Thursday, June 4, 2009

Couldn't Help Myself

Apologies - I need to write. The vlogging stuff is fun (reference last one with Stef), but much of what I'm compelled to say sounds awkward when, well, said. I'm returning to my favorite medium to reflect on my day in Unawatuna.

From Black Sand Journal

The sea expanded endlessly before me from where I sat atop the hillock in Unawatuna. My grandfather owned this land before gifting to the temple. As a kid, I wondered why he hadn't kept this beautiful place to build some elaborate holiday home. If he had to, surely he could have given away the estate in Ambaghawatta - with its wild cattle and overgrown vegetation - to the temple instead.

Beneath the sun-baked rock, my feet burned. My eyes must have looked blue as I studied the clear skies and open ocean - the boundary between the two ambiguous at best. The sound of the waves and the wind ricocheted in my ears, drowning out all thought. My tongue tasted the salt that landed on my lips, carried by the gentle sea spray. Now a little wiser at twenty, I'm glad this sensory explosion is shared by more than just my family.

Just when I felt my metaphysical self departing, the thunderous noise of fighter jets drew me back to reality. Victory parade today, right. In the morning, the waiters at the hole-in-the-wall restaurant where I had stopped on the drive down watched coverage of the celebrations in Colombo on a TV that predated my birth. My breakfast background noise was translated into three different languages. When I did glance at the aging television, I saw the familiar face of the president. I say familiar because in the south his image is plastered on as many as eight billboards at any given roundabout; overkill, don't you think? (No pun intended). Mahinda's mug is second only to the number of AK-47s on my list of the most frequent sights in Sri Lanka. I see at least twenty cops or soldiers cradling their weapons whenever I leave my home. The closest I came to a gun in New York was standing behind a cop in line at Dunkin' Donuts.

From Black Sand Journal

Before I found myself upon the charming rock, I visited two schools in Unawatuna. Both were tsunami schools, the first funded by people in London. My Dad sent me to take photos of the makeshift kitchen, which was literally a small hut with a campfire, to help raise money in England for a new one. The children, seeing my big camera, attempted to draw my attention by repeatedly screaming "hi, hi" through their grins and waving furiously. Adorable, and not much unlike my behavior in front of cameras as a kid. The boys were flying kites and the girls crowded onto the swings and slides. The hi's seamlessly switched to bye's as I turned my back on them after taking a few photos.

The second school was in a temple and the children there were considerably more mellow. I wanted to photograph them playing, but when I drew near they put down their toys, stopped talking, and stood in a line in front of me. I can't speak Sinhalese and they nor their teacher spoke English. After a few failed gestures to convey that they should continue playing, I left.

Around the back of the school, I found a priest who thankfully did speak English. He told me to explore the temple with "little monk" as my guide. The "little monk" was a child of no more than eight. He didn't know English, but his demeanor spoke volumes. He silently escorted me up the steps to the temple and places of worship. I wondered what this child - this monk - thought of me with my expensive camera and sunglasses and my impossible to mask bad vibes. I felt distinctly ashamed while I snapped away in his presence.

From Black Sand Journal

On the drive home, I tried to locate the source of my shame. In the day since I got back, I've come to the conclusion that my restlessness sickens me. It is no secret that I've spent a good chunk of the last two months feeling unhappy. To put it simply, I didn't get what I wanted or felt I deserved. I tried to constrict the expression of my displeasure, but I inevitably threw tantrums while intoxicated. No wound strikes deeper than love that is turned to hate, Sophocles wrote in one of his Theban plays. I've quoted that line at least once a year since 16. I'm now in that mindset (perfect for working out, actually) where I am so consumed by hate that spite alone propels me to move on and distinguish myself from the girl who foolishly let her heart break. I have to become a worse person before I can become a better one, and that fact shames me.

Maybe I should go fly a kite?


Nicole Callihan said...

Suri dear, as many bad vibes as you give, you give a thousand more good vibes. You've been flying kites for a long, long time; now, you've just got to trust the wind.

Roshana Vander Wall said...

Beautiful writing as usual. I liked the vlog, but I prefer your writing. Brazen though you think it is, I think i's accurate.