Saving Grace

Sometimes Sri Lanka can beat you down. Beat you down in the sense that you didn’t know you were being beaten until you’re on the ground. Then you just realize out of nowhere that you’re completely exhausted and have no idea where or how that happened. That said, there is always some sort of saving grace. Sometimes that comes in the form of Dr. Ari (big deal founder of Sarvodaya, whole country knows him) picking you up off the street in his AC car on a really hot afternoon. Sometimes it’s someone giving you their seat on the bus when you realize you were the left standing for one the 8hr venture across the country and today is not your day. And sometimes it’s just running into fellow foreigners when you’re feeling utterly worn down by the color of your skin and you just need a familiar smile from someone who’s in the boat with you. More often than not, it’s just the existence of tea time. Be it out of old plastic cups in the middle of a working field in a rural villages, a simple break in the middle of a working day, or a pit stop that the bus makes because skipping tea time is not something that happens here.  The past few weeks have knocked me down a few more times, but never without picking me up when I least expect it.

I just returned from one of my wildest field trips yet. You guys like juxtaposition? Here’s an earful.  The trip began when Maia and I left for Kandy- we had a few work-related interviews, but we definitely scheduled it so that we’d intentionally be in a region with adventure opportunities. It was my travel style exactly, low key, runs around town, staying at a small and friendly hostel and just an easy trip. We went white water rafting on Saturday, that was another whimsical decision that I talked about in an an earlier post. We interviewed an organic agriculture guru and I packed up for my next trip. I came home to Moratuwa for maybe an hour? Before I was scooped up by my malaria crew (is it okay to call them that? i think it’s fine..) and taken on a field visit back to the same village  that I’ve been to many times at this point, to monitor the gem-pit filling (filling up the pits with dirt so that the rainy season doesn’t fill them with malaria-mosquito-loving breeding grounds).
That was great, I saw my friend Telakay, who is the goofiest old guy of the bunch. He’s full of energy and super willing to chat with the little English he knows. The first time I met him he wanted to know about Obama and his heritage. I’m pretty sure I created a make-believe story about African and Hawaiian parents meeting and falling in love. Maybe that’s a little true, but it’s probably not. And now I’m responsible for this little village in Sri Lanka that is now super educated on our presidents background that probably isn’t politically correct. I’m sorry guys, language barriers are hard. They were really excited.
ANYWAYZ. It was great. And the next day we got to visit a whole new village that I’d never been to before, with a four year old that was full of energy. Obviously we became best friends, playing catch with watermelons and tossing him into the air to his glee, and his parents uncertainty. My Sinhala has improved ridiculously, I was able to actually have little conversations and decent small talk with this village and it was a ton of fun.
All that while, I was staying with my favorite people- my original crew- in a hotel. I’m not yet fully sure how this was possible, but it was top notch. I was roughing it during the day but coming home to air conditioning and a swimming pool (nobody here had ever seen underwater handstands- needless to say, a great evening of lessons ensued). That in itself was quite the contrast and tricky to peace together in my brain. Work in progress.

Later that trip I get a phone call from some CKDu friends saying that while I was over there I may as well meet some doctors and patients in that region. Why not. I’m feeling confident enough in this country to go it solo a bit. And thus spent the next day in a homestay with a wonderful women that is in charge of an environmentally-geared womens movement that does incredible work for the community. Her and another friend took me all around real, raw Sri Lankan towns. No hotels here, all bare-bone reality for these guys. And the hospitality was unparalleled.

The next morning was similar, followed by a brief solo trip to the ever embellished destination of Arugam Bay. It was a dead zone. The “surf capital” had no surf. And no people. I had no idea how serious “off season” really was, but it definitely wasn’t the place for an easy breezy beach vacation with lots of waves. So, the next day I traveled all the way across the country, back to my home with familiar faces and places all around. WHAT. a WEEK.

It’s my two month anniversary today. And it’s super evident. It’s quite the marker. I feel so confident, satisfied, lucky, and capable of everything I’m involved with here. I feel so fortunate to have found a niche that is this fitting and so thankful to be among the minority of volunteers that truly feel like my experience is unique and huge and meaningful.  I’ve had to spend a ton of time organizing housing and classes for next semester, which, when blended with the fact that Sri Lankan charm starts to wear off around this time, has left me a bit melancholy. I love that I’m here, but seeing pictures of fall in Blacksburg and my friends that are just doing the most luxurious things (gymnastics, cooking meals, taking cool courses) so easily is a bit of a tease. I’m glad I’m on this path, but its the first time I’ve ever really longed for my US life from abroad. WHATEVERGUYS i’m done being emotional. I’m #livingthelife and just experiencing Phase II of the nomadic traveler style. Just lettin ya know I miss ya.

…and then tea time with biscuits comes in to save me yet again (:


One thought on “Saving Grace

  1. Fabulous stories Shannon. We love you and we are all very proud of you. So happy that you are learning about the people, the country and the illnesses/cures. It is all such an adventure and I’m very proud of you for stepping up to the challenges. linda


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s