Saturday, 4 August 2012

Falling down a hole

Last night I fell down a hole as I was attempting to get into a trishaw. This sort of thing has happened before more times than I care to remember; a flip flop slip, a slight twist of the ankle, and an occasional stumble. It is one of the perils of my daily life in Sri Lanka. But this was a momentous hole and I disappeared down it as if I might never be seen again.

I didn't see it coming and, before I knew it, was thigh deep down an enormous drain. I had no time to yelp, swear or shout "AIYOOOOOOOO!". And yet, in that split second of falling, it seems I had time enough to think about a number of things all at once.  I reflected on the perils of simply walking along the side of the road in Colombo, the clumsiness I had displayed over the course of the week so far and just how inevitable my falling seemed to be; I thought about how eye-poppingly novel and entertaining it must be for those around me to observe the spectacle of a falling foreigner and imagined the story being told and retold in homes around the city later that evening and for many months to come; And I wondered whether someone might be kind enough to follow me in and help me out if I did indeed fall so far that I could only crane my neck and howl for help from several feet down.

Once in the hole, I considered whether I really did need my left hip all that much after all, and if it was essential that my right knee face forward in order for me to continue my journey; I also wondered whether I should inform the trishaw driver of my intended destination whilst still inside the hole, or wait until I had hauled myself out of it before doing so. As it was (who knows why!!!) I opted for the former, shouting up at him from a couple of feet down as he giggled nervously at the foolish foreigner. Thankfully, he understood me first time and knew the place where I wanted to go. So, there was no point in remaining where I was for a moment longer. As I clambered up and out of my predicament and into the trishaw, I allowed myself some indulgent and soul soothing swearing (I can actually do this in Sinhala now if required, but went for some old favourites as I fear the former are a little too shocking to utter out loud anywhere but in the safety of my own home).

In the trishaw, we zipped and zig zagged through the chaotic evening traffic towards a friend who would first give me a hug and then hand me a beer, before laughing long and hard at my misfortune. On route, I nursed my wounded pride, examined my bruises and bravely fought back the tears. I was alright really. My knee seemed to be facing the right direction and my hip was still in one piece.

As the night wore on and the beer began to do it's job, I thought further about the unexpected tumble I had taken. How it had been such a shock. It had taken my breath away and my feet from under me without warning. It had been painful and uncomfortable and for a split second I had wondered Is it really all worth it? What am I doing here? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY? Perhaps it was just the beer, but I returned home with this particular blog post written in my mind.

You see, people often ask what life is like in Sri Lanka; they want to know all about the VSO experience, and sometimes ask whether I ever regret my decision to come. It's always difficult to know what to say, how to sum it all up or do it justice. Well, I hope this small tale of woe will help me to do just that.

It is a wonderful experience. It really is. I feel incredibly lucky to be here and there are so many moments where I have to pinch myself to check this is really happening. The work is sometimes hard, yes. But it's always interesting and often rewarding .  However, it's also true to say that there also many moments of falling down that metaphorical hole. Suddenly, without warning and often when you think things are going well; the unexpected happens, the ground opens up and you find yourself flailing around wondering where you are and how on earth you found yourself in this position. Life can suddenly look bleak and you really do question whether it really is all worth it.

However, whilst these moments can happen quite often, they rarely last too long. Thankfully, it seems I am always able to clamber out of the hole eventually, dust myself off and carry on. And so, to answer the last question. Do I ever regret it? I can answer that emphatically and without hesitation with a no! That is, apart from when I'm thigh deep down a hole.


  1. Hi Beth,

    That sounds like a big shock and I empathise fully as I don't require holes in the ground to be able to fall over and it can feel very vulnerable and jarring aside from the physical pain. I hope you are feeling better now. I like the way you draw the analogy to metaphorical holes and I can't resist copying in this poem in case you don't know it already (the other street may not be possible in the literal sense):

    Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

    Chapter 1

    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost ... I am helpless.
    It isn't my fault.
    It takes forever to find a way out.

    Chapter 2

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don't see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can't believe I am in the same place.
    But it isn't my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.

    Chapter 3

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it is there.
    I still fall in ... it's a habit.
    My eyes are open.
    I know where I am.
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.

    Chapter 4

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    Chapter 5

    I walk down another street.

    ~ Portia Nelson ~

    1. Thanks for that Rachael. Funnily enough, Sarah P put a comment on facebook saying it reminded her of that poem. It feels very relevant right now, in so many ways. So, thanks for sharing! Take care x