I moved in with my host family on Wednesday, and it’s been really nice to be able to unpack and get settled in one place. I thought I was just going to be living with my Amma and Appaccii (mother and father). They are the only ones who live in the same house as I do, but there is extended family and friends in all of the neighboring houses. Except for the fact that everyone has to be in their house by the time it gets dark, the children really are like my malliis (little brothers) and nangiis (little sisters), and they all call me Akkaa (big sister).
Because we only had class in the morning today, I got home in the early afternoon and had a lot of time to play with the kids. We ran around outside, played tag, rode bikes in the driveway, and climbed trees to pick (and eat) rambutans. All together, there were the three cousins who live next door, the two Indian boys who live downstairs from me, and several other children that I don’t know how I’m supposedly related to. I love that there are so many kids to play with and help me with my Sinhala.
One thing I’m learning about Sri Lankan culture is that offering food to friends and family is very important. At every meal and between meals, my Amma tries to get me to eat more. Whenever I end up at one of the neighbors’ houses, I am always offered tea, usually with a snack as well. Fruit and cookies are popular, breakfast is papaya and toast with jam, and lunch and dinner are generally rice and curry (more rice than curry). I managed to convince my Amma that two scoops of rice, rather than three, is enough for my lunch. Tonight my appaccii gave me an avocado to eat with honey. It was definitely different from what I’m used to but not bad. The avocadoes here are about twice the size of the ones in the United States and are very creamy—luckily he only gave me half of one to eat.
Tonight, a new couple came around to all of the houses. I didn’t quite understand the tradition, but from what I could gather, when a couple gets married, they go around to all of the houses to bring a gift and show respect for the family. In turn, the family is expected to offer the couple something to eat. When news got around that a new couple was coming, all of the ammas rushed inside to quickly make something for them. My amma made soup, and we all sat in the living room as the new couple ate. I sat there, very confused and not understanding a word of what was being said.
Other than playing with children and trying to politely refuse large amounts of food, I’ve also had Sinhala class every day and have been getting to know Kandy. Several times this week, I’ve walked into town with some other ISLE students. The city is very busy and crowded, and walking around can be overwhelming and exhausting. It’s a pretty long walk from the ISLE Center or the University to the downtown area, so we often take one of the three-wheeled taxis (sometimes called took-tooks) back. This is also how I get to and from school every day.
Tomorrow is our first unscheduled day since arriving in Sri Lanka. I’ll probably end up doing something with my host family and will hopefully be able to get some rest after a very busy week.