This past week, relatively uneventful due to the exams and papers coming with the end of session 1, made me realize that I have yet to really talk about what I do or see day to day. It’s funny actually, because it is during the everyday experiences when I often feel the most connected to Sri Lanka. I could do without the occasional cockroach in the bathroom, endless amounts of ants, and geckos that scurry up and down my bedroom walls, but I’m even getting used to those things as time goes on.
I start my days by walking to class at 7:30 AM, about a 10 minute walk from my house up and down the rolling hills of the Kandy area. My amma, or host mom, is wonderful because she makes me a packed lunch of rice and curry everyday. The walk is pretty uneventful, mostly just filled with strangers passing by and buses taking up the entire narrow road. If I haven’t already mentioned the amount of stray dogs in the area, it is absurd. I have been getting better at ignoring them, but lately there have been these two adorable puppies in my area that melt my heart every time I see them. The roads in Sri Lanka are also interesting because even though there are buses and tuk-tuks flying around every corner, there are also random cows that roam around and eat the grass. I see one almost every morning.
The class portion of the program has been interesting so far, in terms of both material and classroom expectations. The amount of work hasn’t even come close to the amount I have back home, but the time slots we have to get it done are very limited. Plus, just adjusting to this new life is enough of a learning experience in itself that it is often difficult to also invest yourself into the school work. The frustrations regarding this, and anything else, are just part of the experience though, and are often easy to shake off. For me, all it really takes is a good run. Luckily I have been able to run almost everyday! I have actually done all my running at a gym near my house (definitely not what I expected) except for one run at the Botanical Garden, which was beautiful and filled with monkeys. Sometimes running on the roads can be dangerous because of the buses and dogs, so it is a very convenient option that the gym is about a 10 minute walk from my house.
My favorite time of day is going home to my host family. They are so unbelievably nice and really are the core of why I love the people and culture here so much. The evenings are pretty simple, mostly just hanging around the house and talking, but still so enjoyable. Lately my host mom and sister have been finding random clothes around the house for me try on, my favorite night being when we put on saris. They were beautiful and I definitely want to buy some as gifts to bring home! My family also has these TV dramas that they watch every night, my favorite being an old Japanese show from the 80s called Oshin that is voiced over in Sinhala. I still have no idea what is going on, but I am determined to find an English version. My host dad and I bond over the fact that we both like Oshin, and we have even rehearsed how to give and receive tea in a Japanese style. It’s pretty funny, especially since I really have no idea what I’m doing.
Although this week did not have many excursions, we did have a few. For one, we visited the ICES center which is where our classes in session 2 will be held (starting on Monday). We also visited a Woman’s Development Center in a village just beyond Kandy that caters women who suffered from abuse, and often from incest. It was really powerful hearing the stories and the mission of the center, and I’m glad there is such an organization for the women who fall victims to gender related violence. Yesterday we also visited this home that had the most beautiful collection of art that I have ever seen. Various individuals stopped by to read to us their poetry or prose, show us tapes of their music, or talk about paintings and sculptures. It was really wonderful way to kind of get a crash course on modern Sri Lankan art! Unfortunately, our final excursion of the week was cancelled due to the anti-American riots among Muslims throughout the world in response to the video made in California depicting the prophet Muhammad very unfavorably. We were supposed to visit Puttalam, a town on the west coast of Sri Lanka, to learn about the communities there who were forced to leave their homes in the north during the civil war. These communities are Muslim, though, and there have been some riots in the area lately, making it unsafe for us as Americans to visit. Hopefully we’ll be able to reschedule it at another time!
Next week is the beginning of session 2, which is already hard to believe. I will be taking Sinhala, Buddhism, and Sri Lankan Politics as my core classes with dancing and Tamil as extra electives. Definitely looking forward to a fresh schedule!