Serendipity

Sri Lanka is the warm embrace of an old friend.  How else can I better explain the strange sense of déjà vu I felt on first arrival?  Had I been here before?    As soon as I stepped into the familiar warm air of afternoon, I felt comfortable, perfectly content. The lush, natural aesthetic of the potted gardens made me stop and admire.  The quiet, clean and orderly streets made me rub my eyes in wonder. And while meeting the dignified and friendly people my heart broke a little each time I saw a passing smile.  The noisy dust cloud of middle India and the barrage of questions and the searing of staring eyes in Bangladesh felt like they were continents away.  It’s so seldom that I’ve experienced a place so different from its geographic neighbours. Crossing from Vietnam or Laos did it.  That was the last time, nearly four years ago.  I’d nearly forgotten about how I feels.   It is an intoxicating moment, the wonder of a new and welcoming place, the type of feeling to chase.  Is that what I’m chasing?

     According to my Lonely Planet, Arab traders called the Island Serendib, which transformed into the word serendipity; the discovery of some unexpected treasure.  That sums it up for me.  This is a treasure I wasn’t expecting. My standards were pretty high for Sri Lanka.  I’ve envisioned a trip made to this place for years and years—13 years to be precise.  I researched Sri Lanka for a project when I was 12.  My mom taught a student who had emigrated from Sri Lanka.  My mom helped me ask her family of their experiences.  She copied down some Sri Lankan recipes for rice dishes from the mother’s dictation, and to my surprise, the mother made me a dessert to bring in to hand out as samples.   Here it was Sri Lanka, this little island paradise of my reverie, my childhood project come to life.  I was slightly worried that the actual Sri Lanka wouldn’t match the one I had built in my imagination, but fortunately for me, Sri Lanka is a pretty swell place.  It surpassed my expectations.  It is the type of place that reaffirms ones love of travel, and then I’m reminded, I still have nearly three weeks left to explore.

Currently, I’m surfing in the south, not very well, I might add.  I’m no surfer, but I just like rising with the sun, grabbing a board, stretching on the sand in the slanting rays of sunrise while peering at the place where the waves break against the beach.   Even when I’m struggling to catch a wave and I can feel a sense of frustration wash over me like the breaking of the surf, I stop, sit atop my floating board, look at the palm tree-dotted coastline, the jagged red cliffs on either side of the bay, the fishing boats rocking in the distant tides and my legs swishing in water warm as a bubble bath.  I take a deep breath and smile.  Life is great.  Sri Lanka is great. Did I mention how great Sri Lanka is?