You pass villages of Muslims. A relatively small minority in Sri Lanka, they live peacefully down the road from growing numbers of freshly converted Sinhalese and Tamil Christians. These communities are still nowhere in size compared with the more than 70 percent Buddhist population.
When you cross over the mountains in the middle and make it to the east coast, you begin to see the devastation of the area where the Jeyarajah family is from. Imagine an entire coast as far as you can see on either side, filled with debris of what once were towns. Some small bays seem to have been spared but most of what faces the ocean is in ruin.
Some, like the Jeyarajahs, have been fortunate to have relatives further inland whose homes were not destroyed take them in. Others are living in refugee camps from different aid agencies. Within any given hour on a major roadway along the east coast, you are bound to see a shiny white U.N. vehicle with the blue flag flapping.
People seem more anxious to get back to work and stand on their own two feet than wait for the next handout. Fisherman want to fish, and entrepreneurs want to rebuild, and everyone wants to try and put the tragedy in its place -- in the past. Even in the wake of the tsunami, their community is not back to normal -- the sheer number of foreigners alone has created two economies.
The fundamental laws of supply and demand are in effect if you are trying to find lodging anywhere near the damaged areas. The NGO population is putting such a strain on local lodging that people who would normally rent out guest rooms are making up to 10 times the money. It's not trickle-down economics necessarily, but a good deal of money is getting into the hands of the land-owning class.
Aside from the aid agencies and the work being done on the ground, the small coastal towns are otherwise sleepy. Children still smile and laugh but so many look like they've aged by weathering that December morning. While the world celebrates little Abilass -- whose name means hope -- he has become so much more than that to families who have lost so much, including their own hopes and aspirations.