Archive for November, 2008

November 24, 2008

November 24th, 2008 by mjgran10

Today Maria and I went with my host family to a 21st birthday party. I know the connotations any American would make with a 21st birthday party which is what makes it so funny. Every year for my host mother's nephew  birthday they hold what she refers to as 'little monk danne.' There is most likely an official name for this but I have no idea what it is.

We went to what looked like a boarding school but it was for monks between the ages of 8 and 16. When we arrived all of the guest were seated on mats in front of a Buddha shrine and to the right of the shrine sat this monk that couldn't have been over 14. He was belting his heart out and all the adults had their heads bowed in respect. Maria and I stood awkwardly in the back, because we can't really sit still like the Sri Lankan women, or at least I can't, and I can never get my hands in proper prayer position.

After the prayer the room filled with over 100 child monks. They were silent and respectful; which was flat out shocking as there weren't any grown up monks around to keep them in line. They all had their little alms bowls and cups in front of them and all of the guests gathered up the food and had to serve them. Maria and I were given the task of handing out small fried vegetable things, most likely because Sri Lankans are very generous with the rice and curry so they probably figured Maria and I might starve the monks if we didn't pile their bowls sufficiently.

Shortly after eating all the monks shuffled out and then all of the guest ate. This may have been the funniest part of the day owing to the fact that my host mother is still under the impression I hate rice. I don't hate rice but I really don't mind not eating it, so she packed a bun and a cupcake for me to eat. I was happy, but I got some pretty weird looks

Little boy monk

November 22, 2008

November 22nd, 2008 by mjgran10

Lately I have been unable to write because independent study has allotted me some free time to travel and get to enjoy a little bit of Sri Lanka with out the limitation of classes. Not having classes is very awesome because for most of us this will probably be the only time we are in Sri Lanka so its been really nice to have a little free time to enjoy it. Now of course free time is over because I have a 20 page paper to write on the poet I've been meeting with over independent study. She has published something like 40 books and I have at least half of them in my room, so as I said play time is definitely over.

I'll relive some of what I've been doing over the past couple of weeks because it was pretty fun. Everyone's independent study took them out of Kandy, but my poet lives about two miles from the ISLE center so I was left behind.

Everyone in Sri Lanka talks about how beautiful Nuwara Eliya is, it's mountain covered and touristy and when Sri Lanka was a British colony it was called little England. All though I don't personally support colonialism I decided to pay a visit to Nuwara Eliya anyways. It was gorgeous and kind of cold, which after being on a tropical island for three months is actually an added bonus. So for a few days I took hot showers and ate huge buffets filled with Western food. I had a blast even though I had never eaten at a restaurant alone before, but I quickly got over my fear and embraced the buffet food.

While I was packing up to leave Nuwara Eliya to head back to Kiribathkumbra Maria called.  She asked if I wanted to spend two nights in a hotel in Kandy with a few of the other ISLE students that were back from independent study. The day after I returned home Maria and I headed into the 'city' to meet the others. They all raved about how awesome it was to get a vacation after what sounded like some stressful independent studies. I bite my tongue and didn't rub in the fact that my poet who is something like 78 was anything but stressful. We all had a greet time in Kandy and as an added bonus I got to eat more western food.

Now we are down to almost the last two weeks in Sri Lanka. The fact that we've been here since August is surreal, in some ways it feels like we've been here forever and in other ways I can't believe how quickly time passed. I know that didn't make that much sense but it is the best way I think any of us can explain how we feel at this point.

November 9, 2008

November 9th, 2008 by mjgran10



noticed a reoccurring theme in my entries of dogs and insects and what not.
After this past week or so of creature mishaps I have to say that the rest of
my time in Sri Lanka has been virtually creature mishap free, well minus my
host mother getting bitten, that was pretty bad.


guess I can start with the newest addition to our family, this cat, notice I
didn't say kitten, indicating clearly that my host family and I chose not to
learn our lesson about adopting full grown animals after my host mother was
bitten. Though, I can't really say we adopted this cat I'm not sure where it
came from but one day it was outside the door crying we feed it and now it
spends every night and morning at our house, I have no idea where it goes
during the day. The cat won't eat anything it doesn't kill which is awesome
because it kills everything that grosses me out like giant spiders and
cockroaches. The cat now has taken to breaking into the house. The roof is made
of wooden planks covered with tin. The cat slithers its body in between the
wood and the tin and then keeps finding holes big enough to leap through. I
find it entertaining but my host parents seem displeased with the cat. There
not that displeased though because they too appreciate its service of killing


the other day when I was leaving to meet the lady I'm doing my independent
study on, it's a cool independent study I'll write about that later, the cat
was engaged in hand to hand combat with a lizard. If the cat wasn't enough I
had been warned that I was about to encounter some very vicious dogs. The woman
that I'm doing my independent study on had invited me over, insisting though
that I came on a day that her husband would be there to control the dogs.
Rosemarie who works at the ISLE center had warned me never to touch Jean in
front of the dogs otherwise I would be in trouble. I made my way to the gate
where I was greeted by two of the angriest looking lab mixes I had ever seen.
One of her daughters wrestled them into the house, then came back to get me.
She told me to sit still in the chair and then her mother accompanied by the
dogs would come out.


mother and I have a slight addiction to the Dog Whisperer so I kind of knew how
to act. I sat really still and refused to speak or look at the two dogs as they
rushed at me barking. I could feel their breath on me but I did my best to stay
calm while finding it hard to forget the damage one bite did to my host mother.
The women I'm doing my project on is a very gentle lady who could be heard in
the background scolding the dogs by saying, "Oh really, that’s enough now,
that is very, very bad behavior." Her husband came in and jostled the dogs
and eventually they must have decided that I was boring and they lay down at
her feet. She then turned to me saying, "I hope they didn't scare you. Not
so long ago we had a BBC reporter here who just left and refused to do the
interview." I had to laugh because she seemed totally in the dark as to
why the BBC reporter left.

following night I'm eating my dinner when my host father said awkwardly,
"Michelle don't get excited."

could not figure out what he was talking about as he repeated his sentiment
this time staring at the wall. I look at the wall and screamed on the top of my
lungs running to hide behind a chair. A giant spider was on the wall, it wasn't
a tarantula but it was as big as one.

host father shook his head and said, "Really they are harmless

problem is that everyone in Sri Lanka declares everything harmless without
discrimination. They go as far as to describe bomb blasts as harmless so I was
not buying that this spider was harmless.

host mother popped in, apparently she was reading my skepticism because she
said, "It’s true very harmless only the spiders with hair are bad the rest
are harmless."

said that I would rather find Osama Bin Laden in my room then that spider. That
may have been an exaggeration but at the time it seemed the logical way to
stress the dire nature of the situation.

host father said regretfully, "Poor fellow," then he smacked it with
the broom. I screamed as the dead spider fell from the ceiling. They laughed at
me and then searched my room for fear that I would actually have a heart attack
if there was a giant spider in there. I probably would, but at home I used to
be scared of tiny spiders and now I only scream when I see ones the size of my
hand so that’s a step in the right direction, right?

November 5, 2008

November 5th, 2008 by mjgran10

I can say without a doubt that today is a day I will remember my entire life. It’s important to remember that Sri Lanka is nine and a half hours ahead of Massachusetts. This morning Maria and I woke up early to join the others at the ISLE center. We all huddled around the small antenna TV and glued our eyes to the TV until about 11:00 a.m. when Obama was declared the future president.

At first I was really sad that I wasn't in the US for the election. However, soon we all realized how cool it was to be out of America today. After Obama's speech one of the students asked if we thought that people would instantly think higher of us as Americans. We all joked about it until we went for a walk about an hour later.

Maria, Jared and I take the same walk almost every day, we pass a lot of the same people, but we've never really talked to them. We weren't even sure that they knew we were Americans. Today as we were walking by this man cheered for Obama while we passed.

Then when Maria and I got home members of our family were waiting there to congratulate us as if we personally had one some great victory. When I got into my house the first thing my host mother said to me was, "Now people will like America much more."

What made today so amazing was that I got to see firsthand an instantaneous change in the view of America and of Americans. Of course, I'm speaking with a strong third world bias. After all the first time I thought that people might like us an awful lot more if Obama won was in Tanzania when some people chased our van shouting, "Obama's a prize." I have no way of knowing if the new positive way of looking at America is a third world phenomenon. I'll have to wait until I hear from my roommate Maggie who is in France, and my other friends who are scattered around Europe to see if people like them more now too.

November 3, 2008

November 3rd, 2008 by mjgran10

The past week has been insane. It is remarkable how much harder it is to accomplish academic tasks when you’re abroad. A couple papers and exams that would have been no big deal at Holy Cross, were an ever looming presence for the past two weeks or so. Luckily that’s all over with now. We’ve finished session 2 which was all our academic classes and now we’ve moved onto the final session independent study!

Our Sinhala exam was the final thing we had to do for session 2 and that was on Halloween. The exam was really tough and we all had wasted a ton of study time by fretting over how hard it was going to be. However, when the last student had finished their oral we all were ready to celebrate Halloween.

The people who run the ISLE center had organized a party for us, which was pretty awesome. It was funny though because it was the antithesis of a college Halloween party. Instead it was very reminiscent of the school sponsored Halloween parties we had in grade school. We all wore costumes that our host mothers had prepared for us and then we had pizza, ice cream and soda. Like I said it was pretty awesome, as the past few months have been very limited on pizza, ice cream and soda.

The seven students are divided into three villages, and so each village had matching costumes. Maria and I representing Kiribathkumbra, came dressed as our host mothers, which meant we looked lovely in nightgowns, house coats, and aprons. Plus, we got the added benefit of scolding everyone for not eating enough and being too skinny. Chris and Kristin representing Kandy town came as Pretas, which are the Buddhist hungry ghost that eat and eat but their appetite can never be satiated. I think the best moment of the night is when Kristin turned to us in her Preta costume and said, “I’m so full I didn’t know that was possible.” We reminded her that she wasn’t actually a Preta. Then Jared, Sarah and Sheila from Anniwatta probably had the most creative costumes. On the northern tour we climbed Sigiriya rock and on the climb up there were all these warning signs saying that noise would provoke the bees to attack. Now we’re not talking normal bees, these were some huge deadly looking bees, and when we got into Sigiriya there were ancient frescoes of very voluptuous women holding flowers. Jared was one of the women from the frescoes and Sarah and Sheila were the bees. We had a fun night.

Saturday night also was really fun because we had the Kandyan dance performance. Nancy, Jared, Maria and I couldn’t hack the dancing or the drumming so we weren’t in the performance, Sarah, Sheila and Kristin were pretty much the whole show as they did three dances and then Sarah and Sheila drummed with Chris. Our assistant director Dan even got his own solo dance. All of us in the audience were highly impressed by how far they had come with the dancing since we had been spinning in circles alongside them.