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I feel suffocated – stuck between my conscience and having to do what I truly don’t agree with

Since my days with the non profits ended in a rather tragic way, I didn’t have much of a choice except grab whatever that came my way after two months of being totally jobless – hunting for freelance writing assignments and wallowing in a whole lot of options as to what I would do with myself. Anyway amidst some protests with my inner conscience, head and heart I made up my mind to bury my conscience on the increasing social issues that are popping up in relation to widening of income gap in our country and choose to work with a local company that claims to promote tours and travels.

Here I am, having to gulp down my hard feelings on the countless number of poor peasant families who have lost their homes, livelihoods in the North Western area of this country as the islands they occupied over a number of years have now been taken over as leisure resorts to make the tourists happy. Sea taxis that strum the quiet ocean, disturbing marine life, hot air ballooning over heritage sites to make tourists happy, snuba diving and wonder what else in the name of the boom in tourism. What a load of baloney at the expense of our own locals having to suffer to make tourists happy and project the country as a hot favourite in the global visitor map ?

I would never opt to work for companies that promote these rose spectacle fantasies and are so gung ho in promoting a rather artificial Sri Lanka constantly yelling their lungs out on what would be really good for the tourists not giving a moment’s thought to how all of these would affect the local fishermen, farmers and others who get by with LK.Rs. 500 a day after working bigger farming properties or some daily paid errands. It sucks just because it is our very own locals (as helpless as me perhaps) so into creating the most bizarre events and promotions all in the name of tourism. For instance the annual beach festival is nothing but an event where booze, sex, sleaze and porn is freely available on the beaches of Hikkaduwa and the entire event that runs for about 3 days is given the widest publicity claiming that it is leisure, pleasure and everything else. The locals residing in this very coastal town find that suddenly the beach they took a stroll on after sunset, or their kids played and built sand castles is given so much hype with semi nude women, men romancing, smoking, boozing, gambling, and maybe more for three continuous evenings after sunset !!!

BUT all that aside, getting down to reality, after two months of having no work, it was really tough to even figure out how I would find the money to pay the basics – rent, utility bills, groceries and mom’s medication. In those wretched 2 and a half months, I had to compromise on many things and that meant walking instead of taking the bus, settling to eat when really needed. It was equally tough to make up my mind to settle to do just about anything that may come along – because my skills, work experience was not taking me anywhere to the kind of work I should really be doing. Working in a restaurant as a kitchen helper? I thought meals would be covered and some money would bring in a relief. Yeah I was even ready to just get down and be able to bring some money home. The number of interviews I went remain countless and the responses I got are a mix of why-should-we-pay-you-so-much to we-hire-young-people-who-are-easier-to-be-trained-to-dance-to-our-music. No amount of convincing with the top nitwits, about my strengths and skills measure much more in today's market valuation nor the need to be more realistic filtered down to those pee brains. I sometimes wish I was dumb didn’t have to think so deeply and just did whatever in the name of work. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard...Finally I just had no choice but to settle for something in the name of work that is paying me far less that what I truly deserve. Again something better than nothing ...

and now I am stuck on a very high chair with a desktop facing me….with travel as the last thing involving my work. I feel suffocated having to work in the name of a job and an income, my true feelings are sitting deep down, and strangled by the vicious noose the need for money has stamped on it. I miss the long trips, the hours I spent with simple villagers, listening to their tales and enjoying simple food sitting on the ground of rice fields.I must go on in the hope that someday I will be able to break free from this pipeline of utter baloney ! To compensate I take a walk back home reflecting on many thing as I walk, looking at everyone else running to catch the bus or just walking past me.

Don't get me wrong, I am not discouraging people from visiting Sri Lanka, As a local I can tell you that there are much more nice local things that visitors really enjoy and not this newly hyped up bigamy. I have personally accompanied many visitors showing them all angles of the country, to areas of the country-from the top neighbourhoods to the back alleys, to the malls to street bazars, which have given them a broader understanding of the culture, local life etc.,What I don't agree is the sudden trend that has caught up in portraying this country as new found tourist leisure island merely catering for the visitor who is famous to splurge on everything silly and be spoilt.

Maybe its my difficult upbringing that lets me think this way and always always feel for the underdog.


mrbeckbeck's picture

Thank you for sharing

Hi Janice,

Thank you for sharing this thoughtful journal. It is a tough choice to have to make--sacrificing your ideals, your aspirations, your goals, for the money you need to survive and make ends meet. I hope that this is only a temporary situation for you and that someday soon a job that suits your skills and ambition comes along! You offer an interesting perspective on the tourist industry too... I imagine that many, many people would be willing to pay you to have the local tour that you describe instead of lying on a beach all day. Perhaps that is a new business waiting to be created!?

I appreciate your candid sharing here, and I look forward to reading more from you.

Kind regards,

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Manager

Hi Scott
For my own sanity and personal satisfaction, I am also hoping that this is a temporary fix, but frankly as I have explained in many of my previous posts, the limitations for an older person in the Sri Lankan job market is very narrow, and this is in addition to all the other barriers that seem to crop up, firstly for the simple reason that the lower, middle income communities are really struggling to make ends meet in a country where inflation is alarmingly high and price hikes are frequent.

Yes, I have given some thought as to how I could take visitors around - tours by foot, bus and train at a very nominal cost. I have taken a few on trial for nothing at all to test the pulse of the visitor and they all enjoyed it.

Thank you for understanding my point. It is so tough to explain this to the average Sri Lankan, including some of my own friends who simply tell me 'just don't open your big mouth, you are getting something at the end of the month, take it and don't worry too much about the big picture-cause you cannot do anything about it" paaah.....I can truly tell you that it's very tough to continue working this way in the name of a paycheque, when my conscience is constantly prodding me !!! :(
But I hang on closing my big mouth in the hope of something better taking shape for me..

Sangita Thapa's picture

naked truth!

Im so impressed by your writing Janice, very candid and straight from the heart! I can relate myself with you when it comes to working in a place where i dont really want to. Although my case is very different than yours, at times i feel that im strangled, stabbed and I no longer want to work. However, i too believe that challenges give us strength and meaning to our life. So, keep up your good faith and keep fighting unless your dreams come true.

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