Don’t hate me for what I’m about to describe ie my whereabouts. We are currently in Tangala, at the southern most tip of Sri Lanka. We have been to about ten cities in the last two and a half weeks. This is fine by me because my favorite times are actually spent in metal monstrous Sri Lankan buses, whipping around the countryside, patiently tanning my forearms in the window seat. This is, in my opinion, where the true dramas of any country show themselves. Whether it be crying babies or old monks nodding off on the front lines, buses are twisty, but enlightening.
Anyway, we weren’t expecting to stay long in Tangala. Upon our arrival in Kandy our second day we realized the phenomena called TOURIST or “Tuk Tuk (three wheelers) meat” and have been moving pretty fast trying to stay one or two nights at the most and escape the cities to the cool mountainous countrysides, littered with buddhist ruins and temples.
But Tangala has been different. For one the European holidays are coming to an end and there is absolutely no one but locals and beach bum expats hanging around… And us. Secondly, this is heaven. Although our Aussie friends told us “this is probably the worst beach I’ve ever seen,” we Northerners are quite content with the small lapping waves, breeze, and empty beaches. We have spent the last days in such good companies as well. Our hosts are a fraternity of young men all with their own personalities. So it’s made me reflect on ‘the road’ aka traveling, backpacking, moving around from place to place — and the amazing people we have met in only two weeks.
There is Tissa Tao, the middle-aged Japanese lady who was traveling alone speaking NO English. She ended up trusting us enough to follow us around for a few days and even go elephant watching with us. As we laughed together at baby elephants spraying water, I turned to Michael and said “look at us. And this Japanese woman. Where are we?!”
There was Allan the American expat and Jenny the pretentious Brit. Sarah was quite a know-it-all Aussie we met in Delhouse at midnight in a random tea house.
There’s Jack and Tim the Australians we talked politics with for a night. There’s Dan and Theresa, Czechs who now live in Ireland. Dans a fish mongerer living with five Irish-football-obsessed lads.
We met Deedee, a Danish economic development student and Sam, a Kiwi(?) from New Zealand today on our day trip to Mulkirigawa, where a huge parinirvana (in death) statue of the Budha is located. Sams been here two months and will also be in India. They then picked us up in their own Tuk Tuk on the side of the road — he rented for his travels. We meandered through rice patties on the three-wheel buzzing machine, talking to Danish Deedee about the differences in our education systems and problems with the whole “aid” business.
Then there are the non-travelers. Our Sri Lankan friend “D. S. Eliot” for example — by day a guest house employee, at night poet. There is our monk friends from temples, always willing to teach what they can about Buddhism. There was the family who let us fall in and out of sleep in there little shop for five hours as we waiting to make our 1 AM ascent of Adams Peak. Theres the guys who stopped by my table by the ocean to tell tales of the disastrous tsunami that hit in 2004. There are shop owners, Tuk Tuk drivers, and those people who just smile as you pass.
‘The road’ is so different from my experience in Nigeria (staying in one place with one family). Here I am always moving and experiencing different things. Thus I think we have discovered much already about these nomad-selves as much as anything.
There’s Logan, the cautious quite American who day-dreams on buses and trains and smiles for anyone who will return it. And there’s Michael, always willing to make a friend, outgoing and confident, dorky and kind. We laugh at each other and learn in our own way about this crazy culture that has been so kind to us this far.
We are both anxious, though, to be in India. People have been telling us it is much harder and more stress-inducing. Sri Lanka is a good introduction I think. Michaels almost got the head-wobble (figure eight shapes nod that means anything from no to ok to maybe to yes) down. I am reading up on my hinduism and trying to memorize some hindi phrases.
We leave on the seventh. But for now, excuse me while I sip white rum and coconut lassies on the beach, watching stray puppies and Sri Lankans mingle in the sunset, breathing easy and living presently – such a simple product of living with the constant sounds of gulping waves.