Sri Lanka Day 16: And Then The Rain Came

There are somethings I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand about different cultures and areas of the world. Scotland left me guessing until the very last day. And I have no doubt that Sri Lanka will do much the same.

Before I came here I vigilantly checked the pattern of monsoon seasons to figure out what type of weather to be prepared for. From my research, I had determined that my time here coincided with the end of Kandy’s main monsoon season. Unfortunately, my research didn’t account for the fact that sometimes Mother Nature likes to show up fashionably late. So, in the last couple days the rains have come with no signs of showing mercy on the poor, muddy hill leading up to our house. No mercy on the hill means no mercy on the power supply to the house either.

I have officially put to use the two headlamps and flashlight I brought with me to Sri Lanka. I thought it might have been a bit overkill, but I knew I would have rather been safe than sorry. So here I am, having navigated my way to bed with my head lamp, ready to fall asleep to the steady whisper of the rain on the roof and the warmth of the clouds which have descended on our mountain-top perch.

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Sri Lanka Weekend 2: Follow Me to the World’s End

Everyone’s heard the advice: Don’t judge a book by its cover. However, it seems we maybe shouldn’t judge a town based on what’s written inside the book either.

This weekend was an adventure in listening to the guidebooks. I went with two of my fellow travelers to Nuwara Eliya, a small town up even farther in Sri Lanka hill country than Kandy. The guidebooks tout this location as the “Little England” area of Sri Lanka with tea plantations, golf courses and colonial architecture abound. Unfortunately, the guidebooks were slightly off the mark. The town didn’t quite live up to expectations. Nevertheless, it was a fun experience. We made the trek to Horton’s Plains for a seven kilometer hike to Mini World’s End, World’s End and Baker Falls. The views were beautiful and it was nice to get in some exercise after traveling seemingly everywhere by tuk-tuk for the last two weeks.

The trip ended with a practical joke from Mother Nature, turning our simple journey to the train station into a brush with a landslide. One portion of the road was closed off to vehicles due to a landslide two days earlier and a likely one to occur due to the torrential downpour of the afternoon. Therefore, our tuk-tuk could not pass through. We had to wait in line to cross the safest portion of the previously wiped out road by foot in order to catch a new tuk-tuk on the other side of the slip ‘n’ slide.

I can confirm that the guidebooks certainly build up Nuwara Eliya to be a bit more exciting than it is in real life but, on the other hand, I had a great time navigating the shenanigans with my trusty travel companions.

So, no, don’t judge a book by its cover. But also, don’t let a town’s literary depiction overwhelm your sense of adventure and leave you feeling like you missed the boat.

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Sri Lanka Day 13: And So The Countdown Begins…

I am absolutely loving the time I’ve been spending in Sri Lanka. There is so much life on this one little island. I was reading today that Lonely Planet has named Sri Lanka the top destination for 2013 and I think they hit the nail on the head. It’s so different from everywhere else, but still familiar enough to world travelers to keep from being completely unknown territory. I’ve been learning a lot about the last couple hundred years here and it’s amazing to me how a population can survive the changing of settlers, colonists, rulers, governments, and tides. But after two weeks in the hospital getting to know the spirit of the individuals, it doesn’t actually surprise me. These are resilient people. And while I’ve always thought of myself as generally resilient, I certainly hope some of the locals’ spirit will rub off on me.

As of today, it is one month until I return home. I’m not quite sure it’s enough to squeeze everything in that I want to, but it certainly still leaves time to make new discoveries. This weekend, I am headed to Nuwara Eliya (sounds like New Aurelia) to do some more exploring of this beautiful island. Tea plantations, hiking and sightseeing are in the cards as well as, hopefully, more delicious food.

Sri Lanka Day 12: Thanksgiving in the Land of No Turkeys

After years of having to strategically plan meal times and wardrobe choices on Thanksgiving day, I cannot begin to express how relaxing it was to sit around in my smocked waist harem pants and t-shirt while our great chef prepared a meal that probably couldn’t  have been farther from resembling Thanksgiving fare. Singapore noodles, deviled pork, some crazy-looking green beans, and a cucumber and tomato salad. For dessert? Caramel pudding. Three words: easy peasy delicious.

Today has actually been pretty stress-free all around. The clinic wasn’t too busy today. I got to play with some babies. I finished my presentation earlier than I thought I would. And I got to laze around on the rooftop patio at the house. Yes, I’d say I’m thankful for a stress-free holiday this year.

Sri Lanka Day 11.5: Clean Laundry

(Like the rest of the world, I’m not perfect and missed posting this entry before the official Thanksgiving update)

I’m starting to get into the swing of things here in Kandy. I have my morning and afternoon routines. I know where I’m going on my lunch break to get a cheap but tasty meal. I’ve learned to time my hand washing with my “hired” washing so that all my clean clothes are ready at the same time and my wardrobe is full of available options. However, I haven’t quite figured out the computer room schedule in the post-grad center at the hospital, nor can I remember the Internet cafe in town I was first directed to. Unfortunately, those are a bit of an urgent matter as I am slated to be giving an in-service presentation on Friday and all I have at present is my tiny little pocket physiotherapy guide. Nevertheless, I feel like I’m settling in relatively well. It’s actually weird to think that I’m almost done with my second week in the hospital and only have three more to go here in Kandy.

I have been having the weirdest dreams lately, though! Just last night, I dreamt about a defunct trip to Las Vegas, a blue dress, and some other weird concoction of circumstances that, if nothing else, would make a great screenplay. I did draw the dress though, so maybe I can make it when I get home and walk around saying “this is the dress from my dreams.” I think I’m going to blame all the spicy curries, or at least the drastic change in my diet these last two weeks.

Today has been a bit of an emotional day as it marks Bob’s birthday and the start of the holiday season at home. While the obligation to eat four full turkey dinners is not a part of this holiday I like, the privilege of surrounding myself with such amazing people is something I miss. It’s been a crazy year with lots of highs, but not having Bob around to share in them or make inappropriate comments about them makes it bittersweet. However, I am following through on his last demand from me. I am returning home. I have no doubt that, even if he is not physically here to do it, he would find a way to come after me with a bat if I didn’t return home.

Sri Lanka Day 11: I don’t feel like I’m falling up against the sky. Let’s grab the light of the world and turn into the light.

Last night I was on the phone with my dad and he mentioned to me that he had been trying to field questions from people about where in the world I’m planning to settle once I finish my time in Sri Lanka. As this question has come up on almost a weekly basis since July, I’ve developed a strategically vague answer: Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve spent some evenings sitting on the ledge of the rooftop patio here at the house just looking around me, trying to figure out what I really want out of my life when I’m done with my degree. So far, here on this serendipitous island, it’s hard to leave the beauty of the present moment.

Today, I had my first Sinhalese language lesson. To say my mind is boggled would be an understatement. My supervisor at the hospital thinks the language lessons are pointless.  He says that it’s impossible to learn much in five weeks and whatever I do learn I’ll never use again. Nevertheless, I have a list of phrases that I’m excited to practice and use if the situation warrants. I got a few phrases to use in the clinic, so hopefully I can prove the worth of my lessons to my supervisor sometime in the next couple weeks. According to my teacher, I have good pronunciation, but I think I sound like an idiot because I’m fighting every urge in my body not to use Latin pronunciations.

I think the concept of settling is complex. I never want to settle with myself. I want to continue learning and growing. The problem is that I’m not sure I can do that if I choose to geographically settle. It must be the inner nomad in me.

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Sri Lanka Day 10: There are spirits coming to find me. They’re not stopping ’til it’s done. I can feel them taking me over.

Today was one of the first days in my physiotherapy “career” when I truly felt confident in my assessment and treatment skills. I am by no means perfect or a seasoned professional, but when it came time to sink or swim today, I swam. Still, the dynamic here is quite different to what I’ve experienced on any of my other placements and it has taken some adjusting. I’m not sure I have quite the rapport with my supervisor that I usually have or that I expect or desire, but it’s still early days–day three in hospital to be exact.

This week there are only two of us in the house. The other two are away on the ayurvedic medicine experience which I will do during my last week in Sri Lanka. Having four people in a house built for 21 has been less than cramped, but coming from living on my own, it’s been nice to have just that slight bit of more space to myself. The quiet is comforting after a long day in the hot and hectic walls of the hospital. As much as I love the hustle and bustle that comes with traveling, I do appreciate the time I have to simply relax and soak it all in. It’s been a bit overwhelming to experience so much in the last ten days and know that it’s only the beginning. I still have five weeks here in Sri Lanka!

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Sri Lanka Weekend #1: Nikan Innawa

Americans are busy bodies. We always seem to have to be doing something. We can’t simply just sit.  We can’t seem to just enjoy doing nothing, nikan innawa, as the locals call it.

So, leave it to me to take time off by cramming in a holiday to the beach after the chaotic week I’ve just had. I may have only been in Sri Lanka for a week, but I needed to reset. So, I hit the ground running all the way to Galle. A tuk-tuk, two train rides, and one more tuk-tuk later, here I am in a real bed with real pillows and a room with an AC unit. All three of us (me and my travel partners, not me and my other personalities) are relishing in the free wi-fi and I, personally, am enjoying connecting with the world back home for a brief spell. We’ve filled the days with good food, good drinks, a trip to the beach, exploring and a little detective work.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m lounging about is to try to figure out as much as possible about a person or group of people without even talking to them. The beach is one of the best places to do just that. Sunglasses on, cog wheels turning… It’s both entertaining and it keeps me from feeling like I’m doing nothing.

Galle is much less chaotic than Kandy and its fort and beaches are absolutely beautiful. I’m actually glad placement isn’t in a coastal town like this, I don’t think I would ever get anything done.

Sri Lanka Day 6: Nothing a Little Sparkle Can’t Fix

Sometimes your day is just not going to go as planned. It’s a fact of life. It won’t necessarily be bad, but it won’t be good either. And when that happens, you just have to get on with it. If you can’t change your situation, change your attitude.

Today was my second day at the hospital and my last day for the week. I was looking forward to spending the morning in the neurosurgical ward and the afternoon in outpatients with a designated mentor. But it didn’t quite turn out the way I planned. The nurses on the ward were on strike so not much was happening except chest physio (not my favorite). Then I was reminded this morning that our language class was rescheduled for this afternoon. Then it was cancelled… but not until after I had to leave a note for the boss man (because I couldn’t find him anywhere) to let him know I wouldn’t be in the clinic in the afternoon. I felt really guilty leaving a note to say I wouldn’t be in in the first place. Then, I felt guilty for not going in after the class had been cancelled. But I took the opportunity to go into town for a wander with my roommate in an effort to snap me out of my semi-disappointed and guilty-feeling state of mind.

Just getting into the hustle and bustle of town picked my mood up. It’s funny how a situation I found so daunting just a few days ago now provides me comfort. We ventured into one of the markets to visit the Pants Man. The girls in the house would not stop going on about this man and his shop and his amazing pants and fabrics. And now I know why. The pants he sells are smocked at the waist, harem-style-ish, come in any fabric you want (all cozy) and will only set you back about $10 a pair. One size truly does fit all. Not to mention, he will make custom shirts and pants based off clothes you already have for the same $10 price tag. Jackpot!

But the true cure for my off day was a trip to see the sparkles (jewelry). Sri Lanka is known for its beautiful gems and I knew before I came here that I wanted a piece of jewelry to be my main souvenir from this trip. So, on our sparkle adventure I found two rings that I liked, but just didn’t have the heart to pick just one. Neither one was exactly what I wanted, but together they had the things I loved. What would I do?

Why, ask to make a custom piece, of course.

When the jeweler confirmed that what I had in mind was possible and well-priced, I decided I’d have a serious think about it. My roommate and I both had some thinking to do. So we went for tea, to visit the aforementioned Pants Man, and to visit other jewelry shops to make sure we were happy with our options. Two hours later, we returned to the shop to finalize the details and put down a deposit. In two weeks, I will have my very first piece of self-purchased, precious jewelry. I don’t think I could possibly be more excited.

Mood lifted: Sparkle level.