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.