Archive for August, 2008

August 26, 2008

August 26th, 2008 by mjgran10

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.

August 24, 2008

August 24th, 2008 by mjgran10

We landed in Sri Lanka on the 22nd and after days of flying we got in a van and trekked four hours to Kandy. I was shocked to take in the sights sounds and smells. Nothing in a travel book could have prepared me for the thin roads lined with two way traffic, pedestrians, countless stray dogs, and it’s rumored the occasional elephant (I’ve yet to see one but my fingers are crossed).

  The six other students and myself spent the first two nights in a hotel just getting acquainted with the area. We had our first two Sinhala classes; needless to say I am totally overwhelmed by the language that everyone swears we’ll be speaking within the first week or two.  The challenge that our first Sinhala class posed was soon dwarfed by our first group outing. We were told that we were going on a little hike, and our prankster driver, Sumanasana, swore it was very easy. We found ourselves, hiking — if that’s what you want to call it — straight up a mountain lined with tea fields. After mild hyperventilation, many pauses, and gallons of sweat lost, our group made it to the top. We all climbed up the final rock to peer out of the edge. The sight of tropical Kandy beneath us was breathtaking. Then came the climb/slide down. The earth was slippery and almost all of us lost our footing more than once. I found the best way was to get into a crab walk position and propel myself down, which of course was shocking to the natives. When we finally reached flat ground a sense of accomplishment came over me and I felt ready for our next challenge: meeting the host family.

In our heads we all imagined awkward situations filled with cultural misunderstandings to make up our first tea (in Sri Lanka tea time is roughly every 30 minutes) with our new families. I expected my host parents to be stand offish at first. Not so. At first sight my host mother grabbed me and kissed me on both cheeks and my host father beamed with pride. Finally, we got in their car and headed to their house, when I told them that it was beautiful they said, “It’s your home now, too.” I had never felt accepted so quickly. Now I’m sitting in bed in my new room wondering what challenges will be laid out for us tomorrow.

August 18, 2008

August 18th, 2008 by mjgran10

In two days I am actually getting on a plane and flying to Sri Lanka — WOW! To be honest less than a year ago I probably couldn’t have identified Sri Lanka on a map, I certainly didn’t know anything about its history, struggles, culture, religions, or their languages.

Now, as I’m finally packing my bags, I have grown comfortable with what I think I know about Sri Lanka, even though what I think I know is probably wrong. All the same I can’t help but be excited when I picture myself speaking one of their languages, Sinhalese, or practicing Buddhism, or perhaps Hinduism alongside my host family.

A few days ago I was scared because I’m leaving everything I know for everything I don’t know. However, a few days ago I was in a kayak on a seemingly endless lake that I had never been to before. My boyfriend had never kayaked before so I said I would teach him, not that I really had any idea what I was doing. We took off, and he asked, “Do you know where we’re going?”

“Oh, yeah,” I lied to him and myself. I had no idea; no matter where I looked it was a coast with thick green trees and deep blue water. The lake wasn’t just an open circle — it twisted and turned for miles, and I was pretty sure we weren’t going back anytime soon. We were lost. However, being lost was all the fun, we stumbled upon beauty everywhere we turned. Four hours, and four sore arms later, we pulled the kayak onto a dock, not the right one but still a dock. Two boys came down to see what we were doing and they laughed as they pointed us in the direction of our dock.

That’s how I see the next four months — three and a half in Sri Lanka, and two weeks in Thailand. I’ll be lost, confused, and stick out like a sore thumb, but the whole time I’ll love every twist and turn and I’m sure there will always be someone to point me back in the right direction. I hope!