Date Archives August 2016

Sri Lanka 1: They Love Americans

Sri Lanka

They Love Americans

Landing in Sri Lanka, Jessica and I were greeted with (in Ayubūvan), “May you live long.” The greeting was warm and friendly from people who genuinely like Americans, even though there are not many who visit this tropical island in the Indian Ocean…yet!

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Colombo to Kalutara

Dog tired, but filled with excitement, we drove from the airport to Colombo. The main city was filled with bustling and lively crowded streets, along with a multi ethnic populace of Hindu, Buddhism and Muslim culture. This history dates to over 3,000 years back. The sights and sounds were exotic with a mixture of modern life and colonial ruin. The English and Dutch architecture is still very much evident, and quite impressive.

Exhausted, we found our way to the guest house in Kalutara and fell asleep without dinner. Invigorated and ravishingly hungry, we were awaken the next morning with smells of one of the most delicious and memorable breakfasts––traditional Sri Lankan pancakes made from local, fresh coconut milk and rice flour. Soon after, we met up with our trusted guide, colleague, and friend, Aroush who is a native Sri Lankan, now living in Florida. Off we went into the Sri Lankan back country!

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Temples and Elephant Orphanages

There was so much to do, experience, and absorb. Our travels took us to the southwestern tip of the island, Galle, a major city. It had magnificent Dutch-colonial buildings and beaches. Kandy was the next stop with marveled us with its ministries, temples, elephant orphanage, and lakes. We forged onto Sigiriya next. Its unforgettable ruins of an ancient civilization, sitting on top of a rocky outcrop, with vertical walls that soar nearly above the clouds were breathtaking. We were in another universe, discovering magnificent salvage finds along the way.

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Sri Lanka 2: The Craft of Tranquil

Sri Lanka

The Craft of Tranquil

I have always loved hand carving, the tradition passed down from generation to generation. It was particularly special to witness fathers teaching their sons the trade of carving gorgeous woods. Master carvers accompanied by their apprentices were in every village we visited. Here, in Sri Lanka, they take their time and produce wonders for the eye and for touch. They are truly masters of their trade. They frequently carve what they see, like elephants and designs from nature. Statues of a tranquil Buddha or scenes of fisherman and wildlife are also recurring themes. This is all by hand, no power tools––the detail is miraculous.

Carver’s Art

In several cases we saw woodworkers carving large blocks of mahogany, indigenous to Sri Lanka. This particular species mahogany grows no place else on the planet. One block was a series of elephants and foliage. The artisan was into it already for 4 days and he had a long way to go— meticulous work–– fascinating to observe… it was a work of art.

Tuk tuk Anyone

Jessica, my wife, and I love traveling and meeting people.

We met a man we connected with immediately, he’s a tuk tuk driver––called a tuk tuk because of the sound the vehicle makes. His motorized vehicle is a tiny, covered 3 wheeler, which is kind of like a taxi over here. It’s the easiest way to get around. They’ll take you to the jewelry store, craft stores, restaurants, anywhere. If you buy, they get a commission. It’s a way of doing business and helps get everyone involved. We clicked right away. He enjoyed fishing and so do I.

Win Win

There is a joy in what we do, but, it is dedicated work. Our prime objective is finding amazing things that our customers want, at prices that are affordable. We really do go that extra mile (no pun intended), discovering items that can’t be found anywhere else. Every piece we buy, we enjoy. We buy them because they are neat, cool, and always come with a story…a slice of history. There’s no third party in what we do.

We go off the beaten track. We go direct. We do all the planning, preparation for shipping, paperwork, and fumigation of containers….the whole enchilada.

 

Sri Lanka 3: The Prize

Sri Lanka

The Prize

In addition to the hand carved items we found, we brought back astoundingly beautiful wooden slabs. These came from giant trees, which were naturally fallen. Nature toppled them, not the chain saw. These trees when sliced were found to be up to 8,000 to 10,000 years old. Astounding isn’t it? The wood grain is resplendent––simply exquisite.

We’re making some extraordinary tables—4’ wide and almost 20’ long. Sri Lanka wood craftsmen are busy making coffee tables, side tables, conference, and dining tables for us. The tables made out of the wood we find, is a story unto itself.

Sri Lanka is host to many tropical hardwoods seen nowhere else and quite unheard of in most instances. Take Black Mara, for example. It is a scarce and highly prized tree found at the edge of forests and takes on a golden luster when polished.

 

Then there is Spalted Tamarind; a beautiful exotic wood often found lying on the forest floor. The rotting effect on Tamarind creates the spalted look that varies from piece to piece.

I had no idea what “spalted’ meant, so thought I would include its definition, compliments of Mr. Webster.

Spalted ; adjective–– (of wood) containing blackish irregular lines as a result of fungal decay, and sometimes used to produce a decorative surface The lines also can be pink to gray and even a variety of colors in the same piece of wood.

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Fresh and Delish

Our travels took us through lush verdant jungles with scents of vanilla and cinnamon. Aroush took a side road as we were traveling. Excitedly, he shouted over the noise of the jeep, that he wanted to show us something.

Soon, we found ourselves in a dense jungle, with cobra holes all over the ground. In front of us was a scene too magical to be real. A stand of tropical fruit trees, too many to count, all laden with ripe, lush fruit– an abundance of delectable mangoes, guava, coconut, passion fruit, sapodilla. Sapodilla is a flavorful fruit that tastes like a pear with brown sugar. There were so many others I had never heard of. We stuffed ourselves silly with the sweet juicy fruit.

Joy of Laughter

Along the rutted dirt road, near the fruit trees was a car, packed with kids, 15 or more doing the same thing we were, having an “off the tree” snack of pure deliciousness.

Jessica, who kids love, immediately made friends with all of them, or should I say Jessica and her cell phone. The kids were wildly enthusiastic, taking photos of each other under Jessica’s direction. On the way back to our seaside lodging at beautiful Kalutara, Jessica remarked more than once, how full of life and happiness these kids were.

Sri Lanka 4: Spectacular Finds

Sri Lanka

Spectacular Finds

I love the colonial architecture. Sri Lanka has it well represented by the English, Dutch, and Portuguese. The Europeans came over and influenced the whole country. The architectural monuments are spectacular and the architectural salvage– divine!

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Among our unique finds and major conversation piece is a striking earthenware tub, from 1905. I’ve never seen a freestanding model like this. The tub isn’t stamped but probably was brought over from England at the turn of the century. A wealthy European most likely brought it over, as this item, is something only the rich or super rich would have had.

The Sri Lankans are tearing down the old. We’re buying these salvage treasures (their history) and bringing them back. Our inventory is new (old) and exciting thanks to Sri Lanka: doors, paneling, windows, lattice, antiques. All one of a kind, never to be duplicated.

We hope you are as excited as we are about our Sri Lanka “finds.” In the world of architectural scavenge; these are some of the best of the best. As far as the wood slabs, they are super rare.

We value the friendships we made in Sri Lanka and the treasures they have allowed us to take with us to share with others. We carefully choose the people we will do business with to ensure we work with those we trust, respect, and those that practice a green approach to the environment.

Everybody should visit Sri Lanka to experience these gentle, artistic people who genuinely greet you with, “May you live long” (in Ayubūvan).