Thursday, May 7, 2015

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad, and Ugly - Part 14

Eva Stone photo, Buddhist pilgrims, flower offerings, circumambulation
When you embrace a new culture and country you have a choice whether to live on the outskirts, with a toe or two dipped in, or go all in. The alternative is to live in an expat bubble! I think for most of us expats we'd like to think we go all in from the outset, but in reality it's more along the lines of an unconscious-conscious progression from living on the outskirts to the edges to almost all in. If I'm honest this is how it's happened for me. I think it took me a good four years to really begin to feel at home living in Sri Lanka. 

In the early couple of years I gravitated to places in Colombo that reminded me of what I was used to, ate like I would at home in the UK, went through the motions of the daily grind, struggled with the tropical climate, kept my ear to the ground regarding the ongoing war, was hesitant about learning the local language, felt more than a bit isolated at times, questioned my choice of friends, and treated my travels like I was on holidays. That's the God's honest truth and it's a tad bit uncomfortable to admit. But, it's the reality of how it was.

Then things changed for the better. It didn't happen overnight, but it was like a series of epiphanies. The explanation is relatively straightforward, but when you're actually going through it it's a whole lot more challenging. In a nutshell, it comes down to surrendering to the way of life in the country you've chosen. In my case, that country is Sri Lanka. How many of us actually surrender to the present moment, let alone a new culture and country? So, a few years back I started to make some conscious decisions that would lead to helping me to embrace the local lifestyle and culture and move away from the expat bubble...

Basically, in my overall decision to surrender to the way of life on this teardrop island, it meant deciding it was time to start...

** Please note, the full blog post has been removed as parts of the blog content will be edited for inclusion in an upcoming publication by the author. More information will be made available on the Adventures in a Tuk-Tuk Blog in due course **


Yasela said...

Thanks Eva for the beautiful expression of your experience….

As you correctly pointed out, Anuradhapura, one of the greatest remaining cultural cities of ancient Buddhist culture, won’t be busy in Vesak , the utmost celebration of a Buddhist. But when it comes to Poson, the day which meant for arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in BC, the Anuradhapura is a place that not to miss, amidst of heavy influx of pilgrimages. Every road leads to Anuradhapura gets filled with many Dansalas which meant free food and drinks. Even though pilgrimages are not the best way to have fun, many youngsters enjoy these visits as excursions on their way to Anuradhapaura. This modern practice may be not greatly welcome by the elders. Least to say, that is what generation gap about.

Other point I have to say that, many behaviors/practices of locals are difficult to understand as a foreigner specifically for a westerner. Without that Culturally trained mind set, some of these behaviors are hard to digest even for modern free thinking locals as well. However being an island nation, there are many pros and cons of those issues. But it seems to be you have adopted the situation well. Sri Lankans are very much happy to have foreigners. The White skins are always welcomed than others in everywhere may be owing to still remaining colonial thinking. But as you have written earlier in your blog, there are few people who tries to cheat the foreigners when it comes to money matters.

Nevertheless this post as well as your whole blog provide a good insight on the issues that may come across for a foreigner in Sri Lanka. Thank you very much for your effort and time.

Eva Stone said...

Hi Yasela,

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I'm grateful for your kind words and an opportunity to connect. It's an entirely different thing to "fully experience" Vesak in Anuradhapura firsthand and follow the practice of pilgrimage for oneself. I can imagine that Poson would be equally fulfilling...

Yes, you are right Sri Lankans are very welcoming to foreigners and even more so, when you fall in with what they're doing. I'm loving the opportunities I'm getting to connect and grow. As you say, there are other experiences foreigners in Sri Lanka that aren't so favorable, but that goes with any place. However, if you haven't picked up on this, I'm a look on the "bright side" kind of gal - open and receptive. At this rate, there is no deadline on my life here!


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