The sun is setting on Friday the 13th and our day in Sri Lanka is coming to an end almost 12 hours before most of our friends have had their morning coffee. Tomorrow, Saturday, will be another work day for our team but we’re celebrating the end of the week nonetheless.
Our group has been divided into 2’s, 3’s, 4’s or 5’s every day so far. We’ve worked on a total of 13 houses in four days. Each of the homeowners has taken a loan for a different construction project. Some borrowed money to complete concrete floors. Other were plastering walls, backfilling the foundation, adding an additional room to their existing house or adding a latrine. It’s not been uncommon to work at a different site every day. Despite the discontinuity, our team is happy to have plenty of work to do. Of course, the tradeoff is we are dog tired at the end of each day. Sifting sand, mixing concrete by hand and digging ditches with hoes and pick axes wears you out quickly.
Our twice daily tea breaks have become a highlight of our days. I’m not much of a tea drinker at home, but, “When in Rome…” The tea really is good and surprisingly refreshing. Believe it or not drinking boiling hot tea when you are sweating like a pig has a remarkably cooling effect.
Sri Lankans drink their tea with sugar, but they don’t mix it into their cup. They put a heaping spoonful into their left palm and lick small bits of the sugar crystals before each sip of tea. The sweet raw sugar begins to melt on your tongue then the tea washes it down. First you taste the sugar, then the tea, which allows the flavor of the tea to shine. Who’d have thought it?
Speaking of surprises, the term that indicates the happiness you feel when you discover something surprising while looking for something else – serendipity – you know the word, right? Well it comes from the Persian name for Sri Lanka “Serendib” which means “island of gems.” And we discovering them.
For example, spotting wild peacocks. I didn’t expect to see so many of these lovely creatures, roaming the rice paddy or suddenly crossing the road. Having only ever seen a peacock in a zoo, I was excited like a small child to spontaneously spot my first one. Isn’t that one of the great joys of traveling?
Leave home. Get out of your comfort zone. I can almost guarantee, you too will experience something unexpectedly wonderful.