Their obvious otherness intimidated me. What must they think of my exposed hair, my short skirt over leggings, and my bright colors? Were they judging me? Maybe they were afraid I was judging them. Maybe they just didn’t know what to make of our fair skin. Maybe they were just curious, as we piled out of the van, strangers in the celebration parade to thank World Vision. I pushed myself to smile and greet them, holding my hands together the way they did, and bowing. They smiled and bowed back.
The van stopped and the riot of colors in the yard next to us almost made me laugh. The statuary and the shrines were aqua, rose, gold, purple, blue, every shade you can imagine, a bit faded by the sun.
Sudesh, the Catholic ADP director motioned for us to follow him into the Hindu temple. Our interpreter, Hasanthi, whispered to remove our shoes at the threshold. I accidentally stepped on a special rock on my way in and immediately wondered what kind of sacrilege I’d just committed. The Hindu priest waved a small black candelabra back in what I could only guess was their version of the Holy of Holies. Then he walked back towards us, took a pot of sweet-smelling ashes, dipped his thumb in it, and smeared a bit on each of our foreheads, starting with Sudesh.
Disclosure: Thank you to World Vision USA for inviting me to join the Sri Lanka bloggers trip this year and for paying my travel expenses.