Sri Lanka Veddas

Travel affords me so many amazing opportunities. Living in Philadelphia, there is probably very little chance that I will ever be able to meet a man with long flowing jet black hair, wearing nothing but a loin cloth, living in the midst of a dense jungle and moving silently through the trees with a bow and arrow and ax slung over one shoulder.

Vedda Man of Sri Lanka

The trip to Dabana, took us from modern roads, walking through a dense, verdant jungle squatting aside low hanging branches and insects to finally come upon a clearing and a dirt path calling us further into exploration. We had traveled back in time to see the few remaining aboriginal settlers of Sri Lanka, an island off the coast of India.

One of the last remaining Veddas of Sri Lanka

The Veddas as they are known, are reported to have come to Sri Lanka about 1600 BC and our visit was a rich and deeper cultural experience into this land of past and present. The clearing we were on opened to a few mud huts with thatched roofs which served as a type of a museum, providing a look into village life. Painted on the sides of two of the buildings were primitive stick people. One with a triangle seemed to symbolize a female and the other, just the plain form of a circle and lines for the males, a small letter m seemed to represent an animal. The origin of story telling for this group!

Hail to the Chief

Our guide took us further back on the path to meet the few remaining natives. In the 1970’s, the government census showed only 6,000 remaining Veddas left. As per the unspoken requirement, we were taken to first make the acquaintance of the chief, Uruwarige Wannila Aththo. Our shoes came off at the door and then the appropriate bowing to this older, gray haired man sitting crossed legged with only a loin cloth. It was a bit of a surreal experience because in the midst of this primitive existence, photographs of this leader meeting various dignitaries lined the walls. The chief sat down crossed legged and said nothing as we, confused and a bit hesitant to the protocol, took our seats on the perimeter inside the hut. We were very happy when 5 men in suits entered to break the awkward silence. The visit turned into a birthday party for one of the gentlemen complete with cake and candles, missing was the usual chorus of “Happy Birthday” though! The man who was the subject of the celebration told us that he held the chief in such high esteem as a wise sage and he wanted his blessing on this new year of life. We politely declined eating the cake being offered ( a good friend’s sage advice is to travel with the locals but eat with the tourists to avoid those pesty stomach issues).

Chief Must Accept Visitor
Birthday Blessing

We bowed our way out of the hut, leaving the greetings to the next set of visitors. Six native men in various degrees of dress escorted us out. Women were not permitted to be seen while outsiders were there so I have no idea the number of women who would be able to give birth to new baby Veddas, continuing this tribe.

Finding the Prey with a Bow and Arrow
Vedda Hunter Taking In Life

For thousands of years, the Veddas have been hunters and gathers. Their lifestyle has depended upon the natural world of the jungle, all that grows and all that moves there. A few years ago though, the government put into effect regulations against the hunting of certain animals. So this may be when survival and the modern world impeded upon this ancient way of life. Not knowing the language, we were somehow able to understand that in exchange for a bit of money, we would be treated to ritual dances, fire building and the skills involved in hunting with a bow and arrow. We were suddenly thrust back into the ways of the present and the influence of the “pay off”! However, as visitors observing these cultural rituals, we found it a validation to the calling of leaving the beaten path to discover the somewhat obscure. Making our way through a dense jungle brought us face to face with a tribe having a BC date of origin and a population that seems to be on the verge of extinction. Yes, we paid a small amount of money but our glimpse into the past was well worth it and who knows for how long this opportunity may exist for those who visit Sri Lanka.

Hunting Tools of the Vedda
Vedda Men

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Innocence and Religion

Cambodian Children in Mosque

Cambodian Child of Peace

Just a short post today…thought I would do some organizing of the thousands of photographs on hard drives and came across these two shots from Cambodia. One was taken at an outdoor Buddhist Temple and the other at a Cambodian Mosque. Children can teach us so much. The little girl just instinctively gave me the peace sign and the others were just having such fun jumping from one prayer rug to the other…laughing and giggling the entire time. To me, this is the beautiful essence of religion…peace for all, enlivening and elevating with a few giggles thrown in to be sure!
The divine in simplicity and innocence.

The South of France found in Bucks County, PA

href=”” rel=”attachment wp-att-2955″>Llama Farm

Bucks County, Pa

Historic Water Wheel, Bucks County, PA

Historic Farm, Bucks County, PA

Lavender Fields

Lavender Fields

I just checked on the cheapest flight leaving from Philadelphia and landing in Marseille, France…the cost is $1,795 (including tax and fees of course!). Right at the moment, the savings are earmarked for a few other things but to feed my wanderlust for those expansive fields of endless shades of indigo and green, I just had to travel 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia. In the midst of llama farms, 17th century farmhouses and homes which mirror English country homes, lies
Carousel Farm located in historic Bucks County, Pa which is just outside of New Hope, Pa and 90 minutes from NYC. Niko is part owner and an excellent photographer with a vision and magical touch bringing forth beauty. As he explains, “The inspiration for Carousel Farm Lavender came when we were traveling through the beautiful Provence countryside, where the rolling hills are graced with old grape vines and lavender fields, against a stunning backdrop of centuries-old fieldstone barns and farmhouses. Our farm, with its fieldstone farmhouse, 18th century stone barn and rolling fields broken only by fieldstone walls, seemed the perfect place to replicate the South of France.” Walking through these vibrant rows, breathing in the fresh scent of lavender will quickly remove the word “stress’ from one’s lexicon, body and spirit! Can I have an aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

Where Is The Story? There Is Always A Story!

The weekend was one that just called out to leave behind that “To Do” list and go photograph. So off with a friend to downtown Philadelphia I went. Our GPS was set to the fountains in the center of the city and then on to capture the skyline from the Camden Waterfront. As a photographer, I try to heed the sage advice to be open to take in subjects from different vantage points…above, below, behind and basically any other way I can contort my body. So while I was at the fountains, I looked around to photograph from another direction and I was drawn to an American flag supported by boxes and blankets on the overpath of the expressway. I wanted to see more…here in Philadelphia, there is a heated debate regarding a mandate not to feed those who are homeless outdoors. Many would see this as just a way to make our homeless population more and more invisible. I wanted to see who was so proud of our county while living in cardboard boxes. It was then that I met Carlos. We talked for a long time and he shared that he had lost his job two years ago and then had major health problems the next year which caused him to loose everything he owned. Carlos said he tries to make the best of everyday and look for the good. “It’s my choice and it helps me with this time.” He is sleeping over the Vine Street expressway and he told me he doesn’t notice the noise, just the stars!

We then went off to the Camden Waterfront. There was a surprise fireworks show and Andrew, another photographer hunched down and off to the side. He was outgoing and began sharing how much he loved that spot to photograph. We learned that Andrew was studying to be a meteorologist even though many told him he wouldn’t be able to succeed due to his Asbergers. He was also gay which added to his struggle for acceptance. Andrew told us how he saw beautiful angels and was then put in a psychiatric ward but another man his same age saw angels and was put on Oprah! Andrew was a gentle soul in the night.

Following sage advice trying to look in other directions, I met Carlos who reminded me not to take all that I have for granted and try to make the best of everyday which I will remember when I get back to my mundane “To Do” list… and Andrew who I hope really did see angels.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Via dell’Amore

Via dell’Amore, Cinque Terre, Italy from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

Via dell’Amore or the Pathway of Love is located in Cinque Terre, Italy. The beautiful rocky coast and Ligurian homes carved into steep mountians make this a must see for anyone wanting to experience a bit of heaven on earth. The path connects the villages of Riomaggore and Manarola and after World War II became a lovers’ meeting spot. With the movie, Three Meters Above The Sky, it became the craze to declare one’s love on a lock and throw the key into the water, forever uniting the couple. (I am such a sucker for a great love story!)
Along with hundreds of new and rusting locks, declarations of love are written on walls and carved into the plants along the way. I believe firmly that there is an energy of place. Here on this pathway of love, one can’t help but feel the expansiveness and beauty while looking out and at the same time, being caught up in the wonderfully uplifting energy of amorous affections.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.