Sri Lanka feels as if it placed in the ocean, a tear drop shaped pearl, by a delicate, deliberate hand. The white, smooth beaches that fringe the island give way to palm trees and towns and then rolling leafy hills, and jungle; the humid air seemingly tingling with promise and adventure. If anything, Sri Lanka seems to me to be a country of magic.
Adam’s Peak, for example: legends say it was where Adam was placed on this earth, by God out of Eden; the place, also, where the Buddha last stepped when he left this earth; finally, the place where butterflies fly to die. History and myth entwine the dark, dense jungles, and spill out into the villages and into the blue, transparent water of this land. It is a place of tradition, of history, and of legend.
If the Sri Lankan scenery inspires a sense of awe and wonder, then so too do the people. Sri Lanka is an island shrouded in equal parts by tragedy as it is by mysticism. The twenty-five year long civil war and the Tsunami have, in some ways, left the country reeling; and yet, the resilience and endurance of the country and its people can be felt in everything; the wrinkled hands of old ladies on the public bus, stretching forward to take your heavy bags into their laps, and relieve you of your burden; the innocent queries as to your origin and destination – jarring, at first, it has to be admitted – but almost entirely innocent in their curiosity.
Above anything else, Sri Lanka taught me perhaps the most valuable lesson of all: how to let go. How to trust people – and yes, how to, sometimes, trust strangers. The country itself forces you to lose control into its humid and leafy arms; pushes you to relinquish control of your bag to the lady on the bus; encourages you to chat to the child staring at you in the corner shop. You’ll be held up on the motorway because of a stray peacock on the road; buses are often late or don’t appear at all. And at first, control is given over unwillingly and unhappily. Uncomfortably.
And then something changes. You let go.
You smile at the woman on the bus. You spend your bus journey reading with the child that stared at you; you talk about your hometown in England with the man at the corner shop. And you let go, fully and willingly into this beautiful and sprawling island’s arms.
The tight-knit communities on this lovely island bring you in, like the waves bring in shells on the shore. And you won’t regret it – I promise.