poitu varam

THE CHRONICLES OF A FLEDGLING MISSIONARY CALLED JOLLYBEGGAR "i still gaze fondly at all of the pictures, drink ginger beer, bunch my food, listen to punjabi dj tunes, play my dholki, wear my sarong (around the house only because in canada it is still really uncommon for a man to wear a wraparound skirt in public) and speak way too much of the differences between east and west..."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

dumb bear and the coconut squares

august 13: day 4: saturday

at breakfast (something neat about eating pepper and mushroom omelettes and bananas while the surf roars in the backround and an old man rakes the beach) we learned that a sri lankan foreign minister was shot in colombo the night before. approximately a thousand troops were now in town, so traffic would probably be slowed up considerably...

we were to be picked up at 9:00a.m. but it was only 9:30 when our ride arrived to take us into colombo to repair the roof on the ministry centre which also serves as pastor lazarus' church... eustace had gone with lazarus the day before after lunch on the back of lazarus' motorcycle... with every turn eustace had prayed that they were finally there- it had been a wild ride.

the driving here is an art form unto itself! travel from negombo to colombo can take anywhere from twenty-five minutes to two hours...

our driver was pretty amazing. he and dan and ben and i grabbed some quick refreshments mid afternoon in a cafe that seemed to cater mostly to tourists. i tried to compliment him on his skill, but he didn't understand because that's just the way things are here.

an interesting thing to note was that, in this cafe, my orange juice cost more than almost every other beverage available. it would have been much cheaper to have just had a beer.

so we made our way through the busy streets in search of supplies. if this were a film, there would be some exotic sitar/tabla soundtrack going in the background. however, the soundtrack provided in reality was a symphony of car, van and auto (those three-wheel taxi things) horns against the musical ambience provided by the punjabi dj tunes grooving on the radio.

it's easy to lock into the slippery swing of this pop rhythm, as it simply recreates the meter of the spoken language here (particularly tamil) and the easy tempo of walking through the streets in this humidity and heat.

one song, apparently done for tsunami-relief, began with the car-horns in a manner reminiscent of money by pink floyd. i would spend the rest of my trip enquiring as to how to get a copy of the song to no avail.

there is no 'home depot' in colombo. between ordering lumber which had yet to be milled, purchasing aesbestos tile (yep, they still use it here) for the roof and buying a saw with an odd-sized blade not carried by any of the local suppliers to cut the stuff, we buzzed all over colombo in what felt like a fruitless and time-consuming search. i think that it was really getting to eustace, who was taking note of the passing of time, regarding it warily while calculating how many hours he had available to filfill his roofing mission before we headed to kabool lanka.

(eustace pores over his notes while the clock ticks)

yet we spent most of the morning and some of the afternoon chasing down materials to repair the massive holes in the roof. if people are worshiping and it rains, they have to run to the adjoining house... just a little disruptive unless you happen to be preaching about noah.

speaking of preaching, i was asked by pastor lazarus to preach on sunday, and as of saturday afternoon i still had no idea what to say or how to say it. the cultures are so different that it would've been easy to preach out of my culture shock... but that wouldn't do anything but elaborate upon our obvious differences rather than speak from God's word. no mildly clever analogies would bear any meaning because analogy is based upon logic and common experience...

and right now i feel strangely bereft of both...

i felt a lot like john dunbar in 'dances with wolves,' as it was impossible to communicate anything but the simplest of ideas... talking like an idiot, waving my hands around and drawing pictures.

dumb bear? definately.

dan and i got into an interesting conversation about how we frame our reality and how our picture or view is heavily affected by how we frame it. as westerners, we carry a lot of presumption into everything- relationships and so on- our ethnocentricity is troublesome, as it shuts us off from everyone we are to be opening ourselves to... we as westerners speak of 'developing countries' in terms of our own mostly economic categorizations.

in many ways, people of the east could very well think of the west as 'developing' for we are so logically linear, spiritually shallow, financially fixated and task oriented.

when you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?

philip's perpetually smiling wife (lazarus' sister-in-law, the sister of his wife) brought me piping hot tea on this sweltering day... she also brought these amazing coconut things that looked like green rice-crispy squares, which she had baked in this heat.

so i'm thinking back to 'dances with wolves' and my feelings of inadequacy... we make things so complicated: the deepest things are communicated without words- a smile is offered, received and reciprocated; a gift of food and drink is offered with a generous smile and received with one both gracious and grateful.

good thing i didn't cheat and take a nap... there was a wedding reception taking place directly below so anyone who didn't need a full night's sleep probably didn't get one. the event put me in mind of the big party/wedding in bend it like beckham- that's how i described it to mrs jollybeggar and the boys the next day on the phone.

funny thing: wedding singers and their bands wear cheesey uniforms here too!

is ultimate heterogeny (when every culture contains aspects of every other culture) the new homogeny?


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