I’ve now been away from Sri Lanka for more than a month, more than enough time to assess the impact the whole experience has had on me. Or so you’d think. In the posts below, I’ve talked about some of the changes – both trivial and meaningful - and here, in my final "Indygal in Sri Lanka" post, I’m going to try and sum up what I see as the most significant of the changes.
My feeling now, however, is that I won't know the extent of the impact for quite some time. One day I'll look back and it'll all be clearer. In the short term, however, I think Sri Lanka will seep into my subconscious (or has already) but it will be so deeply embedded in my psyche that I may never become fully aware of who was the ‘before’ and who was the ‘after’ me. Life itself is like that of course but this three month period brought me an intensified and accelerated learning experience and I think it will be a long time before I can fully comprehend what, how and when I became who I have become - because of Sri Lanka.
I think the best way to sum it all up is to tell you about my two journeys between Colombo and Galle on the first and last day in Sri Lanka.
If you read any of my very early blog postings, you’ll know I was suffering from culture shock when I arrived in Sri Lanka. I never realised until then that culture shock was real but it certainly is. I tried throughout the life of this blog to track the transition that I made during my stay in Sri Lanka – from my terrifying first day when I was so much in shock I can only compare it to how I have felt when someone close has died (it should go without saying that the long term difference is huge but the initial shock felt very much like that) to days when I began to believe I could cope and then the period where I went from liking it to loving it to never wanting to leave.
And my final journey from Galle to Colombo really brought home to me how far I had come. When I first made that journey (in reverse, from Colombo Airport to Galle) I was horrified. It took four hours, I sat in the front of a van with no seatbelt and was convinced I’d end up with serious injuries if, indeed, I survived at all because the driving was chaotic and terrifying. I was hot, dirty, there were open drains everywhere, strange looking people, goats, cows and scabby flea ridden dogs staggering onto the road, chasing the rubbish that was strewn across the streets, hoping to find something they could eat. It was that awful journey that convinced me I’d made a huge mistake and started me plotting my immediate return.
The journey back, three months later, at the end of April was the same journey but so very different. I sat, relaxed and happy, still with no seatbelt, chatting easily to a journalist pal I’d met the day before and offered a lift to (Sri Lanka does that to you!). As we made our way through the coastal towns and villages, I smiled at the goats racing each other to the local rubbish area for breakfast; I was aware of the seatbelt danger but entrusted my survival to the Gods (or whoever it is that’s really in charge) and forgot about it; I closed my eyes and soaked up the sun, knowing there wouldn’t be much of it where I was headed.
I felt that day, like I’d got to the end of a particularly exciting novel and I’d got my finale, my happy ever after ending – one that kept you reading right until the last word and made you warm all over because all the ‘I’s had been dotted and all the ‘t’s had been crossed, everything had come full circle and been wrapped up beautifully.
But to say it has been wrapped up is to suggest that this is "The End". I don’t believe it is, I believe it was just chapter one. I’ve always said that life is a big adventure but until this year most of the adventure has been lived out in my daydreams. And now? Who knows what the future holds but I think the best way to finish this blog is by sharing with you the final paragraph in my personal journal which I kept throughout my three month stay:
“It’s an unusual feeling as I sit here not knowing if I’ll return this summer or never again – I just don’t know if I’m saying goodbye to Sri Lanka forever. The one thing I do know is I don’t want this to be “it”. I don’t want this adventure to have been a one off. What that will mean exactly, I don’t yet know. More volunteering? More living overseas? Other developing countries? Or simply more holidays?
"All I know is that my horizons have been well and truly broadened and now, now I want to see just how much wider I can push them … "