Reflections – Month 6: Taking That Time

Power out. No electricity. The perfect moment for reflection.

I have to admit that (especially) in this past month I have been so ‘hooked’ to my fast mobile-and-everywhere 3G network, that hardly 10 minutes go by without checking something on the internet. So, let’s see if I manage to reflect on our month in Sri Lanka without consulting Guru Google…

Sri Lanka was like a holiday, a one month break in our adventurous travels. Mostly, because it’s so easy to travel in Sri Lanka that we just have to put it in the box of family-friendly-exotic-holiday-destination. Sri Lanka has plenty to offer: from palm fringed beaches to ancient culture, from tea-plantations to elephant-filled national parks. For us, Sri Lanka felt… (and I feel a bit ashamed saying it, but I must be truthful)…it felt a bit BORING. Not boring as in ‘oh, my god this is sooo boring’, but rather ‘hmmm, yeah, well…nice.’. I guess we’ve spoiled ourselves with extreme adventure and have trouble following ‘the tourist trail’ and Sri Lanka is mostly that. I am sure there are some less visited regions (the North, for sure) and genuine Sri Lankan experiences, but it’s a small island after all and despite civil war and tsunamis, Sri Lanka has done extremely well on building a smooth tourism infrastructure. Too smooth for us…

We realized quickly that seeking the adventure in Sri Lanka would not only hard work, but also feel a bit forced. Should we try and camp out in our tent on a beach somewhere? The extreme heat (unusual for the season) and humidity kept us from pushing. The kids were happy anyways. And so, after a first week of driving from beach to beach, visiting temples and tea plantations and enjoying a short just-for-the-fun-of-it train ride, we thought we’d give the ‘popular with surfers and backpackers’ bay of Arugam a try. And like a miracle, life went from boring and not really sure what we are doing here to ‘let’s just be here’ (also see Wanna Come?). After 5 days we started saying: “When should we leave?” and kept on answering “Maybe after tomorrow”. We would repeat this mantra daily, until we finally left our little paradise after 10 days. By that time, we had also run out of time to drive up north to Jaffna, but it was fine. We had all managed to pause for a bit. We each had established our own little routines and were quite happy with it.

Arugam Family Routines:

Mareile: Pilates/Yoga practice > breakfast > computer work > homeschooling > lunch > computer work > family beach outing > dinner
Matthieu: breakfast > surfing > lunch > computer work > family beach outing/surfing > dinner
Iluka: breakfast > second breakfast > looking for kids to play with > homeschooling > lunch > swimming > family beach outing/surfing > dinner
Timo: Being woken up by Iluka > breakfast > talking to random people > lunch > swimming > family beach outing/surfing > dinner while talking to random people

The moment we left Arugam Bay, we were already second-guessing our decision. Should we have stayed? But we moved on, this time a bit more at ease with the fact that we will just do the ‘tourist thing’. The kids had started to surf a bit (= proud father), I had had time to get back into my practice and had so much time to think about all the exciting plans for Pilates Retreat Asia, that I feel like I’ve ignited a professional passion for my business, which will include new retreats, new partnerships, even a Pilates Teacher Training.

I am sitting in Hong Kong as I continue this post. We’ve had three frantic days… oh, do I now realize how much of a break this was in Sri Lanka…

The last week of our Sri Lankan trip was one of happy reunions. One was planned, one was a complete surprise. Back in February in Karnataka, we had met Posie, Tony and Noel (12), a British/American family who was also on a 10-month trip. We were leaving the guesthouse, they had just arrived. We talked for about 45 minutes, exchanging travel stories, worries and experiences, before we parted ways. Sri Lanka came up as a common future destination. A ‘maybe’ from our side, a ‘we have our ticket and know where we will be staying’ from theirs. “This might be a bit premature”, said Posie as our car was leaving “but we will be staying in this nice villa of a friend… maybe you could come and join us?”.

We did take them up on their generous offer…

Our last week in Sri Lanka was spent in luxurious bliss, with lots of exercise (Pilates/Yoga for me, Surfing for Matthieu, Running/biking for Posie and Tony and hours in the swimming pool for the kids), healthy, freshly cooked food (we had a local housekeeper, cook and manager) and plenty of time for school and work. We also started a daily 2-family evening TV marathon of watching all the old James Bond movies, which evoked serious discussion amongst the older boys. It was a time of bliss and joy and we indulged in every minute of it. Thank You. Wow. What a gift. No guilt.

The second (unexpected) reunion spans over nicely to Hong Kong (where we are now). To help you visualize the experience I invite you to:

1] close your eyes
2] picture yourself with your family about to visit Sigiriya (one of Sri Lanka’s must-see sights)
3] hear someone say matter-of-factly ‘Mareile!’ (please insert your own name) with a British accent.
4] visualize a good old friend suddenly standing in front of you with his parents…

Ok, I am not sure if that came across clearly, but to make a long story short, we had bumped into our old friend Will Nicholls from Hong Kong. Will, whom we hadn’t seen for years. Will, whom I worked with for 4 years in Hong Kong at Kactus Design. Will, whom we had tried in vain to contact while in India because we knew he had connections there. Will, who always seems to materialize out of the blue to tell you some unbelievable news (like ‘oh, I was just in Papua New Guinea for some work’ or ‘oh, yes, I got married to an Indian girl’ and ‘oh, by the way, it seems I will be a father soon.’). I mean, what a crazy coincidence! He had no idea we were in Sri Lanka and suddenly here we are – reunited for a few minutes – before he takes off with his parents back to Colombo. As good fortune had it, we ended up meeting again over a few beers and catch up, which also meant that we arrived in Hong Kong prepared – updated with the latest gossip and news about our friends and colleagues that live in the city we called home for 9 years!

But are we really ready for Hong Kong…?



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