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Miscellaneous culture

Sandals. My new favorite thing about Sri Lanka.

No, I’m not talking about buying them- I’m talking about finding them everywhere, abandoned haphazardly (albeit temporarily) in the streets, in the workshops, in the temples. This is something I remember from my childhood in Vermont… the concept of “no shoes, no shirt, no service” didn’t exist. I actually forgot my sandals at home for my high school graduation.

And here again, it’s more obvious. The three wheeler drivers have what I think of as a “loose attachment” to their sandals. They rarely wear them driving or walking around… they’re kind of there in case of emergency. Likewise the fruit and vegetable vendors are often without, and one can observe when entering many establishments, the shopkeeper in and out of her/his sandals depending on the task they’re performing. It is probably a commentary on their relative value… they’re inexpensive, so not a big deal if they’re lost. But, it’s the larger implication that tickles me pink. The notion of a muted sense of self-awareness so different from that which I’ve grown accustomed to in Boston… The notion that your personal bubble extends to where you’ve left your shoes, and that it overlaps and co-mingles with others along the way.

Personal space certainly has a different meaning here. It’s actually been an interesting component of getting to know the girls. Because I speak only a few words of Sinhala, and the girls speak a comparable amount of English, our communications are very basic. We have distilled most of our interactions to physical gestures, facial expressions, sound, and drawings. Although we started off with no physical contact whatsoever, it follows naturally from this new basic language. I have been very aware of maintaining my distance in order to preserve the girls’ sense of comfort (you can’t know what reservations they might have given their past experiences) but they have made themselves at home with me, and are constantly hugging and patting me, and most recently: doing my hair and feeding me cake!

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