Writings :: My Sri Lankan Adventure (part one)

It's 8pm now, November 21st, and I've been in the Sharjah airport (in the United Arab Emirates near Dubai) for about five hours. Yesterday, upon getting official word that I didn't have to be back in Saudi Arabia until Nov. 26th, I did probably one of the most silliest of things: I randomly bought a flight to Sri Lanka.

Over the past five hours here waiting, during my time on the hard cold floor trying to sleep as Indian babies and children wailed around me (it's amazing how all babies in the world cry the same), as I dove into the "50 Best Inventions of 2010" section of Time magazine, and at other times as I sat transfixed reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X, I was second guessing this silly, random, pricey and completely unorganized decision to skip one flight and instead grab another flight and fly four hours to Sri lanka, having not even heard from either of the two people I was hoping to visit. Some people would probably call this a downright stupid decision. Maybe that will turn out to be the case.

As the original flight I was to be on (back to Bahrain) boarded and departed, I tried to focus on the fact that the decision was made and I was stuck with it; I had wasted a flight and bought another one to new adventures. But I was seriously second guessing the decision every time I let my mind wander from the babies, my book or my magazine.

I'm not exactly sure of my original rationale in changing my plans. For starters, I do always say that "plans are made to be changed" and have lived my life by that mantra. Sri Lanka first came to mind when I saw a budget airline (Air Arabia) flies there. And I have a couple of friends in Sri Lanka who I went to the University of Peace with in Costa Rica (Kelum, my roommate, and Gamage, who was in the same program as me). I thought it would be pretty cool to go see them, their families and their country, and, well, I had a little bit of time to do just that. As always in my life, I didn't think twice about the financial cost of what I was considering.

When I got word of the potential for the extra vacation time, I searched online (this technology stuff is nuts amazing!) and quickly found that I didn't need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. Great! I emailed my two friends to see if they would be around. The next day when I got official word about the extended vacation, without much time to actually think about the whole situation, and despite not hearing back from either of my friends, I went ahead and bought the flights. I guess the main thing was that it seemed funny to spend four or five "free" days in Saudi Arabia when, well, I could go pretty much anywhere. And I didn't have much time to decide on an alternative. I committed: Sri Lanka it would be, with or without my friends there!

Moments ago, as I turned a page of Malcolm X's words, a small, unsure man knelt down beside me. Initially, I hesitated to pay any attention to him before I closed my book. He struggled to communicate with me and clearly didn't know a single word of English. It was interesting. He wasn't really speaking at all, just a bit. But not English. He held out his boarding pass with a "1" written under the gate section. I pointed behind us at the sign that said "gates 1-3". The man "charaded" with his hands what might have been a door then seemed to open the door. I again pointed behind us. His confused face nodded slightly and off he went followed by, I then saw, a young boy, I presume his son.

I sat there a moment longer, opened my book again and attempted to read more but I couldn't shake the image of that confused man. Airport experiences must be so tough and awkward for him. And, with many other people around, I have no idea why he came to me for help. I didn't know where he was from but as I looked around I saw I was literally the only white person there. Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Filipino, Bangladeshi, too, I think. But no "Western" tourists as far as I could tell, and definitely no other white people. Interesting he chose me out of everyone, and, in particular, out of someone who might have spoken whatever his language was.

Realizing I hadn't looked at his departure time, my conscious got the best of me and I went to find the man just in case he was in danger of missing his flight and had to get to the gate fast. I caught up with him and read his boarding pass again: heading to Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh) at 12:30am. He had a world of time and I once again pointed to gate one. A very interesting experience for sure and it made me realize the reach and impact Air Arabia (and other budget airlines) has, the opportunities it gives to people who in previous years wouldn't even have considered venturing away from their town, country and comfort zone, let alone actually do just that.

After the experience with the man from Bangladesh, feeling comfortable he was okay and that I did all I could to help him, I went to the washroom where a man had his foot in the sink, washing it. And I don't think he was Muslim. It appeared he just wanted to clean his foot and toes. After my short time at the urinal, the man was working away on his other foot, while another man starting washing one of his feet, as well. So there I was, washing my hands, as these two guys were washing their feet. I couldn't help but think how bizarre a scene this was, and how I came to be placed in it. And that's when I decided to seek out some paper and get writing all this out while it was still fresh.


On the plane now. I've been thinking this whole time that out of all the trips and adventures I've been on, I haven't ever had such a random and spontaneous trip as this. I've done some crazy and wild things for sure. And I've had spontaneous trips, of course, lots, but none like this. I bought this flight just over 24 hours ago. I have just four days in the country (arriving at 3am on a Monday and leaving at 4am on the coming Friday). I'm exhausted from the past 10 days of adventuring in Lebanon and Jordan (stay tuned on that stuff!). I dropped some decent cash on this. I have no idea about this country, where I should go, what there is to see and experience, where I'll be sleeping, etc. And the real downer is that, as of boarding this flight, I haven't heard from either of the two people I'm going to Sri Lanka to see in the first place. All I know about Sri Lanka is that the people are remarkable friendly, another example of which happened just now when the Sri Lankan flight attendant mentioned the flight isn't full and he's going to try to get me three seats so I can sleep.

I chose to go to Sri Lanka, I chose this experience, pretty much just so I could see a couple friends. As soon as I can, I will check my email when I arrive and hope to have replies from them. But if not, I will do my best to make the most of the next four days in a country I know is amazing. I have no idea what will happen, but I'm game for whatever comes.

To be continued.

Click here for part two.