I wrote an entry a couple of days ago and I’ve tried diligently to send it since then. I expected to be able to email friends and family with minimum effort and never to be able to actually speak to them. Interestingly enough, it is the exact opposite. Each student was given a pay-as-you-go cell phone and it costs about 30 cents a minute to call the United States. The nine-and-a-half-hour time difference is the only obstacle because the cell service in Sri Lanka is impeccable; the Internet, not so much. Hopefully I’ll be able to send these entries soon but in Sri Lanka if anything goes wrong all they do is shrug and say, “what to do.”
Anyway, some updates on life in Lanka. We are learning Sinhalese, which at the moment seems next to impossible. The sounds are very hard to make, we learn words like ‘shishshyawak’ which means student and when I say it, basically it sounds like I’m telling everyone to shush while stuttering. I haven’t given up yet because my host parents swear that I am picking up the language at an impressively fast rate. They must have noticed my stuttering and like all good parents are exaggerating my talents so I don’t get frustrated.
Having Sri Lankan parents is a beautiful thing. Instantly upon meeting my parents I was their pride and joy. They brought me into their house and my host mother, in typical Lankan fashion, began to insist I eat. She does things that make me laugh out loud like when I finish eating she’ll pick up a banana and teach me the Sinhala word ‘KeselgeDi.’ Once I repeat the word her big brown eyes open expectantly and she’ll say, “You eat this now.” Then I’ll stumble for the words, ‘baDe pirila,’ which means stomach full. At this, her face will drop as if I uttered a horrible swear word. Her son told her that American woman are figure conscious, so my host mother explained to me that in Sri Lanka it is an insult if someone says your weight went down and a compliment if someone says your weight went up. I sighed to myself thinking if only it were like that in America!
I’ve talked about what may seem like a disproportionate amount about food, but that is because in Sri Lanka they love food, especially curries and rice. They love to talk about food, make food, serve food. Even in our classes we learn about what words to use when discussing curries. The comparison that comes to mind is that in America we make small talk about the weather but here the weather is tropical and virtually perfect so they discuss food. Of course we are learning a million other things but I will need some time before I can make any educated comments about anything Sri Lankan issues that don’t involve food.