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Fatma Mohammed Al Saleh: The beginning of a beautiful bumpy road
September 05, 2014
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“Please remain seated until the aircraft comes to a complete stop. You may start ... “ The flight attendants’ voice faded into the background as I frantically rubbed the mosquito repellent on my hands and face. I was really worried about getting any mosquito bites. My brain kept repeating: malaria. malaria. malaria.

We stood up waiting for the flight doors to open. I couldn’t believe I was finally there. This was the elective I was looking forward to. I also couldn’t believe that a week ago I was in Canada. I’m still recovering from the jet lag. We walked out of the plane, through security and customs, luggage claim and out of the arrivals gate. Humid, warm, green, colourful, polluted, crowded, smelly, simple and beautiful are the words that popped into my head as I stood on the busy sidewalk waiting for our ride.

The road from Colombo to Kandy was bumpy but beautiful. I just couldn’t get over the tall coconut palm trees and the fruit that was everywhere. It was so green. Strangely, there were dogs everywhere, dozens of them. Almost all of them had the same colour, build and size. Light brown, medium, and skinny. I was used to street cats. The roads were so busy with the legendary tuk-tuks that I heard about. Green and red. Occasionally blue, black or yellow ones. The sides of the roads were paved with small shops that sold fruits or grocery items. They were made out of thin wood sheets and orange-coloured plastic covers.

I sat in the front row of that minivan as we drove towards Kandy city. It was just a single lane road. One in each direction. No sidewalks. Pedestrians and dogs walked just a hair’s thickness away from being knocked down or run over by a vehicle. There were no traffic lights but once in a while you would see a policeman standing in his brownish olive uniform whistling the traffic away. BEEEEEEP BEP BEP. The driver honked at the cars as he overtook. As if he was signalling them to shift to the side. Which they did. It was so strange to see multiple cars moving side by side in a single lane road. The car that was overtaking was also overtaken by another car and so on. It didn’t matter that there was a car heading their way from the other direction. BEP BEP BEEEP WOOSHHHHH.

After a long four-hour ride, plus getting lost on the way, we finally reached the hotel we were supposed to stay at that night. I prepared for bed by rubbing some more of that repellent on my skin. It stunk.

That night I woke up a few times to the sounds of howling dogs, wind whistles and a rain storm. The next day it was time to go to “the house.”
Follow on Twitter  Instagram: @_theuntitled
Fatma Mohammed Al Saleh, a 22-year-old Emirati medical student,
is training in general surgery as part of her programme in Sri Lanka.
She is a passionate photographer and writer. Fatma shares her deeply
felt experiences about the healthcare system in Lanka.

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