Thursday, April 4, 2013

pondering as I'm wandering

I've been in Sri Lanka for about a week now.  It's not my first time here and it won't be my last.  But in the journey I'm on in this season I am finding that it is speaking to me in a deeper way than it has in past visits.

I found myself traveling about 2 hours by van this week from Nilaveli to Pasekudah in the north east.  This is an area that is still largely untouched by development - although that is rapidly changing - due to the war, and then the tsunami.  People here have lived a different life to that of those in Colombo.  A simpler life.  A harder life.  A life with greater joy.  A life with greater sorrow.  As I read that back it sounds a little like the start of a bad novel, but I don't mean it to be.  What I think I mean is that life here seems to be one of stark contrasts.  Contrasts that are becoming more apparent as the area opens up for development.

As I traveled the coastal road I was struck by the incongruity of new hotel developments on picturesque beaches side by side with rural shacks - barely some mud brick walls and thatch roof.  One building is a temple to all that the tourist worships - a view, a cocktail, a pool - a sanctuary to unwind and get away from it all.  The other represents a fisherman and his family who work long hours through the night to catch enough fish to sell and make a small income on.  One if full of mod cons - aircon, tv's, internet, you name it it's there.  The other has no mod cons, no aircon, no washers & driers, no car.  Yet side by side they share the same view, the same beach, the same world. One is filled with people who are desperate to escape the rat race and find serenity.  The other is filled with people who are living, surviving, and doing the best they can to raise a family.  Both have laughter and tears - at different times and for different reasons.  I wonder what those families think?  Do they look with envy or pity?  Does the excess make sense?  Is it something they aspire to or can't comprehend?  What will this do to their world?  Will it improve it with opportunities, or will it destroy the community life they now know?

I make no judgements on either side here.  I don't think there is a right or wrong way to live.  Or that a perfect solution to developing economies and communities exists.  I does have me pondering though...  How do you do the right thing by the people living in these locations?  What is the right thing?  Does any of this matter?  I don't have the answers.  But I will watch this transition and journey over time.  Surely there are life lessons for us all in the midst of it.