We have tried to slow down these last few days, perched in our treehouse cabins, listening to gentle winds, birdcalls between branches, and scuffles between monkeys and dogs.
On the heels of Wilpattu’s jungle safari, Jaffna’s off-the-beaten track discoveries, Trincomalee’s expansive beaches (snorkeling with sharks and turtles!), Kandy’s temples, and the epic train ride to Ella, we needed to slow down a bit.
So here we are, at a rustic but peaceful homestay among the trees in Sri Lanka’s jungly hill-country. The only guests here, we have landed in a town once overrun by tourists and banana pancakes, but that now – amidst the fallout of the country’s financial woes – struggles to stay afloat.
We do one activity a day – hike to Ella Rock, visit a tea plantation, bathe in a waterfall. Then Chris trains for his marathon (only marginally deterred by the steep gradients of the surrounding mountains), the kids do school and zone out on iPad, and we all venture into the town for meals.
It is our second-to-last stop in Sri Lanka; Friday we leave for Weligama, a beach/tourist town in the South of the country, for a final stretch of Indian Ocean before departing for Italy in a week.
We have been talking as a family about perspective. About how perspective is constructed and then solidified in hindsight, a complex concoction of ingredients: experience (comparison to what was and to what will be), intention (the 'texture' of how you want to view something), some mess of chemicals and chemistry of the bodymind in the moment, and of course the unknowable. What would Sri Lanka have been to us if it was our first or second stop on our journey? What if we had allowed moments of negativity to fester and permeate our impressions of place? What if our current stores of impatience – with food, with bugs, with the limitations of GB in our Wi-Fi usage – are more about our Italian future than our Sri Lankan present? We are not unhappy, but the gravitational pull is elsewhere. We are each, in our own ways, having to intentionally pull in the reins to keep us present and appreciating this life.
The wondrous complexity of this place - its softness, political/economic despondency, beauty, vibrant mixture of people, cultures and religions - seeps into us, but not in isolation of our place in time, of Italy on the horizon.
We are studying Italian, sharing articles about how to discern good gelato from the tourist stuff, and salivating over the familiarities of pasta and pizza, espresso and wine. We are also anticipating the inevitability of culture shock. Of more senseless/sensible rules (we have warned the kids – no more 5 people in a tuk-tuk soon!), more tepid engagement with us as visitors, faster tempo, higher prices, lower temperatures, of a singular way to do something. And even though it may seem more familiar, Italy will also be a totally new culture, language, and set of rules by which to abide.