The End of the Beginning

Wrapping up here.
Holy cow. Never imagined I’d actually see the day where I start the goodbyes, but it’s getting close.photo (4)
At the moment I’m sitting at a cafe in Galle called “Peace and Plenty,” sipping a fruit juice, with a big blue sky in sight. Galle is on the Southern tip among the beaches and this restaurant is in the most famous dutch-inspired fort area. Which is basically a a tourist-attracting strip of expensive gift shops and cobblestone streets, but pleasant nonetheless.

Anyway, as of last Friday, we finished the CKDu report. And by “finish” I mean we completed the first-draft that will now cascade into a series of different reports and papers as we both carry the research into the states. This is simply the end of the beginning. But it feels great to get a much needed breather from all the weight of the work. And what did I do with the free weekend? Surf.
Anybody who has followed this blog for more than a few months knows that surfing has this way of making everything better in my world. I didn’t plan to go surfing, it really just walked into my weekend and I was so thankful. It can be frustrating to try and surf in a new place, especially surrounded by non-surfers, because it requires renting boards and finding surf spots and finding transportation for said board to said surf spot, and that can turn into an expensive headache pretty quickly. For me anyway. But yesterday was the complete opposite. A newer volunteer, Zina, had a family friend with an estate (IKNOWRIGHT) in Galle, a hop skip from another beach town, so I was more than game to get spoiled by delicious meals and Sri Lankan hospitality with them. Anyhow, after a morning of reading on the beach I wandered around, struck up conversation with a surf shop local and got invited to go surf on a board he had around with him that afternoon. A few hours later I was in the ocean catching all kinds of waves. It was the perfect day of waves that were big enough to be fun, but not intimidating. I taught Zina how to surf too! The surfer friends that took us with them were really great about giving us space and not being creepy, just sharing the love of the surf. And neither of them asked for compensation, kind of a mutual love of surf. It was so nice and I’m so glad that it happened so easily. The whole weekend has been salt water, sunshine, and delicious Sri Lankan cuisine. Perfect ending.

Zina, ready4surf.
Zina, ready4surf.

Well, what’s next? I saved this week as the Get Stuff Done Week. I have on more CKDu occasion (that I just found out will be formal attire, ahhhhh no idea how to handle that, and I’m accompanying the General Secretary of Sarvodaya, who happens to be one the smartest and most interesting person I’ve met) but I’m keeping the week CKDu-free otherwise. I have to submit some applications for back home, finish squaring away housing plans, and get some real planning done for the upcoming weeks of travel. One more weekend opportunity, and then I leave Ceylon on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 3rd. HOLY MOLY!

Well… what comes after that?
Thailand.
Zina and I are headed to Bangkok on the 4th. Excited to see what that has in store, but if I can complete most of the work I have to do this week then hopefully I can fully submerge into tourist-travel with minimum woes of “work” lingering overhead. A friend from back home is hoping to meet me in Nepal after Christmas and with some luck we should be trekking through the Himalayas during the New Year :) It’s wild to actually have all of the opportunity I talk about seeking, right in front of me. Sitting in the Education Abroad office staring at that huge map, this is all I’ve ever chased after. I’ve spent the last few months doing exactly what I want to be doing career-wise. Now I am close enough to be able to affordably (I hope at least) visit all of these very different places and see completely new cultures and nature. And I have six whole weeks at my disposal. I am literally living all of those pinterest travel quotes. And I’m 22. Believe me, I’m fully aware of the blessings and luck (yes I believe in luck) that have put me here. Taking zero for granted. It is odd though, because each moment is definitely not euphoric. It takes days of wanting to be elsewhere, weeks of exhaustion from just BEING a foreigner, and a never ending stream of conflicting thoughts, most stemming from the “who am I and what am I doing” variety. Yet. After a healthy dose of struggle. Those single moments come where things just fall together. Where it all makes sense and I can truly see why I’m here. But it’s weird knowing that with all of those things going for me to be in such a select and special place in life, that does not make every moment perfect. There’s a lot of pressure to be in love at every moment when you’re in a place that you feel you’re supposed to be in love. But the honest truth, we’re still just humans. We still operate in moods and just move through space doing what we set out to do. Sometimes that’s in the setting with the opportunity where we want, sometimes it’s not. I may seem a world away to my friends back home living a life that is familiar and comfortable, but I’m doing the same things. I wake up and talk to friends about what to get done, I write in my notebooks, I get a cup of tea, I stress, I smile, I’ll drink a beer. I think the main difference is that, for me, the highs are higher and the lows are lower, and they happen at a crazy frequent interval. At home, things are a bit more predictable and change more weekly. Here, the unpredictable smacks me at least every day, frequently every hour.
(I bet it feels comparable to celebrities. Or artists that “make it.” They know that they’re one of the few given the opportunity to exercise their passion professionally, and living the life other people imagine is a lot of pressure, but they’re still just people).
Anyway. Stream of consciousness can end now.photo (3)

The next few weeks will be even more rapid-fire than the last. I’ll be packing my bags for travel again and leaving my Sarvodayan home. Leaving the Sri Lankans I’ve grown to love and attempting to stay connected with friends and research. I think I’ll be able to get through the goodbyes, time will push me through if nothing else. Oh and this,
Advice to future traveler: If you are planning to work abroad, consider traveling BEFORE your job begins. Work is exhausting. Having to rally myself to keep exploring vs. come home to a relaxing family and lots of holidays has been difficult. Granted I chose to postpone the explorations in hopes of meeting other friends to travel with, which has been fruitful and worked out as such, it’s harder. I think there’s a lot to be said for starting out full of excitement and play tourist for a while and then know that home is on the other side of work. I don’t know that I would have done it any differently, but it is definitely something to think about.

Any final gift requests?? I’ve been scouring shops for fun colors and little Sri Lankan tokens to share when I get home (assuming they fit in my bag and survive until I get there) and I’m excited to share the bits of this country with you all back home. Let me know if there is anything especially you would like to see! Otherwise, there will be surprises aplenty.photo (2)

LOVE to you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

S

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