one year later

On February 17, 2017, I learned that I would be leaving Sri Lanka, two months early and against my will. Another way to say that would be: On February 17, 2017, my dreams broke down and I had to give up on the only thing I wanted for as long as I can remember. What followed my homecoming was a massive existential crisis, the likes of which I never thought I’d experience, and months and months of self-doubt and self-pity. It felt like I had to relearn everything, starting with who I was as a person. It was really, really…

at the top of my lungs

In February I posted a blog titled “why you’ll hear a lot more from me from now on” (x) and since then you have heard from me exactly zero times. I talked a lot about how silence is complicity and then I stayed silent. And now I’m going to tell you why. Just a couple of weeks after I posted my last blog, my placement contract was suddenly terminated. I thought things were going well (or at least, they were okay), and then I was saying goodbye to people I know I will never see again and trying to decide if going…

single-serving friendships

One of the most unique and wonderful things about the expat life is this idea that was first planted in my head by a movie – you know, that one we don’t talk about. The narrator, for some reason, traveled a lot for work. Right at the beginning, when the narrator meets the antagonist, he makes a bad joke about how everywhere he goes, things are provided to him in single portions – one meal at a restaurant, only having enough shampoo in the bottle to wash your hair one time, being given a tube of toothpaste so small you can only get…

heading north

“You’re going where?” was the reaction I got from most people when I told them about my plans for the long weekend. Nobody expected us to go to Jaffna. We were, in fact, discouraged from it. Only seven years after the end of the war, Jaffna is not exactly a tourist destination. It’s far away, it’s ultra conservative, and it’s still healing from a long and brutal conflict. But, Sri Lanka had two government holidays this week, on Monday and Tuesday, and of course we took advantage of our extended weekend to visit the northern peninsula. Saturday morning, Karen, Margaret, and I, backpacks…

om shanti shanti shanti

I’ve only been able to touch my toes a few times in my life: when I was young, briefly, and then this past summer when I attended yoga classes several times a week with my best friend. For most of my life, I’ve been able to get close but not quite reach. It’s just not a natural ability for me. This entire placement so far has been a struggle to reach my toes. I came here pretending I had no expectations, but of course I did, and my experiences haven’t met my expectations on any count. This isn’t to say I’m…

how the light gets in

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…

all by myself

I had the privilege of video chatting with a good friend the other day, the first time we’ve really talked since August. Our long conversation, made longer by dodgy internet connections, covered everything that’s happened in the weeks since we last saw each other, mostly, of course, focusing on our personal adjustments to life abroad, our mandates, and being alone. I learned a lot about how I’m feeling about life because she asked me questions other people haven’t and I said things out loud that I haven’t said before. I did an okay job of preparing myself to be here,…