Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 April 17: Dear Steve, I kissed another man.

Yes, it's true. Well, sort of. Actually, he kissed me. And I apologize for telling you about it in this public venue, but I needed to get it off my chest.

The other man is a mute who lives somewhere nearby. A couple of weeks ago, he passed our gate as he was taking out someone's trash. He motioned, wondering if I would like for him to take out our trash. It's only about 20 feet from our gate to where the garbage is picked up, but I like to encourage the beggars to try to do something in return for their alms. I figure that any little thing that someone can do so they feel they have earned a donation and not begged for it is something I can support. I gave him 20 rupees (15 cents). He thanked me with a broad smile, a bow, and a handshake.

There are a lot of beggars in Sri Lanka. Amputees, usually the result of the civil war, are common as you go further north. At major bus stops it is a regular occurrence for the beggars to board the buses and tell people why they should be given money. At temples monks will approach you, and offer you blessings or credit, depending on their religion, if you donate a few hundred or thousand rupees to their sect. Sometimes beggars will offer to shine your shoes, or sweep the sidewalk in front of you, or, as in the case of a severely physically and mentally disabled old man that I walk past occasionally, shake your hand, in return for a few rupees.

But I digress.

The mute came by today to see if I wanted my garbage taken out again. So, I let him, and gave him another 20 rupees. He thanked me with a smile, a bow, and a handshake, as last time. Between signing, lip reading, Sinhala and English, he told me that he was going to use the money to buy something to eat. I asked if he was hungry. Yes, he had more garbage to take out first, but then he was going to eat. Twenty rupees is enough for a samosa or a small bag of plantain chips. He left to walk down the lane to retrieve the rest of the trash.

I went into our house, and got some bananas, rice and curry, and waited for him to pass by. I held it out to him. He looked at me with surprise, and I told him that it was for him. He grabbed my hand and shook it repeatedly, bowed low before me, and as he straightened he had tears in his eyes. He gripped my hand again, then kissed it, made some gestures then put his hand on my heart while nodding his head in the side to side motion that indicates approval in Sri Lanka, then grabbed my head with both hands and kissed me soundly on both cheeks.

So there, Steve. Now you know.