I had some time to kill. Breakfast would only be ready at 7:30. I decided to take a walk.

Ever since I got back from Malaysia, I have been taking a lot of walks like these. I was trying to find adventure again. I travelled somewhere every weekend during my exchange. It was exciting. I was independent and spontaneous, I found myself doing stuff that I had just thought of without having to discuss it with my parents for half an hour first. After coming back, I was struggling to get used to my regular life which was suddenly boring.

I could see the sea from the house we were staying in. I was on a trip with my family including my grandparents and my aunt’s family in the north of Sri Lanka. My uncle was in the military and thanks to his connections, he was able to arrange for us to stay in one of the vacation homes reserved for high ranking military officials.

Given that I was in a military compound; I was a bit nervous to walk around. There were too many movies that started like this and things don’t go too well for the main character. I saw a path that lead along the shore and there was no one in sight. I decided to keep moving.

Soon I found a path that lead down to the stony beach. The sun rise was casting a soft golden glow on the beach. It was beautiful. I strained my eyes to see whether I could see India. I was in the right direction for it, I was at the top edge of the cap shaped area that formed the northern province of SL.

Sun rising on the beach

It was a strange feeling. It was around this area that the long civil war in SL had been fought. Around 10 years ago, it was considered too dangerous to visit the north. Those days had ended along with the war but I still imagined only a few people would have been on the same spot that I was on now. As I gazed around at the waves, the beach and the sunrise, it was hard to believe that all of this had happened around here.

Coming back to the path, I saw a bench and decided to sit for a bit. Immediately my mind was filled with the thoughts that were looping endlessly in my mind at the time. I was having endless flashbacks of my time in Malaysia. Especially about all the people I met. One of the sad things about travelling is that it is difficult to explain once you return. I couldn’t talk about this with my friends, there was no natural context for it. I had to forcefully bring it up and sure, they would listen. But judging from their reaction, it didn’t have as much of an effect on them as it did for me. I guess even my parents felt that something was wrong. That was why they decided to take me to the zoo and to take this trip.

I pondered whether the others who did the exchange felt the same. They were back with their old groups of friends and everything looked normal. Maybe they had accepted that this was a one time experience. But is it? Would I ever be able to have an experience like this again?

I also pondered the question whether I would feel at home in SL. I studied all my life in English and it is my primary language. I think in it and consume everything in it. While that was useful, the side effect was that my Sinhala was not very good. I could communicate perfectly fine with it and I always spoke with my parents in it. But I lacked a lot of the vocabulary. Sinhala had a lot of colorful, descriptive words in its literature and I knew very little of it. As a result, I sometimes couldn’t keep up with my friends and family. Whenever I had to explain something complicated, I would use English. So to some extent, I felt like I didn’t belong. (Now that I come to think of it, this might have been one of the reasons why I didn’t talk to my parents that much. There were other reasons too of course)

In Malaysia, I felt like I belonged more than I ever had before. It was all because of the incredible guys I met during my last few weeks there. This was what I missed the most. I pondered whether it can be like this again outside of SL (and as I now know, it wasn’t)

It was now getting close to 7:30. Without knowing it I had spent almost an hour gazing and walking alongside the shore. The stereotypical image of a brooding guy. I hastened back towards the house, hoping that I wouldn’t have to hear any stern remarks from my mom since I left without saying.

Prabashwara Seneviratne

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Prabashwara Seneviratne