The Pathirakali Amman Temple in Trincomalee, where I could take all the photos I wanted, which is funny because the recent violence took place at a church, and I was stopped by soldiers for taking photos of an office building.
My second night in Colombo I was still taking photos about 8 p.m. when six Sri Lankan soldiers raced toward me.
I was on the sidewalk in front of the downtown twin towers World Trade Center.
They were shouting “delete! delete!” which with their accent sounded more like “dilate! dilate!” But I knew what they meant. I liked the effort.
Then I thought I about the images and wasn’t keen on giving them up. There was promise in those images, I thought. But I’d only glanced at them. I’d pointed the phone almost straight up the sides of the towers with moon-lit clouds behind them.
Putting aesthetics aside, I quickly shifted my full attention to the men with guns. They seemed friendly enough and in no mood to shoot me. They were just a little firm in their approach.
As it is my practice to cooperate in such situations, they dropped their gun sights a bit by the time they got to me. They wanted to watch me delete each photo.
There were only about a dozen images, mostly the same shot, some from slightly different angles, or with altered settings for the odd night light.
The soldiers started leaning in all around me, craning their necks for a view of the screen.
So while I had their attention, I began some friendly banter about how beautiful each image was, techniques and composition, things like that; but most importantly, I wanted them to know what a shame it would be to destroy these images.
The soldiers’ heads were turning to one another, seemingly amused, nodding as though they agreed.
For a moment, I actually thought I was getting somewhere.
I brought each image to the screen slowly, giving it my best theatrical narration, and each time I held my finger poised dramatically above the “dilate” button like I couldn't bear to bring it down for the execution.
Each time they seemed to enjoy the little show.
And each time they watched me click the image to oblivion with no noticeable reaction.
One by one, all my photos were gone. Then, too, were the soldiers.
The Twin Towers of Colombo were safe for another day.
I'm a retired journalist from Hawaii who tired quickly of retirement and hit the road as a slow solo world traveler in August 2016. I've spent time in 18 countries on four continents and right now I'm enjoying life in Penang, Malaysia.
I've been interviewed about my travels by Nomadic Matt, and Expat Focus, and here's a great story by veteran Borneo newsman and writer James Ritchie, about our meeting in Kuching, titled, A Confluence of Adventure Writers .
Elsewhere Online ...
GARIFUNA SETTLEMENT DAY
Still the most authentic, lively and colorful local cultural festival I've seen on the road.
I found this Alternative Arts and Music Festival in the Amazon highlands of Peru. What a find!
Here's how I found a friend and discovered what's real in a Lima, Peru, neighborhood.
My partner and I were left high and dry in this Siem Reap Rip. Be careful!