Friday, December 16, 2011

Stairs and Sarees

It’s over. The ISLE Program has officially ended. I’ll admit, the first few weeks here dragged on FOREVER, but for the most part, the past 16 weeks have flown by. Turning in my independent study was a strange feeling—my obligations were finished, but the fun was not.
Wednesday night, I set out for Sree Pada/Adam’s Peak with Alex, Erica, and Malik. Although this is not the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka, it is the highest point in its immediate vicinity, making it seem huge. At the top, a depression in the rock is said to be the footprint of the Buddha. There is now a temple constructed around the footprint (entirely obstructing it from view), and thousands of pilgrims climb the mountain to worship. We left at night, so we could reach the top for sunrise. We started walking at 12:30, following the path marked by prayer flags and lit up by streetlights. The hike is essentially four miles of stairs, very steep stairs in some parts. It was definitely challenging and hard to believe that pilgrims of all ages make this journey. The fact that we were doing this in the middle night, having gotten no sleep, did not make it easier, but we made it to the top, where it was cold and windy, at around 4:30 with one and a half hours to kill before sunrise. We put on all of our layers and huddled together inside the temple to try and stay warm and get some rest while pilgrims prayed all around us and other tourists milled around. Unfortunately, it was cloudy so we couldn’t see the sunrise, but there were still some incredible views. The hike down, although not as challenging as the hike up, was still difficult and reached the van, exhausted and sore.
Adam's Peak

Malik, Erica, and Alex getting ready to climb the steps

Watching the sky get light

Walking down from Adam's Peak

The day was not over for us yet though. Yesterday afternoon was the final tea, where we all got dressed up in sarees and came to the ISLE Center with our families to drink tea, eat cake, take pictures, and say goodbye.
In my saree with my amma and appacci

Somehow the four of us who had climbed Adam's Peak managed to stay awake for the tea

Although most people are going home today, I’m sticking around for a couple more weeks. My parents are arriving this afternoon, and I’m going to Colombo to meet them and see Sri Lanka as a tourist.

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