Imaginary Life
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Meetings at airports: Ingrid & SOS Barn

I was on transit from Copenhagen to Stockholm. We shuffled towards the gate, slowly forming a queue. There was a friendly-looking couple in front of me, and we quickly started chatting. They were still absorbing all the many impressions and experiences that come from long-distance travel, from their trip to Sri Lanka. I was on my way back from India. We were longing to get home, but we also had mixed feelings about leaving.

That’s how I met Ingrid and her husband.

You can get to learn a lot about people in a short conversation. And those at the gates of random airports always seem to be especially economical in that way, especially poignant and memorable.

Ingrid told me that she is a 59-year-old mother of 4 children. A grandmother. She spent her whole life bringing up her children and working full-time. She loves everything do with nature. She had a pony once, and enjoyed taking care of her pony a lot.

Tommy had worked abroad before he met Ingrid, and had lived in Sri Lanka for a year. He got to know about the charity SOS Barn when he was there, and the great work they do at their children’s villages all over the world.

When Ingrid started to talk about SOS Barn, her eyes welled up.

“I’ve never donated to any other organization before I met Tommy. But he had seen with his own eyes how well the organisation works. I only send 250 SEK per child per month, and that makes such a difference. 250 SEK- for us it’s nothing really. I wish more people would donate,” she said.

“I just want every child to have the same start in life. Every child should have food, and clothes and go to school. Every child should be loved,” Ingrid explained.

When Ingrid’s youngest child finally moved away from home, Ingrid decided to sponsor another child. The children are orphans or have parents who can’t take care them.
Ingrid and Tommy decided to see the children’s village where the two children she was sponsoring live.

“Everything there was beyond my expectations. We spent about 2 hours at each school. It was wonderful. The children were happy and so curious about us. They tried to speak English with us. We met the two kids we sponsored, and they were so proud to have visitors from abroad.”

Each SOS village is made up of small houses where about 8-10 children live. Every house has a housewife who takes care of the children and everything in the house. For 250 SEK a month, a child gets to have a home and an education.

“The trip affected me a lot. I want to sponsor a third child now. SOS Barn has recently opened a new orphanage in northern Sri Lanka. An area that was very hard hit during the civil war that only ended in 2010,” she explained.

The conversation at the gate left an impression on me too.

And her parting words: “I want to tell everyone that just a small contribution every month can do wonders for a child.”

radioshenyen: brother. december 2010, sri lanka.

“I know that our deceased friends are more really with us than when they are apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in remembrance in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now write from his dictates. Forgive me for expressing to you my enthusiasm, which I wish all to partake of, since it is to me a source of immortal joy; even in this world. May you continue to be so more and more, and be more and more persuaded, that every mortal loss is an immortal gain. The ruins of time build mansions in eternity.”
— William Blake

A young girl wanders into the monastery wearing a t-shirt which says “I still live in my mind”, and suddenly I realise how little language there presently is in my life. Between me and another day of stiflingly limited interactions with the temple folk here there is only William Blake. Today I’ve been contemplating the line “tools are made, and born are hands”, enjoying the cybernetic ontologies hovering alongside it.

I won’t stay in Sri Lanka much longer. I’ll be back in England early in the new year. After ten years living in Asia I thought heading out for one more would be the simplest thing. But it seems I’ve been fooled once more by impermanence. Suddenly these theravadan buddhist countries feel alien to me. Its kind of interesting to know that its finished, though. A newness awaits.

I’ve also spent three years of my life in monasteries: enough, I think, to know that it just doesnt work for me. Whereas the year and a half I’ve spent in solitary hermitage situations (Spain, Cornwall) were much more enjoyable and rewarding. I need to build on that.

I still live in my mind, in a place half-way between jewelery and architecture, where nested songbirds sit in madhyamaka trees singing of the world to come, a world of post-metaphor and occasionality. But I cant write from that place just now. Its being flattened by my Sri Lanka experience. Instead I’ll just keep eating the ice-cream and cake these Sri Lankan mamas keeping putting in my bowl, just keep taking delicious cold showers in the early evening before walking barefoot for a few minutes in the sand-covered courtyard beneath the full moon, and wait. With Mr Blake for company.

So, until next time…

shenyen