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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the natural world? Solitude? Treachery? Grandiosity? The one word that comes to my mind is beauty. Sri Lanka, the “pearl of the Indian Ocean,” is one of the places in this world that reveals the attractions of nature that many people neglect to see. After being in the island nation for weeks now, I find it impossible to even walk outside without admiring the allure of our Mother Earth.
Balangoda, Sri Lanka is the place that caught my awe of the world. Here’s a bit of background information: it’s a town located in the middle of the country, and about 140 kilometers from the nation’s largest city, Colombo. But what’s so special about it, you ask? The whole town isn’t mashed together; instead it’s lined up along roads leading to the top of one of the mountains, with the central infrastructure at the top. The only reason I knew all this was from our last trip years ago to Sri Lanka, when my mother was eager and excited to drive up and see our aunt. We decided to go again this year, and I tried to make sure I could remember the trip up the mountain that my mother claimed as a “slideshow of beauty.”
As we started the way up halfway through the four-hour drive, I noticed how primitively the people in Balangoda lived. Although most of Sri Lanka doesn’t normally have wealthy lifestyles, this was something else. These people lived in unfinished houses, with little resources and no utilities, but despite their misfortunes they could still manage happiness. As someone from the U.S., it confused me as to even why citizens would even want to live here could live without the amenities that we call “necessities.” I knew that from the insistence of my mother to continue up the mountain further that I would realize why.
The drive revealed more beauty than the average road trip through the American countryside. Instead of the same setting for miles, there was always new surroundings to look at and feel. Hills, forests, plains, and jungles were all interchanging up the road; the further up we went the more heavenly the earth looked. Just moments before reaching our aunt’s house, we saw the waterfall of waterfalls: Dehena Falls. I did my research on it: the initial waterfall is about 75 meters, but even from there it extends all the way up the mountain to a small spring lake at the top. The waterfall is so massive you can hear it around the corner before you see it.
By this time I would come to realize the true beauty of the mountains of Balangoda. It was what convinced the town’s citizens to stay and enjoy what was around them. It was what made my mother so happy when we went to see our aunt. It was the big star of the slideshow she claimed the trip to be. It wasn’t always normal of me to look up at the world and admire it, but from my experience in Balangoda, I feel like if I’m not admiring the world I’ll be missing out on something great.
To those people who are always looking down on their phones: look up everywhere you go. Nature isn’t just there to be used and left alone, it’s there to be admired by us. Here’s a question to ask yourself: is it more satisfactory to your life to ignore what’s around you or to observe and appreciate the natural world gifted to us?