23 April, 2013

Trusting Again... to Resolve Old Issues

I took upon myself to try to help a poor Sri Lankan man, living in a shack on his parents property. I was warned by other Sri Lankan friends in the hills, and by a monk in Matara, ten years ago that 20-25% of people in the south are bad. So, I had clues that it may turn out bad, by his previous small lies, but I figured I would put a limit and watch out. Cautiously stupid...to put it jokingly. To give him a chance to redeem himself, knowing that I would have spent the same amount on myself anyway in travel. I figured he would use it on his Trishaw loan anyway, regardless of what he told me, and I was aware of how much gas costs, and his low profit margin especially now when it was low season. His loan stills needs to be paid, and it is not like it was going in the wrong places...like drinking. It could be considered a tip, by me anyway, because I used him for three weeks. I won't go into details about what tipped me off about the driver, but several occasions quickly confirmed and I cut off all contact with him. I even have him a chance to redeem himself when I outlined why early on.

Feeling Guilty because women do all the offerings, a Driver 
posed in this picture( not the one of the story)

Now, you would say why would involve yourself in drama? In a total reflective mindset, I think it came actually from childhood wanting approval from my alcoholic, depressed father. The trishaw driver and my father are not alike, but deep down I take these things on to make a difference...in someone's else's life. The driver has called, and texted many times over the last week, but I will not talk to him again, afraid of more lies. I gave him too many chances, but each time the real truth never appeared. And I hate playing this role, making it painful to see his texts. In comparison, I tried, but guess I really never forgave my father, because he never apologized for the hell he put us through as children with no way out. On a positive note, his life ended within one week of visiting me, many years ago, and we had resolved things enough to end well. I can still see him walking and talking after a dinner we shared, and he had some clue it may be his last with me by our last conversation and the way he carried himself.

I was trying to treat this whole situation like it was new, but there were tastes of it that smacked of unresolved issues. And always the clincher... expectations. Ironically, the first sign of lying was he started to call me "father," which sounded so insincere since his father was still alive. It could be from doing this trip alone, I wanted to make this feel less selfish. At least I can say that it was interesting and thus helped me prevent further loss. It enabled me to meet other people in this small town that did tell me the truth of land scams and various other incidences like how the hotel owner fooled a Thai businessman to get his beach property. It was a small price, yet painful, to pay for good information, and perhaps further unraveling of my past that I once thought was settled.

18 April, 2013

Paradise Unravelling

Residing in a cheap, no A/C, no hot water, older room in a up and coming hotel in the off season, in an almost remote setting.....puts a strange twist on your grip of reality. And staying put, more or less shelving the camera because it gets in the way of truth I begin to see life as really exists here in Sri Lanka. Surely, there is a part of me that wants to see and experience new, new, new in an attempt to obscure the reality of my up coming death. On the other hand, I will swim in dangerous surf every morning with no one around to rescue me, today walking by locals saying, "Be careful," while walking away from the beach. Half hoping that now is time for a tsunami wave, or one good shark bite ...because now is just as good any other once you have seen the suffering of others in life. It just doesn't get better when you are an emotional connected person. I don't easy disconnect with people.

Today, my room door had a small knock, and I opened it to friendly young man that works in the hotel to come ask if there is any way for him to get work in USA, because he is oldest and needs to provide for the family, and 10,000 rupees a month doesn't cut it. Plus he is worked to core and has to live on the premises, even though his village is less than 40 minutes away. It reminds me of working at a high end ski lodge when I was 20, knowing I would never be able to afford to stay were I worked, helping to maintain a healthy dose of seething anger. He was not asking for handout, he just wants to be able to work and earn enough. Later in the week, I'm invited to his home, but I have feeling that once I see the fact it still has no roof yet, it will be etched in my mind. I really have a great memory and it's the only thing not really fazed by my brain injury, so I won't forget it.

Behind the smiles here in Sri Lanka, there is like almost everywhere in the globe great division between the haves and have nots. Only here the corruption, double crosses( fooling people to invest in property, fake the documents with a lawyer, just so that they legally take it back) , and overcharges are rampant. So soon many people have put aside Buddhist precepts to get something little or something big.

This afternoon I took prints of photos I took of the women who make limeade with unfiltered tank(man made mini reservoir water). We (my Trishaw driver and I) gave them one to the daughter of a woman who makes limeade, and were suddenly asked( because I don't wear rings) if she could marry me and come to US. Thank the quick tongue work of my driver, saying I am an ex-monk to throw her off. Later when a elder monk stopped us to get Dana for his temple which was fine and it was only 100 rs. it was a welcome change.

A brief glimpse of radiance, happened when I got my haircut on this new year holiday, and I wasn't up charged 10 fold like they normally do, because he was an older barber with morals intact. And when I went to a village family for Kola kanda herbal porridge, when asked how much for two glasses, she said, "Up to you." Just reflect on the setting of a family of 5 in two room house, with not much else but love and smiles to share, reminds me I have to download their photos and take to them before I leave. Which shows the other side of the coin of my existence still not quite ready to throw in the towel.

08 April, 2013

Sri Lanka Photos of Fire

Buddha Contemplating Stages of the Body
A Fiery Sri Lankan Sunset

02 April, 2013

It Was Never About You

A boy patiently waits until I finish an hour of
meditation in the hopes of money
My friend in Tangalle,
puts his niece to sleep with music

School boy proudly shows his whites
had made it through a school day

This trip was another good learning lesson. It is to easy to feel like a victim when the scams are numerous, and everyone has their hand out, some blatantly, others very sly so much so they catch off you off guard. It was not that I was an easy target, but instead about the potential I represented for more income. Everyone is struggling to cope with rising costs, and to think that you are the only one is ridiculous. Fuel is higher price there than in Thailand. At times it did become more one thing to deal with when a brain injury can be enough. 

Stopped to give all the kids pens in Uva province

I did not shy away from giving dana at temples and taking interest in others and trying not to turn off, even when it became overwhelming. A couple of funny instances, like when the boy waited for me to finish meditation, only to offer himself at a price. After which it was the furthest from my mind, so I might have appeared puzzled to him yet showed some interest since I had just photographed him, but such is life.

Village Moms sell me kola kanda drink
Another time, when I gave dana at The Temple of The Tooth, and talked to the help, I got lots of privileges once they found out that I am Buddhist. I went behind the ropes to pay respect to Buddha. I got a special showing of a deck overlooking the lake, and when the man asked me if I am married…I told the truth about having a friend, and he then offered himself which became awkward, with his naiveté about gay life and commitment. But such is the truth, and a well meaning smile defused the situation, so as not to offend.

It became obvious more and more that when I felt put upon to immediately think of others, buying mass quantities of pens for school kids, and chocolate to give along the road and train tracks. Yes, villagers come to watch the once a day train in the hills. Many people were interested in me as a foreigner, and curiosity was not always based on need for money.  I would take the time with people along my travels to tell me about their life and family.  I would keep my spirits up by planning on giving gifts of dhamma books in Sinhalese and people then opened up further. I tried not to take my goals as first and foremost, and ended up missing things to be with people, which made the trip more real.

My 3 wheel driver took me to see his kids playing soccer

A donation at Nun's Vihara near Tangalle
A king coconut vendor daughter
enjoys the chocolate I gave her

When a tuk-tuk driver I met in Tangalle, took a liking to me based on my face being similar to cricket star and we bonded under these odd circumstances. When at times, I tired to clarify me and what were my desires or fears…. it became an instant wake up about this theme…it was never about you. What is in my mind has absolutely nothing to do about others perceive you. Some people may offer something different from what you desired, but it is what they needed. In many instances it is done with innocence or plain old curiosity. And even some might be just be a clever way to get you to part with your money, as can expected. My partner said something important to me after we got charged double for dinner, “So what? It is just money, and does not justify a bad mood.” My perceived suffering at any given moment is never worthy to be shared, and I would at times have enough sense to put it away and to think of others.

This was the same driver upon getting to know me, took me to a small Buddhist Nun’s Vihara just in time to see a van full of villagers bringing dana and their meal at 11 am.  And later cooked a dinner for me, things that would have been missed if I had my armor on as I used to do.

Siddhartha shows off his
Yoga knowledge
At the beach the waiters out of boredom would come talk to me, and I would it turn engage and share my knowledge about dhamma. So it was about their needs, and not about my need to just chill out, after going for three weeks moving around. The help would rarely engage in guests, unless the guests engage with them, so I had a new group of friends telling me about the lives and dreams. And I feel we can create our present reality even with suffering, awakening in the process(that took me awhile). I do see a huge change in my responses this time as opposed to the person that visited 10 years ago. I am by no means perfect, and yet can see the gifts of really being present with emotions even with an unseen brain injury.
A store owner in Haputale proudly stands by his wares

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