Jewel of the Indian Ocean
By Lushani Wewelwela-Hewage
And so I begin to describe something that transcends words. I do not think anyone predicted what a magical experience this tour would be. Hats off to Cynthia and Larry for discovering such kind and inspirational, yet slightly crazy Sri Lankans. And then, accommodating us all through periods of various emotions, heartbreak, uncontrollable laughter and episodes of bad dancing during baila sessions. Both of you are so loving, caring and compassionate and I am so blessed to have met you.
It is impossible now for me to think about Sri Lanka without smiling and almost crying at the same time. Sri Lanka is not a binary country, it is rich with culture, all sorts of wonderful smiling people with bigger hearts than you can imagine. I will describe one moment to you, somewhere where I felt I connected to something truly incredible. This place exists in a very sacred Buddhist town.
On the side of the road, through a very unceremonious entrance we began our journey to something incredible. Much like you would see in a modern drama when people enter parallel worlds through portals. If you did not know that this place existed, you are more than likely going to miss it.
With guidance, we climbed on steps carved out of the same rocks that we were climbing. There were amazing rock formations all around us; rocks on top of other rocks and rocks leaning on each other for support. Rocks formed shapes, providing shade from the alcoves. You could feel the coolness of the rocks against your hands and hear the summer breeze whisper through the trees.
Already I felt like we were transported somewhere with incredible energy. This place was like no other place I had ever been. We came to a landing that had a lake to the side and ancient toilet technologies that were built in the past when students came to practise mediation rituals. Then we climbed some more and headed through another unceremonious entrance.
Voila, we had arrived and it was incredible. There were carved rocks forming the roofs of small houses that monks stayed in. How amazing it was to see the ancient technologies that existed to carve rocks and for this technology to be so careful that cracks didn’t occur.
All of these elements that I am describing are all physical attributes, but how I was feeling inside was indescribable. Have you ever felt connected to pure energy? This place truly silenced me, not because I could not describe what I saw, but because I had no words to explain what I felt. I felt connected to the past and the present and I was no longer thinking about the future. It only mattered that I was there; mind, body and soul in that very moment.
Our guide told us that our ancestors were happy to see us here. At that moment I thought, this trip was planned a long time ago, not when we met, but a very very long time ago and was supposed to happen now.
I felt pure energy connected to the very being of my person, how is that possible? I felt the very centre of my physical body awaken with the force of this energy. My heart was full with nothing and everything at the same time. I felt such incredible happiness; blessed that I was born to my parents, and for the sisters that I had. Blessed that I had met all of these wonderful people in the group. And, not to be drastic, but I wondered ‘can you die of happiness’? At that moment I felt transported and truly happy that if I died, I would have died happy.
It had been five years since my last trip to Sri Lanka. This was the grand homecoming I could not have imagined. This particular moment was truly special as our group had already shared so many personal stories about overcoming tragedy, trauma and hopeless situations. We had already connected with each other on a very deep level. Everyone was aware of the personal struggles we had been through and the courage it had taken for all of us to be there at this point in our lives. It was not a moment shared lightly but an experience shared with full understanding and acceptance of each other, despite our differences and the scars we bared.
I know that even through describing this one extremely special moment, I am not doing it justice. For all of these amazing experiences are based on my own narrative. We are our own unique protagonist and only I can know the extent of what I felt.
Two days do not pass without me talking to my new friends from this group. I have become very close to them because being with them reminds me of our amazing time in Sri Lanka and enables me to remember everything there is about Sri Lanka – my homeland. We share with each other our hopes and plans for the future.
We were an exceptional bunch of people, who came together at a time that was right for each other’s lives. This tour happened at the perfect time for me as I was in the right mindset to fully embrace the experience rather than reject it. Once again, I must thank Uniting Journeys for making this wonderful journey happen for all us. We are so grateful that you made it possible for new friendships to blossom in such a safe and nourishing environment. The experiences we shared, the people we met, their stories and struggles will stay with me for a long time to come. I will use these stories to inspire me to do something positive, to leave Sri Lanka a little bit better than it is now.
Lushani Wewelwela-Hewage travelled to Sri Lanka this year with Uniting Journeys.