The title of my presentation was living, working and sweating in Sri Lanka. I even brought in a water spritzer so I was dripping wet while talking.
The title of my presentation was “Living, working and sweating in Sri Lanka.” I even brought in a water spritzer to spray on my face so I was dripping wet while talking.

Three weeks back home and I’m starting to feel a bit more normal. My body is getting used to the harsh, dry environment and my mind is settling back into the Regina routine. The snow is finally starting to melt and I almost know where everything in my house is again.

Because the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of work, seeing friends and family, and setting up our condo again, I haven’t thought a lot about what happened the last two years in Sri Lanka. That’s likely a good thing. I can’t live in the past. Not only do I not have time for it, no one here wants to, or is interested in hearing – “In Sri Lanka, I used to…”

But, it’s still nice to have a silent chuckle with myself at least once a day about some of the randomness I experienced. And, I’ve also enjoyed reading old blogs and looking at old photos. While I don’t think I’ll ever completely comprehend what actually happened in Sri Lanka, those experiences will always be with me.

Last week I gave a lunch hour presentation for about 30 or so colleagues who did want to learn more about my time in Sri Lanka (or at least they said they did?). I put together a tiny presentation of 99 slides for the occasion. It was so tough to put 2 years into 60 minutes. I tried to share as many interesting and funny stories as I could – showing people where we lived, where I worked, what we ate, who we hung out with, etc.

Everyone seemed interested, but I couldn’t help feeling like it wasn’t enough. Like I didn’t get it right at all. Unfortunately, unless you smelled, tasted and felt it, hearing the stories doesn’t mean much. Not even a yarn-spinner like me could bring the real Sri Lanka to Regina.

Having said that, it was nice to tell those stories and to have people I work with laugh or shake their head in disbelief or just have a look of pure shock.

At the end of the presentation, 0ne of my colleagues asked me in what ways had the experience changed me as a person. It was a tough question to answer because, really, I don’t think I’ve changed in any profound way at all. I’m pretty much the same laid back, quick-to-laugh dude that went away 24 months ago.

If I had to point to one thing, I said, it is that I now have a better understanding of how random and temporary life can be. Living in Sri Lanka, you’re faced with that reality on a daily basis. Maybe your bus comes, maybe it doesn’t? Maybe people will show up for the meeting and maybe they won’t? Maybe that snake is poisonous or maybe it’s not?

Controlling and planning out your situation at all times simply aren’t options, so you just have to let go and see what happens. It’s the Sri Lankan way and it brought almost every volunteer I met in Sri Lanka to their knees at one point or another during their placement. (Why the fuck do they do that? was the most common question I heard over the two years.)

We all learned (some quicker than others), that while we could rarely control the situation, we could control how we reacted to that situation, which often dictated our level of sanity on that particular day, and ultimately, the success or failure of our placements.

Whether a more temporary, random approach to life is going to help me in my life back in Canada remains to be seen. (I could see looks of worry on the faces of the managers who were at the presentation as I gave that randomness answer.) Either way it was a good lesson for me to learn (within reason) and one that will help me in whatever my next adventure will be (or won’t be?).

***

I was secretly cheering for Afghanistan.
Paul and Katherine are on the left. We enjoyed many a Lion lager together and often would compare rash stories – as you do in the tropics.

On a side note, back in Sri Lanka, congratulations go out to Paul and Katherine who got married over the weekend. It was shitty I had to miss it (especially the stag), but I did Skype in for a few minutes wearing my Sri Lankan best (cricket jersey, inflatable snake and tight Sri Lankan shorts).

All the best to those crazy kids as they keep living the Sri Lankan dream until the fall – at least. I sent Trina to report on the wedding, so watch for photos here soon.

…And safe travels and best of luck settling back in to all the mental health volunteers who recently returned home. You are all gems and we will see again soon.

Shaun

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