I have realized this past week or so that I’ve reached a crucial point in my time in Sri Lanka where I am really getting a sense of life here, both good and bad. When at home preparing for my semester, it was close to impossible to think beyond the peraheras, dancing, crafts, and other cultural gems highlighted in travel brochures. Now that I’ve spent almost seven weeks in Sri Lanka, I’m starting to get a sense of Sri Lanka beyond this layer. In the way it’s like the icing on the cake, the part that is most visible yet hardly makes up the bulk of the substance. The “icing” activities have been absolutely wonderful, but I have also been to funerals, chased a cockroach out of my room with a broom, got ripped off countless of times by tuk-tuk drivers and market salespeople, road crowded buses much too close for comfort, put up with the obnoxious and excessive cat calling, and much more. It doesn’t take away from my time in Sri Lanka, but it definitely adds a three dimensional perspective to the country. I have also met successful independent women, made friends with kids walking to school, got praise from strangers impressed with my Sinhala, and other little positive things that add to this third dimension, so it’s not necessarily negative. It’s just a stage that I am going through post-culture shock, which is cool to think about. I have been here long enough that I no longer feel like an alien dropped down on Earth, but rather am seeing more and more snippets of true Sri Lankan life!
Last weekend I visited Kurunegala with my host family to visit my host mother’s sisters and their families, which was so much fun. They all live in this village and are really close, so it was so nice to experience their hospitality. They all have little fluffy dogs like the one my host family has, so it was funny to see four of those little guys running around. One of my host sister’s cousins has a little baby girl who was absolutely adorable, but the second she saw me she burst into tears she was so terrified. My host mom explained that it was probably because of my skin color, which is kind of a bummer because she was so cute and all I wanted was for her to like me! By the end of the trip I think she was warming up to me and I’m pretty sure I even got a smile out of her. Overall it was a really fun day with a LOT of great food!
And yesterday and I ran my first half marathon in Colombo! It was definitely an experience. My friends and I took the 6:15 AM train from Kandy to Colombo on Saturday, tuk-tuked around to our various destinations, picked up my running number, and then crashed in our hotel rooms. Or I did at least, drinking a tambili watura (king coconut water) and watching an entire disc of Scrubs episodes was a perfect pre-race routine. My friend Sam, who ran the full marathon, and I even found a place to eat some pasta the night before! I actually ended up liking Colombo a lot more than I expected I would because it was not nearly as congested and/or dirty as I expected. Some parts actually reminded me of Boston, which was totally bizarre and out of my element in Sri Lanka.
The actual race went off at 6am, meaning that I had to wake up at 4:45am to get ready and get over to the starting line. It was still pitch black when I woke up but I was psyched to get going. Sam and I walked downstairs of our hotel, ready to grab a tuk tuk, when we realized that our tiny hotel staff actually left for the night and locked the door, so we were locked in. We actually had to ninja our way out of the hotel, climbing off of my balcony, over a fence, onto a concrete platform, then finally a defying jump down to the parking lot just to get to the street. It was pretty ridiculous, but funny to laugh about on our way to the starting line. Everyone in the race was really nice and friendly, so the experience was outstanding. The roads weren’t entirely closed off, so there were times when I was literally running next to buses and pedestrians, but I finished in one piece so I can’t complain! The entire weekend gave me a new sense of self accomplishment mostly because I was able to figure out bus and tuk-tuk situations on my own, and my friends and I got to and from Colombo with much ease. Not to mention running 13.1 miles ended up being a breeze, so sometime in the near future I’d like to train for a full marathon!