The Ramblings of Joy Laking

Nova Scotia Artist, Joy Laking, posts ramblings while she's travelling and painting in South America.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

March 22, 2019

March 22, 2019

Vehicle traffic is very interesting in Sri Lanka. Yesterday, Jim and I ( from the back seat of our tuk tuk) experienced a phenomena that we had seen many times in India.
We were approaching  a rail way cross and the gates were down. The left lane was full of vehicles ( they drive on the left here) and all the smaller ones,tuk tuks  and motorbikes, wove in around the trucks and cars until there was a solid wall of vehicles across both lanes. It took a while for the train to appear, and so this wall of vehicles just continued to get longer and longer.  Of course exactly the same thing was happening on the other side of the crossing. When the the train finally went by and the gates went up,two solid walls of facing traffic attempted to continue! 


Also there are no stop signs at intersections and no traffic lights. ( major intersections have round about with statues in the middle) we quickly identified these rounabouts as “man with a gun”, “elephant” “man with a book” etc. ( sadly never a woman statue). Horns are used frequently!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

March 20, 2019














Yesterday we moved to Anuradhapura in order to visit the sacred city which we did today. This is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is amazing. It is a vast site with many  Buddhist dagobas and stupas, from huge to tiny. These are are usually dome shaped. Some on this site are over 2000 years, although most are from the 4 th century. One the Jethawana Stupa was 122 metres tall and the 3rd tallest building in the world at the time.  This site is still active and we picked the perfect day to visit as it is Poya, the full moon holiday when Buddhist’s visit their temples. There were several monasteries here and they must have been enormous from the unimaginable size of the stone rice trough and the smaller curry trough. We hired a tuk tuk for the day and this was a wonderful way to get around the no car site. It did mean getting in and out of the back seat over and over. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it.  At one of the sites, we had to go through an inspection that we were suitably dressed. Jim had to loosen his belt and pull down his shorts to cover his knees!  The worst part of the day was that the ground seemed to be burning hot. We started out at 7:30 but by late morning it was painful to walk to view the sites (to show respect, no hats or shoes are allowed). We dashed from one shadow of a post to another but still it was awful. Eventually, I couldn’t take any more and we turned around to get our shoes before seeing the 2000 year old Sri Maha Bodhi tree. We may go back at sunset!

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

March 18, 2019

March 18, 2019

A terrific and busy day today. This is our last day in Pesaliai. At nine, Jim and  I went to Karthi’s grandfather’s so I could take more photos of the grandfather and his ox and his wagon. We got there and were immediately invited into the house to sit and wait because the grandfather was away milking. Oh, I would love to see the milking! So off we went on the backs of motor cycles! It was hard for me just to get onto the back of a motorcycle. I didn’t know the driver, but I hung on tightly! Jim followed on the back of someone else’s motor bike and Grandfather’s daughter, Nancy road her own scooter. I told Nancy that I have a sister Nancy and she announced that she is my Sri Lankan sister. We saw their garden and their palm plantation. They dug up a seedling so we could see the roots. Then we had some palm jelly. They lopped off pieces of the nut with a machete. “Use your finger like a spoon to dig it out”they told me! Then another chap said “come with me” so of course we did. He walked us to his house and he sat us in the shade and brought us toddy to try. It was good, but since we were on the way to the school and I didn’t know if or how alcoholic it was, we didn’t drink much. We definitely could have spent the entire day, as we were ushered into several wonderfully coloured houses. I guess having given them the little painting of “Grandfather and his Ox” and then getting Nancy for my Sri Lankan sister broke the ice!  It was a real treat for me  to see the kitchens, ( the fridge, if there is one, sits in the living room), the prayer room, the sleeping rooms and the bathroom, the living rooms. Eventually, with me carrying a tiny puppy I was handed,  we walked back where I could take some photos of Grandfather and his ox. Now you can compare a couple of photos of Grandfather and his ox. For a painting, I like the ones where the ox has some spunk and Grandfather has his work cut out for him, not the boring ones of just man and ox standing nicely.  My motto is always look for the story.

Then we went to the high school and were ushered in to the vice principal’s office. “Our school does  not offer art” he told me. And “what religion are you?” So we chatted some more and eventually he told me I could have four classes of grade nine for ten minutes each. I was given a short nun with a big ruler to facilitate and translate. The first class with thirty five went well, but then she put the other three classes in one group. They are rowdy and bad she told me. And there WAS a brawl while we were in the corridor. You can imagine that many kids in one little classroom in this heat! But I did my best.

Then we took a tuk tuk to the elementary school. I was given all of the grade threes and fours from this six hundred student school.

Thirty eight years ago, I left my toddler, Kelsey with my friend Anita and went to teach art in Valley elementary for a day. We were going to do puppets. They gave me the entire school in the gymnasium for two hours! I hoped I would never be faced with this situation again.  The good part of this ancient history day was that the principal made sticky buns for the staff room to welcome me.

And today again, I dutifully did my best. The woman vice principal at the elementary school was a great translator and didn’t have a ruler so that was a plus.  I shook hands with every one of the students and the staff and they were disappointed that I couldn’t return tomorrow.

Jim will post some photos from the schools and hopefully, I can share them.





Monday, March 18, 2019

March 17, 2019

This morning we walked down to the market in Pesalai. This is a small town ( every morning at 5 am they broadcast Catholic chants for an hour)  on a little peninsula where there used to be a ferry to India that was stopped in 1995.
There are a chain of islands called Adam’s Bridge between here and India and two thousand years ago one of the Hindu Gods went over to India and brought back a Goddess for wife.  ( there are over 3000 gods and goddesses) 

I painted these two tiny painting from photos on my iPad after coming back from the market to our home stay. The woman was painted on Arches Cold press paper and the “Man with matching onions” was painted on a Fabriano hot press paper. It is really really interesting to be doing paintings isolated on white. It is reminiscent of my early flower paintings from fourty years ago,  After doing the woman on the rougher paper, (I was struggling to get crisp edges and to get the colour to hold because of the sizing on the paper) , I was delighted to work on the smooth immediate paper. Disadvantages to the smooth paper are that the colours sort of float on the surface and it’s hard to know how they will dry. Also it isn’t scrubbable or forgiving but I loved the quick clean result.

Then Jim and I off for a swim in the warm rolling ocean. A big bunch of small children were also swimming and of course they started waving and I waved back. They came right over and eventually got me to go with them so that their Moms could take pictures of us. The baby they put into my arms screamed in terror. The kids wanted me to give them chocolate and when I couldn’t oblige they wanted a song. We all rolled around in the shallow water again and a good time was had by all.


I am doing a little surrey here for the text of my book “The Painted Province; Nova Scotia through an artist’s eyes”. Did anyone enjoy the detail about the papers from paragraph two, or would you prefer that I give this a miss?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

March 16, 2019

March 16, 2019
Finally finished the quarter sheet painting of the two women cleaning fish out of the net ( you saw the sketches and the ladies the other day, they were thrilled);When karthi, our person at PL Villas saw me working on the little sketch of the cow and the man and the cart, she said that is my Grandfather. She was thrilled that I asked her if I could draw her. She had to go home and change first. When 

I was doing her sketch, she wanted to look beautiful. All I could think of was when I was sketching people in India and the old ( younger than me ) woman threw down her sketch. Then  her daughter who had loved her sketch, threw hers down. Then someone put a live baby chick down my shirt. It was then that I decided to leave. I got up, thanked everyone, and stepped out into thunder and lightning and the biggest rain you can imagine. Nine weeks with no rain and it chose that moment!


Thursday, March 7, 2019

March 8, 2019

A full day of sightseeing in Jafna yesterday. The fruit tree is in our yard. It is the Jackfruit which is used for curries to replace mutton and for sweets.  It is very strange to look at.

Jim and I took a tuk tuk to the old Portuguese fort which was also used by the Dutch and then the British. The colonial past brings lots of problems ( hierarchy, religion, culture loss) and some benefits ( transportation, health and schooling). The fort is huge covering 65 areas.

Then we happened across the Battle of the North., a three  day cricket match. it was noisy and totally exuberant. The brown and blue team had somehow installed flags on the old clock tower!

Then we got another tuk tuk to take us out to the islands. On the causeway we saw hundreds of fish weirs. ( and we thought fish weirs started on the Bay of Fundy).the island we saw was very low and swampy and the beaches were shallow and the water weedy and murky. We stopped at one resort and Jim asked them if they served beer. NO beer they said!





Wednesday, March 6, 2019

March 7, 2019

My wonderful ladies at the women’s co op in Mullaitivu. I visited them yesterday again before we caught the bus to Jafna.  The lady in white and red was our table cleaner and she was so pleased to be included in the pictures.

Bus riding is very cheap and great for people watching. However, the REALLY loud Bollywood music, out of six speakers is almost unbearable to my ears.  The female voices are high and shrill and slither and slide at full volume around notes that don’t exist in our musical scales. However, with any music, I have found that familiarization always helps me appreciate new music. One more bus ride, and I might enjoy it?



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