It seems as though it is only when I am on holiday that I have both the time and inclination to blog…about past journeys. So, as I stare off into the black night ocean from the coast of Batu Ferringhi, Malaysia, my mind wanders back to the last time I stared off at night into the pitch dark of the pitching waves. Then it was on the rooftop of a hotel in southern Colombo, Sri Lanka. I spent a few days there: one day meeting up with friends from Chengdu to tour the city, and another day making new friends by combing the beach, collecting conversations like seashells.
It was on this beach walk that I first met Sahil. He stood with his mother and wife, holding a frowning girl in his arms. Sahil smiled at me and, in English, introduced himself. He asked where I was from and if I like Sri Lanka. America and Yes, it’s beautiful. Then Who’s this? I nodded to the girl in Sahil’s arms. “My daughter. She’s scared of the waves, but just you wait! By the end of the day, she’ll love the ocean!” I laughed, reminded of my own ocean ventures off the coast of Cape Hatteras with my father and brothers. We used to stand on the sand bar for hours until I could feel the rise and fall of the ocean even as I laid to sleep at night. I wished Sahil luck and continued along the beach.
A bit farther, past families and photo ops, I happened upon an old boat. The entire aft had been torn asunder, but it sat beautiful in its wreckage. While taking photos of the boat, I heard men screaming and shouting as they started running towards me. I turned my head, perplexed, watching them pour out of a small restaurant on the shore and hurtle my way. Their cries were neither angry nor frightening. They sounded pleased and giddy. Most of them ran right past me and dove into the ocean. One stopped, a grin lighting up his face. “Hi!” He waved and his enthusiasm lit up his eyes. Hi, I smiled. What are you guys up to? “Oh,” Smiley’s eyes darted to the men in the water, “it’s our day off. So we swim!” We joked around for a few more minutes before I asked the boys if I could snap some pictures of them playing around. Smiley’s grin expanded even as he raced and catapulted into the breaking waves.
After snapping photos and saying goodbye to the boys, I began hiking back. The sun was hot in the sky and I was in need of water and rest. After a while, I happened again upon Sahil, this time with a very happy little girl, splashing about in the water. Ah, Sahil, you did it! Congratulations! “I knew it would happen!” he proudly confided.
I walked back to my hotel, my soul full. How rare and beautiful this chance to be all alone in a country and still feel so much love.
Now, Sri Lanka, without the stories…