This was probably the only country that I never wanted to visit again. The first time around, I had many expectations that were met with problems and stress. Where is the paradise that everyone raves about? But ten year is enough time to change both a person and a country, especially after they’re both hit with tsunamis. So I set out to Sri Lanka for a second time. Alone, and humbled.

It remained true to itself, but this time, I accepted it as it was. At times unbearably hot and unbearably annoying, but also friendly, kind, genuine, unexpected, and beautiful. It was during my second visit that I discovered the real Sri Lanka. I ate with the locals, using my hands, climbed the sacred Adam’s Peak, cooked curries with a family in the countryside, meandered along deserted narrow streets, and rode a jam-packed bus with the doors wide ajar. I ventured north, where a war was raging a few years ago, and into the jungle for a sip of palm wine, and held my breath at a cinnamon farm and on a tea plantation.