There’s No Place Like Home….

Driving down a dusty road near Trincomalee I gaze at the homes and wonder what it is like to live inside. Most of the structures are made of concrete, a perfect material for this climate, or of clay or dung depending on how rural the area is. The priority of course is to deal with the heavy heat and strong sunlight, so windows are few and covered by shutters or porches. In the evening, light shines out and it reminds me of home.

I love looking at the light coming out of homes in the evening. There is a glow that is universal, the sense of home and family that one can imagine living within. I try to imagine a family, sharing dinner and conversation- the laughter falling out into the evening air. Idealistic-yes but it is my wondering and so I imagine that this is what is happening in Sri Lankan homes as well. I hold these thoughts as I approach a home stay in Trincomalee.

Upon arriving the lane is dark. Two large dogs are barking from behind a gated yard. Security is an issue here and most people who can afford it have personal security to protect their homes. After several calls a light goes on and a servant answers our call. We are escorted into a world that resembles my own but also is a world away. It appears that my host has been delayed on business so my colleague and I are left to the hospitality of his grandmother.

This kind woman welcomes us and we are shown to our rooms to wash up- always a treat after a long, hot day of site visits. She is wearing a beautifully colored sari and a gorgeous gold necklace that turns out to be a wedding necklace given to her by her husband. The cord is of thick gold and it holds important charms symbolizing their union. These necklaces are similar to wedding rings and are traditional in this part of the nation. I notice the next morning that all of the women in our meeting are wearing similar necklaces.

It is obvious that this family has wealth. There is an abundance of furniture and a television. My room is comfortable despite the lack of air conditioning, a strong fan keeping my room cool. It seems that I have been given the master suite, as a lavatory is attached. Alas, the shower and water has been turned off- not uncommon in a region where water is rare. I share a small bathroom with my friend and try to wash off. The shower has very little pressure so washing all of the sweat off my body will be impossible. I do the best I can and then shuffle off to dinner.

We are escorted to a kitchen table. Our hostess doesn’t join us; her servant serves us a meal of small rolls and curry. I am still recovering from “Buddha belly” and I have to force myself to eat the meal which is quite spicy. Following the meal we rinse our plates and are escorted to a sitting room where we read quietly, there is no interaction between our hostess and ourselves except when she informs us that she is going to bed- surprised that we chose not to watch television.

I sleep in my clothes, lying on the bed covered only with one sheet. It was surprisingly comfortable and despite the situation I get a good night sleep. In the morning we are served breakfast- bananas, coffee and the leftovers from dinner the night before. The coffee is delicious! I make friends with the dog, Dinah and that breaks the ice with our hostess. She proceeds to talk to us about her various pets-parrots, fish, and some cats. We discuss our families and then she brings out the family photo album and shows us her Hindu home shrine.

My visit ended on a high note so although covered with sweat and dirty from the day before, I feel great when I leave. It was quite the experience and gave me a bit of an idea of what is behind the lit windows I pass on the roads of Sri Lanka.

Meg

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