SLV.Sri Lanka: What I Learnt
This summer I went to Sri Lanka with SLV.Global on a Mental Health Placement, working on a variety of projects for five weeks.
I found out about SLV.Global via my Facebook newsfeed, of all places. And, yes, in case you were wondering, when I told people I was going away for five weeks with a company I found on my Facebook, they looked baffled, and more than a bit concerned. Such is modern life, I guess. I was a bit concerned too; I had booked myself on this work placement not really knowing what I would be doing week-to-week, not knowing a single other soul who was doing it too, and not having any experience in Psychology. Needless to say, my list of worries was endless - would I make friends? Would it be too difficult for me to do? Am I even qualified to run these sessions?
However, over those five weeks, I fell in love with Sri Lanka, and everything in it. It is, simply put, awe-inspiring; the white, smooth beaches that fringe the island give way to palm trees and towns and then rolling leafy hills, and jungle; the humid air seemingly tingling with promise and adventure.
If the Sri Lankan scenery inspires a sense of awe and wonder, then so too do the people. The twenty-five year long civil war and the Tsunami have, in some ways, left the country reeling; and yet, the resilience and endurance of the country and its people can be felt in everything; the wrinkled hands of old ladies on the public bus, stretching forward to take your heavy bags into their laps, and relieve you of your burden; the service users in my sessions, eagerly chatting to me about their lives, their futures; their hopes and dreams.
Above anything else, Sri Lanka taught me perhaps the most valuable lesson of all: how to let go. How to trust people - and yes, how to trust myself, too. The country itself forces you to lose control into its humid and leafy arms; pushes you to relinquish control of your bag to the lady on the bus; encourages you to chat to the child staring at you in the corner shop. You’ll be held up on the motorway because of a stray peacock on the road; buses are often late or don’t appear at all. And at first, control is given over unwillingly and unhappily. Uncomfortably.
And then something changes. You let go. You smile at the woman on the bus. You spend your bus journey reading with the child that stared at you; you chat about your hometown in England with the man at the corner shop. You smile. You trust your instincts, for once. And you let go, fully and willingly into this beautiful and sprawling island’s arms. The tight-knit communities on this lovely island bring you in, like the waves bring in shells on the shore. And you won’t regret it, I promise.