These next few posts are catch-up posts. I am currently in Manila, working on the conference, and will try to have time relevant posts soon. ‘Till then, enjoy playing catch-up! 🙂
Last night I had another conversation with my new monk friend. After the closing ceremony and the bus ride home, he met me by the front doors of the hotel. In his funny little New York framed Sri Lankan accent he asked, ” Ah Liz. Where were you? I thought da bus had left you. I was sitting in the back to save you a seat, but you were not there.” I apologized, telling him I had sat up front to finished a conversation with my Vietnamese friend Hah. “No, no. You don’t apologize. See, you are here now. So, no apologize. Let’s walk.”
So we went out under the full moon that lit the sidewalks like it was midday rather than nearly midnight. The air had cooled since the sun’s retreat and the sudden burst of rain that had caught us all off guard during our rally. The breeze brought over smells of wet wood planks on the surrounding houses, flowers still growing wild and meats frying from open windows. We listened to the murmur of other voices down the sidewalk, the cars, tricycles and jeepnies honking and rumbling down the road, and the occasional crash of a fallen coconut.
This night, we spoke of more personal things. Of how his mother went to the doctor for the first time when she was 62. Not that she didn’t go before because she couldn’t afford it, but rather, she lived such a life that she never needed the assistance of a doctor before. Sajee told me about the downfall of what he regarded as pure Sri Lankan society. How it came in 1505 when Portugal moved in and introduced the working man’s greatest health-enemy. Bread. He carefully explained how the introduction of this Western staple was the near downfall of their way of life. How bread weighed a man down, instead of invigorating him to work the way rice and vegetables do. He spoke of how the introduction of alcohol a few years later changed the peaceful working nation into an dependant nation.
We spoke of farming and the benefits of organic vs. pesticides. Though neither of us had ever touched a plow. We spoke of learning to enjoy the little things in life – to find the blessing in each day. He spoke highly of the Amish (God love the Amish), and we bonded over our loved of Shakertown, Kentucky.
Making friend with Sajee, his insistence that I visit the assembly in Manila and our hopes for reconnecting one day in New York where he lives now, makes me laugh. I remember Huntingdon days, when Greg’s monk friends (were they Tibetian?) sat in a circle on our Green. And even though I couldn’t spend the afternoon on the Green with them, I enjoyed their presence on our campus. A vision of union and harmony between faiths. A vision not always prevalent on that campus. I loved listening to Greg speak of his friends, of the things he learned from them. I wondered if I would ever be in a place in my life in which I could easily acquire such friends. And now, without even seeking it out, I have a new friend with a bright orange robe. Who knows, maybe one days I’ll have a gathering of students of sorts, wondering how they can meet someone like Sajee.