Tengyo Kura

Chronicle of Vagabondism / When everybody wants to be somebody, I want to be nobody.


Story 20

About twelve years ago, the big tsunami caused by Indian Ocean Earthquake destroyed this area.
I was a teacher in Sri Lanka then, and soon after the disaster I quit my job and began to visit damaged areas on the southwest coast.
I dug undamaged roof tiles from a heap of rubble with local survivors.
Some people stood overwhelmed amidst the remains of their houses.
One time, young men asked me a cigarette.
When I replied that I didn’t have, they questioned me what I was doing here.
I told them that I came to see if there was anything I could do for the victims.
They smiled, and said “thanks, welcome to our country.”
Another time, one restaurant owner who lost his shop told me that he was not going to hate this ocean which destroyed so many invaluable lives and things.
He continued that he, his family, his friends, and all the village people had been blessed by the ocean until then.
Therefore, they would continue loving and respecting this ocean as a gift from God.
The Sri Lankan people’s attitude in such a devastating moment touched me deeply, and encouraged me strongly.
I asked my friends in Japan and around the world to help me support the tsunami survivors.
Thanks to all who had joined me, we managed to deliver some donations to the local survivors who I met and promised support.
Today, this area still bears the scars of the tsunami.
To find people who could send our final contribution to those who are in need, I visited several organisations who are working on the tsunami relating support.
Soon, our project will be settled for the time being, but I will never forget what the Sri Lankan people taught me through their toughest time of life.
Love, respect, and hope.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Peraliya)

Story 19

I met a monkey on my way to a temple.
The monkey went into a trance with having grass in it’s hand right in front of me.
Excuse me, can I get that grass, too?
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Kandy)

Story 18

At 5 o’clock in the morning, I saw some street dogs gathering on my way to a holy rock where I wanted to see sunrise.
Contrary to my expectation, they were very friendly.
They started following me, and marched together with me through a dark jungle where wild elephants are roaming sometimes.
Many people warned me that elephants could be dangerous at night, so I was a bit nervous.
Wether they knew it or not, the dogs gathered around me, and watched for any wild animals while we were walking.
Luckily there was no encounter with the elephants.
We just heard some angry apes screamed at us.
Our pack became bigger and bigger by meeting more dogs on our way, even one tiny puppy ran after us desperately.
It was a rough way to reach the top of the rock.
One by one, the dogs left the pack, and only two remained by the time we entered the final stage of climbing (one of them had a bad leg, but she didn’t give up).
We made it to the summit just when the morning sun appeared.
I felt sorry when I found that a biscuit was the only thing I could share with those faithful brave dogs.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Sigiriya)

Story 17

Keeping away from a crowded railway terminal, I entered a quiet cafe in an obscure corner of the big station.
I saw a monk having a cup of tea by the entrance.
He looked the very picture of peace.
I asked him hesitantly if I could take a photo of him.
“Sure, go ahead,” he kindly said.
While I was taking some photos, one poorly dressed man came in to the cafe, and sat right beside us.
Shopkeepers talked to him as if he was their old customer.
I saw him counting soiled coins with dark fingers, and supposed that he was a beggar living in the station.
He also ordered a cup of tea.
After I took pictures, I thanked the monk.
“You’re welcome.”
He looked at me gently, and continued “but you need to give something when you take something.”
“Oh, of course,” I replied, but to be honest, I was little surprised to hear a monk said something like that.
What to give him?
Maybe I shall buy the cup of tea he was drinking.
When I was going to say so, he interrupted my offering, and said “I did not mean that you should give me something.”
His eyes stayed very calm.
“But, you can give something to the world. Sometimes, a direct return is not necessary.”
In my hand, I had some coins that I took out from my pocket.
I looked at the beggar having a cup of tea next to us.
I again looked at the monk.
He gave me an affectionate smile.
“Can I have a cup of tea? I will pay for this man’s tea together with mine.”
Pointing at the beggar’s cup of tea, I told the shopkeepers.
The beggar seemed surprised a bit, looked at me and the monk by turns.
I thanked the monk again, and sat down at table behind the cafe.
After while the monk disappeared unnoticed.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Colombo)

Story 16

The tea master was working at a small booth in an old cafe in front of a clocktower.
He had been making tea for more than 30 years, everybody in the town loved his milk tea.
He mixed tea and air perfectly, bubbles on the tea was irresistibly fascinating.
Whenever I had his extremely mild milk tea, a magical feeling captured me.
It permeated into my throat, chest, stomach, and filled my soul with contentment.
One day, I asked him what the secret of making such a beautiful cup of tea was.
The tall grey-haired tea master replied to my question by shrugging his shoulders.
“Well… Milk. Sugar. And black tea. That’s it.”
I smiled at him by shrugging my shoulders, too.
What else I could do for this simple yet so true answer.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Kandy)

Story 15

He was sewing intently in front of a small shop when I came along.
I was touched by the way he worked, and stood there for a while without words.
Then another man came out from the shop, and asked me.
“How old do you think he is?”
“Not sure, around 70?”
The man laughed.
“He is 92, he is doing this in his entire life. I’m one of his sons.”
“Wow..” I was totally impressed.
At that moment, the 92-year-old worker lifted his face, and looked at me.
“Hello, pleased to meet you,” I greeted.
He gazed at me with a frown, and soon went back to his work.
I got confused, and looked at his son.
He smiled and told me that his father could not hear well.
“But,” he continued.
“If you are a sewing machine, he would hear you very well.”
Laughing and he went back to his shop.
After that, I was standing there, and watching the sewing man working heart and soul just like I was a few minutes ago.
To keep changing is beautiful, and to stay the same is also beautiful.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Gelioya)

Story 14

Sometimes, I imagine that trees on the ground are roots, and there are actual trees under the ground.
The underground trees are sucking energy of the world from their tree-like roots, and grow towards the core of this planet.
Then, what are we?
Are we like ants making nests under the ground?
What is the sky then?
Is it like the sea of life where all the souls go back at the end of their physical activities?
When we die, our souls go back to the sea of life, and mix with all kinds of souls of plants, stones, and animals.
After became one big soul, little by little, a drop of life is formed, and is sucked by the tree-like roots of the planet.
The drop of life goes underground which is the real mother of life remaining unknown.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Colombo)

Story 13

A hard rain, a hard rain, when are you going to fall?
An elephant family is going to take a bath in a pond soon.
A rabbit family is going to make a nest soon.
A parrot family is going to collect flowers soon.
A purple blanket is flying in the wind in a backyard.
A mother is opening a jackfruit in the kitchen.
And her son is having a nap on an old orange tiled-roof.
A hard rain, a hard rain, when are you going to fall?
You will rinse away our teardrops that look alike our beautiful island.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Colombo)

Story 12

“Mr. Ten, milk tea?”
Every morning when he noticed that I woke up, he asked me this question.
“Yes, Siri! Thank you!”
Scratching some mosquito bites from the night before in my room, I replied to him in the kitchen.
I was a resident teacher of a small private school in Colombo, and Siri was working at the school as a janitor and chef.
It was little difficult for me to adapt to life in Sri Lanka in the beginning.
Extremely hot and humid weather, nonstop mosquito attacks, unbearably spicy food…
Therefore, Siri’s milk-tea time was a precious relaxing moment for me.
He mixed milk tea with a lot of air, and created a very mild flavor.
While staying together, Siri made my days in Sri Lanka easy and joyful with his pleasant personality.
He was not used to use modern cooking equipment like a microwave.
After used our microwave, he usually kept me away from it, then unplugged the cord, and slowly opened it to see if the food was safe.
It was like a scared boy looking inside his closet in a dark room at night.
The school was run with a tight budget, so our daily meal provided by the school was only rice and pea curry basically.
Siri had 12-year chef experience at a restaurant before he came to the school.
He did his best to make our meal nicer with limited food stuffs, but we could not stop ourselves dreaming of more variety.
Once Siri got tired and said “even a poor family of Sri Lanka won’t eat this simple pea curry every day!”
By the way, Siri knew that the regular Sri Lankan curry was too spicy to me, so he used the least amount of spices for our pea curry.
One day he told me that the Sri Lankan curry became too spicy to him as well after kept eating the mild-flavored curry with me.
Then Christmas came.
We decided to celebrate it by buying some meat for our dinner.
We went to a supermarket, and I bought beer for Siri, too.
When he was working at a restaurant, Siri became sick and hospitalised because he drank too much with customers every night.
Though he still liked drinking, he quit drinking since he started working at the school to not trouble me.
Siri said no to my beer offer first, but later accepted it when I told him that it might be nice if he forgot his daily duty and just enjoyed the night.
As Christmas dinner, Siri cooked the meat with our regular pea curry.
I was already carried away at the first mouthful.
That was the most delicious meal I had ever had.
Siri smiled peacefully when I thanked him.
The unforgettable dinner at our Christmas night taught me what decided taste of the food was not how much we paid for it, but how much we appreciated it.
I feel that I can hear Siri’s friendly voice when I woke up in the hot morning sun even today.
“Mr. Ten, milk tea?”
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Colombo)

Story 11

When the huge tsunami caused by the giant Sumatra earthquake struck Sri Lanka in 2004, I was there, and I had a feeling of helplessness.
The damage was beyond description, and I had no idea what I could do.
I was sitting home, and doing nothing for some days.
In my mind, there was one story stuck from my experience of the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995.
I was one of volunteers who helped people living in temporary housing move to new places.
One hot summer day, I visited a family at a shelter to give some necessities of life.
Then one of the family members said to me if I felt satisfied by “helping” them.
She showed me her destroyed house, and said I would never be able to understand how miserable her family was.
I lost words, and left the family.
I didn’t leave volunteering after that, but the woman’s words had struck home so deeply.
Because of this memory, I was not sure if I should go and help people.
However, one thing came up with me for changing the situation, and that was Sri Pada.
It has been said that the holy mountain accepted any kind of religions, and even animals and insects climbed to worship.
I decided to go up and send my prayer to the victims from the summit.
I knew that it wouldn’t be physically any help for the suffering people, but I needed to do it in order to forget my bitter experience and step forward.
It was before the sunrise of the New Year’s Day when I arrived on the top and offered my silent prayer.
The view from the peak was still dark, and I saw the way of light continued from the bottom of the mountain to where I stood.
I felt slight hope in my heart which encouraged myself to do something.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Sri Pada)