Just put in the work.

It’s been almost a year since I left Scotland for Sri Lanka and at the end of this holiday season it will have been a year since I left Sri Lanka… And I still haven’t written about the last week of my stay in Sri Lanka! Part of this was strategic. The last week in Sri Lanka was a lot to take in and process. I experienced a lot, both culturally and personally, so it wasn’t something I was ready to write about right away.

The last weekend in Sri Lanka, I went with friends to an area in Sri Lanka called Passekudah to stay at a 5-star hotel on the beach. Initially, we had wanted to be farther south on the east coast so we could go to Arugam Bay and Yala National Park, but when we booked the fancy hotel we were lead astray by our program manager whose local geography wasn’t quite up to par. Nevertheless, we still had a lot of fun.

It was here, though, that I realized how much I cared for my fellow physio partner-in-crime. If you’ve read much of this blog before, you’ve heard me complain about developing relationships and strong connections with guys who live oceans away. Given my state of flux following school and before taking my board exams, I thought, Sure, I could move anywhere if I really wanted to. So, when I flubbed and mentioned this during a night of many cocktails, there were many conversations to be had with my P-I-C during the last week of my stay in Sri Lanka and after my departure.

In the mean time, though, I spent my last week really learning more about the culture of Sri Lanka. Kandy was full of culture, but traveling to Habarana and running into wild elephants, impromptu wedding invitations, and some evil, brown, Ayurvedic goo, really helped me to dig a bit deeper into the Sri Lankan culture. While in Habarana, I visited the local Ayurvedic hospital, went for an elephant ride around the lake, went for a canoe ride on a different lake, visited Sigiriya, spice gardens, and the really big jewelry store (of course). I also managed to spend an evening at a traditional wedding reception (and later took care of my fellow travelers who couldn’t handle their arrack). I really enjoyed learning more about Sri Lanka and their culture and it solidified to me that I wanted to continue coming back, seeing more and learning more over the years. It’s hard to really sum up in words all the things I learned and took away with me during that last week in Habarana, but it truly made me appreciate that everyone chooses to live their lives differently and it’s not my place to change that, just to embrace it and either insert myself in that lifestyle or remove myself from it.

When we all got back to Kandy and to the new house, it was time to embrace one full day of hot showers and cozy beds before heading home. But also, it was time to figure out what to do about the relationship I had cultivated with a guy who lives a world away from where I was heading home to. My two years in Scotland away from my family and long-time friends gave me a chance to realize what I really wanted in a partner and not what I felt I needed to just fit in with my family. I had found some of that in my P-I-C and I didn’t just want to let that go right away. So, we talked, and talked, and talked… And decided to continue talking and just play it by ear. It turns out that was a good, gentle way to let it fizzle without being left with the “what if” feeling. We stopped talking in February (I know, it didn’t last long at all, but that’s okay).

By the end of my trip to Sri Lanka, I had learned a lot about a new culture and a lot about a new me. Since returning to the U.S. I’ve continued along this roller coaster of a life, but now I feel more like I know what I need to do in order to accomplish my goals. It’s been hard to really stay on track, but it’s a process and I don’t have to be perfect, and that’s something I truly learned during my time in Sri Lanka.

It’s a process. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to put in the work.

Sri Lanka Day 30 & 31: Winding Down

My last couple days in hospital this week have been relatively low key. There were the regular outpatient clinics that had been dampened by rain and then a trip to the rheumatology ward that was very low stress, but full of interesting physiotherapy-related discussion.

At the house, we were finally able to have a barbecue on the roof. The food was delicious and a welcome departure from all the curries I’ve been eating. One of the staff even made banana fritters at my request, which completely made my night.

This weekend, while we’re all away, Work the World is moving house, so I’ve spent a bit of time trying to get my things in order. It doesn’t help that, at the same time, I need to pack for our Ayurvedic week away. It’s all very confusing when I have to decide what goes in which bag and which bag goes where.

Things are winding down here in Kandy. It crazy how fast the time has gone. I feel like I only just left Scotland to head off on this adventure.

Sri Lanka Weekend 4: Shenannigans

Senior-itis has officially set in and my motivation to be productive has been dwindling. Nevertheless, I had a list of things to accomplish this weekend. One being renewing my visa. The other? To relax. As much as possible.

So, on Thursday evening, I ventured to Colombo with my housemates with plans to take the overnight train to Trincomalee after renewing my visa. Plans seemed to go awry from the very beginning when, moments after getting out of the van and sending the driver off, I realized I had left my purse in the vehicle. As an experienced shenanigan handler, I activated crisis protocol immediately and had all my things back in ten minutes. Still, I think I managed to shave a few days off my life with those panicky ten minutes.

Friday morning, I rolled out of bed and over to the visa office. As I sat in the waiting area anticipating the opening of the office, the gentleman sitting in front of me turned around and asked if I spoke French. Although, it seemed more like he was confirming his suspicion than actually asking. Either way, I did, and I proceeded to help him with his questions about the visa forms. By the time I finished in the visa office around noon (Sri Lanka government likes to take its time), I had spoken more French than I had English of Sinhalese (no, I don’t actually speak Sinhalese). When I met up with my housemates again, I almost found it hard to switch back to English. I kept catching myself asking “quelle heur et-il?” and suggesting “on y va!”

The rest of the day was supposed to be spent wandering around Colombo shopping and exploring before catching the train. Unfortunately, though, the rail workers were on strike, so we spent most of the rest of the day trying to find an overnight bus with air conditioning to take us to Trincomalee. By the time dinner rolled around, we were exhausted and ready to fall asleep on the bus.

That did not happen.

The bus was an adventure in calming my nerves. I’ve experienced the Sri Lankan traffic in a tuk-tuk, a car, and a van. It’s terrifying just as it is. Add in one large tour bus and one sunset that has long since passed, and you have the recipe for waking up to a game of vehicle chicken and bright headlights reminiscent of the light people say they see when they’re near death.

We finally arrived in Trincomalee at 5:30 in the morning and as we walked into the hotel, we were greeted with one of the most beautiful sunrises over the beach. That was the perfect antidote to the stressful bus ride across the island.

We only spent one night at the hotel, but used it for every facility it had: Ocean, pool, food, drinks, and an amazing shower. It was a nice, relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of placement in Kandy and the stressful adventure from Colombo to Trincomalee. We did manage to do a bit of sight-seeing as well, but the town isn’t known for its tourist attractions, so it didn’t take up much of our time.

The shenanigans were worth the trouble though, because the view from our beach chalet tasted even sweeter knowing the effort we had to put in to get there.

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Sri Lanka Day 25 & 26: So Long, Farewell

This week in the hospital turned out to be a relatively short one. Rainy days and early weekends meant that this week was not as physically exhausting as previous weeks. Having another physio student with whom to share the load at the hospital also helps.

Outside the hospital, I indulged in lots of ice cream and a few drinks. In my most touristy moment here thus far, I purchased a saree. I have no idea when I’ll actually be able to wear it, but it’s a beautiful teal and gold color and, if I want to, I can make it into something beautiful for my future home. For now, though, I like the idea of displaying it in a box frame or on a dress form.

As this week was also particularly hot and humid, there were also many power cuts. By the time Wednesday’s power cut came around, it was also time to begin saying goodbye to another housemate. It excellent form, I donned a headlamp, we lit candles, and we used all the remaining ice to create a silly night of cocktails and Monopoly Deal.

This week has made it feel both like I’ve been here for a while and for barely any time at all. I have only two weeks left after this weekend and only one of them is in the hospital. I think the concept of “senior-itis” is beginning to take hold of me.

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Sri Lanka Day 23 & 24: Partners In Crime

The beginning of the week always seems to fade into one big span of time that passes too slowly for my liking. Still, the amount which I manage to accomplish on those slow-moving days may be considered remarkable to some. Unfortunately, though, my productive week has been tempered by school setbacks and odd sleep patterns.

Nevertheless, the new arrival to the house is another physio student and makes for a good partner in crime. While many of the students who pass through this house seem to have very hands-off experiences at the hospital here, we are subjected to a very hands-on experience that is both mentally and physically draining. No wonder they take two hour lunch breaks! So, although my roommate has left, I can confirm that I do, in fact, have someone to drink random cocktails with after a long day of chaos. And, as an added bonus, I now have someone who understands my random physio jargon. Win-win if you ask me.

Sri Lanka Weekend 3: It’s a Small World After All

People always say we live in a small world. I have found this to be true more than once. It is never more true than in the world of a traveler.

This weekend produced another example of how small the world is.

This past June, I holidayed in Granada, Spain. While I was there I met an Australian guy who was half way through a year-long globetrotting adventure. He was taking a year off work and just going wherever the moment took him. When we were talking and I mentioned I was heading to Sri Lanka later in the year, he mentioned he might also be visiting this tiny little island. We never exchanged emails or even became Facebook friends, so I never had any idea where his adventures were taking him.

On Friday night. I ventured out to the local ex-pat pub with the girls from the house for a few cocktails. It had been a rough week and we were ready to put it behind us. After we sat down with our drinks menus, I was struck by the sound of a familiar voice at the table next to us. I sat quietly trying to place the voice until I figured out where I recognized it from. When he finally turned in my direction I was able to confirm that it was, in fact, the guy I had met in Spain. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to talk to him before he left, but just running into him on the other side of the globe from where we first met confirmed to me once again that this world we live in is small.

The weekend continued on in fun fashion with a new arrival to the house on Saturday morning, a bit of sightseeing in Kandy, and the climactic pick-up of my custom jewelry. My roommate left on Saturday evening and I’m left in the the daunting position of being the oldest person in the house (at least for the weekend). I get a brief reprieve from my elderly status during the week, but after Friday I’ll be on full-time house elder duties. The thought of me being the responsible and wise one is a bit terrifying, but I welcome the challenge.

I was glad to have some relatively low key days away from the hospital as the next three weeks are shaping up to be jam-packed full of activity. Next weekend takes me to Colombo and Trimcomalee. Potentially the following weekend will be Yala National Park and Arugam Bay–those plans are still in the works.

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Sri Lanka Day 19: Curry and Cocktails

Unfortunately, my curry-induced nightmares have not yet subsided. After two weeks of this, I’m growing a bit fed up. Still, I can’t seem to stay away from the curry. It is just too delicious to pass up.

Today, I ventured into the world of the medical wards here in Kandy. With all the time I’ve spent in hospitals over the last few years as a patient, visitor and physio, I thought there was very little that could shock me, but today my un-sterilized breath was knocked out of me. It’s hard for me to believe that hospitals still operate like the way they do here. I thought practices like the ones here were abandoned in the mid-1900s. But for the people here, this is normal and acceptable. So, when my educator today asked me to explain the differences in practice between Sri Lanka, the US and the UK, I tried to come up with my best diplomatic answer. Who am I to tell these people what they’re doing is wrong? They’re surviving everything just fine, so why should I mess with their way of life.

In fact, it’s moments like those today when I’m reminded that I’m here to learn. I’m not here to change the world one hospital at a time. Do I occasionally feel the duty to impart my knowledge of better practices? Yes. Do I? Sometimes. But I think, as with all my other travels and adventures, it’s important to remember that I am the guest here–not the other way around.

This weekend marks the three-week countdown to my trip home. I’m excited that things have gone so well thus far, but I’m sad to be losing my roommate. We arrived here together and have done a lot of our exploring together. Who will be around to drink random cocktails with me?

Once again, I’m hoping for a night without nightmares. These past two nights, there has been no curry on the dinner table. Here’s hoping that spells a bit of relief for my last early morning of the week.

Sri Lanka Day 18: The Work The World Chemist is Now Open

Some days in life are eventful, yet uneventful all at once. Today was one of those days.

Everything seemed to start off on a bum foot: bad dreams, unsatisfying breakfast, and a spell of light-headedness early in the work day. I just couldn’t seem to get anything to go the way I wanted it. From lunch, things seemed to stabilize. I suppose there’s a reason these Sri Lankans believe in the nurturing powers of rice and curry.

While the evening did not completely redeem the morning, it did lift my mood. The four of us girls in the house channeled our OCD tendencies and health care knowledge into the organization of the spare and left-behind medication bag. Now everything is organized by type of medication or supply and stored in little plastic baggies to make them easier to search out. We even put them in an “official” box and made a sign for it. I’m sure the housekeeper here thinks we’re nuts, but is also appreciative of the effort. No one can say for sure though.

I’m excited for bed tonight, but I’m hoping my curry-induced nightmares will be curbed eventually. They are making for tiring mornings.

Sri Lanka Day 17: Water In All Forms

Torrential rain in this area of Sri Lanka means having to navigate small landslides around nearly every hillside bend. It also means taking advantage of the dry weather any chance you get. So, on this Poya day, I took the opportunity to explore a bit of the outdoor Kandy scene before the heavens opened again this evening.

I naturally gravitate toward bodies of water, so living hours from the coast in the middle of the island meant it was time to seek out the town lake. Although Kandy Lake is not the most exciting or the cleanest lake, it’s still a lake with fish, birds and the occasional boat. There is also a small island which, as legend has it, is where a past king kept his concubines.

I’ve also been trying to gather Christmas presents for my family over here so a bit of shopping was in order. Unfortunately, some people are more difficult to shop for than others (see: parents). However, I have managed to cross about half of my list off and I’ve been doing an excellent job at finding gifts for myself.

We rounded out the evening with a traditional Kandyan dance performance at the Cultural Center. Although not as loud or intense as I expected, it was fun to see some of the traditional Sri Lankan costumes and to watch some of the men walk across hot coals.

It was nice to have the day off today, but I’m excited to get back to the busy hospital and figure out what the next two and a half weeks will bring.

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