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..."

Friday, August 19, 2005

to eden and back

august 19: friday: day 10 (part 2)

on our way to the hotel after breakfast, a bigass iguana went ... well, now here's a problem: what do bigass iguanas do? do they 'scurry'? do they 'slither'? check www.Dictionary.com for an apt synonym for 'cross' and get back to me- the most accurate one will be posted! (yeah, whatever.)

anyway, we headed from the hotel uddawaththa to kandy to 'see the sights.' the day before, while i was at the mission distract meeting, a number from our group went to the elephant sanctuary- now today it was off to the botanical gardens. there were two things that actually sustained me during this time (apart from the obvious beauty of the gardens themselves)

  • jay's wife, son (my buddy 'prince') and daughters were with us on the excursion, so i was still with the sri lankan people
  • we had changed our plans yet again and would, in fact, be leaving for batticaloa upon returning to kabool lanka in the afternoon after all.
driving through one of the towns on the way, i was amazed at how often the buildings and storefronts that lined the streets were facades, obscuring from the autopublic's eye the shacks and shanties immediately behind. how like people everywhere?

we greet the faces shown to us with a face we've chosen for the occasion

on the road, colleen started singing the songs that she had taught the kids. with jay's family travelling with us, the sound of the different voices and accents singing the old chestnut bind us together felt allegorical.

we drove by a lot with row upon row of van fronts and side panels. my western mind smirked but my eastern experience would not get the joke until later, as the only traffic mishap we had seen up to that point was the day when we came upon a bus that had backed over some guy's bike...

(sadly, two days later when al and i would return from batticaloa, we would come upon the collision of a van and a lorry which had claimed the lives of two in the van... the van had passed on a blind corner and found itself occupying the same space as the front righthand corner of the truck.)

... not like at home where it's pretty hard to go for a drive anywhere without coming upon someone taking down someone else's insurance info after a fender bender.

i was glad for about a million reasons that i was to go with al and jey and lazarus to batticaloa instead of to the tea plantation the next day... (although i would regret it a bit later, upon discovering that one of the pastors- john peter i think- had taken those who had visited him there around and had bestowed upon them gifts of rich ceylon tea. still, i wouldn't trade away the batticaloa experience for anything... not even amazing tea!)

unlike our group, which was on quite a tight schedule for the day's excursion, this bus had backed down into the river at kandy to allow the passengers a brief respite from the heat

the dynamic of the group upon entering the gardens at kandy was stiff and cool because of some thermal inversion that had taken place at the gate when a warm front of good intention collided with a cold front of brisk pragmatism brought in by a high wind. some pouting and some counterpunctual 'all i said was...' ensued. i found myself sadly resolved to the fact that, no matter where you are and no matter what you are trying to do, there are times when bind us together is only a song.

jay's daughters reach for some forbidden fruit... 'forbidden' in that no one is allowed to remove anything from this botanical sanctuary... i thought of taking a picture of some 'big bambu' but i was running out of space!

still, it all makes sense. people are great at focussing and getting a job done, working well towards a common goal- holding it together until the task at hand is completed. when issues arise, they press on because they are unified to some degree by their collective mission. however, once that mission is complete, then the diverse personalities that have been brought together for the mission have to somehow relate without the mission itself dictating the pace at which the relationships progress or digress. having completed the main work to which we are called, having battled together to keep the soldiers to our right and our left alive, we sometimes turn that energy on each other during peacetime... can't we all just get along?

eustace gazes upon what i think the 'tree of life' looked like in eden
a vanload of pastors drove away just after we returned from our thrilling drive to the sri lankan 'eden' and back. some on their way to the bus, some connecting bus and train- many travelled four to nine hours to return home. we had dropped jay's family off at the bus depot in kandy before making our twisting, turning mountainous way back to kabool lanka, and jay headed off with the group in the van after passing me a sunday morning church program bearing his address.

no one had their own vehicles (with the exception of a couple motorcycles) largely because of the cost of petrol. although it was only $0.75/litre, in the economy of sri lanka this would translate to something absolutely unaffordable for most people, especially pastors of devout but impoverished congregations.


  • At 12/08/2005, Anonymous dan said…

    I guess I didn't get to have the conversation about letting our SL friends define their places of pride and beauty. that taking delight in their world can be very affirming. I often find them asking "what do you think of our country" partly because they have a self-perception that they are a needy third world country with a failed economy and really challenging toilets. They want foreigners to affirm the things that they define as their "best" --like elephant sanctuaries and botanical gardens.

  • At 12/09/2005, Blogger jollybeggar said…

    yeah, that's a really good point, dan. you know, i sensed that, for i too would often find myself in the 'what do you think of sri lanka' conversation...

    however, i hadn't really thought about that until now.

    what i find interesting is how, with time, memories of the whole experience have sharpened, not faded- yet this sharpening has been, in many ways, contextual- inviting each experience to be part of all the others.

    ie: my thoughts, impressions and motives in immediate realtime august were, in a number of instances, different from that which i actually took from the experience over the reflective longterm.

    these journals were, for the most part, written then and there... but i'm glad that i have them as a record or the initial impressions would be gone in light of all the reflection that's taken place since returning...

    but yeah, i wish that i had been more eager to embrace the 'tourist areas' without feeling like a tourist in doing so...

    next time.


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