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Prana Lounge

The Greatest Lesson Of All

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.

Live Like A Local

As much as I have loved the lessons and insights gleamed during my travels, not every day necessitates a spiritual teaching. Sometimes you just have to get shit done. Take today for example.

I don’t consider myself to be a vain person. While my daily personal hygiene skills are on the up and up and I am dedicated to daily cleansing practices guided by Ayurveda, my hair rarely sees a hair dryer and, often days, a brush. Nor have I put on much more than a few strokes of mascara and some lip balm on in the past five weeks. I enjoy a nice manicure, however, I often resist the bi-monthly pleasure as quite frankly, it takes too damn long. The process itself doesn’t put me out much, but the time I’m left incapacitated to ensure the polish remains smooth and glossy borders on unbearable. Nine times out of ten, I throw my nails up in frustration and proceed with normal functioning, resulting in a wasted $15 and nails that resemble nothing like they do when I walk out of Great Nails.

That being said, the past five weeks of travel have done a job on my hands and feet. The mani- pedi I did luxuriate in prior to my departure looked like it would had I been traveling through India. Oh wait. I have been. There was still dust under my nails from Auroville and dirt from who knows where.

Allow me to rewind a bit. Within the first two hours of arriving here in Sri Lanka, I found myself sitting in a lovely café in the city for a late lunch. Barefoot Cafe is a little oasis in the middle of the city. Inside there are individual little shops selling everything from kitchy stationary and cards to amazing linen pants (yes, I bought them), to beautiful home goods and designs. It reminded me of Fred Segal in Santa Monica, especially since the ocean is a few meters away. Down the steps and out the back is the lovely garden café with a menu similar to that of the trendy beach hotspot in Cali.

It didn’t take but one bite of papad to notice something rock hard between my teeth. That would be my crown. (I feel the need to let you know it’s the only cavity I’ve ever had.) Popped as effortlessly as an aspiring porn star’s cherry. Welcome to Sri Lanka.

I made a call to a dentist on the recommendation of a local family friend and he directed me to come to his office the next morning at 9am. On Good Friday, mind you. I’ll give you $100 if you can name me any dentist or doctor that will just slide you into his or her schedule on a normal day of the week, much less a holiday. Welcome to Sri Lanka.

And so it was that my Friday became about daily life as it looks in any city.

9am: Dentist. (Crown is securely back in place to the tune of about $25. Thank you Dr. Wimaladharma! I’m liking this place more and more.)
10:30am: Meet owners of Prana Lounge at the next door café. Grab a juice and get some work done.
12pm: Practice.
1:30pm: Quick bite for lunch.
2pm: Mani/pedi.
3:30pm: A bit of browsing at the local healthy market. (I had to wait for my darn nails to dry!)
5:00pm: Home. (Or temporary hotel home.) Shower, dress, quick meditation.
6:00pm: Stuck in rush hour traffic in tut-tut.
6:30pm: Arrive at friend’s home for some bubbly and conversation.
8:00pm: Lovely intimate dinner gathering at a new friend’s friends’ home. Beautiful backyard garden. Wonderful meal. Wonderful people. “Small world” connections made.
12pm: Home in bed.

When you’re on the road for this long, not every day needs to be a tourist event or sightseeing extravaganza. I’m enjoying finding a rhythm of daily life here in Sri Lanka. I’ve seen enough temples and made enough plans. I’ve stopped reviewing itineraries or scouring Google for what to see in Sri Lanka. For now, I’ve decided to sit back and see where life leads me. So far, it’s been the best non-plan plan I’ve made.

I don’t have a ticket out of here and until I’m sure I’m ready to move on, if I move on, I don’t plan on purchasing one.

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