October 19, 2008

October 18th, 2008 by mjgran10

We have actually started writing final papers and studying for final exams. Which means that in a couple weeks when we have finished all of these things we will be 2/3rds of the way done with the program. Then we will be moving onto independent study, which is wild because in someways it feels like we’ve been here for a very long time but in the back of my mind I’m still pretty sure its still the end of August. That may have something to do with the fact that the weather here is very similar to Massachusetts in August.

Well, clearly, I am not doing my work right now because I am taking this time to procrastinate and share a funny anecdote. This has nothing to do with my own personal political views, I just feel obliged to report on what I’ve seen in Sri Lanka as a response to the US election. The Sri Lankan press really doesn’t need to worry about being labeled as biased, so they have decided to make this election a battle of good vs. evil, but it is not as one would have guessed, Obama vs. McCain, no one has any idea who McCain is. It’s always Obama vs ‘that Alaskan woman,’ as I always hear her refered to. When the debates show up on the Sinhalese news, which I clearly don’t understand, but I can see Obama and McCain, my host father always just says Obama is fighting with that man again.

I’ve seen quite a few articles that have made Obama out to be the second coming of Christ, or as I’m in Sri Lanka a Bodhisattva I guess. However, the other day we all gathered around the Sri Lankan paper, The Island, and read an article that had a huge picture of Sarah Palin and then in huge letters it warned, THIS WOMAN COULD BE THE NEXT US PREZ. Now I don’t know how the article just totally dismissed McCain but he was a non-factor. It was just future president She-devil, Palin.

Now once again these are not my own views, that is just actually how the article presented her. They called her things like a gun totting flesh provider, which once again this is a Buddhist country so killing for food is pretty much the same as just being a straight out murderer. Then they said something like she hated human rights, and then something about her being an egg cracking mother. I guess in the past they thought that mothers should never crack eggs because of some symbolism about taking the lives of an infant.

Anyways, on the next page was a cartoon of Palin with guns and drills slung across her back pushing a baby carriage and then an arrow pointing down at the baby said McCain, so maybe they just figured if he got elected she was going to push him off a cliff, I don’t know. However, the best part was the end of the article where it just basically said if Obama doesn’t become president it will be the apocalypse but sometime US voters are to “obtuse” and so then they might not vote for good over evil. Also, I’ve heard, however, that US newspapers are showing articles quite similar to this, but I just thought it was funny here to see how into US politics the Sri Lankans are, and also just funny to see what a press that doesn’t have to worry about shrouding their bias will say.

I just remembered another absurd political anecdote. The other day I was late, as usual, so I was eating my breakfast in a hurry, when I heard the TV shout, “Americawa!” Instinctively, I looked up expecting to see another showdown of Obama vs. McCain dubbed over in Sinhalese, instead I just saw a picture of Palin. Then I saw a shot of the ancestry.com website, followed by a clip of Princess Diana. No ones was in the room to translate so I stopped paying attention when I heard, “Brad Pitt.” I looked up to see the screen split in two, with a picture of Obama next to a picture of Brad Pitt. Then I went to school, thoroughly confused.

Ok, thats all I wanted to say today, so I’m going to get back to my homework and hopefully not get distracted again by US politicians.

October 16, 2008

October 16th, 2008 by mjgran10

Today was another day that I had no expectations for. I had no idea what I was going to do with myself after my only Thursday class which ended at 9:40. I swam, I took a walk, I took a nap, I thought about doing homework, then I decided to abstain from doing homework. In fact, today I had been dealing with a recent bout of home-sickness, but in the back of my mind I knew that there was something I was supposed to be doing.

Luckily, I didn’t miss what I was supposed to be doing, because the ISLE staff knows where you should be even if you don’t. 4:15 came around and I was ushered into the car, and driven by our director Nancy, with our assistant director Dan, and Chris the only other student in the art and poetry class back to the University.

Although Professor Halpe is our official teacher for that class he has decided to split his responsibilities with Sumathy. I’m not being rude calling her Sumathy, instead of “professor so and so” because she dropped her last name and is just Sumathy. It was a conscious decision to return to her Tamil roots and reject the Western convention of a surname. Now we were going to a screening of Sumathy’s film, Oranges, followed by a reading of her newly released book, like myth and mother.

Peradeniya University has many faculties but its art’s faculty is its claim to fame.    Genius is what we deal with on a daily basis because Sri Lanka’s best and brightest literary talents seem to flock to Peradeniya. For the book reading it looked like the entire staff of the English literature department had gathered along with quite a few students. Now, Sumathy, is without a doubt a thespian, her speech is deliberate and well delivered and her movements match her speech. We know that her ethnic background is Tamil but that is it for autobiographical details that Chris and I have been able to pry from her. I could attempt to describe Sumathy but I would do it poorly so I will instead quote the back cover of her book, thin veils, where there is a photo of her with her eyes carefully placed glancing above the camera and then under the photo is this quote from her work, “I am the shadow beast And I’ll stalk this land’s destiny Like a woman’s Curse.”

With that quote, regardless of what it was in reference to anyone could guess that she is a fierce woman. In class I am fascinated by her, but on the few occasions I have challenged her I have deeply regretted it. I must say I give her a ton of credit because she just bore her soul in her book and then she stood in front of a crowd and asked for their criticism. I can’t imagine having the inner strength to will a crowd to question my work, but she did. Then a few of the other professor’s decided to criticize her. One man was saying that she was dealing with the idea of learning to live and learning to die but that she was naive because she wasn’t dealing with learning to kill. I think that because we come from a society that hasn’t been torn by civil war, Chris, Nancy, Dan and I had trouble understanding this criticism. Why must Sumathy write about learning to kill, but apparently she was weak because she wasn’t, at least that’s what he suggested. Shortly after, another professor said that she sounded lonely in her writing. Sumathy was quiet for a while and then came the highlight of the evening with all her colleagues there she looked up with her signature glance, eyes posed slightly above the crowd and she said, “I am lonely, intellectually I’m lonely.” I thought that was probably the best response I had ever heard anyone give to their critics.

Some of the conversation moved beyond my intellectual sphere, or perhaps it moved beyond my life experience. I’ve been spared from wide scale suffering in a way that most of the people in that room had not, I think that is why I had trouble following some of the conversation. In my peace and conflicts studies courses we read about people who are suffering but they are always the so called ‘others’. Now the injustices I’m studying are the shared suffering of my host family, my professors, the beggars I pass on the streets, now they are not just the others, they are everyday people just like me. So, just as I was wondering why I had to leave my family and friends and come half way around the world, Sumathy’s fierce words reminded me that I was here in the hopes that I could learn something that I couldn’t from within the confines of my comfort zone.

October 12, 2008

October 12th, 2008 by mjgran10

10/12/08 Michelle Granara Blog Entry  Yesterday was a pretty wild day. We went to see a soothsayer, I didn’t really understand what a soothsayer was before we went and still I’m not exactly clear on what we saw. I don’t know if it was a Buddhist thing or a Hindu thing, I think it was a blending of the two because I’m under the impression it started with Buddhist rituals but then the soothsayer was possessed by Hindu Gods.

We got to the soothsayer’s home at about 8:30 and shortly after that a crowd gathered. The crowd all placed big green leaves, called betel leaves, on the railing and then they placed a small amount of money on the leaves as an offering.

They all stood outside of the Devale (House of the Gods), when the soothsayer entered, wearing only a sarong and some necklaces leaving his chest bare. Then he went about the Devale chanting. We were in the way back so all we could really see was some fire every once and a while and the soothsayer moving frantically within. Then he started ringing a bell and then some one outside started ringing a whole bunch of bells. There was an enormous racket and the soothsayer disappeared into some back room and then suddenly his voice changed. He was initially soft spoken in his chanting and then there was this monkeyish laughter and then his voice turned deep and booming. He was believed to be possessed by Lord Vishnu. We were told that in the evenings he is usually possessed by the Goddess Kali and then he sounds like he is speaking in the voice of a women.

The believers formed a line, and one by one they stepped up into this unseen room. Then Vishnu would read their mind and pronounce what was troubling them and how it could be cured. It seemed like most people came seeking advice about everyday things like marriage, jobs, or children. He then would prescribe what they could do. I remember one case where someone’s child had fallen in with a bad crowd and to cure him from their bad influences they would have to collect the child’s hair, without the child knowing and then use some oils and then bury the hair somewhere. Our professor told us a story of how once a man came and the soothsayer pronounced that he was a murder and there was nothing the Gods could do for him, and the man ran out wielding a sword.

A few hours later the soothsayer came out of the trance, and we got to meet with him inside his house. It was weird because he was very soft spoken and humble and the booming voice we had heard all morning didn’t seem like it could have possibly come from him. We noted that in his house there was an enormous television. One of our professor’s told us that this soothsayer was very popular among politicians during elections so it was probably an offering from one of them.

The soothsayer agreed to let Jared, from Carleton College, come back the following weekend to study him as part of Jared’s independent study on ritual healing. I think we will all be interested to read Jared’s paper once he’s studied soothsayers and exorcisms in Sri Lanka. Maybe then I’ll understand a little bit more of what we saw.

October 9, 2008

October 9th, 2008 by mjgran10

I wasn’t sure if I should report on this incident or not, but I figured life in Sri Lanka is still life so not all my stories can be positive ones, that’s just not realistic.

Onto the story, last weekend I was really excited because my host parents and I had made plans to go to what my host father called the “puppy orphanage.” I had this image of a little building filled with smiling puppies for me to cuddle. I was very wrong, what we went to was an attempt at a pound, but the dogs seemed fairly vicious and they were corralled into pens or kept individually in little chicken coop like houses. I was fairly sure that a pack of dogs would eventually break down these little fences and fulfill their desire to attack. However, I had to note that Sri Lanka is a third world country with limited funds, and a huge stray dog problem. This place was certainly a step in the right direction.

Eventually, we encountered a few litters of puppies but my host father wanted a guard dog. The relationship between humans and dogs is a little different here, dogs are guardians they are not for bringing in the house and they are definitely not for hugging. Which is why I keep getting in trouble with my host mother who keeps catching me playing with dogs. I didn’t care that my host father didn’t want a puppy because there was this huge German Shepherd looking dog that I liked. I showed him to my host father and he said that this dog was “the lucky fellow.” We named him Lucky, which is just some sick form of irony.

We brought him home in my host father’s car. Lucky, about 70 pounds sat in the back seat, more sat on my lap. My host mother was appalled. Lucky and I were pretty much love at first sight and my host father felt the same way, my host mother not so much. The next day, I woke up early to play with Lucky. Then I was sent in to wash and study.

I heard screams outside my window. Lucky, had bitten my host mother. He got both her hands; any stay at home mother can understand the horror at the thought of loosing use of both of their hands. Turns out, Lucky was eating and my host mother was adding more food to his bowl, when he bit her it was probably in defense of his food bowl. My host mother was taken to the hospital, where she received a series of rabies shots and injections into the spot where his teeth had broken her skin. Eighteen shots in total. Lucky was returned to his chicken coop, apparently, he was in the pound because he had a history of biting university students. They were never supposed to give him for adoption.

Somehow, my host mother still seems to like me. I think it’s because she’s Buddhist so she thinks she got bitten because it was her Karma. My host father, on the other hand is very sad about the dog, I’m a little sad about the dog, too.

Anyways, on a more upbeat note it was a good chance to see how close knit family ties are in Sri Lanka, because within five minutes of the incident the house was full of family members offering assistance. Now, about four days have passed and the stream of well wishers still hasn’t run dry. Plus, my host mother has regained use of her hands. My host mother said that we would get a puppy soon, I said that I was not going to offer any opinions while selecting the next dog.

October 3, 2008

October 3rd, 2008 by mjgran10

Today was an unexpectedly fantastic day. My schedule for today just said ‘Arts and Poetry field trip’.

Now, who would know what to expect, as that meant our painter/poet professor would be planning something for us. Now as an aspiring writer, I know that order is not a particular strength for most artist, so I really had no idea what we would be doing.

We started the day by going to Professor Halpe’s house. I have never in my life seen a house anything like this. It was built on top of a hill and along the side of the hill there was a garden and paths dug in to wander. Now, garden is a relative term, as in America we think of garden as a neat patch of flowers planted and meticulously maintained, in Sri Lanka garden is more or less a term for planting trees and watching a forest bloom. From Halpe’s deck he could reach out to the top of a papaya tree and pluck ripe fruit to eat. Then inside his house, their was an art gallery, every wall was lined from bottom to top with original works from all genres of painting. Then to add to the splendor of the place were three pianos, his wife is apparently a renowned musician. Then in the very middle of the floor was a small pond filled with Koi fish. The beauty of his home was so impressive that while there I couldn’t think of a word worth saying, instead I just let my eyes wander.

Then that he appeared at the ISLE center with two friends, who happen to be two of Sri Lanka’s top writers, Carl Muller and Jean Arasanayagam. They are each Burgher people, which just means that they can trace their lineage back to European decedents which accounts for their names not being traditionally Sri Lankan.

I was so deeply touched that such talented and decorated writers, who each came dotting piles of their published books, would take the time to meet so intimately with such a small group of us. Professor Halpe, Muller, and Arasanayagam each read us some of their poetry. To read some one else’s poetry is one thing but to hear it spoken from the author and to hear their background stories gave it so much more value.

The first to read was Carl who was quite a character. We started the dialogue when I asked what his tattoo was of. He said all his tattoos are from his navy days and that they are all women’s names. I’m sure many have described him as crude but his work was beautiful and brave, while he spared no one in his attacks on the flaws in the world.

He was followed by Jean, who described herself as a very innocent women. Carl laughed as if this wasn’t true. I was quite happy, also, because she agreed to let me do my independent study in November on her and the conflicts that were reflected in her writing.

Halpe then ended the night, with his soothing voice. He is a man deeply in love with his wife and he read aloud a few poems about their reuniting after long times apart. His work was wonderful because it reminded all of us not to forget to find the beauty in life, even in deeply troubled times.

Well, thats all for tonight. I should get some sleep. Maybe in the morning I’ll go out and buy some books and finally be able to read the works of authors I’ve actually met.

September 28, 2008

September 26th, 2008 by mjgran10

This weekend I did two things I’ve never done before in my life, meditated and rode bareback on an elephant. We meditated first so I will start this entry with that.

On Friday we drove to this place called the Nilambe Meditation Center. I think it was clear to everyone that this would be a bit of a disaster for me. Personally, I do not care much for sitting still nor being quiet, and meditation is a prolonged combination of both.

I’ve come to know Maria’s host family quite well, as our host fathers are brothers. I’ve also come to befriend their chaotic little dog, Shaggy. Maria’s host mother jokingly told us that Shaggy and I should try to meditate together.

Obviously, the women knows me quite well, as the meditation was a bit of a disaster for me. Basically all I did was fidget about for a few hours while trying really hard to not distract the others. However, the technique that worked best for me was to remind myself that if I made through meditation, soon it would be Saturday and on Saturday we were going to the elephant orphanage. I spent most of meditation imagining myself playing with baby elephants. That, however, was just my experience, some of the other students seemed to have gotten a lot out of the Nilambe trip and said that they planned to try and include the meditation we learned into their daily routine.

After meditation came the day that I had been waiting for since I arrived in Sri Lanka, our visit to the elephant orphanage. Although its called an orphanage they have elephants of all ages there, and most of them, are just free to roam about, and the people who visit the elephant orphanage are free to move about the elephants.

First we watched some baby’s being bottled fed, then we moved to a huge grass field with tons of elephants. I won’t attempt to guess how many there were. When you handed some of the men who worked there some money they would walk you over to a particularly friendly elephant that you could pat and have your picture taken with. Then we headed to the river and got to watch all the elephants running into the river to play and have their bath. The whole thing was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

Then Nancy, our director, asked if we wanted to ride an elephant. A few of us said definitely so we drove less then a mile down the road to a popular tourist attraction and paid about four dollars each to ride this enormous elephant. Sarah, Kristen and I all rode one elephant together.

Normally, I would condone this behavior as cruelty to animals but the elephants seemed extremely well cared for and I was actually happy for these elephants because in Sri Lanka wild elephants are killed constantly by farmers. It seemed to me that tourist interest in the species was helping to protect the elephant population on the island.

When we climbed off the platform onto the elephant I was surprised because we were just sitting square on the elephants back, no fancy contraptions to hold us in place. Then the elephant walked us down to the river and sprayed us with water. Then he took us back to the platform and sniffed all our hands just to double check that we didn’t have any food that we were hiding from him.

I can probably swear that I will never meditate again but I certainly will seize any opportunity that would offer me another day in the company of elephants.


September 23, 2008

September 23rd, 2008 by mjgran10

Now that we’ve finished our first session which included Sinhala 1 and Material Culture, we’ve gotten into Session 2. So far all I can say is wow! Teaching in the ISLE program is apparently very prestigious in Sri Lanka, which means we get the most absurdly qualified professors I’ve ever encountered. I’ve already mentioned our Material Culture professor, Sudharshan Seneviratne, who is pretty much in charge of all of Sri Lanka’s archeology. I figured he’d be one of the most important people we had involved in the program, but I’m beginning to think that every teacher we have is pretty much the God of their subject.

I’m taking Colonial History from Professor De Silva who apparently wrote everything worth reading on the subject. Then there’s our Sinhala Professor, who speaks countless languages and has translated epic texts to Sinhala. I actually feel sorry for him because as our assistant director Dan puts it, “It’s like the top professor from Harvard trying to teach a kindergarten class.” That’s true too, our mastery of the Sinhala language is roughly equivalent to a three year olds. Then I have Art and Poetry with Professor Ashley Halpe, I don’t know much about him yet,except that he is pretty entertaining. When I mentioned his name, my host brother knew exactly who he was, so I assume that means he’s as important as all the others. Some people would think that learning from such brilliant teachers would be intimidating and it is, but the students all being from Holy Cross, Bowdion, and Carleton are used to some pretty bright professors.

The real problem comes during dance class, our guru is one of the best dancers in Kandy. He’s teaching us Kandyan dance which is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It involves huge swinging steps that are reminiscent of a sumo wrestler. There’s a lot of spinning and all the while theirs a pattern that are hands are supposed to make, and of course we are supposed to be in the right posture and looking in the right direction for every move. Basically I spin in circles and wave my arms in the air while bumping into the people beside me. Sadly, I actually might not even be the worst Kandyan dancer in our mix.

Members of ISLE staff actually come out to laugh at us, and we can’t get mad at them because we are too busy laughing at our selves. Three of the girls Sara, Sheila and Kristin each have some history in dancing and they can handle Kandyan dancing for the most part. As for Maria, Jared and I who have no dance experience, well I’ll just say it’s ugly. The dance teacher has taken to coming over to each of us and saying, “Ok let me tell you your problem.” Each of us have our own special problems. Now, there are seven ISLE students, but our seventh Chris vowed never to return after the first day.

One person who I must give specific credit to is our director Professor Nancy Wilkie. Now she has no responsibility that forces her to take part in our activities like dance class, but she comes anyways. You would think that she would come to demonstrate some unusual talent but instead she comes in solidarity with Jared, Maria and I in the back row. She bumps into us, spins in meaningless circles and even lets the guru tell her what her problem is. I think all of the students appreciate that she takes the effort to make a spectacle of herself alongside us. She was a director once before so when we might like to get down on our selfs for being terrible dancers, her presence reminds us that the ISLE program has had a history of terrible attempts at Kandyan dance. However, after dance class Nancy and the rest of the ISLE faculty quickly get as far from the class room as possible because we follow dance with drumming. We may be worse drummers then dancers.

September 18, 2008

September 18th, 2008 by mjgran10

Tomorrow it will have been one full month since we left America. When I left I thought this experience would be about changing how I saw the world. I never thought that my presence or probably more the presence of the ISLE program would change the way people were viewing America.

I think that everyone inherently knows that as a super power American politics do affect the rest of the world, and in developing nations the effect is of course greater. Which is why in Tanzania people had chased our van chanting for Obama and why Sri Lankan newspapers feature articles praising Obama as if he’s already won the election. I didn’t know how to feel about this until the other day when we went to the theater, and we were given a speech about change.

The word change has been thrown around so much during this presidential election, I had let it slip from my mind as nothing more then rhetoric. However, when we went to see the musical Sinhabahu, the meaning of the word change crept back into my thoughts.

Now I must digress for a moment because the play itself is an interesting part of the story.  Sinhabahu is the origin story of the Sinhalese race, however, the play we were watching had been translated to English, which was interesting. For some background info I will do the story the injustice of my limited summary, basically a princess runs away with a lion who is the king of all lions. They have children, who I think are half lion half human, but the lion keeps them locked in a cave. Finally they escape and the son kills the father.

Sinhabahu although entertaining was not was really affected me on our outing to the theater. What affected me was not the play but a woman who I believe was the principal of some school, who spoke. It might seem weird that she spoke but it was because we were at a 10 a.m. performance geared towards school children. The woman first spoke to her students then directed her attention to us, the isle students. She said that she was honored because we were Americans who came to their country and learned their language and studied their religion. The Sinhalese have been bombarded with English and Christianity since colonial times so it is not hard to grasp why it might feel like a minor victory that finally westerners were learning Sinhalese and Buddhism. Then she said, “thats the kind of change Barrack Obama is talking about.”

Well, at first we all looked at each other because it was clear she might have thought Obama personally sent us to Sri Lanka. However, after spending some time thinking about the event I realized the importance of what we were doing. Our presence in Sri Lanka means to the Sri Lankans that America cares about them and if in this time we can restore a little faith in America, I think we’ve done a good thing just by being here. Even if change is just rhetoric its nice to know that the developing world still has some hope in the capacity for the rhetoric to become a reality.

September 13, 2008

September 13th, 2008 by mjgran10

After some emails from friends I’ve learned that my entries as of late have a serious tone. I figured that would have to be corrected as I am not a particularly serious person, nor is typical day to day life in Sri Lanka particularly serious.

I’ve decided to dedicate this entry to a few outstandingly absurd incidents with my home stay family and cockroaches. Now, going to a tropical climate I had to know bugs would be a part of life, however, I chose to pretend that didn’t include roaches. Then on my first night with my home stay family I entered the kitchen and a cockroach scampered in front of me. I screamed, loudly. My host mother came running in as I came running out.     She asked what was wrong and I in typical irrational American girl fashion explained my life threatening fear of the cockroach. She said, “Ok, ok!” and quickly found some spray and killed it.
Normally, I would have assumed that everyone killed cockroaches, however my host family is Buddhist so I had to ask, “Amma (mother) isn’t that bad for your karma?” She answered earnestly, “Yes but I have to take care of you so its ok if I get a little bad karma.” We both laughed at the absurdity of the situation, and I never saw another cockroach so I went back to believing they didn’t exist.  The yesterday my Amma had been out shopping all day so we got home at the same time. Before she let me enter my room she rushed in examining the floors and walls. When I asked what she was doing she said, “Everyday before you come home from school I have to check and make sure there are no cockroaches.”  Later that night I came down and when we retold the story to my host father he ran into the kitchen and came out with an enormous industrial sized bottle with a picture of a dead cockroach on it and holding it proudly he proclaimed, “Yes! I am the cockroach killer!”

September 11, 2008

September 11th, 2008 by mjgran10

Memory seems to be the unofficial theme of the ISLE (Inter Collegiate Sri Lankan Education) Program. The book we read before coming on the program was, When Memory Dies, by A. Sivanandan. Then we had a speaker come who mentioned the way memory has been abused in Sri Lanka by both the government and the opposition. After colonialism the Sri Lankans on both sides forgot their shared history as Tamil and Sinhalese living as one people and instead remembered only the things that divided them.

This past week we spent on a tour of all the archaeological sites in the Northern part of Sri Lanka. The tour was led by our Material Culture teacher Sudharshan Seneviratne. He is the Director General of the Sri Lankan department of Archaeology, basically he’s a huge deal in Sri Lanka. He is doing something amazing with memory, he is trying to change it. He is using the archaeological sites to show the shared history of the Sinhalese and Tamil people long before the colonial powers came and divided them. Before meeting him I had never realized the immense power of the past to control the present. The question Professor Seneviratne asked us over and over is, “Whose past is being shown here?” It was very similar to the idea that history goes to the victor. In Sri Lanka it seems there is no victor and the past of the Tamils and the Sinhalese has been manipulated by a third party. Hopefully, Sudharshan and his contemporaries will literally be able to dig up a peaceful solution. I think that all of the students and I were lucky to have him as our professor because he didn’t teach us only about Sri Lanka, but instead he gave us an understanding of the importance of accurately interpreting the past.

On the last night he asked us all to hold the things we had seen on the tour in our memories and allow them to shape not only how we see Sri Lanka but how we see the world. I know that I will never be able to forget the things we did and so I wanted to share a few of the highlights. We started at an ancient burial site in Ibbankatuwa that was built in the 6th century BC and in the course of seven days we had traveled, caves, forest, mountains and rocks finally ending up at about the 13th century AD.

By far my favorite site was Sigiriya. On the first day we climbed Pidurangala rock which about 1/2 way up had a giant Buddha carved out of the rock. All around was nature and the Buddha statue had been there for so many centuries that it appeared as  much a part of the nature of that rock as the plants that grew around it. When we reached the top of the rock it felt like we were the only people on earth as we all gazed out at the world bellow in total silence. And on top of the rock, we had our daily lecture while the sun set.

The next morning we climbed what seemed like endless steps of varying sizes, ending with a nearly vertical march up tiny iron “steps” drilled into the side of Sigiriya rock. At the top we reached the remains of the ancient Sri Lankan kingdom. Being on top of Sigiriya rock you could understand why the God King, which is what the ancient kings called themselves, would want his kingdom in such a powerful location.

I’ve attached a few pictures because in this case I think the pictures really do speak louder then words.