Saturday, September 19, 2015

Unlocking more than our phones

Part of our ongoing dialog here in Sri Lanka is trying to decipher the human messages around us. Why did this person say that? What's the rivalry between X and Y? What was the meaning behind that admonition? Does it all add up to something we can't understand? Does it matter?

So this game we call cultural exchange, a kind of ambassadorial prerogative, is complicated and fraught. We are given wide latitude because we're foreigners, a strange species of pale beings. But in that latitude is also a kind of gulf. Uncrossable? No. But definitely something lost in translation. 

So it occurred to me as we spent hours in the labyrinthine "Liberty Mall" yesterday, an air conditioned souk of electronics stores, gaming places, cheap clothing, and more than anything phone repair places--that we are trying to unlock more than just our phones. We're trying, perhaps with some futility, to unlock the cultural clues that surround us, and in which we're strangely embedded. 

Janet summed it up as we got ready to fall asleep last night (we mightily pushed ourselves to stay up until eight): it's not foolhardiness what we're doing. But nine months in Sri Lanka is definitely a leap of faith. 

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