I’m standing on the balcony of a friend’s Colombo apartment, listening to the Indian Ocean. The night air smells like a city that I know too well but also not nearly well enough. The nearby waves are being drowned out by the latest episode of Game of Thrones being streamed by my friends inside, so I’m being serenaded by battle cries instead of by crashing water (which makes me smile). The cozy kitchen light is sneaking through the open doorway behind me and when I wiggle my toes, I see shadow puppets. Shadows of seven months of ups and downs, of lessons well-learned and nights ill-spent. Shadows of loved ones that came and went, friendships that formed and faded, pieces of me that bubbled to the surface and got slowly pushed back down.
But shadows are also glimmers, truths that came and stayed. My people who visited, my students who learned – these small ways that the world was permanently changed. I know mine has been. And it’s the glimmers that have me loving this place in ways I cannot say, ways that I don’t even understand yet. This salty air. This stench of trash. This harsh light, these howling dogs, these noisy tuk-tuks that have taken me in zigs and zags all over the city. The languages, the curries, the smiles and the scowls. The beggars and the briefcases. In this moment, wrapped in this warm air on this welcoming balcony with the ocean to my left, the city to my right, arms resting on this rail and my friends nestled on a couch inside behind me – in this moment, I know if I can call Colombo home, I can call anywhere home.