-pics from this post are a bit random. Didn’t have any that followed a story line, so here are my faves from the last week-
Granted, today began a little rough, it sure ended up great. You may or may not know, but the Sinhala words for “chicken” and “feet” are very similar (kokola and kockula). After walking around in the dirt all morning in one of the local villages near Kataragama I decided to practice my Sinhala. Unfortunately, that consisted of me telling everyone how dirty my chickens were. And Sri Lankans hardly need an excuse to laugh at us goofy white friends, but I sure gave them one. And, now I will forever remember the difference between those two awfully similar words.
After resting at the hotel with my current book (a tale of a few girls that travel the world, with stories eerily similar to many of my international experiences), we were ready for the routine evening temple visits. My co-worker, who is quickly becoming my best friend, informed me as we were headed out the door that we were actually going to meet her friends from University. I was confused for a while about how that would play out, though happy to meet her friends, it seemed like it would be a bigger ordeal. In America, meeting up with old friends would be (for me) a mess of super fast chatting, lots of giggles, and probably staying up until really late playing catch up. Likely not the most exciting event for a foreigner, particularly one with another native tongue. But Anjali did not skip a beat in taking be with her to meet her friends. Who were warm, welcoming, and wasted no time filling me in on embarrassing secrets they all shared. Most of them did not speak English, but I didn’t need a common language to understand that they were just good people to be around and I happily sat there listening to Sinhala conversation and laughing on cue all night. Meanwhile brimming with love and friendship- who just brings “the volunteer” into their friend’s home during a reunion? We have pretty limited verbal communication as it is, so I couldn’t find the appropriate means of asking how or why, but it meant a lot on my end anyway. Oh and then her friends brought me with them to several sacred sites. One of them has some sort of “in” with the Hindu clergy and let us visit the actual sites where Gods (or their wives) lived, get our palms read by a monk, and eat an assortment of blessed fruit. Oh my gosh eastern religions captivate me. That’s a post for another day, but the sheer fact that these friends reunite and then (instead of just getting dinner together) go to the temple together to celebrate, shoot. Oh and I should add that they are different religions as well. IN the Hindu temple there are Buddhist shrines acknowledging the overlap among religions and the space that both call sacred, so the celebrate their peaceful coexistence. SERIOUSLY GUYS. THIS STUFF HAPPENS.
Then we ran into my boss and several other Sarvodaya folk that were down on field visits as well. We found an elephant hiding in the trees outside the temple (nbd) and they dared us to go feed it our now-blessed fruit. Another worker-friend and I took the challenge and darted over to it tossing pineapples and mangoes while my boss contemplated the conflicting emotions of a mild fear of elephants and getting showed up by two kids that were lower on the totem pole :)
THEN we proceeded to fit too many people into, none other than, a toyota prius as my boss put our two drivers in the back seat and took the wheel joking with us about how he totally knew what he was doing. We proceeded to take back roads that may or may not have been legal as all six of us giggled in multiple languages while bossman commentated that he was the best driver ever and totally knows what he’s doing. We did make it back, but in that moment I was falling in love with Sri Lanka. Frequently, I fall in love with nature first, culture following. This time, I’ve started to fall for the people and the communities. I never thought I could be so content surrounded by people I have barely known a month, just listening to conversation that I can only occasionally understand. Road tripping with these people, so far, is the best. Throwing fruit out the window and laugh-shrieking as elephants chase us down the road, losing our cool when the same frog shows up in the bedroom for the second time today, smiling ear to ear as we discover a fresh water river that runs straight through the desert-hot field, Sri Lanka sure has it’s moments. I can’t vouch for everyone, but I’m pretty sure that this is the way I am supposed to be doing college :)
Oh, and I guess you picture lovers may want to know what I was up to this weekend. The volunteers and I decided to take a much-needed break from the headquarters, so we spent it relaxing in a beach town. In case you were wondering, up until this point I could count the number of light-skinned people I’d seen on one hand. Now, I clearly found the breeding grounds for tourists of all western nationalities. In a way, it was a nice change of pace, maybe because it was only for the weekend. After deciding that mayyyyybe I should go out instead of staying cooped up, I joined my friends for a night of wild dancing with strobelights and backpackers and I had a blast. It was so fun. As I forgot my bathing suit… classiic.. I just explored the little town all weekend and checked “relaxing” off my to-do list. After a very strange and uncomfortable arrangement that involved a brief stint of being stranded off the side of a highway with nothing but broken boats and sleepy goats, I was soon on my way with my work crew and happy to be reunited.