"My son doesn't like that I work here because we are so close to the sea," the man pours me tea from a porcelain pot. The pounding surf just beyond the curled up dog and the makeshift fence. His son lurks behind him shyly the first time we meet.
"We were living with my sister in Hikkaduwa," recalling the day of the tsunami. They managed run "to the hills" before the deadly second wave after witnessing the wrath of the first wave.
"She's received over 4 lakhs [over $4000 USD] for her damages," he continues. "Since we weren't homeowners, we did not get anything from the government."
They sleep on a donated double bed in one room adjoining the guesthouse. "The Methodists gave us this mattress, two pillows, a radio."
Fourteen months later, the boy wears a donated Tommy Hilfinger polo shirt from a German tourist. He shows me the adult-sized backpack and two Mead spiral notebooks that an American gave him. He carefully opens the pages of the notebook. Not a word mars the pristine lined page.
This past Sunday was a poya day. The full moons are sacred holidays here. It was a poya day on December 26, 2004 too. Each full moon marks an important date in the history of Buddhism. In fact, a Sri Lankan tells me until the sixties that all weekends fell on half-moon, full-moons, quarter-moons until they realized it was too difficult to be out of step with the rest of the racing world.
I asked them if they can take me to the temple with them. The boy gives me two of his joss sticks and shows me how to insert them. The man has me touch the clay pot before he lights the oil lamps. On our way back, they insist as hosts on treating us all to ice cream and Sprite. They insist on paying for my share of the bus fare too. We easily could have spent at least a week's wages today.
Strangely on this trip I am as apt to meet widowers and motherless children who died of childbirth complications as I am tsunami orphans and widows. He was two years old when his mother died. She was forty.
Later that evening, the boy and I are flicking a marble across the rivulets and creases of the clingy blue plastic tablecloth at the convenience shop across the road. The father buys the eight-year-old three pieces of lemon-flavored candy from one of the store's jars.
The boy smiles and without a thought keeps one piece for himself. He presents the other two to me in the palm of his hand.
After the boy has "retired" (the English is a bit formal here), his father comes to thank me for my companionship. "He is like a little flower," says the father. "He doesn't need money as much as he needs love."
If beings knew as I know the results of sharing gifts, they would not enjoy their use without sharing them with others, nor would the taint of stinginess obsess the heart and stay there. Even if it were the last and final nib of food, they would not enjoy its use without sharing it, if there were anyone to receive it. - The Buddha, Itivuttaka (from "Switching Off", by Deepal Sooriyaarachchi - btw, this is the wonderful book I refer to in my last post)
And they say that Buddhism is ritualistic here.