It is dark night time dark
the sheen on the waves rushing to embrace the beach emits a silvery glow. frothy bubbles collapse on the shore offer a mere glimmer in which to see.
three men two rods and a packet of pilchards.
this is the second night in a row that John finds himself on Cuttagee Beach ready to go home but our two Sri Lankan friends not .
they did not know fishing back home . It is a job there done by professional fishermen not a recreational sport nor something that develops as part and parcel of family life.
Indeed they tell us that during times of conflict the people are not allowed to go anywhere near the coast.
Why is that?
They shrug, this they cannot explain to us. Their English is not yet sufficient for details nuances and shadings.
what we do know is that despite assurances from the government of Sri Lanka that the war ended in 2009, it didn’t for the Tamils.
what we do know is that there still exists a very real climate of fear manifesting in rapes beatings and killings ,that their homes villages and agricultural land is still occupied by the army who allege they are there “to keep the peace’ but are intent on reprisals.
Those that do not leave the island live in makeshift camps. it is a marginal existence and families are casting their children out into the four directions in the vain hope that they may find a safe refuge in which to thrive and grow in happiness.
these young men spend a lot of time skyping family that have settled in many other countries. India , Belgium Yemen France and so on… technology and social media serves to hold these families together in time and space.
it is a new world.
and here in this country they are making new families and it is into this offering we have jumped.
in the first week it was straight into the deep end , John took them rock fishing.
He showed them the ABC of catching bait getting it on the hook rigging sinkers tying knots casting reeling and
it was Dunstan who caught the big one ,a most beautiful silver drummer.
What he doesn’t teach them is the wonder. this they feel their eyes light up Raj sings a happy song.
they come alive standing in their own power on the edge of enormity, an enormity they know well from their journey across the Indian ocean but on this cliff on this day it is not tinged with fear but a deep joy that bursts from them and flings the rod out over the sea again and again.
a week later later after the rain and storms have passed John introduces them to beach fishing. He calls me after dark after I have eaten my dinner and with a laugh tells me they won’t leave.
The bait has long gone, the guts had been grabbed by Dunstan and blow me down with a feather but he caught a salmon with them.
I kid you not.
the only way John gets them to come home with the two fish caught by Dunstan a tailor and a salmon is by promising them another go the next night.
Cuttagee Beach deja vu the fish are caught the bait is long gone . finally Raj has caught two although he still doesn’t get the difference between a wave pulling on his line and the tentative bite of a fish.
John has taken a chair this night and a thermos of tea for which he is grateful. only his feet are wet and cold.
let’s go eh? he says
the reply yes yes one more ok one more .
ready to go now ?
one more one more ok.
the moon puts in a brief appearance before being swallowed by clouds.
It reminds us of Kingston and his two one mores.
they return around midnight eat a bowl of chili beans I had left on Stanley and go to bed.
again they take a fish over to Carole and we eat well for many days.
the routine of life here is simple and they mould themselves seamlessly into it.
the garden is enlarged and renovated. this work pleases them and they want to finish it before they leave.
they plant beans and talk of coming back and we hope they do.
sad, says Dunstan two days out from leaving.
21 hours we go he says .
this is getting hard now.
friday morning Central Hotel 6.50am Monica and Mark along with their two Jarred and Vaneesh meet us .
there are hugs all round and hand shakes and see you soons .
they climb on the coach and with a wave disappear down the highway.
we are left stunned saddened by departure and full of feeling ……..
full of respect most definitely, full of hope for their future absolutely,
full of wonder for the gift given and the gift received.
we swap phone numbers and get their address. we are welcome anytime says Raj 24 hour any time .
we are kin now part and parcel of their lives.
what I have learnt is that they like sugar on their bread and butter and sugar in their black tea
that their teeth are perfectly white and strong and their smiles light up the room.
what I have learnt is our greatest asset in times of darkness is the gift of ourselves and that no government policy can defeat us on this journey.
what I have learnt is that it is possible to extend the hand of friendship and receive a million blessings in return.
what we also know is that we will do it again.
one more ok