Sorry for the lag in postings. I've had a rough re-entry! My laptop crashed shortly after I returned to Chennai. The computer whiz guys are still trying to figure out whether they will be able to rescue any of my files, including my pictures from Sri Lanka. So for now, I am not able to post any pics. The only thing I have that was not on my laptop were these words that I scribbled on my last day at the work site.
This one goes out to all my fabulous Sri Lanka work-crew mates~
For 14 Days, We Were
We are building five houses,
I proudly write to far-away friends.
Somewhere, a cynical voice asks:
But weren't hundreds of thousands destroyed?
I feel childishly naive, thinking that my two weeks in Sri Lanka could somehow save the world.
Why did I choose this - this endless stream of mortar pans and cement,
under a relentless Sri Lankan sun?
The cinder blocks that arrive non-stop in wheelbarrow trains?
I'm sure I cannot lift another block.
And yet, I do. And twenty more after that.
Soon, my scars will heal and I will forget my aching arms.
But I won't forget this rag-tag team:
--teachers and techies
--moms and marathon runners
--fathers and sons
Our skins glistening in the sun, sweat mixing with plaster, sunblock, finely-sifted sand, and a little bit of blood.
Seeking refuge in the shade
I enviously admire solar-powered Genny who never seems to wilt in the sun.
I will remember- Warunika*1 working the crowd: "My House. Come."
I will remember- a bountiful dinner under a full moon with gentle Shanthe*2 and kin.
I will remember - at Sambodhi House, exuberant dancers who have every right to grief & despair.
Back home, in the sweet luxury of my Western-style life, I will smile when I hear that the monsoon has arrived in Sri Lanka.
I will know that in a far-away land, the twins*3 sleep soundly with a roof over their heads,
tsunami nightmares slowly giving way to child-dreams.
A roof lovingly crafted with tiles passed from arm to aching arm.
A house mortared, plastered, and painted with love.
No, we didn't save the world.
And we rolled back barely a drop of the fury of an angry sea.
But we were true to Gandhi's timeless words:
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world"
For 14 days, we were.
*1 Warunika was a young girl who had moved into the first house completed at the work site. She loved to hang out with the volunteers, inviting each person for a tour of her new home.
*2 Shanthe was one of the Sri Lankan workmen at the site, who invited some of the volunteers to his home for dinner. He lives with his family in a simple hut with no electricity, but his wife and family served us a huge, delicious meal.
*3 The family that we handed off the house to included young twin girls, Sadeepa and Samadi.