According to Google, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island nation south of India in the Indian Ocean. With a population of 20 million, its diverse landscapes range from rainforest and arid plains to highlands and sandy beaches.
And, yet, Nalin Wickramaratne left Sri Lanka way back in 2002 and found his way to Gorey to work as a bar man in the Ashdown Park Hotel. “I needed a change and I liked Europe so I got the job in the Ashdown Park,” says Nalin. His family joined him in 2004.
So how did he find Gorey, when the temperature in Sri Lanka in December is still a very healthy 270Celcius. “I felt cold,” laughs Nalin, “but people were very nice and friendly and that helped me to stay.”
At the time, back in 2002, while Nalin found his feet and slowly warmed up in Gorey, wife Duleeka was pregnant at home. “There was no Facebook or Viber, so it was only phone calls. It was hard for Duleeka and hard also for Nalin when his first daughter, Swetha, was born. Duleeka and Swetha joined Nalin in Gorey and Duleeka returned home to have second daughter Senuri.
Today, the girls are well settled in Gorey and, well, not all that interested in living in Sri Lanka. “We visit each year and went back six or seven years ago, but the girls didn’t like it – they didn’t want to leave their friends. They love visiting Sri Lanka but they have settled here.”
Not surprisingly, the family use social media a lot to communicate with family – Duleeka has siblings in Sri Lanka and Australia, Nalin has a sibling in Japan, and both the couple’s mothers still live in Sri Lanka. “We use Facebook, so we know everything that is happening in our families and we use Viber to call each other, so we manage!”
Here in Gorey, the family are very involved in the local community, between badminton and Irish dancing, piano and, yes, publishing a book. When she was eight, Senuri wrote and illustrated a book, The Lost Creature. When she was 11, she published it in Sri Lanka and Ireland, with its Irish launch in Gorey Library on 15 October.
She has three more books ready to publish and, when you see her illustrations, it is no surprise that she has also won drawing competitions. Even more impressive is that Senuri donated the proceeds of her self-published book to her school, Loreto School Gorey. A name to watch for the future!
In the meantime, it’s business as usual for Senuri’s parents, who get to enjoy “the best tea in the world” when they holiday in Sri Lanka!
Profile sponsored by Ashdown Park Hotel, Gorey
Interview and photos: Deirdre O’Flynn