I met this little guy while taking an late afternoon (pre-curfew) walk through the fields next to the house. He was very excited to get his brothers involved in the picture-taking, and ran off to the mini-temple (the flash blinded it a bit, but that’s the inside shot) so I could take a picture of him and his brothers there as well.

I’d heard that there are more than 40,000 soldiers up on the peninsula; having been there, I have some sense of what many of them are doing: guarding and watching just about every square kilometer of the entire peninsula. The soldiers are all (or very nearly all) Sinhalese – though there are some Tamil soldiers, they very rarely if ever get posted to the peninsula. (This is possibly as much for their security as for other reasons: seems to me a Tamil soldier on the peninsula runs an above-average risk of becoming a target of LTTE hit squads.) Without having studied the issue, I’m guessing that the SLA (Sri Lankan Army) draws its enlisted recruits mostly from the ranks of the poor and opportunity-deprived, so here you’ve got a bunch of nice kids from the poorer neighborhoods in the Sinhala-majority south, just trying to find a way to pay the bills and make a living in a land where opportunities don’t grow on trees, squared off in uncomfortable proximity to an entirely-Tamil civilian population, most of whom no doubt resent the feeling of occupation and constant infringement on their daily lives. To us expats, everyone seems very nice and neutrality, for me, means we smile and wave at everyone – so a trip through the peninsula becomes a long smile-and-wave-fest. But in the back of your mind, you just know that some of the soldiers and civilians (or hidden LTTE cadres) that you’re seeing will end up killing each other, or simply being blown up in landimes or shellings. And it’s all very sad.

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