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..."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

sour skittles and other cultural exchanges

august 14: day 5: sunday (part 3)
so many things can seem symbolic when you are trying to make sense of a life-changing experience.

for example, every day while meeting with lazarus at his church in colombo, his wife and her sister (smiling coconut-square girl) prepared a huge meal for us to enjoy. it was expected that the canadians would eat alone. this struck me as a bit odd, but i realized that it was probably just a cultural difference that i needed to be sensitive to. so we would enjoy these lavish banquets, happily clanking our forks and knifes on the plates as we sawed through this or that and marvelled at how richly satisfying sri lankan food was, in the complete absense of our hosts, who would eat afterward.

now this is probably not really symbolic of anything, but it came to be as i thought later about some of the differences between the east and the west.

you see, on sunday afternoon, the 'youth group' (actually young adults, most between 20-23 years of age) returned from a retreat that they had been attending since before we all arrived. the bunch of them bounced through the ministry centre with a rich and full laughter and humour that i realized i had been missing, for there had been no youth around us basically since heathrow. an idea formed in my head- a dreadful idea that would allow me to express my thanks while subjecting my hosts to a bit of western cuisine...

mrs jollybeggar had smuggled some sour skittles into my bag sometime during the viewing of unbreakable on the night before i left. now any connoisseur of sour skittles knows that humidity makes them stick together (i discovered this the hard way in florida a couple years earlier) and so once they are open you pretty much have to eat them all- being that there were too many skittles in this large bag for me alone, i knew i would have to share. you see where this is going? it was the perfect crime.

the posse before tasting sour skittles...
if ever you want to see sri lankan smiles disappear, just produce a camera.
i called the entire youth group together and thanked them for their mothers' hospitality, expressing my gratitude for the many incredible meals that we had enjoyed and all that. then i produced the lime green bag of sour skittles (a good colour for such a thing in such a place, i thought to myself.) they were told that they could (and should) have the whole bag, but that i wanted to watch them eat these things.

so the future of the free methodist church in sri lanka took turns gingerly (good word) taking skittles and popping them into their mouths, then grimmacing and sputtering and laughing loudly. it was a really fun time.

and the symbolism? our hosts had prepared these huge banquets for us, and then permitted us the privacy to sample and eat whatever we liked from it without fear of hurting the feelings of our hosts if something was, for some reason, a bit too 'foreign' to our western pallets; while i brought this evil bag of confection bought at walmart (because it's cheaper there) and stood there laughing at my hosts as they struggled to choke these things down... yet somehow this exchange was perfect because both cultures shared something together and drew closer together by participating in the transaction.

again and again throughout my entire time in sri lanka, i would find myself thinking 'wow, did these people get ripped off... i've come bringing nothing and have left with so much.' yet it was in those moments that God reminded me of the reason that i was there in the first place: to blaze a trail for others who would bring continued resources and expertise. my gift had to do with investment futures... come to think of it, so did their gifts to me, for becoming partners in ministry with my friends in sri lanka would deepen many aspects of my local church back home. good trade.

anyway, having had my fun, i went back onto the deck and, snickering to myself, tried to catch up on the journalling that would eventually become this blog.
sing-song time: (to the tune of that old chestnut God is so good)

nan net comparde Jesu don
(i am standing on the rock of Jesus)

mele kele mune pine suitilum avare don
(up down front back all around)

the girls (lazarus' daughters and nieces) taught colleen and me this little song. these girls are absolutely beautiful in every way. they certainly come by their warmth and their charm honestly enough- their parents are incredibly kind, humble and loving people.

we taught the girls 'blessed be the name of the Lord (the tower song)'
and colleen did the actions thing.


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