The past few days I’ve been taking the local bus to the University if Peradeniya. On these rides I’ve noticed one of the things that makes Sri Lanka different from the United States; everything everywhere is less ordered. When I sent my Christmas packages at the post office, the system was so complicated (at least to me, the American) that I needed someone to guide me from one desk to the other so I knew where to go. Without this helper I would have been completely lost. Another example is the streets where there are pedestrians, buses, three-wheelers, cars, dogs, and sometimes cows, all trying to get by as fast as possible and taking up every available space. There aren’t even that many vehicles on the road, but the ones that are there don’t follow any set rules about lane discipline or how many lanes there are. At the bank there is no real line. Everyone bunches up at the counter and talks to the teller until they’re helped. The American style of rules, organization, and efficiency that I took for granted is missing here.
What’s strange is that Sri Lanka is also is full of British anachronisms. The school system is very British, and so Sri Lankan English. When I asked for a bathroom at the government fabric store the clerk didn’t understand me. I thought about what a British person would say and asked for the washroom. The clerk knew exactly what I meant.
In exchange for the loss of control and order is a slower pace of life. This isn’t a choice, it’s the only option. Trying to accomplish things at the same rate in Sri Lanka as in the US would be frustrating and pointless. Instead I’m learning to accept the limits of what I can do in a day and enjoy taking my time.