The decision is yours

The other day I experienced my first real racial incident ever. Yes, I grew up on the country side during that first wave of immigrants reaching Sweden, and yes there was racism. Mostly towards them though, not me. After that I moved to Gothenburg and realized that those opinions from back home, they do not exist everywhere. Moved on to the US and went to a mostly colored high school and understood that men can find me attractive even though I am not pale by nature. Anyhow, no haven’t called me anything nasty for decades. Maybe because I am too strong to bully, maybe because of my personality or maybe because I have dated some popular men, always known the right people.

Either way, the other day an older man jumped me at the subway. He was clearly drunk, old and really aggressive. He told me to go home and I must have looked very surprised (since my first thought was that I couldn’t go back to Gullmarsplan, just came from there and now I was going the other way) cause he continued to scream. He told me I was a parasite, that it was my fault that he was on welfares, didn’t have a home, that his daughter didn’t want to see him. All this happened on a crowded subway, but no one did a thing to help me.

I am strong, and an old man screaming at me, I have been through worse so honestly it didn’t really bother me. The thing that bothered me was that not a single one of all the people on that subway did anything – until I (and they too) got off. Then people approached me, so many I could not even count them, telling me how sorry they felt for me, how much they wish they could help. As I said, I can handle a drunken guy screaming at me, but people that to me come across as ignorant, they totally piss me off.

If you feel that something is bothering you, or even makes you feel bad, why don’t you do or say something? Just a small anything, the slightest thing will count. I understand if you don’t do so if you are afraid, maybe you are weaker than the one who is bullying, maybe for are with someone that you care about dearly-. But believe me, if you speak up, more people will follow. Alone we might seem and feel weak and afraid, but together we are so much stronger, we can make a difference. It is when we don’t speak up, step up, we show the world that we accept this darkness of segregation, the terrible treatment of people because of the color of their skin, them being gay, them having some kind of handicap.

Some people joke about it, trying to explain other people’s actions with stupidity. Why is that? Is it OK to make fun out of problems? Problems that hurt and kill people every day. Why don’t we focus on the problems instead? Why don’t we work together? If cooperate we will be able exterminate this problem, I am sure, and then we can focus on things that we have on our own back yard, things that influence everyone’s life. Save the planet, save the whales. Whatever, we can do something instead of ruining our world.

If we don’t say anything, speak our mind, we show the world that we accept this behavior. The world will get a much sadder place.
So my question to you is: What do you do to terminate evil within your surroundings? I know that you know that a small thing will, can, count. So what do you actually do to make our world a better place? Let’s just be hones for a moment, are you using explanations not to act? Because in that case, then YOU are jointly responsible for destroying the world we live in, for creating acceptance that should not even be discussed. And if you will be remembered at all, it will not be for a good cause.

If you want to see a person that can make change happen, take a look in the mirror. The decision is yours.

Neglecting my roots

Last Christmas, only a few months ago, I decided to take that desirable walk down memory lane. That expedition that I have been trying to see through since I was a teenager. The journey that means visiting the country where you were born, taking that deep breath and get ready for what could be a culture chock, but also something that could increase your gratitude for life.

People have been telling me for ages that I am neglecting my own roots not visiting Sri Lanka, but honestly it has not been completely my fault. I have ordered the tickets about seven times, but every time something happens which means that I am offered the money back. There was a tsunami, there was a civil war, there was terrorists almost blowing up the president. Of course I could have gone anyhow, but I chickened out, felt like it was signs telling me that I shouldn’t go just yet. It probably was.

We booked the tickets in July, but because of earlier experiences I didn’t believe that we were really going to spend Christmas and New Years in Sri Lanka until the day before we were leaving. But we did, and when I look back I am glad that I decided to travel with my boyfriend, even though this was a really rough trip for both of us.

After landing, first of we went to the city of Unawatuna. A lot of tourists, and it was really beautiful with its hotels and restaurants just next to the seaside. I did understand quite fast though, just after getting off the plane in Colombo, that people were looking at me weird. Concerned but not surprised, a friend from the same country as me went back a couple of years ago and she described it as “you look like everyone else there, but it still seems like you a wearing a big, pink wig. They will stare you down.”. Totally correct, during the entire trip people were shouting, screaming, trying to make me do things that I would never do. Things had not changed compared to when my friend visited the country, unfortunately they seemed to have escalated.

I tried to cover up myself a little bit, did not walk around just wearing a bikini and stuff like that, but still I got a real scolding during our first day in Unawatuna. An old lady told me that I was a whore, that I was not welcomed, that I should go home, and even though that I tried to tell her that Sri Lanka was my first home it did not matter. I was still not welcomed, and I couldn’t help but think about the racism in Sweden, people telling me to go back home. Apparently I am not welcomed anywhere, at least not by everyone and definitely not at the only few places that I actually could call home.

We went on to Mirissa and Galle, very cozy cities and Galle is famous for its fort. We walked around the city, saw a monastery, some red bananas and a guy with a cobra. I do believe Think that the people of Galle paid more attention to me though than I have ever paid anything. When I walked by people stopped talking and reviewed me from my ankles and up in an immodest way, if they felt the need of it they shouted something like “good color”, and many men took their time to tell my boyfriend that he was a very lucky man. This was of course until I got tanned. After that they just stared.

We continued our journey to Mount Lavinia and during this trip by train we were told by several men that Sri Lanka was, still is, a very dangerous place for me. Cause even though I look like an inhabitant I walk western, I talk western, and that makes me hard currency. People knew, just by my appearance, that I could make them money in one way or another. Therefore I had to be careful and watch out for kidnapping, people trying to sell me, rape me or even murder me. At this time we also saw a man falling off the train, and he almost certainly died since he hit his head on the railroad. I have to admit hearing and seeing these things made me kind of shaken, and I am not used to the feeling walking around being afraid, constantly looking over my shoulder. We sort of kind of understood that we were seeing a part of Sri Lanka that ordinary tourists probably and luckily never get to see.

After Mount Lavinia we went to Negombo and the only 5-star resort during our stay. We decided to do so since it was New Years and the hotel was absolutely beautiful with a sea view you can’t even imagine. I still felt that I was unsecure without my boyfriend (that became my fake husband down there to scare of gallants, potential kidnappers and murderers) therefore it was really nice to spend time at the hotel since it was built like a gated community with only three rooms. It was quiet, clean, calm and totally relaxing, and since I was a bit stressed out every time I was outdoors I truly liked it. Until I, after ordering in, went down to the reception with the dishes.

At the hotel, during the evening and nights, there was an old man working. Grey hair, skinny, as short as me because of his crocked back, barefoot and with hardly no teeth, but still, he was like the happiest person ever alive. He was so friendly to us, helped us with everything and went out of his was to make our stay pleasant. Until I went down with the dishes that is.

To me it was secure to be inside of the hotel, therefore I let my guard down and walked downstairs without my boyfriend. The old man was nice as usual, but suddenly something changed when he saw that I was alone. His crocked back was totally straight and he was so strong when he pulled me away from the window, pushed me towards a wall and hold on to me very hard at the same time that he tried to kiss me.

Of course I did not understand at first what happened, but got to my senses and tried to push him away. Unfortunately he was too strong but in one way or another I managed to get to the stairs and after that I just ran. Got back to the room, saw my boyfriend and broke down. Cried for so long, threw up. To make a very long story short, after sunset I tried not to leave the room at all.

Since Negombo was a disappointment we went on to Hikkaduwa, which could be that most beautiful place on earth. Enjoyed the beach, the food and saved up some new energy, started to heal from the incident in Negombo and a trip that had so far been very strange to us. Tried to forget, went to get a massage and total relaxation, but once again we got it all wrong. In my room the woman giving me a massage wanted to sell me, told me that there was a nice Indian man waiting for me outside. Said I only had to do it once, that it was good money, and at first she did not take no for answer. Can you imagine being almost naked on a bench, learning that you have been sold? Of course there was panic but I told her once again that it was not an option for me, that it wouldn’t happen. Finally she accepted my answer and I ran out of there as fast as I could, looking for my boyfriend. When we left the place I told him “I am sorry to say, but we just visited a whorehouse”. He answered that he already knew since the woman giving him a massage also had offered him a happy ending. No wonder we were both in a hurry to get away from there.

What to say about Sri lanka? The food was great, the beaches beautiful and the weather really good. I will forever and ever recommend this country for everyone as long as they are not from there or any other related country. If you are white you can act like whom- and whatever, the people will look at you and probably find you an idiot but they won’t hurt you. You have to remember that this is a very poor country which is in the progress getting used to tourists, I hope that the treatment of all tourists will get better.

Today I am so much more grateful than I ever thought was possible. Happy that I was adopted, glad that I got away from there. Joyful and thankful that I have everything in my life that I could ever wish for and that I do not have to sell my body to survive.

So what to say? Even though vacations are usually great there are no place like home, this time more than usual. It was fantastic to get home and leave Sri Lanka behind with my heritage. I am so much more Swedish (and American) than from Sri lanka, but I am still happy that I made that trip. Now I never have to do it again and I never have to wonder if fate made a mistake bringing me here. Now I will forever neglect my roots, cause this is home.