by Chanuk Algama
Just like most of you, I too went home for Christmas break, but what was special about it for me was the fact that I hadn’t been home in two years. For those of you who don’t know, my home is on a small island by the name of Sri Lanka. The city I’m from is called Kelaniya. It is roughly 9,000 miles southeast of Goshen and it takes at least 20 hours of flying to get there. I left Goshen on December 11. It was quite a snowy winter Saturday in South Bend and I wasn’t surprised that my journey started off with a two-hour flight delay. Fortunately, I still managed to catch my flight to London from Chicago. When I reached Columbo, my dad was there to pick me up from the airport. My mom and sister were awake to welcome me at home even though it was 4 am. I managed to chitchat with them for a little but it wasn’t long till I needed to go sleep. I woke up early the next morning due to jetlag, and forced myself to stay awake until evening. For a few days I practiced this routine of ignoring my afternoon sleepiness to adjust to GMT + 6. I spent the first few days sitting at home doing nothing important. It was nice not having to work during break. I just sat around, ate the fantastic spicy home-cooked rice and curry that I really missed. Instead of watching TV, I played with my eleven dogs, and gave my sister’s cat nightmares while she was at work. The only few times I left the house, I played cricket with my buddies or went to church (on Sunday).
After about a week of goofing around, I set off on a service project in collaboration with a Christian relief council and the Sri Lankan Army. My team and I headed to a city by the name of Killinochi, which is located roughly 200 km north from Kelaniya. Here we managed to distribute necessities to families affected by the recently-ended 26-year civil war, throw a Christmas party at a local elementary school, collect facts and build a site plan for a possible community center, and visit few other points of interest. It was heartbreaking to see how much trouble the people in the north central province had to go through. Besides the limited resources and very low living standards, they had another major problem. That problem was landmines. Even though a decent number of mines had been cleared from the area, it was still scary to walk around. Wherever my team and I headed, we had to be escorted by the army for
On Christmas day I got to see most of my relations. It was nice catching up with them and telling them about America. The day after Christmas, I was back on the road traveling places along the eastern and southern coasts. I managed to visit Arugam Bay, which is known as one of the top surfing spots in the world. Even though it wasn’t surfing season in Arugam Bay, there was a slight chance of catching one or two good waves; however, it required a lot of patience. During my road trip I also came across some wildlife. Most animals I hadn’t seen since leaving Sri Lanka for college. I managed to come across many of the usual suspects: elephants, leopards, crocodiles, chimps, monkeys, peacocks, and various other types of species I wouldn’t see in Indiana besides outside a zoo. Time kept moving fast and the days were closing in till it reached the point where it was time to head back to Goshen. I had to end my visit home by getting sick. I also had the worst flight experience ever on my way back. I had to deal with flight delays, flight cancellations, and delayed luggage. However I finally reached Goshen. It was nice to once again be back in the college scene, chill with friends and start my final semester at GC, somewhat refreshed!