Friday, November 30, 2012

Eight Years and Counting – a good chunk of life!

It is now eight years since I returned to Sri Lanka, after 33 years living overseas, 18 in the United Kingdom, and 15 in the United States.

There are so many who consider a return to their roots at some point in their lives, but cannot summon the courage to do so. It is the security of finances, an opening to return in case things don’t work out, and a better quality of life that they look for as compared with what they currently have.

Very few return to Sri Lanka on account of their children, because they wish to educate them on a value system that is different to that in the host country they currently live in. What does that say about their confidence in the system they left behind? Simply that they are concerned that the standards, morals, and way of life is deteriorating, and not better than their host country.

If one lives in Sri Lanka one is exposed to a high degree of finger pointing to the big bad West intent on exploiting our people. However the reality is that people line up to get away from Sri Lanka for innumerable reasons, and are willing to pay exorbitant sums, selling everything they got, as well as borrow as much as they can to do so to any one of those big bad Western Countries.

When I look back on my decision to return, my main desire was for a new life, which I could start afresh, not an extension of a previous life, not a better life or any form of retirement. That I have experienced all this in huge amounts is an understatement. I believe I have documented numerous instances in this blog, and the related blogs about my new experiences and frustrations, but they are all new to me. That is the distinct difference in my outlook, experience and looking back on the very serious and risky decision I took.

The first shock was the Tsunami which struck within 4 weeks of returning and the attendant horrors, post tsunami clean up and scramble to share the spoils, a very unseemly process that both Western and Local people engaged in.

I did not come back with money, I had even closed all my bank accounts. I did not plan for a quick exit if things did not turn my way, I came back and that’s final. There was no looking back just forward, and I really did not know what to expect. As I just noted, I was not returning to familiar territory, it was to completely strange surroundings that I turned to, to new acquaintances, and to call them friends I would have to be sure I could rely on them in times of need.
That latter was shattered when I had my accident and people I thought I could trust, took what was left after the floods in Hingurakgoda, had washed away part of my belongings two weeks previously. So much for good neighborliness!

A lesson one learns is in a society where people expect something free, they all think that they are the most deserving, and taking something from someone they think has more, is not considered bad! You pick your friends from those who never expect, and are grateful for what they have or are given.

I am asked what I consider myself to be. After all when I returned, I had lived more in England than I had in Sri Lanka. I lived independently and so I was not exposed to a Sri Lankan home or culture there. So I lived as one of the Host Country and appreciated everything that country had to offer, and did not harbor a prejudice against the people living in either the UK or USA.

Therefore I am a product of these three countries, not particularly purely of one. It is an advantage to be this way, as one can appreciate the best of three cultures as each has good and bad traits that one can measure using one’s own experience of immersion. In that I feel fortunate, as it is a privilege not open to all.

I don’t have a great desire to return to either of the countries I left, mainly because of my economic circumstances, and would not be able to make the most of a trip to do what I like. After all there are a few things I would do and buy if I was there, and if one is unable so to do, there is no point in making the journey just for old time’s sake. That said all my ambitions, goals and desires have turned inward to Sri Lanka, and in that respect it is a manageable route to keep focus of.

The new life post accident has been traumatic, with the loss of much of the independence I took for granted, and I have still to recover completely from its effects, and disabilities, not an easy process, but one I try to forget with the work I am currently engaged in.

I have not intentionally forgotten many of the friendships I made in those years, but have realized that keeping them going with just email exchange does nothing for mutual fulfillment. I always tell people check on my blogs, but lately I have not been good at keeping up with my activities here, and only adding to my thoughts in my related blog
Hopefully in 2013 I will try to document interesting events during the year.