Friday, May 27, 2005

Presbyterian Serendipity*

Now we are back in Colombo, attending a conference entitled "Post-tsunami Development within the Context of Globalization." Serendipitously, the conference is being sponsored by the PC(USA)! It's unusual that they're here, considering that there are only two Presbyterian Churches in all of Sri Lanka. And yet, the purpose of their presence here is to be in solidarity with the people, regardless of denomination or even faith. The conference's theme is to provide a forum for Sri Lankans working at the grassroots level to share their knowledge and experience. So far, we've heard from representatives of the fishing community, the women's association, factory workers, and a few others. We're learning about the effects of the tsunami, but almost more than that we're getting an insight into Sri Lankan history and the ways in which globalization has already run right over the local economies. This is confirmation of what we suspected: that what folks have been saying about earlier "silent tsunamis" is true.

The conference is fascinating, but admittedly it is rather gruelling. It begins at 8:30 am and ends at 8:30 pm and lasts for three days, with multiple tea breaks. There are speakers on the subjects mentioned above, followed by plenty of time for discussion. The good news is, everybody gets their voice heard. The bad news is, EVERYBODY gets their voice heard.

Answers to Some of Your Questions:
The kids at Jeeva Jothy range from ages 4 to early 20s. They loved the bubbles and the balloons, though when one of the balloons popped, you could see a few of the kids flinch as they associated that sound with darker days.

The crocodile is really a crocodile, not a water monitor. We only saw its photo: it's 8 to 9 feet long. It's supposed to be more afraid of us than we are of it, but we never took the time to find out.

Ajayan, Dad, is Silan's son. He lived next-door to us, remember??

The hill country was gorgeous and reminded Kiran of her childhood home in Kodai. It's harder to enjoy now that we've heard the presentation on the plantations, wherein we learned about the exploitation of the tea workers...

Kiran loves waking up to the sound of the Sri Lankan cuckoo, a bird with a gorgeous song. Of course, she was already used to waking up next to a cuckoo.

A wonderful part of our trip to Batticaloa and the hill country was our companion, Sirisena. He was our driver, but he was also our translator, our body guard, our tour guide, and our friend. He's been driving professionally since 1966, so there's nowhere and no one in Sri Lanka he doesn't know. If you're ever in Sri Lanka, make sure you give him a call.

Alex thought that he and Kiran were the only preachers in the family, but after reading his father-in-law's blog comment, he's wondering if he should invite him into the pulpit.

We enjoy hearing from you. It's a real treat to be able to stay in contact this way.

*An old name for Sri Lanka is Serendib, which is the root of the word "serendipity." Happy coincidence!


At 7:30 AM, Blogger JoshG said...

Sounds like you are enjoying your trip. God Bless!

At 7:44 AM, Blogger The Cleavers said...

Great to hear from you! It sounds like you are having a good trip so far. Lauren is praying for you every night before she goes to bed. You continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. Looking forward to more stories upon your return.

Take care and God Bless
Audrey, Dan and Lauren Cleaver

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Mary Beth said...

Hey y'all, I will never again use the word "serendipity" (and its derivatives) in the same way!! Kiran, remember the song about the cuckoo that's on one of those old folk anthology albums I have?... "Oh, the cuckoo/she's a pretty bird/ she worbles (?)/ as she cries./ But she never/ hollers cuckoo/ 'til the first day/ of July..."

I think I agree with your mom about sharing – so we can hear, and the stories can be heard, if the people who tell them want and allow them to be – the more difficult and overwhelming stories... but maybe you’re hearing more stories of hope?! Or are some people really as angry at God/"God" as that reporter seemed to be?

Also, is there anything we should "do" over here, besides pray? A difficult question, I know. And one that I guess can be applied to just about anything.

One more question: how did the people/children respond to hearing "Hard Times"? How did it feel to sing it? love, MB

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Papa said...

Sounds like there's more democracy in your Colombo NGO conference than here in the United States Senate (you've missed the filibuster brouhaha) / Oh, THAT Ajayan! Excellent! You couldn't have a better guide, companion, interpreter, or expert on the ins and outs of Sri Lanka's interethnic struggles / "Silent tsunamis" -- a very apt expression for the many upheavals these long-suffering folk have endured, some of them emanating from our own shores, not from Sumatra / Re: preachiness. At heart, I'm an old-time revivalist. If only Miller Chapel knew / Oh, yes -- have been meaning to ask: any talk going around of faith-based NGOs dangling tsunami assitance as inducement to conversion? Actually, even though Christian organizations are the ones most often accused, Buddhist NGO's (like the very successful Sarvodaya) are sometimes mentioned (by Hindus) / Little more than a week left. Make the most of it!

luv 2 luv u

At 4:24 PM, Blogger The Cleavers said...

I just spoke to a friend of mine that is an Elder at Paoli Presbyterian and I told her about your trip. Her church wants to support a mission and is very interested in what you are doing in Sri Lanka - I hope you don't mind but I gave her the link to the blog so she can read about your trip. She is also interested in attending our church when you return and do a presentation. She would love to have her church support the cause. Take care and God bless. Stay safe.

Audrey, Dan and Lauren Cleaver

At 8:33 PM, Blogger JoshG said...

Bad Cubs news. Mark Pryor took a line drive to the elbow and fractured it tonight!! It is unknown how long he will be out. Cubs won though.

At 8:47 PM, Blogger estevan said...

Kiran, I have empathy with you- for two years I woke up for two years in the same dorm room as your cuckoo. Sounds like a good conference ya'll are attending- are ya'll speaking at it? Serendipity will never be the same again, in a good way.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger Mike Langford said...

Glad to hear things are so enthralling. Wish I was there with you. But picking out flatware is so much more ... um ... no, I really wish I was there with you.

- Mike

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Irene and Bob said...

This part of the trip sounds as if things have taken a brighter turn. We are still praying for your safety. It has been truly wonderful getting an insight into another country and not just the problems in the US. This must be the trip of a lifetime for you both, especially you Alex. It has been cold and rainy here since you left. Can't believe you only have a week left.
God Bless,
Irene and Bob

At 6:37 PM, Blogger Peg said...

Alex and Kiran,

Long seminars can be grueling but also enlightening. I hope this one gives you beneficial information. I'm glad the kids are enjoying the bubbles and balloons. It is so sad to know that kids equate a popped balloon with gun fire. We have no clue!! We continue to pray for both of you. Keep safe and God bless!


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