Despite my best efforts, I find myself often comparing my Sri Lankan life with my Canadian life. Comparisons can be dangerous; they take you away from your current context and inevitably lead to disappointment as you discover that things are usually different and sometimes weird and never what you’re used to. It’s so easy and so natural to separate the world into “us” and “them” and this mindset is what prolongs culture shock and prevents integration into this new world I find myself in.
My life in Canada and my life here are incomparable. My whole context has changed. I am part of the majority in my Canadian context, but in Sri Lanka, I’m a visible minority, and am reminded of that daily (My friend Caroline wrote more on that here: x). I’m the “other”.
Every day, I am asked at least once what things are like over there. What do I eat? What do I mean, I don’t own a rice cooker? Are hamburgers my favourite food? Have I ever seen a Bollywood movie? What do I watch, then?
I’m happy to share my Canadian life with my new friends, but the role reversal is jarring and the fact that I’m surprised by Canada being referred to as “over there” makes it clear how far I have to go before I feel like I’m really a part of this society. I’m getting there, but it still hasn’t quite sunk in. The other day, I talked about someone living here, and here meant Waterloo. On the other hand, I told someone I wanted to go home, and home meant my little apartment in Kandy. I’m torn between my realities a lot of the time, and this isn’t an easy way to live.
Obviously, things haven’t been all sunshine and palm trees over here, and I find myself wanting to be back in Canada a lot more often lately. I never expected things to be easy, of course, and I’m trying hard to share my honest experience in this blog. Right now, I’m experiencing a lot of lows, and that sucks a bit, but that’s the reality of life and the lows won’t last forever. I’m doubting myself, but I’m still here so I guess I’m doing better than I give myself credit for. The title of this post comes from one of my favourite songs by Leonard Cohen, a song I’ve been listening to often:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in (x)
Anthem (the song above) has become my anthem. The light is getting in through the cracks, figuratively and literally (happy monsoon season, guys). This past weekend it was brought with three of my closest friends, two of whom I haven’t seen for a month. I got to share my city with them, catch up and commiserate, and all weekend we basked in the goodness of being together and lots of Chinese food. We’re all learning how to be here and how to exist in two spaces at once, and we’re incredibly lucky to have each other to sort things out with – although I think we’d all prefer to be a little bit closer together.
I’m learning a lot here in Sri Lanka, and what’s proven the most difficult is living in two contexts and trying not to compare the two. But, this is a really important lesson. I think lately I’ve been hiding behind the familiar and not putting myself out there enough, but that’s okay right now, until I find my footing again (but not forever). I’ve gotten some really great messages of support lately and I can definitely feel that I am being lifted up by the most incredible people all over the world. The light is getting in, guys. Someday soon I’ll have something exciting to update you on, but what’s happening right now is me learning how to do life all over again.
Hope everything is okay over there,