I had been in Sri Lanka for a week, and now a couple of friends and I are passing through the interior of the island-nation the size of West Virginia. The road’s edge is lined with a four-pronged spacey wire fence standing roughly ten feet high, this marks the Minneriya National Park. Then we spot it – a monstrosity of a mammal standing on the other side of the electric fence.
“Tissa [the driver], please stop!” I get out and inch over to the beast in aims to get the best photo possible. I am probably three to four feet from the fence, or so I believe. The elephant and I catch each other’s eyes and enter into a timeless connection. This wild beast and I are locked in gaze. No movements are made. No gestures are given. No anything. Just us saying something, about to get to the point of our contact, but just as I was to tie the eye conversation together the driver yells to get away from my new Sri Lankan colleague. Meanwhile one of my friends in the van is shrieking something unpleasant (presumably). I turn back around to face my worldly counterpart hoping to continue our voyage, but the moment has passed. Now we are a human and an elephant – worlds apart and not understanding one another as before.
A few seconds into the drive away, Tissa tells me of an Italian who was grabbed by an elephant’s trunk through the fence a year earlier, thrown to the dirt and summarily stomped to death. “OK, intense story,” I admit to myself. Tissa then states in his Singhalese-turned-to-English-tongue, “You artists. Anything to get the shot. You need to learn.”
But I did learn. And I am one step closer to figuring out Sri Lanka.
Dominic is an incurable world roamer. He has travelled and at times lived in various parts of Europe, Australia, Asia, and South America after graduating university. He is a published writer and photographer looking to explore more of the world — whether in his own backyard or outside of the US border. More of his writing can be found at http://movingmontevideo.blogspot.com