The morning I went to Kandy Irene made a huge breakfast for me, roti, hoppers, prawn curry, and a special sweet made from stringhoppers filled with honey and coconut. Saying goodbye to Ruki, Irene and Toby was sad, but I was ready to leave Colombo and get settled somewhere more permanent.
The trip from Colombo to Kandy was beautiful; the road winds through small towns, and rice paddies. One town was known for its pineapples, another for its cashews and another for its wicker furniture. Halfway to Kandy the driver stopped at a fruit stand so we could “Enjoy banana and king coconut.” First the fruit vendor cut a hole in the top of the coconut so I could drink the milk. Once I’d finished that, he cut the coconut in half and I ate out the meat.
The traffic was light because Wednesday was Poya day, the full moon, and a Buddhist holiday. When I arrived in Kandy the streets were filled with people. Kandy is a small city set on a man-made lake. The city center is made of 15 blocks of shops and vendors on the west side of the lake, and houses and side streets rim the lake all the way around. My guesthouse is up a little road, and overlooks the lake and the Temple of the Tooth, the shrine built to house the Buddha’s Tooth.
I was lucky to come to Kandy on Poya day because people were in a festive mood. Once I was settled in at my guesthouse I took a walk along the lake into town. Along the way I paused for a man who was praying at the temple across the lake. He took this an opportunity to invite me to visit the Malwatta Monastery. He was a meditation teacher, and when I told him that my father also teaches meditation, he took me to the 92 year-old chief monk to be blessed.
After the blessing I went into Kandy town to explore, and to walk by the Temple of the Tooth. I only saw four other white people, and two of them were Ben and Paula, the other Fulbrighter in Kandy and his wife. Together we watched the parade for Poya day in front of the Temple of the Tooth. There were men and boys dressed in elaborate costumes involving headdresses and finger cymbals, and elephants with ear covers and costumes of their own. We sat at the back where the parade started, and the Kandyan dancers seemed as interested in us as we were in them. One elephant carried a gold casket on its back that holds the Buddha’s tooth.
I don’t have any pictures of the parade because I didn’t have my camera on me, but Poya day happens every month, so there will be pictures then. I also promise to add more pictures when I have my own apartment. The internet cafe here is cheap, 1 rupee a minute, but very very slow.