As soon as we finally landed in Colombo on Thursday, our Sri Lanka hosts, Layasing and Deepthi, picked us up at the airport to immediately commence a 6-ish hour drive north to Kilinochchi.
When I say driving, you have to toss out any American notions of a road trip. Far beyond driving on the left side of the road (a loose generalization), road travel in Sri Lanka is strange and mesmerizing. Imagine a mad melange of every genre of vehicle you can think of - motorcycles, shiny new Priuses, tractors pulling farm carts, 3-wheeled rickshaws, snub-nose minivans, bicycles and scooters carrying multiple riders, and the occasional civilian Hummer - plus some you'd never imagine, like the seeming conjunction of a large roto tiller and a farm wagon.
Add the audio components, primarily revving engines interspersed with abrupt down-shifting and braking, accented by horns cheerily beep-beeping to notify overtaking on the right, roadside market chatter, and cows bawling.
Now toss in a few modifiers: bony-hipped cows claiming a lane at will, dingo-looking dogs lounging at the roadside, and separate gaggles of boys and girls in various crisp school uniforms at crucial morning and afternoon traffic times.
Finally, add movement, keeping in mind that lane markings are a suggestion, at best: all of the above is crucially orchestrated to hurtle individually in the desired direction as fast as possible, while leaving the barest minimum clearance between any other object, regardless of which direction it is traveling, and without running into or over any other components in or near the roadway.
Sri Lanka is a feast for the senses. Our route took us through numerous villages and towns, past rice fields and banana and coconut groves, and alongside picturesque shrines, churches, parks, and shopping districts. All of this varied beauty exists despite over 25 years of civil war that killed an estimated 70-80,000 people, only officially ending in 2009. But the beauty of the landscape is mirror to the hearts of a very gracious yet hurting population. I count it a high privilege to be part of a hands-on outreach that supports local pastors and church leaders in offering very real solutions to physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Thank you for joining us in this journey. Tomorrow, I'll post more about the eye clinics. Today has been a full and long day, so I will leave you with photos to tide you over.
(P.S. The food is as amazing as I'd been told!)