Friday, May 8, 2009

Back in the U.S. of A!!

Ayubowan Everyone!!

So I have been home for about 3 weeks now and have adjusted well back into the American culture. I didn't really have any negative reverse culture shocks thankfully, but it was a bit surreal for a while adjusting to the clean air, clean streets, and tame crowds. I am finding myself a bit day dreamy and foggy headed being home. I spent the first whole week putting together a scrap book of the pictures I printed off. It was nice to sit and reflect on the last 3 months. There were loads of wonderful memories, and some that were rather sketchy, all-in-all though I had the time of my life! Sharing my stories and pictures has also been interesting, my friends and family love hearing about my travels and experiences!

There are parts of me that still can't believe its over, and remembering the good and the bad of the past 3 months is still unbelievable! I was very lucky to have the oportunity of a lifetime, helping people who have been through a lot and learning so much about them! I chearished every moment! Thanks to Projects-Abroad and all their wonderful staff, my voyage was fantastic and something I will hold onto for the rest of my life!!!!

So one last time, my final 'Good Bye' from Sri Lanka! There will be more trips and journeys, so keep an eye out!


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Traditional New Years with Projects-Abroad

Hello again!
So the new year here in SL is a time where the harvest season is coming to an end and the monsoon season is beginning. Its a time for a new, clean start to the new year. Preparing for the new year is a busy busy time for both Tamil and Sinhalese people. There is lots of cooking and baking of the traditional foods, cleaning of the houses and buisnesses, and always new clothes to wear for the start of the new beginning. There are loads of traditions to this unique culture, and Projects-Abroad wanted to share these traditions with all the volunteers. So they arranged for us to come celebrate with them at one of the resort hotels near Panadura yesterday (April 17th). We had to dress in the traditional sarees for girls and sarongs for boys. We played all sorts of fun games that the local children play every year to celebrate. Things like egg toss, pillow fighting, relay races, and bun eating. We did this all dressed up in our Sunday's best! haha! Jamie and I won the egg toss, his cricket skills and my softball expertise came in handy I guess! haha! The pillow fighting is not what you think, its when two people climb up onto a big log that is about 8 feet off the ground, they straddle it and hit each other with the pillows, aiming to knock the other off. There are people on the ground to catch the person when they fall, it actually looked kinda scary. I didnt volunteer for that one! haha! The bun eating was also very commical! There were these sweet buns or bread rolls that were suspended in the air by a string and the first person to eat it completely off the dangling string won. Well the catch was that you couldnt use your hands! Very difficult! After all these games we had some lunch and spent the rest of the day in the pool!
The whole day was loads of fun! It was nice to experience the traditions frist hand and learn what the new year really means to the people of SL!

I hope that everyone is enjoying the nicer weather! I've heard the snow is finally almost gone, I was hoping for one last day of skiing when I got home but I dont think I'm gonna get it! :(


New Years in Hikkaduwa!

Hi guys!
I hope that the Easter bunny was nice to all of you! He must have missed the tiny island of Sri Lanka cause there was no Easter basket waiting for me in the morning! Oh well, we celebrated anyways! We all went down to Hikkaduwa for the extra long weekend and the new year! It was really nice to not have to wake up early and go to the hosptial, we just relaxed and sun bathed all weekend. Oh... we also drank a tiny bit of Arrack as well! haha! Monday (April 13th) was "new years eve" and we broke out the "arrack attack" around 9ish or so! Teaching the locals how to play Kings cup and Up and Down the River! haha Good times! Jamie brought his guitar, so around 10:30 we all sat around and sang songs while he played. It was very cool! Right next door to Sunny's Hotel, there's a place/hotel called Mambos. They had a D.J. and dancefloor all ready to go for the late night dancing! You all know how much I like to shimmy around *wink*! haha! To say the least it was a fantastic time! The next day wasnt as bad as I had anticipated, I could actually find my way to the burger house to put some grease in my tummy! All-in-all is was a great weekend!

Peace, Love, and Rock n' Roll from SL!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tea Plantations and World's End!

Ayubowan! (hello)
Done tons of traveling this weekend! I had my first experience with the trains here is SL! They are the old style choo choo trains with the engine at the front and everything! I was like a little kid in a candy store with all the pictures I was snapping! It was very neat to get into the mountains and see the most beautiful scenery! Though it was kinda scary to be so close to the edge of the mountain with the cliff just dropping off into the valley! Mom - you would have crapped your pants and passed out if you were there! haha! But it was cool!

Our first stop was in a small mountain town called Nuwara Eliya where tea was everywhere! We dropped our bags off at our hotel, and had a tuk tuk take us to the Pedro Tea Estates for a lovely tour of the factory and the process of tea making. They use a lot of very old equipment and techniques, it was such a process to see the steps it takes to make the tea! I guess I just figured it grew in the tea bags and we drank it with hot water! haha! After the tour we sat down to sample some of their teas. Again we were swarmed with school children, an all girls school came for a tour that day. All of them giggling at the 4 white girls sitting at the table, they couldnt resist snapping photos with their cameras and cell phones! We just started posing for them! haha! Aftering that we looked around the plantation for a bit and finally got a tuk tuk back to the hotel for the night. In the morning we hired a van to take us to the World's End, which is a national park type of place where there is an 800 meter drop off, straight down, from the plateau on the mountain side. It was a 4 hour walk/hike through the park and the view of the plateau was truely one of the most amazing sites I have ever seen! Kind of scary, the drop to the valley below is seriously bothersome. If I stood there long enough I started to think that the mountain was going to push me over the edge! But it was a leasure walk/hike through the planes and I definately got my excersize!

After our hike the van driver dropped us off at the train station where we could get the train to Ella, which is another mountain town with lovely hikes and walks. It was a 2.5 hour train ride to Ella, and once we arrived we were swept away by a tuk tuk man who brought us to his "brothers hotel" which ended up being exactly what we were looking for! It was clean, the owner was very nice and the rates were cheap! After we showered, we went downtown to get some dinner at this small retaurant. We met some Americans there that were from California who were backpacking Asia for the next year! They were a bit hippy, the guy was an ecological/biologist/tree hugging lover that was histerically funny! I havent met any other Americans traveling SL since I've been here so it was nice to relate to them and talk all night! After dinner we went to bed, the other girls were getting up a little early to take a hike in the morning. I was like... "NO f-ing way am I hiking again!" My legs hurt, my feet hurt and I would have been miserable! So I slept in, wandered to the town for a little tea and breakfast and when they returned we got the first bus back to Panadura!

The whole weekend ended up being fantastic! I really enjoyed being up in the mountains, and the tea country reminded me of the wine country out in California! Also, the climate up there was about 30 degrees cooler then what it is at the beach. So I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt all weekend which was a nice changed from the sweat and smog of Panadura! Oh... almost forgot... I went shopping the other day! I bought a traditional saree, which is what the women here wear for "dress up"! The SL new year is rolling around pretty soon (April 14th) and everyone is suppose to have something new to wear to start the new year. So the department store was PACKED with locals buying new things and staring at us while we had the ladies wrap these sarees around our bodies to make sure we got the one we wanted! I finally picked out the one I loved and cant wait to wear it next week!

Well hope everyone is doing all right!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mountain Trip!

I hope that this post finds everyone in good health and spirits! The weather is warming up at home and the snow is slowly melting I hear! And I believe that it is officially SPRING! Woo! The weather here seems to be getting hotter, and the monsoon season seems to be creeping up on us. It rains almost every night now, and I dont mean little scattered showers... it absolutely DOWNPOORS! The raindrops seem like they are the size of mangoostines (which are my new favorite fruit here! They are about the size of golfballs). Too bad I don't have a cute roommate I can go cuddle up in bed with when I get scared at night! haha! I've actually gotten use to all the crazy noises outside at night (cats fighting, dogs doing the hibbidy dibbidy, and other wild animals making wild noises) and I sleep through the night! I've gotten the bugs under control as well... with all the 98% DEET bugspray I've got now there is no way they want my blood. Check the picture out of what they did to my legs! Other then that, life is good hear in SL!

So we took a 3 day trip into the mountains to do some great site seeing this past weekend! We headed out Friday morning for the Elephant Orphanage! I actually skipped the orphanage and took an elephant ride instead! It was amazing!!!! We took a short 15 minutes ride, which was kinda scary. I mean your so far off the ground, so if you lose your grip then your headed straight for a nose dive about 1-15 ft. down!! After the ride we got into the river with them for a bath! SOO neat, they sprayed water on us and stuff... very cool! The elephant I rode was a film star, who had appeared in more then 30 films! It seemed as though they were treated fine, tied up with chains while they weren't bathing or giving a ride. But they also tie up horses and dogs, elephants are just so large they need larger leashes. It seemed alright, but behind closed doors you never know!

From there we stopped in Kandy, which is the 3rd largest town in SL. Its filled with old traditions, temples, retaurants and sites. We actually went to a traditional Kandyian dance that night. It was filled with elaborate costumes and drummers! After the show we had a traditional rice and curry dinner and hit the hay. We rose early to travel the 3 hours to our next destination which was the cave temples of Dumbulla! The story goes that one of the early kings of SL took refugee in these caves when he was exiled from his kingdom. Once he regained his power he had all the caves turned into his own sacred temples. Some of the Buddha images and statues are more then 1500 years old! Our guide through the caves told us a very humerous story of a German lady that came to visit the caves with her husband in 2003. Well she wanted a picture with this Buddah statue (any pictures or touching with Buddha is not allowed, especially with your back towards Buddha) so she jumped onto the "meditating" Buddha's lap and her husband took the picture. Well, the dumbass broke the cardinal rule of picture taking with Buddha, and she also broke the hands of the Buddha right off the statue! To say the least she had her memory card confinscated from her camera and she also got fined a huge amount of money for breaking the rules and the Buddha! What an idiot huh? haha!

The next day we drove early to Sigiriya, which is another ancient city in the mountains. It is known for the mountain that holds one of the countries most notorious monestaries. Another king took refugee on top of this mountain when he was banished, building a huge palace for his family and a place where he could keep an eye on anyone trying to gain entrance into his kingdom. Well since the school children in SL like to throw rocks as the huge killer bees on the climbing trail, the top of the mountain was closed off to tourists and local hikers because the bees had sent over 15 people to the hospital after being attacked the day before we arrived! So a guide took us to the mountain right next to Sigiriya, gave us the whole history of this king and his mountain top palace, and from the top of the peak we hiked we had the best view of Sigiriya Rock! Very cool check it out!

So to say the least this weekend was filled with traditions and culture of Sri Lanka. It was by far one of my most memorable and favorite trips since I've been here! I cant even begin to describe every little detail of the history, but it was such a great experience!

Hope all is well!



Hannah and I on our ride!

Ivory anyone?

Kandyian Dancers!

Rianne and I with the oldest drummer around!

Dumbulla cave temple

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tourists and Scuba Diving!

Hi Guys!
So this past weekend I took a little break from Hikkaduwa and the beach scene. I was all breached out for a bit and needed a new environment to relax in. So a couple of my volunteer friends and I went to lay by the pool at the Blue Water Hotel in Waduwa which is the next town down. It was nice to lay poolside without dealing with the sand and bugs! It was wicked nice to relax without the hussle and bussle of the beach, it was very quiet and a nice change. Its also loads of fun to people watch at the resort because its all white westerners on vacation. Its interesting to guess and see where people are from just by the bathing suits they wear! There were loads of speedos, which leave NOTHING to the imagination! And thongs were also popular, especially among the women that you never want to see in a thong! HAHA! To add to the sites around the pool, a huge elephant was brought in that day to attract the tourists for poses and photos for a small fee. Poor thing, there were three men with it who I'm sure were not very nice to the animal behind closed doors. Though it was neat to see the elephant just hanging out among the palm trees and beach chairs, you couldn't help but feel bad for it. It was a great day though, hanging out at a 5 star hotel and resort for a mear 700 rupees ($7!).

On sunday, we gave in and made our way down to Hikka, not for the beach or the company at Sunny's but for the SCUBA DIVING!Baracuda Diving Center, 2400 rupees ($24) for a whole lot of fun! We started off watching a 15 minute video on the basics of scuba diving. Then we got fitted for our gear; wetsuit, flippers, goggles, weights, and tank-pack. The tank-pack with air tank and the hoses was wicked heavy, carrying it to the pool I had to walk leaning way over so I wouldnt topple over backwards! What a site!! We had a short training session at a pool down the beach. In the pool we practiced things like taking our breathing mouthpeices out and in underwater, getting water out of our masks underwater, boiency inflatability and we also just got use to swimming around with all our stuff on! After about 30 minutes we got out, took some tea to rest for a bit, then hit the wide open sea for some real fun! We rode a small motor boat out to the dive site, geared up and jumped in, diving 10 meters to the ocean floor. I couldnt find the right balance of boiency with my life vest. So I was struggling to stay where I wanted and flaring my arms around all over the place under water! haha! The next thing I know one of the diving instructors was taking my hand to help guide me. There was one very cute (but scrawny) instructor that I was hoping I was holding hands with, but soon figured out it wasn't him! :( Anyhoo... we swam around the coral, looking at all the fish and stuff. It was very cool to be in another world under the water! Though we didnt see any see turtles, it was still loads of fun! My instructor/guide tried to lead me into this small cave in the coal, and I stopped that real quick! No way in hell was he getting me to swim into a creepy, pitch black, underwater cave!! I almost pissed myself! Before I knew it he was checking my air gauge to see how much air I had left, and it was only then that I noticed I couldnt really get a good breath of air, so we ascended and our underwater voyage was over before we knew it! SO MUCH FUN! Maybe I'll go back before I leave to try my luck with the turtles again. For less then $25 bucks why not?

Hope the spring is coming and the snow is melting at home! The sun seems to be getting hotter and hotter here during the day. But its raining almost every night cooling things off, the monsoon season is coming really fast!

Peace, love and rock n' roll from Sri Lanka!!


Me and the heavy ass scuba tank!

Rianne, me, Eefje, and Emma ready to go!

The crew with our two favorite diving instructors! Good times!

Friday, March 20, 2009

March Outreach with P.A.

Hi guys!
So once a month Projects-Abroad organizes an outreach group volunteer project. All the volunteers are suppose to come together on that day and give their time to the local Sri Lankans. Last Friday was my first outreach of my stay, and it was fantastic! A P.A. alumni came back to Sri Lanka after his/her stay here, and donated money for a new school house to be built at a tsunami camp in Panadura. Well they finished building it last week, and we came in to decorate!! We drew huge murrals (wall paintings) on the outside of the building, "under the sea" was our theme. We painted all day, and the end product was GREAT! There were all sorts of kids running around and taking a look at what we were doing. Parents also came to watch. They were all excited for the new school house, and seemed very greatfull that their children will have a place to go to school and also play. The tsunami as I have said before has taken almost everything from these people. When the storm hit, all these people fled inland leaving a lot of their belongings behind. They set up these camps in nearby fields, and the people that have stayed and set up permanant residance at these camps are still suffering. Instead of returning to their homes to rebuild, a lot of them have just build at the camps. Its like low income housing I think. Its actually very sad.
But this is why I'm here, to help these people and I feel good about the things this company is doing here. It was such a reward to give back something to them, and see that they were grateful. What a great experience! Take a look at the pictures!

A mother with a little boy hanging the wash out to dry.
After... this is the front of the school house.

Me and my octopus! Hard at work! Sweating my ass off actually!

Rianne, Emma and I showing off our wall we painted! B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!

Hannah, Emma, Annie and I with a bunch of the local kids!