Allison Olfelt, traveling with our Sri Lanka blogger team this week to see firsthand how World Vision's sponsorship programs work, presents a snapshot of her first interactions with the people of this island nation.
Allison's post originally appeared on her blog, O My Family.
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She sits on the back wall of the marketplace, pedaling fruits and vegetables that look familiar, as well as those that don’t. She weighs them with experienced, weathered hands on an experienced, weathered scale.
He catches our eyes and makes the universal sign for “take a picture.” Then his smile brightens when we turn the camera and show him his likeness on a four-inch screen, standing there amongst his produce. He asks if I want to stand there and sell things, and he’ll take my picture.
He whisks us through the store out to the back and shows us eagerly, O so eagerly, how he creates his batik masterpieces. The steps, the wax, the successions of dyes, the batches of colors that are only the same once. The intricate pointillism-like scenes sprawled out on the purest of silks.
This store once employed 300 people, but that was before the war, he says. Now that the conflict has ended, tourism is beginning again. He beams of pride as he wraps our sweet Joy in a sari and tells us that his Sri Lanka, it is coming back.
She lights up and quickly tucks her smile behind her arm. She holds our eye contact, and the feeling of being enthralled is mutual. Her brother stays stoic; his grandma obliges our request to take their picture.
He stokes the coals, a preparation for holy sacrifice. Sweat already dripping, he dumps a water bucket over his head. Heat off of the coals wafts toward me occasionally. As close as he is, it must be absolutely stifling.
His relief is as evident as the crowd’s. He has crossed the coals, toddler son in arms, the baby that his god gave him. As thanks, he offers this sacrifice. My stomach churns, but I am wonder-eyed at his devotion. I try to see the beautiful in it.
Today was spent seeing different areas and customs of the people of Sri Lanka. We had several serendipitous travel experiences, such as just happening upon a very, very talented batik artist who did not hesitate to give us a spectacular tour of his studio and production area.
And I am not sure if "serendipitous" is the word for being in a packed crowd of people and then suddenly lunging as a mass to avoid the curved, sharp horns of a free-roaming cow, but there was that today, too. So.
Tomorrow we will visit our first area development project -- a community where World Vision works and facilitates child sponsorship -- and I cannot, cannot, cannot (did I mention cannot?) wait to meet the beautiful babies and children there and to introduce them to you.
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Read the latest posts from our team of eight bloggers who are in Sri Lanka this week, witnessing firsthand how World Vision's programs help change the lives of children, families, and communities in need.
Missed any of the earlier posts from the trip? Check them out here!