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Town Tour – Matara

January 27, 2008

Helen – Tom and I walked one lap of the beach this morning so we could make church at 8.  We got there about 10 minutes early, parked the car across the street and went inside.  The first thing we noticed was the offering table which had, along with the host, a bowl of flowers, a wrapped package, and a basket tray filled with fresh vegetables.  The people there were saying the rosary and they didn’t finish until 8:15 which in turn delayed the mass.  The alter boys were dressed in Red robes and preceded the priest to the altar.  Next (it was Children’s Sunday) the children all lined up in the back of the church dressed in school uniforms (girls wore white dresses with ties and the boys wore navy blue shorts and white short sleeve shirts); each child was carrying a flower and a present wrapped to give to the priest at the altar.  Those who didn’t have presents had money envelopes, in fact, several adults also joined carrying envelopes.

The church, St Mary’s, was quite lovely with 6 open arch doorways on each side.  The Stations of the Cross were concrete painted reliefs positioned between the arches.  There were also pew sections on either side of the altar.  The interior was very similar to the cross shape of St. Theresa in Colombo.  The walls where the people sat were painted a pale yellow, the altar area was painted pale pink and the inner altar area was painted pale blue.  The entire mass was in Sinhalese so we didn’t understand a thing and I missed singing the lovely songs.  Once again communion was given at the altar, kneeling and extending the tongue just like in the old days back home.  The homely was at least 35 minutes if not longer and we were getting pretty restless.  The entire mass took about 1:40.

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The farmers market sets up each Wednesday and Sunday, so we went there after church.  It was very crowded and we went to just browse because we had already shopped yesterday.

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We continued walking behind the bus station to the old Dutch Fort built in 1780.  There was a service taking place in an old Dutch Reformed Church inside.  It looked like it was one of the buildings that survived the December 26, 2005 tsunami which took 1000 lives here.  We found the “Little Dutch Restaurant” and ordered milk tea for me and coffee for Tom and had two vegetable buns…grand total of $1.  There were some really old buildings in there, lots of residences, small businesses, and an army complex.  It would be nice if they fixed it up.

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Leaving the fort we walked to the Buddhist Temple on Parey Duwa Island opposite the bus station.  We had to take off our shoes and leave them with the shoe check man before climbing the stairs to the temple.  A service was going on in the main building so we didn’t go in there.

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We returned to the market to buy some tomatoes and a strainer.

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Then as we walked to the car we passed a little bakery of sorts where the man was making those vegetable buns in a front window so we could watch.  He started with a small ball of yeast dough and then slapped it around (like our pizza throwers) with his hand stretching it into a long oval.  Put the vegetable mixture in the middle, then folded the longs side over the middle and proceeded to fold it into a triangle.  He cooked them on the grill turning from front to back and then on each of the three sides.  We bought one because the man spoke some English and said they weren’t too spicy…wrong, Tom had one little bite, I finished it and my nose started to run and I broke out in a cold sweat.

Crossing the street we couldn’t find our car…first thought was that we had illegally parked and our car was towed.  We were safe; we just didn’t recognize our own car.

When we got home we went for a swim.  It was cloudy and really windy so there were lots of waves.  Tom worked on his presentation while I knitted, sat in the sun, and went two houses up to meet the German people (Hiki and her father) who are building a home for their vacation getaway.  They even brought their electrician from Germany because they didn’t trust the locals.

I made dinner which consisted of rice with sautéed onions and peas with cilantro, pan steamed/grilled chicken ¼‘s and tomato–onion salad.  It’s really amazing that all I have to cook with is that three burner gas stove-top, an electric rice cooker, an electric teapot, and a really small oven which I have only used for toast.

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