It didn’t take long. Yesterday I fell in love with Sri Lanka. Actually it’s almost as if I fell in love with Life, for life is happening here, it’s right here in Colombo on the streets, waiting for a bystander such as myself to get drawn into its ballet.
I am realizing how much I thrive on contact and on witnessing, and Sri Lanka (and India I’ve found as well) provides ample opportunity for both. It began today with the jovial hotel worker who brought my breakfast tea with a giggle, continued on the train where I had a conversationally (language barriers) challenging, yet heartfully connecting conversation with a young Buddhist carpenter who meditates every morning from 4-5am and was on his way to his construction job, and ended with a long photographic wandering through the market streets of Colombo where I shared numerous interactions, conversations and smiles.
All in all, I fell in love with life again, with my life, here, and it didn’t take long.
After that initial train ride which took me downtown where I mailed off 13kg of winter clothes back to the states, I went to the train station where I booked a seat on this 5:45am train on which I now type this. (I am on my way to Anuradapura, the capital of Sri Lanka from 0 -1,500 AD and also a site of great historical Buddhist significance). Outside the train station there arose some coordinated yelling and when I stepped out, I found myself in the midst of a rally for next week’s presidential election. It had strong protest energy and there were thousands of people, mostly various union members letting their voices and emotions be heard. For the next hour, I played news photojournalist and did my best to capture the energy and personality of the event. It played out in pure noonday bleaching-sun heat and I loved it. People were treating me like a reporter and bringing me to various leaders to have me photograph them. Some preached their politics so I could bring the “correct” story to the world. It is so easy to photograph these people, both at the protest and around the city, for I so appreciate them and try my best to see them with my heart, and they seem to thrive on being seen and acknowledged.
During the day, I also bimbled upon a Muslim area and into the Red Mosque. A security guard there at first tried to stop me from getting beyond the courtyard and into the actual temple, but when I explained that I wished to pray, he eagerly stored my shoes and led me to a foot washing station, gave me a plastic salad-spinneresque hat to wear, and then ushered me into the temple where I prayed and meditated for about 30 minutes. It was a very busy mosque which they are in the process of enlarging, and again, as in Istanbul, I loved the energy in there and how the general practice appears to be one of devotion, surrender (bowing one’s forehead to the carpet definitely has that flavor) and prayer. As I exited the temple area, several different people greeted me, shaking my hand and welcoming me. It was beautiful really. They allowed me to take a few photographs and then I went for tea and somosas with a very nice man named Hameed.
The rest of the day was spent shopping for some shorts (picture me trying some on in the middle of a busy construction site) and generally wandering about and talking with people, including a man with 3 children trying to sell duck head squeak puppets, people in a sweets shop, and lots of men (much harder for a man to interact with women here). It was very sweet and still, even amidst all the hectic activity.
Nearly 12 hours after I initially left my room in the morning, I returned, feeling full in my heart with an adrenaline-inspired exhaustion still coursing through my soon to be slumbering veins.