give a lecturette on our history, telling them about the fugitive slaves of the underground railway, the Black Loyalists, the Chinese labourers, our two official languages, our First Nations, our urban mosaic, which includes close to a quarter million Sri Lankans. They look at me with a mix of interest and disbelief. Over 90% are literate and what I say contradicts what they have read about us.
In Canada, I get asked all the time where I am from. Looks like the dance is continuing 15,000 kms away. It seems less complicated to say I live in Canada then to explain that I am actually Canadian. Sad.