I am picked up exactly on time by Prathap the local Duara contact person. He even takes me to see the fishermen on the beach although I am not sure it is his job really. He seems to keep an eye on if I’ve settled well before he leaves. There is a sense of excitement in all of us, this being new to us all.
Yet arriving at my Duara homestay, I am strongly reminded of my days as an exchange student back in high school. The same feeling of being obviously a foreigner. Not having a common language and yet of being warmly welcomed, of someone having opened their home for you.
Having read about civil war, strict government and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, I am happily surprised how much Sri Lankans are willing to share of their lives. Although I am an outsider, I don’t feel like one.
People tell stories of what Passikudah used to look like three years back, or how difficult it was to travel through all the check-points in war time. Despite limited vocabulary, my host is determined to share details of her working life and make sure I understand, who is a relative of whom. She explains to me carefully the every curry and other dish she serves and makes sure I feel comfortable.
SriLankans are a very polite and attentive lot, yet frank enough to tell you, if as a foreigner you do something that doesn’t make sense on Lanka. There is an obvious sense of pride Sri Lankans have of their culture. So when I was invited to puja night at local temple, I feel like I am guided to the local culture, not take for sight seeing. My host’s niece tells me frankly and warmly: “You are lucky!” and I know I am, because it’s not puja night every night.
When I was invited to puja night at local temple, I feel like I am guided to the local culture, not take for sight seeing.
We spend an hour at the temple. I participate in folding lotus flowers for decoration. When we walk home in the dark and I am watching my hosts’s young niece and neighbor girls holding hands I am thinking how safe I feel.
They say peace is not absence of conflict, but something deeper. You could say the same about safety: it is not absence of threats, but feeling at home somewhere. With these thoughts, I go to bed and sleep soundly in my Passikudah home.