The excitement one feels when entering an unexplored country is what often keeps people traveling throughout their entire lives. That first step off the plane, that first interaction with the local people, that first taste of the local cuisine, that first mention that ‘Hotel California” is their favorite song of all time, that first mention that you look like Jesus, that first time you pay way too much for something, that first head swivel when talking to you, that first time you begin to understand their view of the world.
I’ve made my made to Sri Lanka, a country many people are familiar with because of the 2004 tsunami that rocked the East and West coast here. It has already been quite the experience.
Upon arrival I made my way straight to the visa office to get an extension for my passport (3 months). Tourists from several countries get a visa on arrival for 30 days, but just to be safe I decided I’d like to give myself more time. The process took about 4 hours. Numbers were called from people that had arrived both before and after me, and it seemed like there was a decent amount of confusion was about in the system in general. In the end, it doesn’t matter. I received my visa extension after paying my dues ($100 usd) and my taxi driver stood patiently the entire time, guarding my bag with every opportunity he could.
Maleen (the taxi driver) had an interesting story. I could tell once I hopped in the cab that he was a good guy…for some reason I’ve been lucky with taxi drivers. His story goes as follows. His father was is a serious accident that left him paralyzed and unable to work. This happened when Maleen was very young.
As time went on, things obviously became very difficult for the family as the income halved. By a strike of good luck, a family from the Netherlands came to explore Sri Lanka. This family ended up particularly fond of Maleen, and when they found of the situation with his father, they decided to change Maleen’s life. They paid for him to have an education from an international school and provide funds to make sure Maleen’s future would be bright.
It is amazing the impact we can all have with a bit of inspiration and kind actions. There is no telling where or what Maleen would be with out the help of this family from the Netherlands.
I love hearing about things that make you realize that if you impact just one person’s life in a positive way, the stories and inspiration can be passed on to another for more great things to happen.
(Maleen works as a taxi driver, hotel concierge, and waiter)