It’s about 40 degrees C. My right wrist is unable to move, jammed in between a cultrate, dusty window frame and a serious-looking guy, holding fast onto his brown leather briefcase. Two giggly schoolgirls and a lady with a colorful dress and a giant, glittery painting are tightly framing the situation. My pose actually hurts, but I just go with it. Everybody does. There is no space to be fussy, we are all in this together. Nobody complains and despite the tightness everyone seems really relaxed.

The ceilings are full of  fake flowers and the music is loud and wild. I feel weirdly connected, while my wrist gives in and turns numb (”Alright, you crazy hippie, I’m out of this! I’ll make you pay for this with a giant bruise tomorrow!”)

The woman and I share a smile and I strain my neck to understand the painting she is carrying. She somehow manages to lift it up a bit for me to see. Is it the cycle of the moon?

My intent face educes a little smile from serious guy’s face. He understands. His clutch unbends and he carefully moves his torso away from the glittery monster. A movement like a yoga pose. Level Z. Him and his briefcase are doing this everyday; the bus driver’s manic left-hand-turns can’t harm their steadfastness at all. We communicate without a sound. Painting lady’s eyes ask me what I’m doing here and my head nod leads her the way to my deformed backpack, dangerously dithering around on the busses dash. She smirks: “Welcome to Sri Lanka, welcome on this crazy bus ride”.

It’s our way back to the airport after two intense and beautiful weeks on the island and I’m calm and hyper-aware at the same time. Sweat is dripping down my neck, forming runnels under my dress and I wonder what all the different occasions of my fellow passengers travels are.

A guy is selling peanuts and colourful candy wrapped into old paper. I have no idea how he manages to go all the way through the isle so quickly. Must be magic.

A little boy shyly watches me, delving his tiny nose into his moms shirt. She’s tickling his belly and he bursts out laughing. I can’t help but laugh as well.

Another crazy bus maneuver and a schoolbag thunks from the luggage dump right onto a sitting woman’s head. The schoolgirl’s ponytails are bobbing as she goes to the woman’s rescue. As do all the other passengers around us. I understand what they are saying without understanding. Things are getting hectic, but the woman just laughs, and shakes her head. They love doing that here. She is okay. Everyone calms down again.

The little boy falls asleep and I get lost in thoughts. All those stories, all those little lessons in between are one of the big reasons why I travel. Why I always wanna see more. I’m well aware and thankful of how privileged I am to be able to experience all of this. To be here right now and observe, to get in touch and have this teeny tiny insight into another culture, that may help to understand each other and our world a bit better. And to figure what connects all of us in the end – our humanity. I want to always go from there, wherever I am, whatever I do. I interrupt all those big thoughts to buy some peanuts. They are still warm and smell delicious. I want to remember this moment and write it down. Thank You, Sri Lanka.

Still 3 hours of this bus ride left.

All images © Tabea Mathern