Tsunami Relief Effort

Endgame: The Castaway Returns

COLOMBO – Today is the 3rd of March, 2005; the sound of traffic, the megaphone-amplified voices of lottery hawkers, and the hotel room’s air conditioning provide a familiar background to my last morning in Colombo. Across Galle Face Road lies the sea, but the white noise of the waves never seems to reach my room. […]

A Brief Coda: Where I Am, and What I’m Doing

COLOMBO – I know, there’s been a long silence. Some people have even written to me, wondering if I was still alive; I hope my lack of response didn’t convince them of the worst. “Absence of evidence,” as the SETI researchers are fond of saying, “is not evidence of absence.” Between February 3rd and 18th, […]

Epilogue: Wave After Wave

“Everything is bullshit but the open hand…” – Bruce Cockburn, Strange Waters Haven’t written much since Dwayne took off, exactly a week ago. The first few days are spent in Colombo, trying to make something happen; and then, as things will, they do. I depart Colombo at 6 a.m. Saturday morning after a fitful night’s […]

Beyond the Full Moon

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA — It’s 6 a.m. on January 24th. The streets are pitch black. Dwayne and I — in the care of a remarkably fluent and urbane driver named Dilan (“Like Bob… or Matt”) — hit the road early, hoping to avoid Colombo’s hellish traffic. We’re heading 75 miles east, to Sri Lanka’s 16th […]

Tea with the Tigers

SAMBOOR, SRI LANKA — The pace of work has been relentless. Don’t know if it’s because I’m inspired, or because I was starved for inspiration for so long, but I’ve been tapping off a power cell that seems to get charged only in fantastically edgy environments. Many times my partner here, photographer Dwayne Newton, has […]

A Journey Through the East

TRINCOMALEE — Two weeks in Sri Lanka. Nearly all of what I’ve written, even in my journal, has been for publication. Haven’t had any time to reflect on the personal — which is actually a refreshing change from my normal schedule of 24/7 self-involvement. A disaster like this pulls you out of yourself; your narrow […]

Toy Story (part II)

POTTUVIL, SRI LANKA – To a lot of people, the image of relief agencies in developing countries is the image of giant Toyota Land Cruisers, churning down a dirt road with the windows rolled up and four grim foreign aid workers staring out the windows. That preconception is instantly shattered by Mercy Corps’ official vehicles […]

Toy Story (part I)

POTTUVIL, SRI LANKA – The Sri Lanka offices of Mercy Corps occupy a single room on Dharmapala Mawatha, in a building run by the Academy for Educational Development. Senior Program Officer Nick MacDonald and two volunteers hammer away at laptops, preparing proposals and responding to local grant proposals; the bookshelf is stacked with project reports, […]

The Buried Village

POTTUVIL, SRI LANKA – Aboard the Blackhawk helicopter, his ears plugged against the roar of the rotors, a US Marine in a flak jacket pencils me a note: DESTINATION = 1 HOUR That’s how long it will take us to reach the shores of Arugam Bay. It would be nine torturous hours by car from […]