"The Lures of Sri Lanka" – by Georgia I. Hesse

 
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Lakshman Ratnapala
Lakshman Ratnapala - photo ©John Montgomery

“The Lures of Sri Lanka”
By Georgia I. Hesse
On Feb. 15, BATW members enjoyed their first “evening” meeting of the year, gathering at San Francisco’s Philippine Tourism Office as guests of René R. de los Santos, director for northwestern USA and western Canada. President Ginny Prior called the meeting to order promptly at 5 p.m.
It was announced that by the middle or end of March, the San Francisco Bay Area Travel Writers 2012 Directory will be available to members electronically with hard copies provided for associate members. Also discussed was the new partnership of BATW with the Bay Area Travel & Adventure show, staged Feb. 18 and 19 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Lee Foster and Jules Older participated, conducting an intensive panel discussion on the increasing importance of apps.
This month’s BATW Anthology Launch Party will be a major happening on March 17 at 10 a.m. at Book Passage in Corte Madera. Our organization owes a loud cheer to Elisa SouthardSandy Sims and Erin Caslavka for the imagination, energy and hard work devoted to this project.
A brief discussion of upcoming programs and of the updating of BATW’s professional ethical guidelines under the leadership of Suzie Rodriguez followed. Don and Ann Jackson received thanks for the flower arrangements, and Sandy Sims was applauded for the excellent snacks provided.
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Sculptures at the Gal Vihara, Sri Lanka

Then came the pièce de résistence of the evening menu: the presentation by our international consultant and director, Lakshman Ratnapala, on Sri Lanka, the Resplendent Land.
Perhaps Sri Lanka’s greatest surprise is the astonishing variety of an Asian island only slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. Ratnapala (and the country’s official website, www.srilanka.travel) divide its lures into eight  categories, some specified by nouns, others by adjectives, in a linguistic puzzle unraveled by beautiful photographs: Pristine, Wild, Heritage, Essence, Scenic, Thrills, Bliss, and Festive.
Ratnapala’s appropriate reminder of the impetus of Americans’ religion-influenced travel in the late 19th century came as a rewarding surprise. Such travel is so often overlooked that in the 21st we have almost no cognizance of it. But in fact, it was our colonial nation’s missionary zeal to “plant the cross in distant lands” that led to some of the finest travel writing in U.S. history: Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad and his essays on Hawaii come instantly – and happily – to mind. Twain’s hilarious “Equestrian Excursion to Diamond Head,” which appeared in Sacramento’s Weekly Union on April 28, 1866; Laura Fish Judd’s well-written and finely sensitive “Leaves From a Missionary’s Diary” (1880), and Hiram Bingham’s dramatic reporting in “Missionaries vs. Man-of-Warsmen” (1847) reflect travel writing that described the world far better than much of the simplistic, round-up pap to which we are subjected today.
(Detour for readers/writers: My much-thumbed paperback, A Hawaiian Reader, edited by A. Grove Day and Carl Stroven with introduction by James A. Michener, was published in 1961. Several later editions appeared; I think the latest in 1998. Some copies are still available through Amazon and other search engines.)
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Lakshman Ratnapala Awards Door Prize - photo ©John Montgomery
Lakshman Ratnapala Awards Door Prize - photo ©John Montgomery

Members who won door prizes at the excellent Sri Lanka presentation were Ann Shanahan Jackson, A Century of Western Living, by Sunset Magazine; Andrea Granahan, Anthology of Travel Writings, from Lakshman Ratnapala; Kathryn Abaijian, Visions of Paradise, National Geographic; Anne Sigmon, pack of Ceylon Tea from Ceylon Express; Gary Singh, hotel stay at Mahaweli Reach Hotel, Kandy; Laurie McAndish King, hotel stay at Jetwing Hotels, and M.J. Pramik, the culminant, a round-trip ticket London-Colombo on SriLankan Airlines.
If I don’t turn up for BATW’s April meeting in Berkeley, you can find me at evening on the verandah of the grand dame Galle Face Hotel where Colombo steps back from the Indian Ocean, sipping Scotch and communing with Twain as he pens, “…that radiant panorama, that wilderness of rich color, that incomparable dissolving-view of harmonious tints… .” Dream on.
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