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.