I’ve done my fair share of bitching and moaning these past couple weeks. It’s right time I share some sunshine.
Through all of my frustrations and inner messy dialogues, it’s evident the biggest treasure of Sri Lanka is its people.
One moment I’m cursing the taxi driver for not knowing what, to me, should be a well known destination in the city. Not seconds later, the very same misdirected guide turns to me to thank me, tells me I’ve given him too much money, and places change in my palm. In that moment my hard “city girl” exterior melts and I continue to let this country soften me. And my expectations. (On that note, however, do not take your NYC and other metropolitan city cab drivers for granted – they may seem grumpy and disenchanted at times, but they know where to go and how to get you there. STAT.)
Once we finally arrive at my destination, the Sri Lankan post office, it seems no one is willing to help me send my package home. (For those of you who advised me to leave with an all but empty suitcase, you win. Lesson learned.) I get shuffled to another building down the road and then from there another office. And another. And another. Part of this is due to the language barrier and inability to communicate explicit directions making multiple questioning and directing attempts necessary. I am told the office closes at 3:30pm. It’s pushing 3:26 and the tough girl exterior returns, my impatience surges and I am, once again, exasperated.
Once I arrive at the right desk, a gentleman steps up and communicates very clearly the steps I need to relieve myself of this 10 pound load. Since I’m in no hurry to receive yet another pair of elephant plants and multiple sarongs I’ve collected in the past 7 weeks,to save $50, I decide to send my package via “sea mail” relinquishing any expectation of its return in Austin. At least in one piece. Until my mate starts securing this flimsy box of cardboard. He goes to town with some industrial packing tape and with every crisp tear of tape, my faith in the safe arrival of my contents blossoms. My trinkets and treasures are as secure as if they’d been locked in Fort Knox. The only reason I won’t see my treasured elephant pants again is if this box gets thrown overboard.
The kind sir doesn’t charge me a dime for tape, using a pen, or his explicit direction. The box itself was about $1.00. Try finding a USPS office that will offer free tape, much less that kind of service and assistance.
And then there’s the driver from the hotel to the train station this morning. I revert to my all to familiar panicked rushed travel behavior and am concerned about making it to Colombo Fort in time for a 7am departure. This guy asks me if I mind if he goes fast. Now we’re talking my language! As his foot accumulates lead and he weaves in and out of motor bikes, tut-tuts, and busses, even the NYC girl in me gets a little concerned. I tell him to be safe above all and he assures me he is a great driver. He gets me there in less than 5 minutes and in that short time shares his dreams of coming to the US to open a restaurant. He tells me he is a great chef. I surprise myself and encourage him to establish a Sri Lankan eatery in the States. This after complaining about the food. My smile is proof I’m embracing this new culture. I hope his dreams become a reality.
I could go on and on with stories of generosity and graciousness during my almost three weeks in this country. But I trust any of my beneficiaries during my time in Sri Lanka know who they are if they read this. To you, I bow with gratitude. I need no visits to temples or shrines or tours to prove to me the divine resides in all of your hearts and to experience the best part of your country.
While I may not have experienced deep epiphanies here in Sri Lanka, I have seen the kindness and compassion of the human spirit.
There is no greater teaching than that.