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Week 6 - Orientation Week in Sri Lanka

Last week I did an orientation week in Sri Lanka. I wanted to write briefly about the country and how it compares to Malaysia.

The main languages spoken here are Singhala and Tamil. Both seem extremely complicated and I can’t pronounce any of it. They tried to teach us a few words to help us get around. The only one I’ve picked up on is ayubowan which means hello. We are based in Kandy which is the second largest city in Sri Lanka. It’s right in the center of the country. I’m staying in a volunteer house with 30ish other people. I share a room with 4-5 other people. Our volunteer house is about 20 minutes from the center of the city. To get to the city we can take a city bus or a Tuk Tuk which is like a motorbike with a backseat. They’re really fun to ride in. Here’s a picture (photo cress to google) of what a Tuk Tuk looks like.
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We’ve been eating a lot of curry here. Most of the curry is pretty spicy and not sweet. Another volunteer described the meals perfectly. She said “For a meal at home I would have rice, or potatoes, or bread, but here they serve us rice and potatoes and bread!” It’s a lot of carbs. My favorite foods here are bananas and chickpeas.

Sri Lanka is pretty different from Malaysia. I think it’s noticably less developed. I think I heard that Malaysia is the 4th wealthiest country in Asia so it felt and looked a lot more developed than here. The main religion here is Buddhism and some Hinduism. There are Muslim and Christian minorities which is pretty different from Malaysia which had a Muslim majority. The people here seem to be a bit friendlier than in Malaysia but I feel like I haven’t been here long enough to really know. I think the cities in Malaysia are much nicer but I think the country here is much more beautiful. The weather here is also much cooler. I think it might have to do with the altitude difference.

Monday
We spent the morning learning about our programs and getting language and culture lessons. We learned about the flag and what each part of the flag represented and covered quite a bit more than we needed to know about the language. We spend the second half of the day walking around the city center which is like a fancy mall in the center of the city. We also went and saw a cultural show with drummers, dancers, and fire performers. It was really impressive. Here’s some pictures of the lake next to the city center.
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Tuesday
Monday night I got sick. I’ve had some trouble adjusting to the diet here but I’m okay now. I ended up sleeping in Tuesday and joining the orientation group for lunch. We went to an Indian restaurant. The food was pretty spicy but tasted great. After that we went to get massages. I got a back massage which was nice but I’ve never gotten a professional massage before so I wasn’t quite sure what to think.

Wednesday
We had a really busy day on Wednesday. First we went to a temple with a giant Buddha. If I wasn’t so bad at estimating distances I would tell you how tall it was. We had to take our shoes off to enter the temple and then went on a bit of a hike to walk up to the Buddha. Our coordinator for the introduction week told us some stories about the Buddha that were pretty interesting. On the walk up we passed different sculptured representations of stories of the Buddha so it was nice to understand what we were seeing.
After the temple we went to a place called the spice garden. There we had a tour guide who was a doctor at the hospital nearby. He also taught medicine at the local college. He seemed to be much more of a traditional medicine man than a modern doctor. He took us on a walk through the garden and showed us how the different plants grow and told us about what each plant does and how it’s food for your body. One of the things he’s done is created products from the spices to help with digestion, skincare, hair growth, and pretty much everything that could go wrong in your body. He gave us some natural hair removal cream to try. He put a little circle on each of our arms and it actually worked! He said you have to repeat the process several times so it won’t grow back. It was pretty cool except for the fact that I had a patch on my arm. After the tour he gave us a demonstration of some of his other products. Some of his students were there to help him and they gave us several face massages and back massages to demonstrate the products. It was really nice. We ate lunch there and then went to the tea factory. The tea factory was okay. They spent 20 minutes walking us through the factory which was cool to see and then fed us tea and tried to sell us their tea. I would have bought some to take home but I still have a few months left of my trip. After the tea garden we went on a short boat ride on the lake in the center of Kandy.
Here’s some pictures of Wednesday. Sorry it was such a long entry for one day.
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Thursday
We went to a woman’s house to try batiking. For those who don’t know, it’s a process where you put hot wax on fabric to create designs and then dye the fabric. Then you wash out the wax so you’re left with a pattern. It’s really difficult to do and I’m not very good at it. My hand kept shaking so I dripped a lot of wax onto my fabric. I want to post a picture but I forgot to take one of mine and I’ve just packed it. We ate lunch there and then went back. I went into the city center with some other volunteers. We tried to buy train tickets for that weekend but they were sold out for the next 3 weeks. We ended up just going shopping at the market and I bought a pair of elephant pants. Later that night I tried durian. It’s a horrible spiky fruit that smells like gasoline but is really popular in Asia. Here’s a picture of what one looks like. I would not recommend it.
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Friday
Thursday night I got really sick so I didn’t go to the programming on Friday. I think it might have been the durian. The orientation group did a cooking class in the morning and a meditation session in the afternoon. I would have loved to join but didn’t really feel up to it. *I am better now* Friday night, me and several other volunteers left the placement around 5 to travel to our destination for the weekend. Check my next travel blog for more!

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 09:14 Archived in Sri Lanka

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