Vanakam! Long time no see! It has almost been three months since I last posted here, sorry for that! In this blog post I would love to share my experiences in Sri Lanka with you, the highlights, the challenges and also what I learnt during these four weeks.
The adventure started July 4th, the independence day of USA. As some of you might know I love being on airplanes and I love airports, so traveling is very exciting for me. Me and three other members from our group flew out to Taipei first, then Bangkok where we stayed one night. Finally, on July 7th, we made it to Arugam Bay after a 7 hour bus ride and my first experience with a squatty potty (google it if you don’t know what this is :D). I was so excited to finally see Anthony and Meredith again (STN staff in Sri Lanka), dive into a new culture and serve Sri.
One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Sri Lanka was seeing how a STN-base looks like in another country. The base in Sri Lanka is focused on outreaches which I got a good taste of. Every Wednesday we had an amazing family night. In the afternoon, we prepared and cooked a meal for 70 - 80 people with the local women. After that we played Carrom, a South Asian board game, or volleyball with the kids, danced to Indian music, tried to walk on the slack line and just had a super fun time. Wednesdays were my favorite days. I completely fell in love with these local kids, how they trust you, are excited to see you and already scream your name from a distance. These kids don’t have a lot but are so filled with wonder and love.
Other outreaches that we had were ladies tea (bible study for women), movie night, swim and surf for the kids and teaching English in a muslim preschool. The days were filled with reaching out to people, building relationships, laughter, organizing activities for locals. It is a lot of pouring into others which is so rewarding and fulfilling, but can also be very tiring. Especially in this heat and humidity. My body didn’t do too well with that. The temperature was mostly around 38°C and never went below 26°C during the night. Between 12pm and 4pm it was too hot to even think, so we spent our afternoons napping or swimming in the ocean.
I want to tell you about a little boy named Vinu. On a Saturday we had surf and swim and I got assigned two boys which couldn’t swim. Both of them were very energized, always running in two different directions. Since they already had experienced kids drowning in the past I had a big responsibility! Vinu was the smaller kid, very sweet but he already went through a lot at his young age. He didn’t listen to me at all and I had a hard time keeping my eyes on both the boys. Disappointed that I couldn’t get his trust, we made our way back home. Four days later we were just done cooking curry for family night. Suddenly, someone grabs my hand. I didn’t realize who it was in the beginning. He pulled me towards a skateboard. It was Vinu that wanted to show me some tricks on the skateboard! I couldn’t believe that I finally got through to him. This was one of my favorite moments of the trip because it shows that investing time and love in kids is so rewarding, even if you don’t see the fruits immediately.
Another thing that I would like to share with you is how inspiring the Carothers and Anthony and Meredith were to me. The Carothers are a family with two kids that moved to Sri Lanka eight years ago. As full time staff of Surfing The Nations they have been tirelessly serving the community of Arugam Bay. Many sacrifices were made and they gave up a lot in there home country USA. Tiffany Carother shared in her testimony that she and her family want to spend the rest of her life in Sri Lanka, if God doesn’t call them elsewhere. This is commitment and obedience right there! Her and Cody, her husband, have heard the call and have been so committed to what they do ever since.
Sri Lanka is like nothing I have ever seen before! If you enter a new, unknown culture it is so important to honor it and bring awareness. I am so glad that I went to Sri Lanka with STN because the staff taught us a lot about the cultural differences and how to act in public. Us girls were always wearing clothes that covered our shoulders and our knees, if we were out on the streets or swimming in the ocean. This helped us a lot to connect with the local women, they really appreciated that we respect their culture. Especially as a foreign woman it is not easy to live in a country like Sri Lanka. All the girls had to go out in pairs and men can be very inappropriate. Luckily nothing ever happened to us but we heard stories about that.
Being in Sri Lanka made me appreciate the freedom that we have in western countries. Freedom of opinion, freedom of going out and explore, freedom of religion, freedom of dressing how you want- all these things are limited in Sri. The whole trip was a stretching experience. I had to learn how to keep a good attitude even if I’m uncomfortable, sweaty and have a headache. I had to learn how to keep my cool in stressful, unknown situations. I was co-leading this trip and in charge of the finances which was a challenge in itself. I am very thankful that I was given this opportunity because it taught me a lot.
This international trip pushed me outside of my comfort zone a lot- again. I feel like this never stops :P I had a lot of doubts in the beginning and I was questioning if it was the right decision to go. Honestly, sometimes I would just like to stay where I am and be comfortable. I could have chosen an easier path. Homesickness hit me there the first time ever. Why do I have to be so far away from home? So far away from the important people in my life? Do I even fit in? All these questions were spinning in my head. Growing is hard, change is a pain.
What I learned is that God is more interested in our character than in our comfort. For him it is all about transformation and he will never pass up on a chance to use life events to make us better. In these moments of struggle it helped me a lot to be thankful. Thankful for these relationships that I was able to build, that I can meet people from all over the world and learn from them, for the growth that is happening in me, that I get to live this crazy life and for YOU! Without you guys I wouldn’t have been able to go on this trip. Thanks to everyone who donated to me and supported me for this trip. You are not only impacting my life but the life of many others. Because of you we could feed many people every week, teach kids that live next to the ocean how to swim, teach preschoolers English which will benefit them a lot in their future, paint a house of a Sinhalese family, bless a local woman named Puspa and her daughter with some clothes, hand out toys to the local families. Most importantly, you made it possible for me to go and love on the people. Because in the end, all we want is to be loved.
For MORE pictures visit my gallery! :-)