Night Train to Colombo

story, travel

Our three-wheeler pulls into the dusty lot used as a bus station. Several mini-buses and big red buses similar to school buses idle around, engines humming and doors open, all waiting to depart to various cities in eastern Sri Lanka. I grab my bags and step onto a patch of caked dirt.

My friend Apriliza emerges from the three-wheeler and stares at me. Two men walk by, discussing something in Tamil as another bus pulls out, kicking up dirt around us. Sri Lanka’s majority population are ethnic Sinhala, but here on the east coast are a pocket of Tamil Sri Lankans.

The Tamil Pastor stands next to me and points to a nearby bus. “This is your bus,” he declares in English.

A few days earlier I had traveled to this city called Kalmunai—a tiny dot on a map with no tourism to offer—by repeatedly mispronouncing its name to random strangers. I was in Kandy, a city in the center of the island, with a bus station many times larger than Kalmunai’s, bustling with buses and thousands of travelers. Not deterred by a few confused looks, I said “Kalmunai?” until a man with red betel nut stains between his teeth spat and pointed toward a mini-bus at the end of a long line of larger red buses.

L I M I N A L__S P A C E

faith, travel

Puget Sound Morning

clickety-clack, clickety-clack
this train ride at the threshold
has no time of arrival
and no certainty of where it will stop.

clickety-clack, clickety-clack
let the rhythm of the rails take hold.
stare out the window
hour after hour
and think: oh, the places you’ll go!
welcome to the liminal space,
an expansive neither here nor there.

clickety-clack, clickety-clack
what more to do
but let go and sit back.
come, make yourself at home.
let the rhythm of the rails take hold
here in the liminal space.

I wrote the above as a result of my train ride from Seattle to Portland yesterday. It’s not even what I’d consider a finished poem (and I don’t write poetry often), but I share as part of my process. I’ve taken that route many times before, and I know: whether rain, shine, fog, or in that case, snow, there is never a shortage of beautiful views from the tracks. The above photo is of the south end of the Puget Sound. From the train I watched the snow fall into the Sound. It struck me odd that it is mid-March, and snowing in a region where little snow falls, and yet I’m told on that very day it was above 70 degrees in South Dakota.

Sometimes, things don’t turn out as we expect. It’s mid-March and the mild winter has some things topsy-turvy. It is mid-March and I am not in Indonesia as I once expected. I use the words “liminal space” to describe where I am. It is a place at the threshold, between two worlds. Soon, I hope I will cross over the threshold (via the Pacific Ocean and the International Date Line) into a new life.