Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What do you know about Sri Lanka?

For many years I used to work as a barista in a Borders café. Sometimes on slow days we'd come up with a Question Of The Day that we'd ask all our customers as we were making their drinks. It was invariably fascinating to hear the wide variety of answers; some people were shockingly knowledgeable, others shockingly ignorant or misguided. Either way, it was a fun way to engage people and pass the time.

Today while cleaning out some old boxes I came across my notes from one of those days. The question was, "What can you tell me about Sri Lanka?" Here are some of the answers we got (I'll leave it to you and your favorite search engine to determine which are true and which are bogus):

  • Sri Lanka is not a very rich country
  • Good music comes from Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lanka is a character in Lord of the Rings
  • It's next to India
  • It has lots of violence
  • Sri Lanka sounds like something out of Star Wars
  • It used to be named Ceylon
  • It's a country
  • People speak Latvian in Sri Lanka
  • It used to be part of the USSR
  • They have good tea
  • There are semi-precious stones in Sri Lanka (sapphires, rubies)
  • The Tamil Tigers from Southern India are in Sri Lanka (this person regaled us with a long discourse on the political situation in Sri Lanka)
  • It's an island
  • My professor is from Sri Lanka
  • People speak Sri Lankan in Sri Lanka
  • Kandy is a large city in Sri Lanka; the English word candy comes from that city's name because the Dutch brought rock candy to Europe from Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lanka is the term for a type of sex
  • Sri Lanka is a mythical place of paradise
  • Sri Lanka is a kind of food
  • There's a famous tower in Sri Lanka
  • They make copra there (the dried meat of a coconut, used for making coconut oil)
  • Sri Lanka is a Catholic country
  • People there are starving
  • They have poisonous watersnakes
  • Sri Lanka is low-lying and subject to hurricanes
  • Arthur C. Clarke lives there

To set the record straight, Sri Lanka is an island off the southeast coast of India. Area: ~25,330 square miles. Population: ~20 million. Major languages: Sinhala, Tamil.