Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Weekend Adventures

I’ve really settled into a routine over the past few weeks—class every day, dancing and drumming on Mondays and Wednesdays, batik on Tuesdays, and spending my evenings helping to make dinner, doing homework, and watching TV. I also have been to a nearby orphanage a few times. The kids are all really sweet and eager to play with us. Although I liking having such a clear schedule, it’s nice to spend weekends, seeing different parts of the country.
A couple weeks ago, we went to Hikkaduwa, a small town on the Southwest coast. We spent all day on the beach, swimming, walking, relaxing, and trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid getting sunburned. Coming from New England, I associate oceans with cold water, but the Indian Ocean is different. It felt sort of like swimming in a bathtub with huge waves—not bad if you ask me.
Chelesea and Erica on the beach

Last Friday, we went back to Nuwara Eliya to get a tour of a tea factory.
Drying the tea leaves

Tea and chocolate cake served at the tea factory

On Saturday, I had made plans to go hiking with Alex, Mimi, and Meg at Hantana, a mountain range right next to the University of Peradeniya. Several people mentioned to us that we had to be careful of leeches there, but the past two months have been full of people warning us about perfectly harmless situations that we didn’t think much of it. I wore my sandals, which have been perfectly acceptable for all of the other hikes we’ve done—BIG MISTAKE! Luckily, a couple of Meg’s friends, who are students at the university and had been to Hantana before, came along and brought supplies to remove leeches. The leeches weren’t actually that big, but they were EVERYWHERE. The whole time I was thinking about how we had just learned in my colonial history class that one of the reasons it was so hard for the Europeans to conquer the Kandyan Kingdom is that they kept dying from infected leech wounds. I don’t even know how many I got on my feet, but we pretty quickly decided that hiking through a leech-infested jungle just isn’t very much fun, so we turned around and spent the morning in Kandy Town instead. At least we fared better than the colonists.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Elephants and Poya

Saturday, we took a trip to Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. Although some of the elephants were born in the orphanage, many were rescued after having been orphaned or injured, often as a result of the war. There’s not a lot to say about the trip except that the elephants were adorable, especially when they were bathing in the river.

Cooling off in the river

Playing on the rocks near the water

Today was a Poya (full moon) day, making it a Buddhist holy day and a public holiday. Although I had class in the afternoon, my morning classes were cancelled. No one else in my family had school or work, so I spent the morning at home with them. In the evening ISLE took us on a fieldtrip to a Buddhist temple, where we lit candles and incense and gave flowers as an offering to the Buddha.
Lighting a candle

To correct my explanation of who I live with, it’s true that my amma’s younger brother and his wife don’t live next door (although their daughter does), but they only live about 45 minutes away. I’m pretty sure that the brother in London is actually a brother-in-law, who is from London but now lives in Sweden with my amma’s sister (his wife), my amma’s daughter, and my amma’s younger brother’s elder daughter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Breath of Cool Air

When I woke up on Saturday morning, the first thought that popped into my head is that it is not supposed to be so hot in October. It, therefore, seems appropriate that I spent the weekend in the coldest part of the country. Ask any Sri Lankan about Nuwara Eliya and their response will almost definitely involve something about the fact that it is unbearably cold there. My amma reminded me multiple times to bring a sweatshirt and socks and assured me that I could buy a jacket, hat, and scarf there. While it was considerably cooler there, and I did get a little bit cold at night (I had to use the warm blanket that was on my bed!), I didn’t need to buy any of the coats or ear warmers for sale all over the town. Besides, it felt really nice to get out of the heat for a couple days.
We took the observation train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. Despite our second class tickets, we ended up in third class, where there are considerably more people than seats. We had to stand for a little while but eventually were able to sit down. I ended up sitting with a 20-year-old girl, her mother, two of her aunts, and a man traveling alone. They were very excited when they found out that I speak a little bit of Sinhala and were eager to talk to me. Even though we all had trouble understanding at times, it was good practice for me and they were very friendly. They even let me sit by the window, so I could have a good view of the rolling hills, waterfalls, and small villages as we passed by. Like good Sri Lankans, when they bought snacks from the vendors walking up and down the aisles, they demanded that I try everything, despite my claims of “baDa Pirilaa” (“stomach is full”). As we were getting close to Nuwara Eliya, the girl had the idea that we exchange addresses so we can write each other letters, so I now have a Sri Lankan pen-pal!

View out the window of the train

On Sunday, we got up early and went to Horton Plains National Park, where we hiked to Mini World’s End, World’s End, and Baker’s Falls. Rather than trying to describe the incredible beauty, I will just show some pictures.
Sarah and Chelesea as we start out on the hike

The view from World's End

Our feet at the end of the world

Baker's Falls

When I got home on Sunday, my neighborhood was full of armed police officers and soldiers, including one at the bottom of driveway. Even though I knew that the president was coming to Kandy and assumed that this was reason for the security, it was a little bit alarming. When I got to my house, I found out the president wasn’t in Kandy Town, where he usually goes, but was in a house just down the street from mine, speaking to about 1,000 people, including my amma, appaccii, and a couple of my aunts and uncles—no wonder the security was so high in my neighborhood!