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From Diamonds to Dust

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

It was a 6 hour drive from Tangalle to Negombo. I am staying at a guest house for 800 rupees a night (around 7 US dollars) and will be leaving Tuesday morning around 5 am for the airport to go to India.The most bittersweet part of backpacking is arriving at a new destination. It is exciting to arrive in a new place, but at the same time it is unfamiliar. There is this moment when you realize that you don’t know the town, the people, the patterns of daily life etc like you knew at the last place. You must stay take your time to explore the town and meet some locals to make this place feel like home for a few days. You don’t realize how you become comfortable and start to gel, til you move on to the next destination. This happens over and over and over again until you get back to your home country and feel like it was all just a dream.I had these bittersweet feelings as I arrived in the town of Negombo. Beach Villa Guest House is a backpacker’s haven, cheap to nothing rooms and food, posted directly in front of the beach (and soccer field which I’ll get to in a moment). After storing my backpack in my jail cell of a room (paint peeling on the walls, torn shower curtain, noisy fan, hard bed mattresses and flat pillow cases) I wandered out to the beach for sunset. The sand was brown and the water was a dark gloomy color, nothing like the postcard perfect beach of Amanwella. I walked through the water, it was the same sea, but a different part of it that was unfamiliar to me. The feelings set in again. I missed Amanwella. I missed the white sand. I missed Sandun. I missed my comfy king sized bed. I missed Rupee, the stray dog that slept on my porch. I missed my Amanwella boys.I retreated to my kriya meditation that I do every day. I hadn’t done it yet so I took this time to tune out the external world.. 45 minutes later the all too familiar sound of barefeet passing around a soccer ball took me out of my meditation. I turned around to notice that there were two wooden posts with a string drawn across the top and a group of various aged boys (from 10-25 years old!) passing around the ball. Thankfully I’ve spent 90% of my life on a soccer field, and bless this world, for it is a universal language, a sport that every side of the earth knows how to play (much more passionately in every country outside of the US). I ran into my prison cell at the Beach Villa Guest House to put on my sports bra, and emerged with the intent of becoming part of this new beach and knocking around some of the local boys.As I entered the sand field, sans-boundaries, I yelled “Can I play?” Their excitement and yelling (who knows what they were saying in Sinhalese) attracted a larger audience, I’m not sure if they were more curious because I was a foreigner, or if I was a girl (girls in Sri Lanka don’t play sports). The opposing team laughed as they now had to become skins, so I could differentiate the teams, and obviously they weren’t going to make me take off my shirt. The energy of the game picked up and the heckling began. My team mates didn’t pass to me for the first 10 minutes of the game, but as soon as I started tackeling and knocking them into the sand, they knew I was serious and was here to get dirty.We played a crappy game of soccer till we couldn’t see the ball any longer.  The Sri Lankans have no tactics for the game but tackle, run fast, and boot the ball. But they were tough. I promised to come back the next night, same time same place, and retreated to my room covered in brown Negombo beach dust.I woke up today with sore calves, bruised shins, and scrapes from the rocks in the sand. Playing soccer on the beach is tough and the ball moves at snail speed, like running in slow motion in a dream, but I came back for more. The boys were sad that it was my last night playing, since I’m leaving tomorrow morning for India, but I took down one of their addresses and promised to send them a box of soccer balls when I return back to the US.

I Left My Heart at Amanwella

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I spent my last night eating dinner Sandun’s house in the Amanwella Village (the resort is named after the village they built right in the middle of ). His father is a fisherman and is out on the sea now, so his 3 lovely younger sisters and mother prepared a delicious Sri Lankan rice and curry. I assumed that we would all be eating together but Sandun says that the Sri Lankans don’t eat as late as 8:00 and so they already had dinner, but it seemed like the girls prepared a romantic meal for us. We spent the rest of the evening drinking tea by moonlight underneath lush jungle plants surrounded by lurking sounds of frogs, buzzing mosquitoes and chanting geckos and every so often a bat soaring mysteriously above our heads.The next day I met Sandun to say goodbye. I had my things packed up and waiting out front of Amanwella. I ordered my last breakfast of hashbrowns and porage to be ready for me at 10.  I met Sandun at the beach, the usual spot underneath the palm trees by the boats, and he was sporting my BOULDER shirt with a pair of jeans. As a backpacker, you must go through your things before every departure to ensure you are carrying as least amount on your back as possible. So I got rid of a lot of clothing that I had bought in Sri Lanka for my stay, along with a few items I had brought from Colorado. I decided to give my Sri Lankan skirts and some American tops, along with one of my favorite bags that I was carrying around art supplies in, to Sandun’s sisters (they were shy at first, revealing only sweet smiles from my gifts but Sandun later revealed to me that once I left they were dancing around in the skirts and tops!) I also had to part ways with my favorite jersey cotton grey BOULDER t-shirt, and decided to gave it to Sandun. I reminded him to tell people asking about BOULDER that “It is in the mountains in Colorado, in the center of the United States, and there is lots of snow!” We exchanged small gifts, goodbyes and a kiss (I made him a collage and he gave me a birthday card that I ended up reading later that day) then went on my way to hand out other goodbyes which would become harder and harder as they happened.I ate my last meal surrounded by all of my favorite Amanwella boys. These wonderful boys served me my 3 daily meals with a side of Sri Lankan culture. For countless hours I quizzed the boys on their families, love and romance, food, animals, plants, the Sinhala language and much much more! It was hard to finish my breakfast as I was surrounded by adorable puppy faces pleading “please take us with you Aubrey” and “don’t ever forget us”. I will never forget my Amanwella boys, how could I? In the midst of the luxuries of staying at the resort, they were my friends and my insight into the real story behind those beautiful brown faces that inhabit this tiny island in the middle of the Indian ocean. Without them, I would not know the Sri Lankan people the way that I do now.It was difficult to pull away from the crowd of teary eyed boys. I gave them each a hug, took a few photos and went to the car which had already packed my backpack. As I climbed into the van I turned around to see a gathering of all the other Amanwella workers. The spa therapists, the receptionists, the servers, and the housekeepers. They had all lined up to see me off, and it was this sight that pulled the first tear from my eye. I turned my face to hide my sadness, but just as all of the most beautiful sorrows take over us, I let the tears come. I turned back one last time as they all waved, and saw a familiar image in my mind. It was these same crowd who had greeted me upon my arrival, welcoming me to my new home, but as strangers. And now as I left Amanwella, the sight of them standing in the entrance was the same, but the feeling was different. Now I was not leaving the strangers that had welcomed me, but I was leaving my friends and the family that had been with me through the holidays and the last month of my life.I drove through Amanwella village, past Sanduns home with tears streaming down my face. The kind that are so heavy they slide down your face and drop off your chin before you can even blink them away. I opened up the birthday card (7 days early) that Sandun had given me. In it was the poem that Sandun had recited to me the day he saw me dancing in the rain at the Muligirigala Rock Temple.

“It must have been a rainy day, the day that you were born. But it wasn’t really rain, the sky was crying because he lost his most beautiful angel”

This is when I realized that I left a part of my heart at Amanwella.

Suba Aluth Avurudhdak Wewa!

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Suba Aluth Avurudhdak Wewa is the Sinhalese translation for HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We all had the honor to ring in yet another amazing year on a full moon.  A Blue ... [Continue reading this entry]