Getting to Sri Lanka's Bandaranaike International Airport in the small hours. Hoping that my luggage is coming. Grabbing my bag. Walking outside. Feeling the warm weather and embracing the chaos outside. Going to the median and waiting for the driver. My driver. No I do not want to start my trip off by being cheated out of thousands of rupees, but thank you for thinking of me. No, I do not need a hotel. I do not make hotel plans from the airport, especially not the Colombo airport.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Before you know it, you're in the back of the car heading to Colombo. It's still dark outside. You're exhausted, though you aren't sure if you'd like for your eyes to be open or closed. You know your body craves rest, yet your mind wants to take everything in. Your heart has yet to weigh in, though that will change soon enough.
You think that things don't look exactly the same, but that they aren't very different. It's like putting another coat of paint on a work of art that's already been completed. Things are changing. Things always change. But a lot is staying the same too. And, it's that cool mix of change and continuity that makes it fun and exciting. The bars you know well, and those you know really well. People are still staring because I'm still white. You're eating at places you first visited years ago and seeing the look on peoples' faces, realizing that they remember you...the suddha...the foreigner. Grabbing all the newspapers you can and then washing the ink from your hands an hour later. Then washing your hands a second time to make sure that the ink is really gone. Holding the money, which is so different from the money you've been holding before you arrived. Momentarily wishing you had more money, then reminding yourself that that will eventually come, a wealth of experience is much harder to find, or at least that's what you're telling yourself, that's what you've always told yourself.
Remembering that time a friend from Dallas visited, going to Silk, a club, and almost getting into a fight for no reason. (Why do people, especially young men, have to pretend to be so tough? What happened to the joy of semi-serious boozing sans complications and yelling?)
Let's return to Silk. I assume that you still won't be able to get in if you're wearing sandals. I assume that 1,000 extra rupees won't help you either. You may already know that, dear reader.
I'm at my humble living quarters in Maryland. I turn around and take a quick glance at the sandals in the corner of my room. I'm ready to trade my winter coat and train rides for some more casual footwear and tuk-tuk adventures. I'm ready to return to the days when I consistently wore shirts with two buttons undone. Let's have incessant honking and smog in my face. Let's have people driving tuk-tuks in Colombo who don't know their way around the city. Let's have some of that head bobbing.
That nice smell in the Barefoot bookstore. Wiping the sweat from my brow all the time. Hoping I haven't completely sweat through my shirt right before a meeting. Taking my clothes to the dry cleaners and always feeling a little funny when they're counting my underwear on the counter. Spontaneously swinging by Cotton Collection (usually the one in Bambalapitiya) to look for some dress shirts. Feeling excited about maybe going to India, then feeling guilty when I don't actually end up going.
Heading back to the airport. You're still never really sure if it's better to try to get some sleep before the flight. As you may know, your body craves rest, yet your mind wants to take everything in.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.