It’s been over a week since my parents left Sri Lanka and our house still feels empty – and a lot dirtier. We once again have to sweep and mop the Colombo dirt off of our floor everyday and there’s no one to automatically replace our ginger beer, Nescafe and milk, or to pay our power and water bills or to boil our drinking water. Needless to say they were the best servants, I mean guests, we could ask for.
Although we’re still in mourning that they’re gone, I have a sneaky feeling that they’ve never felt so happy to be back in Canada. Not that they had a bad time with us. In fact, I think it was one of the most interesting three weeks of their lives. Notice I used the term interesting, not best.
Like any of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had, you need a mix of good, bad and even a bit of ugly to truly call it an adventure. And my parents had all three in Sri Lanka.
As you’ll see in the pictures posted previously, and below, we saw some amazing things and met some amazing people while my parents were here. You can’t quite capture all the good in words. One small example of the good came on the day when I took my parents to visit the mental health hospital where I work. We couldn’t walk more than a few feet without someone talking to us and inviting us for tea and snacks. I planned to have them there for an hour tour, but we spent almost four. That’s the Sri Lankan way.
But if you’ve ever had a trip with all good – I bet you don’t remember it after a year or so. You need more to make it mean something.
Okay, so some bad stuff happened when my parents were here. My mom lost a few things (thankfully not her passport). Rob sunburned his lips complete with blisters and scabs, and of course was bunged up for a few days. All in all par for the course when visiting a developing country. No lasting harm done and will make for good stories now that they’re home.
Only a very few travelers will be lucky enough to experience the ugly and come out the other side unscathed. The ugly always hurts and may never leave you the same again.
In my and Trina’s time traveling, I’d be hard pressed to classify anything in the ugly category. There was the time the Peruvian airline we were traveling on went bankrupt an hour before our flight, which left us stranded for a short time in a remote area of the country, or Trina’s bout with dysentery in India, or the time we got stuck in a freak summer snowstorm hiking in the Andes in Argentina. I’d say all those were simply bad with a touch of ugly mixed in.
Having said that, what happened to my mom the night of August 12 in the small mountain town of Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, was unquestionably ugly and will forever remain etched in my mind. It happened just before 8 as we were walking to a restaurant for supper. We had just had a great day hiking where we got to see some amazing views. Everyone was feeling good about the day – except Rob who was slightly peeved for being peer pressured to haggle with and buy a bunny hug from a street vendor (he got a good deal though).
I remember exactly what we were talking about when my mom fell and things got ugly. Our host Wendy was talking about how dangerous it was to walk in the dark on the uneven surfaces that are Sri Lankan sidewalks. And (I swear I’m not making this up) as the last syllable of that sentence was leaving Wendy’s mouth, my mom disappeared into the sidewalk that was there one second and gone the next.
You see a common trait of sidewalks here is that they are removable concrete slabs that sit on top of the storm sewers. When work on the sewer needs to be done, they can just simply remove the slab and perform the work. Unfortunately, the slab isn’t always put back in its place, which leaves an 18-inch drop to the sewer below – the exact place where my mom was laying after her disappearing act. It was dark, she didn’t see the hole coming and down she went.
From that point on things get blurry. There were people yelling and running to help from all corners of the street, Wendy showing amazing strength by lifting up my mom in one quick swoop, and me checking my mom’s head for any cuts or bruises. It was one of those slow motion moments that seem to go on for hours, but are only a few seconds. After we sat her up and found her glasses, it looked as though miraculously she had escaped anything other than a bit of embarrassment.
But then she grabbed her arm. The same arm that had been operated on several times after a farming accident 54 years ago. She had grown up being so conscious of this arm that she knew immediately that something was wrong. It was time to go to the hospital.
What happened next was a roller coaster of emotions – from fear, to worry, to guilt, and then thankfully, to relief. After getting admitted to the hospital, she immediately got to see a doctor and have her arm x-rayed. In front of the entire emergency ward, the doctors examined her x-ray and determined there were two small cracks in her elbow. Not great news, but they didn’t see anything major. An hour or so later, she had seen the surgeon and was getting a small cast put on. Her pain was minimal and her colour had from frosty white to a more off-white shade. The fear and anxiety were both diminishing.
After spending the night (yep, that’s right, my mom spent the night in a Sri Lankan public hospital) as per the doctor’s guidance, my mom was discharged the next morning and told to visit a specialist as soon as she got back to Canada a few days later. Any sort of surgery required could safely wait until she got home (which she had last week and all went well).
Leaving directly from the hospital, we headed to Kandy and the epic pera hera – not missing a beat on the last few days of their trip.
The care my mom received was truly impeccable. However, the resources the doctors and nurses had to work with was deplorable. I’ve invited my mom to guest blog on the site about her night in a Sri Lankan hospital. I think her perspective will be interesting.
At the end of the day, you really don’t need or want the ugly when you’re traveling. But, if you can manage to somehow survive, it makes for the best, and most meaningful stories once you’re safely home.
To make sure people aren’t completely scared to visit us now, here are a few random photos of our parent’s visit. As you can see, it’s all good. See you soon?…