Published by K&P,
Over dinner on our first night in Sri Lanka we got chatting with some other guests staying at our hostel on the outskirts of Negombo - not far from Colombo Airport.
Around the table are two Danish medical Students who were returning home for the start of term, our Russian hostess and a young couple from Eastern Ukraine who had spent three months here working informally, having fled from war. In their home town, they ran a small online import business, which was doing well before the situation became too dangerous for them to continue. They shared their story with a level of acceptance, as though to shrug it off and say 'that's life', yet tinged with an air of despondency and mistrust of the politicians on all sides. There seemed no explanation other than them being trapped between competing aspirations from east and west, which seems to be the uncomfortable reality of ex-soviet states bordering the EU. The irony of the situation seemed lost on our new friends, who'd managed to befriend a Russian hotelier and were now getting free board in exchange for work on her website... but perhaps this says more about the gulf-like difference in out perceptions. Our view, fed mainly by the agenda set in western media and theirs more influenced by "Mother Russia".
It was certainly humbling and at the same time a heart-warming encounter that's served to remind us how fortunate we've been when compared to so many for whom reality has suddenly turned and forced their hand. All credit for how they've adapted and even thrived, put their skills to good use - that's beyond mere survival, I know I'd struggle to be so resilient.
So, let's count our blessings. One; obviously, we have neither fled war or known that pain, quite the opposite really... Leaving loved ones behind has been tough but it was a choice, out of freedom to do so. It is a huge comfort to know that life goes on at home - thankfully in peace and safety. Two; just how easy it would be to take for granted the fact our entire conversation was in English, at least a third language to the others who chose to include us.
To sum up what we've taken from that night. There's untold, surprising and unpredictable power in putting people first. As travellers it can be easy to overlook the reality, good or painful in others lives and with it the opportunity to be challenged, inspired or moved to act. In short, we are learning that chance encounters matter. Aside from sharing our travel photos, that will be a running theme for our blog.