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We've All Been There

We've All Been There

SRI LANKA | Thursday, 8 May 2014 | Views [239] | Scholarship Entry

'Mount… Lavinia?" her eyebrows rose as she leaned in to hear through my foreign accent. "Umm yes? Mount Lavinia' I repeated, adjusting the pronunciation of the station name to replicate hers. She took her gaze to the departure board to give my question some consideration.

A few moments passed until she motioned that I followed in her direction. Without hesitation I scuttled off in close pursuit.

Despite old age, she nimbly weaved her way through the heavy flow of human traffic. I on the other hand, was still finding my feet in a city where epic congestion was the norm.

She was headed in the same direction and so we waited together on the platform. We shared the habitual conversation that a traveler comes to expect – where I was from, where I was going, how long I had been here, where my husband was.

A welcomed pause in conversation resulted from the occasional train that thundered through the station and more awkwardly between my answer and her next question.

She was a nun. The covering of a sky blue habit and rosary beads hanging from her neck gave that away long before she verbalized her faith. She told me she had just moved house. It was in Colombo’s south with another three nuns and the young pot plant that was tucked under her left arm.

I gulped at my water bottle and wiped the beaded sweat from my face. My well-sunned Australia skin was struggling to compete with the Sri Lankan humidity.

"Colombo has been unusually hot this week" she observed.

The absence of a damp forehead made me question the sincerity of that statement.

Impulsively she opened her mouth to break another silence - "They are going to know you're alone". She paused, maintaining a stare with eyes that had been weathered by a lifetime of sun, salt water and civil unrest.

She’d seen through the fake wedding ring and culturally appropriate clothing and instead found an apprehensive stance, a young girl with an over-awareness of her surrounds and a dog-eared guidebook clutched in a sticky palm. "But you shouldn’t be scared".

As I set foot on foreign soil, a voice occasionally asks ‘what are you doing here?’ It is then I remember this lady, her words and the inherent kindness of humanity that a traveler often encounters.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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