This just in…I’m not Sri Lankan.
I feel I need to point this out now because the longer I live here, the more the differences between our cultures are becoming apparent to me. It’s not good or bad – I’m just different.
And chances are I’ll likely never be able to fully adapt to those differences.
For example, waiting your turn in line just doesn’t happen here very often. It’s not meant to be rude or a slight. Line etiquette just doesn’t exist. If you need to get something, you just get to the person who can get you that thing as fast as possible. Other people standing there are simply roadblocks that you need to manoeuvre around to get what you want. It’s as simple as that, yet it makes no sense to me.
What also doesn’t make sense is the boiling rage I feel when someone cuts the line in front of me. It’s like someone just point blank kicked me in the junk and then walked away laughing. When it happens, I immediately look around for other outraged bystanders in the hope that we will rise up together against this no-good line budder. Sadly, my glances for ‘allies in lining up’ always come up empty. If I get any looks back at all, it’s the ‘well, i guess he needs this thing worse than we do’ look.
It’s an accepted part of doing things here and all my rage isn’t going to change it – or gain me any friends in line.
Another difference I’m struggling with is staring. Staring is a sport here. Don’t get me wrong, I like to stare as much as the next guy. I even proclaimed once that I came from a long line of starers.
However, some Sri Lankans take staring to new heights shooting lazers with their eyes and likely straining their necks with their ability to hold a prolonged stare at high speeds on the road. I’m tempted at times to stare just as hard back at them, but I always wimp out.
Again, I know the starers don’t mean any harm. I just wish they’d learn the art of the discreet stare – like all North American males learn (and have to perfect or risk jail time) when they hit puberty.
There’s also very positive differences too. Take tonight when our neighbours took us to their temple to observe the full moon Poya day. (Today’s poya marks the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.)
After visiting the temple, we stopped by the ‘dansala’ sponsored by local businesses and individuals, which provides a free meal to anyone who shows up.
The meal was awesome and I couldn’t help but think how difficult it would be to pull off a similar event in Canada. Permits, insurance, health inspectors, people not showing up because they’d be afraid of the individuals who ‘might’ be there – the list of reasons against it go on and on. I have to admit that I likely wouldn’t show up.
Yet in Sri Lanka, it’s a no brainer. They have similar events here all the time and everyone shows up. It’s just the way they do it here. It’s what they call community – and it wouldn’t be complete without the budders and starers.
What I’m not sure about is how that white sweaty guy that’s getting stared at and budded in front of fits into this whole thing yet? Give me another few months and another few kicks to the junk to find out.