This is a tough one to write about but I wanted to share. I did consider not sharing because I don’t want friends and family to worry but I also feel this could benefit at least a few.
We’re in Negombo, Sri Lanka. This is where 2 of the bomb blasts went off only a couple short weeks ago, in which much of the world has already forgotten about. We had a trip planned here before the blasts went off and decided to still come even though most tourists have not only left this city but have left the entire country.
Upon arrival, we drove past more guards and security and check stops than we’ve seen on the island so far. Besides the police much of the streets remain empty. We pass by Tuk tuk drivers (which are like cabs) who sit and wait but there’s no one to drive.
We pass by shop and restaurant owners sitting outside their establishments who have blank, empty stares, I’m guessing wondering where their next pay check will come from.
The silence and sadness is deafening. The only thing I can compare it to is when we visited the 911 museum in NYC. But that was a building, this is an entire city that was filled with happy tourists enjoying the beaches, coconut stands, scenery from the discovery channel and food with flavours we can only imagine.
I’m not sure I can entirely explain the emotion here. It’s like a Birthday balloon that was recently popped that lays lifeless on the ground days after a party. I didn’t know how to handle it when we first got here. I didn’t even know if we should stay because I didn’t think we could enjoy ourselves.
As much of the world carries on with their lives here we are at ground zero, where so many lives have been changed. What happened next was an experience I’ll never forgot and will hopefully weigh out in my memories and feelings of what happened on April 21 2019 – Easter Sunday one day after my Birthday.
The workers of a nearby hotel were playing cricket on the beach simply because they had nothing to do. Without tourists, there’s no customers; without customers they sit and wait and likely hope.
So they break out in a cricket game on the beach right behind their hotel which we asked to join. The silence and sadness, changes to happiness and laughs. They’re yelling in a different languages but no one is angry. We played for hours with no care in the world the exact same way I did growing up at the park across the street from Grandma’s house.
After the game we were invited out for some drinks with these same guys who wanted to spend more time with us.
Through conversation I found out one of the workers had family members killed in one of the bomb blast. I found out many more workers in the area lost their jobs almost immediately as some of the 5 star hotels have closed down for an unmentioned amount of time. Left with no way to feed their families.
That night, we sang and danced and laughed and hugged without a care in the world, like tomorrow may never come. It felt like we were in the eye of a tornado. Everything around us felt disastrous, with the silence and emptiness.
But together, in that moment, for those few hours of the cricket game, and a few hours more of Island music played to a homemade beat, their voices, their hands smacking tables, chairs and empty liquor bottles, nothing else mattered.
Love and happiness won out. No amount of terror or destruction could take that away. It’s like they refused to let any amount of hate or fear take over.
And that’s what I wanted to share with you. That we’re not just safe in these moments but we’re living life in a way I never have.
That the joy and happiness of people that refuse to be torn down are among us and are offering gifts and memories that I’ll never forget. And as much as I regret or wish the tragedy never happened, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be here and experience what a real hardship is like to overcome.