We found ourselves waiting in a seemingly endless immigration line in Colombo, Sri Lanka, exactly 24 hours after we left our accommodations in Kenya.
An early morning start, long bumpy drive, two planes and a five-hour layover in the middle: we were absolutely exhausted. We finally made it through, found our luggage intact an headed out into the throngs of Sri Lankans to meet with our final field partner, Reverend Ranjan Fernando.
At first glance, many things struck as the same, many different, compared to other countries we’ve been.
Similarities: in the airport a sea of people waiting outside barricades for loved ones to return home, and taxi drivers lobbying for your fare. A joyful similarity to most other airports was the clean ‘regular’ toilets. Other similarities included driving on the left side of the road, tropical trees, little vegetable stands where women sell their meagre offerings for cheap. There were crowds teeming in the streets, and twice as many vehicles, bikes and people on the width of the road than there should have been.
The biggest similarity to other countries we’ve traveled is that the people are just as foreign in their ways and customs to me as everywhere else we have been. It’s a whole new world to explore and experience. As soon as you get off a plane you’re immersed in it and there’s no way to just dip your toes. You’re in the deep end of a new country before you have the chance to rub the grogginess from your flight away.
Differences: Sri Lankan languages have their own alphabets. Signs often had a mix of Sri Lankan and English writing, making for a unique combination unlike in Kenya and Uganda where most writing found was in English. The people are brown instead of black; the accents are very different and I keep thinking I’ll see the Kwik-e-Mart around the next bend. Women are dressed in saris, some men in sarongs. Tuk tuks pass us by on the congested streets, spewing out a haze of black smoke.
A big difference here compared to other countries we traveled to for Pockets of Change on this final leg of travel is the heat. Colombo is hot, the wall of radiating heat hits you as soon as you step out the doors and into a blazing inferno. It is a wet, humid heat. It is unpleasant, to put it politely.
As we drove by the endless small shops on unmarked roads, I thought how it would be much easier to just be home now. To be surrounded by people more like me, to not be expected to observe and question and report, to not have to sleep in another strange bed in another strange house, to not have to eat unfamiliar food and jump cultural differences to connect with the people here.
But after some rest at our partner’s home where we were to stay while in Sri Lanka, I pondered my feelings. The beautiful thing to me about being a Christian is that while I sometimes don’t feel, I still know in my head the truths in my life. The truth: God is. And as long as I’m following in the path God has shown me, I know that wherever I am is where I’m supposed to be. I also reminded myself of the confirmation I’ve had again and again in different ways that Pockets of Change is a project God has called us to. So despite my feelings of exhaustion, of wariness to face a new country and people, of not having my own bed to sleep in each night and my own food to eat, I know we have been called here as we have to every other stop.
So crank up the heat, smother that rice in curry, bring on the heavy accents. Here’s to the last stop on our Pockets of Change travel.