Beyond Bourbon Street: Part I

Many of my fellow college students view Bourbon street as the ultimate New Orleans experience.
Beads, parades, clubs– you name it, Bourbon street seemed to have unfettered access.
To me, it was overly claustrophobic and as the people I traveled down with decided once again to return to the same place on Bourbon street, I realized I needed to  start branching off more frequently than I had originally planned (despite my poor mother’s advice not to).
So there I was, walking down Bourbon street alone– no plan, no idea where I’d end up.
While I walked, I comforted my racing heart by listening to the conversations around me. I was perfectly aware of the safety concerns.
I listened to the conversations of the three men across the street for me for a good ten minutes before assessing they would be safe and approaching them.
That night I followed those three around from free concert venue to free concert venue.
We were sitting on four stool in the dim light of the Spotted Cat, a quite hum thrumming under the band; a slow, tempered rendition of Rosetta cut through the humid, foggy air.

“I miss my home sometimes,” my new friend was saying nostalgically. “You have to visit sometime, you have to visit Sri Lanka.” He continued.
“Oh?” I said by way of inquiry.
“Yes,  Sri Lanka has a bad reputation but it is beautiful. Beautiful,” he waved his hand in front of his face, his eyes gaining a dream like quality.
“Why does it have a bad reputation?” I asked. Then, realizing it may be a sensitive question added “You don’t have to tell me if it makes you feel uncomfortable, I’m merely curious.”

“No, no, absolutely not. There’s a myth in India called Ramayana. Ravana, from Sri Lanka, is called a demon. In it the Northern Indians say Ravana stole Sr Rama’s wife Sita. The Northern Indians call Ravana a demon, but he is not a demon.”

What was particularly interesting to me, was that he classified himself as Indian rather than Sri Lankan, and I wondered why he made that distinction as he continued his story.

“He is a god like Ravana, a demi-God actually. All that happened was he lost the battle, so they call him a demon. He is not. So people look down upon Sri Lanka, they think it is dirty. Sri Lanka is beautiful. The people are not dirty.” 
He finished quickly, his eyes searching mine.
“So, the winners write the history, even though it’s not necessarily true?” I responded in the form of a question, understanding that there was no possible way I could fully understand the full impacts of the story he told in a few short minutes. He nodded.
“So you must go, you must. If you go to India, you must go to Sri Lanka.”
I smiled and said “If I ever get the opportunity, you can be sure I will. Thank you for sharing that with me.” He clapped a hand on my back and smiled too.

It seems every time I travel, I realize even more how little I know about the world and I’m so thankful that I decided to branch further out of my comfort zone that night. Thankful to be reminded how much more I have to learn about the myriad of people in the world.

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