Monday, August 29, 2011


I still can’t believe that I’m in Sri Lanka. We just finished our lunch of rice and curry (made less spicy than usual with the plan of making it spicier every day as we build up a tolerance) at the hotel we’re staying at for the first couple nights, and now I’m sitting on the balcony off my room. The past few days have been pretty exhausting, and it’s nice to have some time to sit and maybe even take a nap later this afternoon.
Except for a bit of confusion checking in for my flight in Boston, the journey to Sri Lanka was pretty easy. The ISLE Program had arranged for nine of the ten students on the program as well as Emily, the program assistant and recent ISLE alum, to meet in Chicago and travel together to Colombo (the tenth student was traveling from India and met us in Sri Lanka). Fortunately, everyone was able to get out before Hurricane Irene arrived. There were four of us traveling from Boston, but they refused to check us in all the way to Colombo because our visas are only good for one month and can only be extended for up to three months, but we are planning on staying for four months. We tried to explain that we would be applying for residency and that our visas guaranteed we would get it, but they said that to go to Sri Lanka we needed a return ticket for sometime in the next three months. As a result, we were only able to check our luggage as far as London where we would need to pick up our bags, go through customs, and re-check in for our flight to Colombo. With a three-hour layover in London, we were a little bit concerned that we wouldn’t have enough time.
We met the rest of the group in Chicago, where we learned that everyone else had successfully checked their bags all the way through, so when we got to London, those of us who had to go through customs got off the plane as quickly as possible and hurried through the airport. We made it through customs, got our bags re-checked, and got to our gate with plenty of time to spare. In fact, we got there before the rest of the group, which had to explain to the people at the transfer desk why their visas were too short.
The eleven-hour flight from London to Colombo was actually not so bad. It was long, but the plane was only half full, so I got two seats to myself and was able to get some sleep. David, the program director, met us when our plane landed at 1:30 am. After filling out our applications for residency, we got into a couple of vans to drive to Kandy. The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside was the humidity. It was 3:00 am, but still over 80 degrees. There weren’t too many cars on the road at that time, but there were enough for us to learn that the lanes in Sri Lanka are fluid—a two lane road easily becomes a three or four lane road when one person wants to pass another.
We got to our hotel at around 6:00. After eating mangosteen and rambutan (two delicious fruits), we got settled, ate breakfast, and went out for a walk around Kandy. It’s beautiful city, but I was a little bit too tired to really take it all in. In a few hours, we’re going to see some religious sites near the University. Then we have the evening off before Sinhala class tomorrow morning.

Waiting for our plane in Chicago

The sunset as seen from the balcony off my hotel room

Rambutan (on the left) and mangosteen

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