When I first went to the Peninsula in February, I saw tons of goats but not a lot of cattle. More recently, I saw lots of both. It’s a very agrarian area, and quite lovely.

Contrast that to my experience, one weekend in late February, when I escaped from Colombo for 24 hours to enjoy the beautiful southern beach town of Mirisa. There, for a glorious afternoon, evening and morning, I saw: no guns, no soldiers, no roadblocks, no military patrols…nothing, in fact, to remind me this is a country in some state of conflict or civil war or whatever you want to call it. I suddenly understood that for a tourist, who never really goes anywhere near the conflict zones and maybe even bypasses Colombo after landing at the airport outside town (a fine idea, if you’re a tourist), Sri Lanka can really be an island paradise, as long as you’re never in the wrong place at the wrong time or put yourself in the places where the conflict shoves itself up in your face. Add to that the differences in lifestyle: fisherfolk (well, I suspect here they really are all fishermen) in Mirisa get to use motors on their boats. They get to use boats with full hulls and enough hold space to actually store fish…not to mention that they get to go out to sea and really do some deep-sea fishing. Everywhere I went along the peninsula’s coastline, I saw little wooden oddities that resembled a cross between a surfboard and a dugout canoe: no hull, no hold, no place to hide weapons if you’re an LTTE cadre (or sympathizer) smuggling in weapons. Moreover, the fishers on the peninsula often aren’t allowed out at all; or when they are, they must almost always stay within a very narrow strip close to the coast and within binocular sight of the soldier-filled bunkers stationed every 100 meters along the coastline of the entire peninsula.

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