Saturday, June 4th Colombo:

The air is hot and thick with humidity, and the smell of diesel reminds me of my childhood here. I make my way through a city that is very third world. Pockets of lush, thick foliage, and houses with high walls and immaculate gardens mix with potholes, open sewers, and shanties. Dogs forage through piles of garbage that lie on the street, and overcrowded buses belch thick clouds of black smoke, as beggars, touts, and women dressed in exotic saris crowd the broken sidewalks.

As I head for a store to buy a hat, a woman approaches me. She is carrying a little girl who appears to be about six years old. They are both dirty and malnourished, and even though the little girl’s face is covered in grime, her smile shines through.

The woman begs me for money for food. She tells me they are hungry, and points to man close by waking with another child – a girl of about 8 or 9, also malnourished, and mentally disabled. They all now surround me asking for me for money for food for the children. I point to a nearby café and tell them I will buy them food there. The man and the woman shake their heads and tell me they are not allowed in the café as they are low caste, and chased out when they enter.

I walk in with them and the manager attempts to shoo them off. As I step in front of him my emotions are boiling – these are children and they are hungry. Although I’m about a foot taller than he is, and have a very intimidating look on my face, reason takes hold. I know if I yell at him, he will take it out on them the next time. I drop my shoulders and smile and ask him to show them some compassion. I assure him I will pay, and order them four meals — take out as they won’t be allowed to sit the restaurant — I include two chocolate bars for the kids, and give the mother 50 Rupees and ask her to spend it on the children. Thanking me they quickly disappear into the crowded streets.

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