Atlas II

Let’s journey back to where I was headed at the beginning of my last post… Now please don’t get me wrong, to this very day I hold no grudge or animosity toward my great-aunts, they are merely a product of their own generation and echo chambers. We are all on this boundless expedition of unlearning, relearning, and exposing our minds to the unfamiliar. You get the idea right? It is important we practice patience with those who are in the generations before us, they like us are a product of their environments.  

My moments of enlightenment emerged as I began my life in Aotearoa New Zealand, here is how and why we got to the land of the long white cloud: 

There is a common unspoken shared goal in Sri Lanka where you can only really make it if you emigrate out of the country, OR you power through the systemic blocks of a very messy political regime. Due to this unfortunate fantasy, I was always nurtured to only dream of the western world.

My mama knew of my obsession with the Atlas and everything to do with this incredible planet (mama would often buy me many the encyclopedia for me to bury my head in and in turn dish out fun facts about the world when nobody asked), so one evening she brought me a map and she said:

“if you could choose anywhere to live where would you go?”

I can never keep a long story short so I am going to tell you what exactly led me to my answer to her question. 

I grew up on Anchor milk and many a time I would find myself staring at the back of the boxes gleaming at the green pastures with healthy cows grazing away at their leisure. The way I daydreamt with dewy eyes at this damn box, I could have been a poster child for an Anchor ad. Thinking back on this now, I truly was living the proverb of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ (fun fact nobody asked for: did you know that this proverb can be traced back to 43 BC??!!). 

So surprising! My answer to my mother’s question was…New Zealand! My little chocolate finger b-lined straight down to Aotearoa just down the bottom and to the right. 

I didn’t think very much of this query as I was too busy trying to impress my grand aunty Joan who was visiting at the time (she is my Nana’s oldest sister so we call her – big Nana). During my poor attempt of curating a facade of a more polished westernized version of myself, I found myself eavesdropping on my aunties chit-chatting away in my nana’s room over a steamy cuppa of Ceylon’s finest 😏. I subtly placed myself inside the inner circle and then big nana piped up saying “oh when you move to New Zealand you will have a far better education and life” (these words might not be completely accurate but it was definitely along those lines). At this moment I instantly pieced together the puzzle of why my mother asked me that question over my atlas earlier that evening.  

I wasn’t as privileged and powerful in my immediate family affairs as you might think, it turns out the reason mama has asked me that question was due to my father being offered a handful of opportunities around the world. He was blessed and well-deservedly given verbal offers to positions in Bermuda, Canada, Hong Kong, and New Zealand. At this point in time, my father had been working hard to provide for us in Saudi Arabia, so any opportunity for all of us to be together as a family was a blessing. Without this knowledge, I guess maybe I did have somewhat of a say in the fate of my family, based on my own reverie of greener grass in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

This is my little brother and on one of our trips visiting dad in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

And that was the long story, extra-long, of how we decided to shift our entire lives and leave all we knew to move here for a ‘better and more prosperous future’.

Published by Shawn Wimalaratne


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