Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Making reservations to Colombo

May 24 – Posted later
On Wednesday I called my travel agent to make reservations for my summer trip to Sri Lanka. I try to spend at least four weeks in Sri Lanka each summer. I write, teach, meet with friends and drink in the country and its people. I wish my stays could be longer, but other obligations and commitments, other choices I have made, preclude that. I am reminded of a poet Robert Frost passage, “the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…”

Regular ‘dormgrandpop’ readers know that Sri Lanka is like a second home to me. I never dreamed of this when I made my first visit in June 1987, almost exactly twenty years ago. Since then I have made more than twenty trips – one year there were three. It is a troubled country which lurches erratically between periods of uneasy truce and violence. Now it is once again in a violent phase. The militant Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) have created a small air force and bombed the international airport. The government, for the sixth or seventh time, is opting for a military solution, which is no more likely to succeed than President George W Bush's intervention in Iraq.

I spent twenty years writing a book about Sri Lanka’s civil wars. My goal was to gain a deep understanding of why conflict escalated in Sri Lanka, why it persists and what could be learned that might benefit other nations. I believe I do understand. This understanding, communicated as best I could in my book, has not ended the conflict. The carefully crafted ‘lessons’ that I offered have not been learned, let alone followed, at least not yet.

What keeps drawing me back to Sri Lanka? There is no real explanation. It is like falling in love. When I am there, I feel good about myself. For some reason, it is a place where it is natural for me to be. When I die, I shall ask that my remains be cremated and thrown in to the ocean surf, from the sea wall of Colombo’s Galle Face Green.


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