Category Archives: Colombo

Last Days in Lanka

I’ve been back in the US for one month, adjusting to a different, less hectic but more busy, pace of life, and now finally have the time to write about my last week in Sri Lanka.

After my trip with my dad and stepmother I had five days to pack up and say goodbye to my friends and the people who’d helped me with my research. Sunday afternoon I had lunch with my friends Abeera and Tharshiya, the two women who’d worked for me doing Tamil translation during my research. We had a fun lunch at the Royal Mall Restaurant, which was very busy. We talked about the tentative results of my research, work they were doing at the university, and more everyday stuff like our boyfriends and families.

Tuesday I went to say goodbye to my advisor at the University of Peradeniya, and to the staff at the Kadugannawa MOH who’d helped me so much. I wanted to bring a present to say thank you, and my friend/ driver Sangeeth suggested I bring a fruit basket from the Kandy Market. Well, what a basket. Each basket weighed about twenty pounds and was filled  to the brim with fruit.

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Traveling down the road in a three wheeler with two large fruit baskets was a challenge; I had to keep my hand on both baskets to keep them from tipping and spilling, but my advisor and the MOH doctor were both impressed by the gigantic fruit basket, and it seemed like the perfect gift.

My last day in Kandy was one of the best of my whole  stay. I spent the morning packing, and in the afternoon went to Child Action Lanka, http://www.childactionlanka.org/ where I’d been volunteering a few hours a week teaching English to street kids. Debs, the director, and the children threw me a small party that included cake, and a present of a very nice necklace. Since it was my last afternoon, I decided to skip the English tutoring and play some of the kids’ favorite games, including hide and go seek, and red light, green light, which the children had renamed ‘red and green.’  I also took pictures of the kids, and they took some good ones of me.

Kids and me at Child Action Lanka

Kids and me at Child Action Lanka

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Achini, Harshani, Dinushka, and Lasantha

That evening Sangeeth had me over for dinner with his family, and I got to meet his kids for the first time. His sons were three and seven, and were lively and funny. Sangeeth and his wife had prepared me a meal of rice and ten curries.

Rice and ten curries

Rice and ten curries

I did my best to be a good guest and eat as much as possible, but the amount of food was overwhelming. As a thank you present I gave Sangeeth a set of photos of places we’d visited with my family. His sons were very impressed with the pictures of him with elephants. They also liked my camera, and wanted to see every picture I took of them right after it was taken, including this one of them pretending to sleep.

Sangeeth's kids, pretending to sleep

Sangeeth's kids, pretending to sleep

After dinner, Sangeeth and his older son drove me home down his hill, and up mine, and I stayed up into the night to finish my packing.

In the morning I took a van to Colombo to visit my friends there before my flight Friday morning. I had lunch with Ramya, one of the staff from the Fulbright office, and then spent the afternoon doing some last minute bargain hunting at House of Fashions, basically a four story clearance for Sri Lankan made garments. My last night in Sri Lanka I went out to dinner at the Mango Tree, an excellent Indian Restaurant, with the other Fulbrighters who were still in the country.

Next morning I took a cab to the airport, went through a Sri Lankan military checkpoint one last time, and got on my flight home to America.

Tropical Christmas

This was my first Christmas outside of the US, as well as my first Christmas without a tree or stockings or chocolate crinkles. Even though most people here are Buddhist, all the shops had Christmas decorations and some even had Santas. Arpico, the Sri Lankan version of Walmart of Target, had skinny Sri Lankan Santas wearing Santa masks. They were very creepy.

On Christmas Eve I went down to Colombo to celebrate the holidays with some of the other Fulbrighters. Christmas Eve we tried to make fudge, but maybe because of the humidity, it was more like delicious chocolatey icing. We had peanut butter cookies, and the fudge/icing on top of the cookies was heavenly.

Christmas Day I spent cooking with my friends. I made a rice dish and potato latkes. I made the mistake of grating the potatoes early in the day, trying stay on top of my cooking duties. As the day progressed the potatoes oxidized and by the time I was frying them in oil the grated potatoes were black. They were tasty and I served them with water buffalo curd, sort of like greek yogurt, and mango chutney, instead of the traditional apple sauce and sour cream. We had a huge feast with 10 people and more food than we could eat, a sign of a good Christmas.

The day after Christmas I went with two of the Fulbrighters, Lea and Leah, to Unawatuna, a town on the Southern coast that is set around a bay.

 

Unawatuna

Unawatuna

 

 

The train to the coast was very full and we spent about an hour and a half standing before there was enough room and we sat down in the aisle. When we got to our hotel it was dark, but we ate a restaurant near the ocean.

 

Boat in Unawatuna

Boat in Unawatuna

The next few days we lounged at the beach, ate beachy touristy foods, and explored the temple in Unawatuna. We were fortunate to see some beautiful sunsets and amazing views. Even without evergreens and snow I found a way to have a nice Christmas.

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Temple

Big City

This weekend I went to Colombo to pick up my visa, shop for my new apartment, and eat real cheese. Kandy is a lovely city with many fine qualities, but there is a serious lack of delicious cheeses. There are three types of food in Kandy, Sri Lankan, Indian, and Chinese. None of these are cheese-based. Colombo is a huge city and fairly cosmopolitan so there are restaurants that serve Italian food, bagels, and other non-Asian foodstuffs.

On Monday night I went out to dinner with two of the other Fulbrighters, Lea and John, to an Italian resataurant in Colombo called the Bayleaf. It had been raining for about two hours when we decided to walk from their house to the restaurant. Their street was flooded and by the time we got to the main road the water was up to our knees. Cars going by created waves that rippled down the street. We braved a few blocks of deep water before  making it onto dry sidewalks and finally the restaurant. The Bayleaf Restaurant is in a big old Colombo house with a big garden out front. The inside of the restaurant smells like cloves. We sat out on the porch and watched the birds and gigantic bats fly by. The food, pumpkin ravioli, tasted especially good after our trek through flooded streets and my one month without cheese.

My other Colombo adventure was visiting House of Fashions, a store that is like a gigantic TJ Maxx. The store is stocked with leftovers from Sri Lanka’s garment industry from brands like Gap and Calvin Klein. I spent about an hour there, in awe of all the clothes and stuff. There are no changing rooms, so I had to sneak behind a rack and try on pants underneath my skirt like the Sri Lankan ladies were doing. In the end. after an hour of searching, I found two nice button down shirts and a good pair of lightweight pants and paid about $10 for all of this.

Now I am back in Kandy where it is much quieter, much cooler, and tomorrow I will move into my new apartment.