I don’t know how long Blogspot will be around, but in 2006 I wrote of a miraculous time when, after decades, I finally met up with my Sri Lankan Sister in NYC. The site isn’t hosting all of the images anymore, but as long as I keep this site going, I’ll remember how I felt in 2006. The whole thing is copied here so I never forget.

 Why I love the Internet

 

Three decades after my summer in Sri Lanka, and 25 years with no contact, the wonders of the web reunite me with Delanie, my host sister from the city of Mt. Lavinia.

 

 

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TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2006

delanie does manhattan

MONDAY, AUGUST 07, 2006

A hug heard ’round the world

All doubts are now behind me…I really did hold and hug and laugh with Delanie, in New York City, after a whole bunch of years. I have proof. I have photos of her and Duleep and my girls on the subway. I have some of my family and Delanie posing with Nicholas Cage at Mme. Toussauds. I not only have a snapshot of Doug in a sarong and I in a sari, I have the actual sari; Doug has the actual sarong. I have a big fat ball of Jaggery. I have a Ceylon cookery book, which I will use if I can figure out what all the words mean. We have clothing, which Delanie says is dirt cheap in Columbo. I have photos of my nangi Virasmi and beautiful jewelry she sent for me, and another hematite ensemble from Delanie herself.

She is home now, back in her beautiful home in sunny Mt. Lavinia, and last night on the phone we verified for each other that that it was all real. Duleep is off already on a flight to London, Dinesh was so bored while his parents were away that he cleaned the house and did all the marketing and cooked them dinner. I didn’t ask where the maid was.

Our lives, our countries and traditions are so different, yet the bond we made in 1975 is so strong, we can both still feel the relentless clinging we did at the Best Western when we saw each other after so, so long.

So now I can get to the photos.

THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2006
3 – 2 – 1 Contact


Can you guess which one was the AFS exchange student?

I have been checking the internet for Delanie and her family for years and years. I can hardly believe they even have computers in Sri Lanka, which in 1975 didn’t even have television. I have never forgotten them, I hope they never thought I did. Minutes ago, I google Delanie’s name and the miracle occurs. She has an email address.

On 4/11/2006, “Laurie Freehafer” <smashing@nycap.rr.com> wrote:

>Oh my goodness, tell me this is your current email. My heart is beating so fast right now I can’t stand it. If I hear from you I will surely cry.
>
>Love,
>juggery balls
>
>

Hi jaggery balls
It is me Delanie from sunny Srilanka. Yes i am so excited i can hardly talk i am shaking to think that we have connected at last after soooooooo many years.
give me news of yourself and keep in touch
Love and hugs
Delanie
>
>
Hi Juggery balls Laurie
Oh my god i just can’t believe it too. We have been always looking ways of contacting you too for so many years. Virasmi’s husband was living in the states for a while and we got him to search for you too. It was like looking for a needle in a hay stack. I just can’t believe our luck. Yes you were so much apart of our lives and you made our lives brighter and better by your presence and living with us. How can we ever forget. The great time we had, i also remember the time you came and spent with us in the United kingdom. I did tell my mother and she too was really excited and wanted to know more about you.

Oh i can keep on wiriting because there is so much to catch up on.

Do take care and keep in touch

Lots of love and hugs to you and the family
Delanie
>
>
Hi LaurieI keep checking my mail every few minutes to see if you have replied. It sounds stupid and Duleep keeps laughing at me, but i just can’t believe it myself. After so many many years. We often think of you and talk about you. I have so much to tell you and news to catch up on oh this can’t be real. I am so happy and excited. how did you find me!!!!. Tell me all about you and yours asap.Lots of love and hugs
Delanie
>
>

Hi Laurie
Thanks for both your mails. Please send me a picture of you and the family.

Oh i can’t wait to see you too. We are hoping to visit NY in late June as marie’s son is also there on our way to Canada so maybe i can talk to you or whatever. I will settle for anything after so long. Oh just to keep in touch is great.

You take care of yourself. Lots of love and hugs
Delanie

>
>
Dear JB,

As for NY we will be coming in on the 27th of June from London to JFK on American Airlines arriving at 1920 hours and staying at the Best Western Hotel city view hotel in Long Island until the 1st of July. We leave on the 1st at 8.35 am.
We will be in Toronto Canada where Duleep’s cousin is for 10 days, have one day back on our return in NY and then on to Colombo.
Just longing to see you, so much to catch up on. Anyways we will see how things go.
Take care, love and hugs
Delanie
>
>

Hi my dear sis

Thanks for the long e mail, sorry for the delay in replying as i was really busy getting things organised for my departure.
No 1, yes there is something very special and priceless that i need from the USA, cannot find it here, mind you it has to be handled with care and packed with the words fragile on the container, i hope you don’t mind and i am not asking for too much. Please, pack yourself and family and have the package ready for me to pick up so i can bring it home with me!!!!! i really wish this could be done to bring all of you here to spend some time in sunny Srilanka. God does work miracles so i am praying and He will take care of the rest of it i am sure. He found us both didn’t HE. Can’t wait to see you and family.
Will keep you informed when i get back from aussie which will be about the 23rd of may.
You take care, love and hugs to all

Delanie

ed. note: ‘Juggery Balls” were a treat, actually “jaggery balls,” made from the juice of the sugar cane. I loved them, hence the nickname.

SUNDAY, JULY 16, 2006

Pinch me

Pinch me

I am in my kitchen peeling back some leaves–plantain?–that are wrapped around the ball. There is a funky, queasy-making and ever-so-slightly familiar smell, and I am hoping that when I remove the leaves, the smell will not be there. Tle leaves come off in two pieces, retaining the shape of the jaggery. I discard them and lift the heavy, softball-sized mass to my nose. It is molasses-brown and glittering with sweet crystal– solid sugar, I guess. The odor is detectable, but just barely. With a sharp knife, I pry off a small hunk and let the bit melt on my tongue, closing my eyes and remembering sitting on a hot and crowded bus in 1975, doing just as I am now, savoring the exotic sweetness of the treat that gave me the nickname “JB”, Juggery Balls.

Why is it that my memory of my summer in Sri Lanka over 30 years ago seems more tangible than my trip last weekend to New York? Did I really see my Srilankan sister in the lobby of the Best Western City View in Queens? I was just leaving her a note at the front desk when she spotted me, and we hung on each other, clinging like young lovers, repeating “I can’t believe it! I just don’t believe it” as we stumbled to the parking lot to introduce her to my family. Then came her husband, Duleep, who had been her boyfriend in ’75 and grinned at the delirium before him.

Pinch me.

SATURDAY, JULY 15, 2006

Mounting excitement and disbelief

Since the first emails, I have done nothing but obsess over my reconnection. I want to buy her everything. I shop for her, take pictures, duplicate tapes, scan documents, burn cds, organize mementos, try to keep in mind that planes have luggage-weight limits. I think of her family and what they might find amusing from the USA, and pick up cheesy novelty items, charms representing various aspects of my own life, little toys and games (20Q, which I hope isn’t TOO American for them) and a Reader’s Digest book, “Life in These United States.” Just for grins. T-shirts, of course. Stickers. Imprinted balloons. Junk, but all meaningful. I pack in in a Times Union tote.

I find it hard to fully allow my family and friends into my Sri Lanka space. I don’t expect them to be too interested. I can’t satisfactorily explain to them that the summer of ’75 was defining to me; that whatever parts of me were half-formed became solid, that my eyes were opened and my heart was opened. Or that within those almost three months, I experienced a full spectrum of emotions, many of them new to me. Name That Emotion, I felt it at one time or another. Or how because of the universal connection I was privileged to feel, the struggles I witnessed, the love, humor, fear, all of it, I don’t think I will ever disrespect a person based on things they can’t control. Or based on things that are not my business, that don’t hurt others, that don’t make them less deserving. That is not to say that I will never disrespect another human being. Just that I am choosier, largely because of my months as an 18-year-old in a Third World country.

But gradually, I speak to my family more about Sri Lanka and my host family, the Theabolds, and their friends. I bring out some pictures, hang a batik, attempt to cook egg hoppers (google that one) with minimal success, and play bits of a tape I recorded when we were living our daily lives in the sunny home on Templers Road in Mt. Lavinia. I can’t speak for them, my husband and daughters, but I think they were interested, if not excited, about meeting this Delanie and Duleep couple in person. I could bore them with large helpings of the 1975 me, but I keep a lid on it, part way, anyway.

I know lately there has been so much me. Me me me. Maybe that’s why I didn’t go on and on. Because I could have, easily. I feel like I remember every minute of it.

MONDAY, JULY 10, 2006

Must have been a dream

Must have been a dream
Dear sister DelanieMissy,
I had the most wonderful dream that you and I met up in the States, it was in New York City of all places, and spent a couple of emotional and unforgettable days together with your husband and my family. In my dream, Duleep was the tour guide through the city in MY COUNTRY, in MY STATE! Can you imagine such nonsense? I know if we ever were to meet here in the states, Doug and I would certainly know how to get around, and where to go and what to see and eat and do in MY COUNTRY, in MY STATE, for heaven’s sake. We would be the most ideal and unimposing hosts. You will never have to worry about such silliness as visiting a store full of extremely expensive dolls, which also happened in my dream. HA! Dreams are funny, aren’t they?
More soon, it was such a wonderful dream and I will tell you more about it.
All the best,

l.a.f.

Pinch me


I am in my kitchen peeling back some leaves–plantain?–that are wrapped around the ball. There is a funky, queasy-making and ever-so-slightly familiar smell, and I am hoping that when I remove the leaves, the smell will not be there. Tle leaves come off in two pieces, retaining the shape of the jaggery. I discard them and lift the heavy, softball-sized mass to my nose. It is molasses-brown and glittering with sweet crystal– solid sugar, I guess. The odor is detectable, but just barely. With a sharp knife, I pry off a small hunk and let the bit melt on my tongue, closing my eyes and remembering sitting on a hot and crowded bus in 1975, doing just as I am now, savoring the exotic sweetness of the treat that gave me the nickname “JB”, Juggery Balls.

Why is it that my memory of my summer in Sri Lanka over 30 years ago seems more tangible than my trip last weekend to New York? Did I really see my Srilankan sister in the lobby of the Best Western City View in Queens? I was just leaving her a note at the front desk when she spotted me, and we hung on each other, clinging like young lovers, repeating “I can’t believe it! I just don’t believe it” as we stumbled to the parking lot to introduce her to my family. Then came her husband, Duleep, who had been her boyfriend in ’75 and grinned at the delirium before him.

Pinch me.

SUNDAY, JULY 09, 2006

The weeks before

Since the first emails, I have done nothing but obsess over my reconnection. I want to buy her everything. I shop for her, take pictures, duplicate tapes, scan documents, burn cds, organize mementos, try to keep in mind that planes have luggage-weight limits. I think of her family and what they might find amusing from the USA, and pick up cheesy novelty items, charms representing various aspects of my own life, little toys and games (20Q, which I hope isn’t TOO American for them) and a Reader’s Digest book, “Life in These United States.” Just for grins. T-shirts, of course. Stickers. Imprinted balloons. Junk, but all meaningful. I pack in in a Times Union tote.

I find it hard to fully allow my family and friends into my Sri Lanka space. I don’t expect them to be too interested. I can’t satisfactorily explain to them that the summer of ’75 was defining to me; that whatever parts of me were half-formed became solid, that my eyes were opened and my heart was opened. Or that within those almost three months, I experienced a full spectrum of emotions, many of them new to me. Name That Emotion, I felt it at one time or another. Or how because of the universal connection I was privileged to feel, the struggles I witnessed, the love, humor, fear, all of it, I don’t think I will ever disrespect a person based on things they can’t control. Or based on things that are not my business, that don’t hurt others, that don’t make them less deserving. That is not to say that I will never disrespect another human being. Just that I am choosier, largely because of my months as an 18-year-old in a Third World country.

But gradually, I speak to my family more about Sri Lanka and my host family, the Theabolds, and their friends. I bring out some pictures, hang a batik, attempt to cook egg hoppers (google that one) with minimal success, and play bits of a tape I recorded when we were living our daily lives in the sunny home on Templers Road in Mt. Lavinia. I can’t speak for them, my husband and daughters, but I think they were interested, if not excited, about meeting this Delanie and Duleep couple in person. I could bore them with large helpings of the 1975 me, but I keep a lid on it, part way, anyway.

I know lately there has been so much me. Me me me. Maybe that’s why I didn’t go on and on. Because I could have, easily. I feel like I remember every minute of it.

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