• Tara B. Vasi

What really happened. Sri Lanka: PART 1

Hi Family, I wanted to let you know that I have left the Nil Manel Foundation and Balapitiya, Sri Lanka. I do not want to disclose where I am staying at the moment, but know that I am safe now.

Today is my 87th day over seas.

When I originally wrote my blog, I was friends with Chamara on FB and didnt want to offend him with some of my negative opinions, so I omitted them from the story. I know my public posts and pictures this month have painted this fairy tale experience that I have been having in Sri Lanka, but I want to tell you that there is more to the story.

Let’s go back a little.

I had never met Chamara before. He owned a villa in Sri Lanka and ran the Nil Manel Foundation.

I was put in touch with him by a woman I met online at the end of October who was running a yoga retreat at his villa in December. I was in Vietnam at the time with my G-Adventures group, looking to extend my trip to South East Asia and researching work trade opportunities online. She told me about her foundation (different from the Nil Manel). She told me that her co leader had backed out last minute on the retreat and asked me to co-lead the retreat in December. I loved the idea of leading a retreat in Sri Lanka, so I agreed, before I even knew where Sri Lanka was located on the map or talked to the owner of the villa.

We didnt have many clients for the retreat, so we didnt know if it would actually run. She told me that she could no longer be a part of the retreat, so I took it over completely. I had so many questions about the villa and the retreat schedule. I wrote up a contract for Chamara and emailed him my questions, but he never got back to me. We messaged on FB, but he would often not respond to my questions or respond with a simple OK. We talked on the phone once and I told him all the skills I had and how I could help him with his program in exchange for room and board. He wanted me to come early to help with a volunteer. I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to get to know him and the villa before the retreat. Based on the pictures on the website the place looked beautiful and close to the ocean.

I wanted to work in the volunteer sector, help animals, and live on an island. He said that if we didnt get enough people for the retreat, I could still stay there for free. It sounded like a dream come true. I bought a one way flight and forwarded him my itinerary.

The drama started as soon as I got off the plane. Chamara and I never discussed our plan to meet up at the airport. He put me in charge of the young Chinese volunteer who was on my same flight and had never travelled alone before. I was happy to greet her and help her navigate through customs. I was happy to help Chamara and to prove just how helpful I could be. After all, it was the least I could do for him letting me stay there for free.

I assumed we’d make it passed customs and I’d text Chamara to let him know.

As soon as the flight landed, I received multiple texts as to where I am and what I was doing. I told him. I am in the customs line. I am getting my visa.

I know airport pick ups can sometimes be challenging to time, especially when customs is involved and because you can’t sit idle outside of baggage claim, but I couldnt move any faster through the lines of people.

The volunteer stopped to help a group of Chinese men that couldnt speak English. I went to the bathroom and waited for my bag at baggage claim. She didnt have any checked bags but wanted to go to the ATM. We decided it would be better for her to get a head start to the ATM and I would wait for my bag.

He asked me where are you where are you. I told him I am getting my bag. Vera is getting cash. WHAT? SHES NOT WITH YOU? YOU LEFT HER ALONE?

My bag took a while to come out in baggage claim. Chamara texted me. She is waiting for you. I told him that I know that and I was getting a SIM card while I waited for my bag. He said no no no don’t do that I am waiting for you. Come now. Come now. I was already mid transaction and still waiting for my bag. I just told him that. I couldnt come.

I got my bag and my SIM card and met up with Vera who was in the meeting spot that we discussed talking casually to a Chinese woman, I get a text from Chamara that says, You took too long and now you have to wait 20 minutes because I have to go around the airport. Ok…. Sorry…

When he finally came to pick us up he didn’t say anything. He opened the trunk for us to put our stuff in. I immediately had a bad feeling about this guy.

He didnt say anything for miles and then said, How did you guys lose each other? I had to circle around the airport again. I told him that we didnt lose each other. We separated. I told him I was sorry to keep him waiting.

I sunk into my seat and placed my head on my pillow. Thank god for this pillow. It was 11pm and the airport was busy. He weaved in and out of traffic and jumped from the gas to the brake. I was ill. The flight, the car ride, the awkwardness.

I told him I have a tendency to get car sick and I just wanted to give him the heads up. He didnt respond.

He watched a movie on his iPhone that he had propped on the dashboard while he drove us home from the airport.

He didnt talk to the volunteer and I felt like it was my responsibility to make her feel comfortable because he certainly didnt want to do it. It was her first time traveling alone. I was older and I felt bad for her. Maybe I just needed to buck up a bit anyway.

We chatted for a while. I asked if needed anything or was hungry. She said she was hungry and needed water. Chamara let out this huge sign of inconvenience. We had just got off a 6 hour flight and were in a foreign land. Is it really that big of a pain in the ass to make a pit stop?

MY eyes started to well up because I felt so uncomfortable.

We went to McDonalds and he asked me in line “What was wrong with me?” He could tell I was upset. He told me I looked lost. I didn’t know what to say, so I said that I was just tired from the long flight. I went to pay for my small fry and strawberry covered vanilla ice cream, but he put his money out first. And that’s when the emotionally abusive relationship I never wanted to be involved in began.


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