Archive for March, 2008


Helen did the Laundry

March 31, 2008

Helen – Monday, Monday!!!!  We didn’t walk around the lake because our legs were still wobbly.  So after coffee and toast (our cupboards were bear because we went away), Tom went to the office and didn’t return until 7:30.  Meanwhile I went grocery shopping but took the three wheeler home with all the bags!!!  Next was laundry and cooking and before I went to bed I had to work on the Fitness Walking presentation on the computer since Tom takes it to school every day and I don’t have a chance to work on it when he is not here.

Tom – I took a picture of a laundry establishment today.  Note the clothes lines and the wagon full of fire wood that is used for heating the water.



Sri Pada Climb

March 30, 2008

Tom – Sri Pada or Adam’s Peak (7,359 ft) is a sacred site for the world’s four major religions.  Sri Pada means Holy Footprint in Singhalese and there is a stone footprint now enclosed in a temple on top of the mountain.  According to the Buddhists this is the sacred footprint of Buddha as he headed for paradise.  The Hindus believe it is the footprint of Lord Shiva.  According to Muslims and some Christians, it is where Adam first set foot on earth when he was cast out of the Garden of Eden.  So, all four religions have pilgrims going up the mountain.  The pilgrimage season is from Poya Day (full moon) in December to the Vesak festival, which is a two day Poya festival that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha in May.  During this period the fluorescent lights spread out along the trail are lit all the way up the mountain.  We didn’t even need our headlamps!

We were up at 2am and on the “trail” at 2:15.  Early on we gave a monk at a Buddhist shrine a donation for a blessing/chant and the tying of a white string around each of our right wrists.  We also had to make a wish and ring a bell. 


The trail/stairs where easy early on but as we moved higher the stairs became continuous. 


The stones and stairs are not regular and range in height from about five inches to more than a foot so you had to be careful with each step.


The trail/stairs route is 4.5 miles to the summit with a vertical ascent of 3,280 ft.  There were railings on the very steep sections near the top which really helped. 


We only carried our Gore Tex suits and a long sleeve top for the climb.  When we reached the top (5:15am), we put on our Gore Tex jackets and that provided sufficient protection while awaiting the sunrise.  No need for any supplies because there are “rest houses” and concessions all the way up the mountain!  We again rang a bell on top and then filed passed the sacred footprint depositing an expected donation.  Irene (maid at Ruki’s in Colombo) had given me a 50 rupee bill that she wanted me to donate for her as well.

It was somewhat cloudy in the east but we were able to see the sunrise before it clouded in and prevented us from seeing the famous pyramid shadow on the west side of the mountain that races back toward the mountain as the sun rises. 


We started down at 6:30






We took a side trail to a Japanese Buddhist Dagoba (Stupa) and monastery near the bottom


Start of trail in daylight


Many stalls and things for sale on the way back to the center of town


We reached our guesthouse at 9:00, showered while breakfast was prepared and ate outside in the small front garden overlooking the start of the trail.  Brenda said that our 3 hours up and 2.5 hours down was pretty good and that most people take much longer, however, she can still get to the top in 3.5 hours barefoot!!!  She is really one spry lady with a lot of energy.

It was a four hour drive back to Kandy; here is a photo of the mountain as we were driving away.


We were both tired and cranky (especially Helen!) by the time we arrived.  After much indecision about dinner, Helen found some problem in everything I suggested, she made some noodles with tomato sauce, toast and a small salad. She was off to bed by 5:30 and I followed about 8:30.


Trip to Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak)

March 29, 2008

Tom – We left after breakfast and headed for Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak).  The only stop of note along the way was in Kitulgala where we took a short hike to the Kelaniya Ganga (river) and the location for filming the movie the “Bridge on the River Kwai.” 


A woman followed us and gave us a little history on the film and mentioned that her husband had a small role in the film when he was nine years old. His mother was also in the film, in fact, they were the only Sri Lankans.  All that remains are the holes for the bridge supports (see picture). 


The movie was released in 1957 and won seven Oscars including best picture.  It is about the British blowing up a bridge in Indochina during World War II.  We’ll have to see it again when we get back to the U.S.  Parts were also filmed at the Mt Lavina Hotel outside Colombo (we had dinner there) and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, which are across the road from the university.

We also looked at an 85 year old tea estate bungalow in Kitugala/


We had lunch at the Plantation Hotel.  It was a five star accommodation, very nice, but seemed totally out of place for the poverty that surrounds it.  As we continued on A7 we somehow missed the turn off to our destination.  Try as we might, driving back and forth, we could not find it – not too surprising given that signs in general are lacking and many signs are only in Singhalese.  I did take a picture of a billboard advertising the mountain along the way.


We decided to drive to Hatton, another access point, and approach the mountain from a different direction. 


When we arrived the sky opened up with a huge downpour.  It did not look good for a climb but we decided to go to Dalhousie at the foot of the mountain where we had a reservation in the Green House guesthouse and just hope for the best.  After some phone calls Brenda (a worker) met us at the bus station and had us drive to a little parking area among all the stalls catering to the pilgrims that come to climb the mountain.  Brenda is 80 and has climbed the peak 72 times!  She is planning on another trip up in May.  I paid my dollar parking (security) fee and we carried our luggage about a quarter mile across the river and up some steep stairs to the Green House. 


The traditional pot of tea was waiting for us when we arrived at the Green House.  There were six rooms and we had #1, there was no one else there.  The owner’s wife and servants prepared an excellent Sri Lankan dinner with mild curries for our western palate. 


Afterward, we walked down to the start of the trail where there is one of many Buddhist shrines/statues.  The weather was still cloudy and threatening rain.





$2 Car Repair and Mango Milkshake

March 28, 2008

One Month to Go!  Helen – This morning as we were eating breakfast and telling Ruki about Tom’s scrape with the three-wheeler; she got her driver/caretaker to use some rubbing compound on the red paint and got it off.  I can’t believe it looks good as new.  He was happy with the $2 that Tom gave him.

Tom- I had a really busy day today – picked up our China visas ($135 each!), paid our last month rental on the car ($374), bought a Lonely Planet China book ($35), did a withdrawal at Hatton National Bank, spent an hour online at the Fulbright office and drove back to Ruki’s in the morning.  I picked up Helen for lunch, made some wrong turns, and ended up at Ranjan’s framing store.  We paid him for the two paintings he framed (elephant and lion fish $82) and he provided chicken rolls and iced coffee for lunch.  We then spent another hour on the Fulbright computers and returned to the guesthouse.  We ended the day by taking Ruki out to dinner at the Commons on Flower Road.  I had a club sandwich and fries, Ruki had something called kottu rotti which was pretty good and Helen just had a chicken wrap, which was the most meager of the three. Helen and I shared their specialty – a Mango Milkshake!  This was the first full day that I ventured out in Colombo traffic!


Tom’s Fulbright Presentation

March 27, 2008

Helen – Got out of bed at 5:30 to try an earlier walk around the lake, it was better but still not good with the fumes.  After breakfast and showers we were in the car for the 4 hour drive to Colombo – note the Tuk Tuk tow picture. 


We got to Ruki’s at noon and she had lunch ready for us, she is so very thoughtful.  We had to be at the Fulbright at 2 for the Fulbright project summaries from both the professors and graduate students.  Luckily Tom’s went well (same one he presented in India) but other’s had computer problems and the students went way over their time limits!!  This ended a little after 5 and then we were to return at 7 for the reception which was for the Fulbrighters and local important people affiliated with the program including the US ambassador.  We didn’t want to return to Ruki’s for the interim break so went to a local internet café with Jordon (the fellow from Texas Tech who went to India with us) where we had iced coffees and I used his computer to catch up on email.

The reception was alright, the food was delicious even though not especially good for you, and we met some interesting people.  We didn’t know about the parking at the Fulbright so we took a taxi there in the afternoon and returned by Tuk Tuk that evening.


Tom’s University Presentation

March 26, 2008

Helen – As mentioned, we are staying in a home in Kandy just up from Kandy Lake.  Ananda and Shenani let out rooms now that their two children are in college.  Their daughter is in law school in Colombo and their son is at Lafayette College in PA studying engineering.


 Tom decided that he would go to the university in the morning to prepare for his first presentation “Fitness for Life” to university faculty/students and get caught up on email.  He also worked on his Wittenberg email again but to no avail (ITs were of no help).  He came home for lunch, picked me up and we returned to the university where he was scheduled for an organizational meeting with Raj.  I was hoping to have a couple of hours on the internet while he was at the meeting.  The meeting was supposed to be with Raj but his wife was there and they asked me to attend as well; there goes my computer time!!

Tom’s new schedule includes tonight’s presentation, a three hour workshop and a two-day workshop for next week.  Then during the following week he will do the introduction for the women’s workshop and give three hours of instruction over three continuous days to the physiology/physical education faculty and interested sport medicine physicians.  He refused to do a second two-day workshop and a workshop for monks at their monastery.  I was asked to do a 3 hour morning session with the women on exercise and walking, then in the afternoon Tom would present nutrition and some exercise theory.  However, Shamila said she was doing body composition and another faculty member was doing nutrition, so I don’t know how this will work out.  I will also be advising one or more instructors on the Fitness Walking Class this week and perhaps having a session on a Fitness Through Swimming class the following week.  This university has a 50 m outdoor pool and I think the only class offered is beginning swimming.  These assignments cover the next two and a half weeks and lucky for us the next week is a national holiday for the new year when, we are told, the country shuts down.

Tom and Raj left to prepare for his presentation while Shamila and I stayed to discuss the women’s workshop and to meet the aerobic person (Gota) from the PE department (who will be teaching the walking class eventually).  Shamila was saying that she thought all the women should have their % body fat taken (because she can do this) and I disagreed with her.  I said why would women want to know that they are (probably) obese, it would only make them feel worse about themselves.  She seems to be a little flabby but goes to this exercise class several times a week which Gota teaches and feels she is making strides.  She mentions that she has 35% body fat and I ask her what does this mean.  She just looks at me and I explain that for women 18-25% is recommended, 25-32% is over fat, and that she is obese.  Then I ask her how she feels about that???   She is stunned, never dreaming she was at that level.  This is going to be a difficult program because she wants me to present what she wants and not what I think is appropriate.

Tom’s presentation went very well and was well received.  Many of the doctors attended the session because they are interested in the sport science area.  This area of sport science is new here because most people think body building is the way to physical fitness and changing this misconception will take some time.  The lecture went from 4:30 – 6 and then those that didn’t want to ask questions during the session, kept Tom outside for another hour with their questions.  That’s right, we had to drive home in the dark again and that makes both of us pretty nervous.

After dinner, which was left over pasta salad from lunch, we repacked things to bring back to Colombo which we wouldn’t be using in Kandy.  We also had to pack an overnight bag because we were returning to Colombo for a Fulbright presentation and reception which was the next day (Thursday).  We also decided that we would do Adam’s Peak on our way back to Kandy Saturday night.  We were in bed early to rest up for the 4 hour drive back to Colombo.


First Full Day in Kandy

March 25, 2008

Helen – This morning we were out by 6:15 to walk around the lake which is about 2 miles.  It is a lovely area with cormorants, pelicans, ducks, and bats (see picture).  


 There is a dirt/concrete block path for walking but for most of the way is right next to a road which is heavily congested with cars and trucks.  The fumes made walking quite uncomfortable and we decided to try an earlier time the next day.  After breakfast, Tom went back to the university for several meetings and I stayed home to walk to Food City (about 1 mile away just off the lake trail) with my back pack for supplies.  While I was gone, Shenani cleaned out a cupboard for me so I had my own space in the kitchen.  I was able to do laundry while disinfecting the vegetables and preparing tonight’s dinner and lunch for the next day.

 I expected Tom home for dinner about 6 but he called to say he would be late because he again had problems setting up his computer at the university (same problem as at Ruhuna) and to expect him about 6:30-7.  I began worrying about 7 because it was dark, and he came about 7:30; the traffic was still bad and he made a few wrong turns.

As he went over his day, it was evident that they wanted to overwork him – with two two-day workshops and five one-day workshops in 10 days!  Shamila wanted him to give one all day workshop to a group of women (her exercise group and perhaps others in the community) who wanted to lose weight.  He seemed a little down so I suggested that maybe I could help with the women’s group.  He was really hoping not to involve me in this part of the grant so I would have more free time to explore the area with Shenani. 


Elephant Orphanage

March 24, 2008

Helen – We were up at 5, packed the car, had breakfast, and were on the road by 6 for the three hour drive to Peradeniya which will be our new home for the next four weeks.  Everyone said that this road was much easier to drive than the one between Matara and Colombo, they lied because it was just as bad if not worse.  Road construction makes everyone crazy, including Tom, vying for position and trying to gain an advantage.  I was knitting, trying to keep my stomach from knotting up, when I heard a scraping noise. I looked out my side window to see a red three wheeler RIGHT there.  I say, ”OH MY GOD!!” and Tom asked did he touch the Tuk Tuk??  I answered, “Of course you did!”  Well, that makes three for three with the car repairs… seems as soon as the car is looking good, he does something to it…the first accident was on the way home from getting the car (hit the motorcycle), the second was barely a week after the repair (the palm tree), and now the first road trip after the last repair.  All I can say is that I am glad it isn’t our car!!!


We actually gave ourselves more time than needed and therefore decided to stop and see the Pinnawala elephant orphanage which was supposed to be on the way. According to the map, it was just off the road but in reality it was at least 35 minutes up a bumpy dirt road.  Again our resident visas saved us money on the entrance fees.  All foreigners pay $10/ person and we paid 50 cents.  This orphanage is run by the Department of National Zoological Gardens and the elephants never get to leave unlike the Elephant Transit facility we saw in Uda Walawa which is run by the Department of Wildlife and where the elephants are placed in national parks when they turn four. 

 The elephants were brought up to a bare area where they were fed tree branches and the caretakers encouraged you to go stand with the elephants for pictures (so they could get tips).  There was a sign at the entrance which said to be careful as ALL the elephants were not tame!!  


 There were two which were chained to trees; one of them was a large old tusker (you don’t see many of these) which was blind. 


 After a few minutes there, the elephants were taken to the water hole for their baths and that was interesting. 


 Several of them would submerge themselves and then others would step on them and hold them under!!!  All you could see of the one submerged would be his trunk like a periscope!!!  It was much better to see them in the wild than to be exploited like this.  Notice the elephant on the left has one of its lower legs missing – the result of a land mine.


This part of Tom’s assignment is with the Department of Physiology of the Medical Faculty rather than the Physical Education Department.  The Department of Physiology is trying to establish certificate and diploma programs in Exercise and Sports Science. They include the Physical Education Department for the activity part.

  We made it to the university right on time for our 1:00 meeting with Raj the Professor in physiology who will be our main contact.  He invited his wife, Shamila, to come and meet us (she works in the same department) and then they took us to the first rental possibility.  It was a house which a former professor owns but has not been used for about three years.  He is currently in Australia.  The house is close to the university, though nothing seems close because the roads are really hilly, narrow and full of ruts which makes driving time long.  It was a large two story home with five bedrooms and a terrible kitchen.  They had new appliances (stove with oven, refrigerator, and washer) which were still in their cartons and needed to be installed.  The smell was awful and it needed a lot of cleaning!!!!  Raj said that we should look at a few of the university possibilities and then make up our mind but first had to return his wife to campus because she had a class.

Our next two viewings were hotels which were converted into university guesthouses so that meant you got one room and then could use the lobby as well.  They were owned by the university and I would be permitted to use the kitchen in the first one (I don’t think so!), but when other renters were there you lost any privacy you would have had.  The next was similar but had no kitchen facilities.  A third was privately owned but had the same problems.  All three were located in the hills quite a distance from the school and I would be left there alone unless I went with Tom each morning.  The fourth location was a hotel above a store and restaurant nearer town.  Again it would not work out for a longer stay.  Finally, he suggested a private guest arrangement in Kandy, the larger city about 20 minutes (without traffic!) from the university.  He said a professor rented out three rooms and perhaps that might meet our needs. 

It was a lovely home built 12 years ago and located just above the lake which is in the center of the city.  The professor was also a medical doctor, specialty nuclear imaging, so he worked at the university and a nearby hospital.  His wife, Shenani, stayed at home and their two children were in college, their son at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and their daughter studying law in Colombo.  With an empty nest, this would work out best for us even though Tom would have to commute.  Shenani and I have many interests in common so I am looking forward to spending time with her.  They both speak English well because they spent two years in CA.

Since Raj had driven us we had to return to campus to get our car.  The traffic was horrific!!!  It took us nearly an hour for the return trip and meanwhile he missed picking up his wife and two children (3 and 4 ½) from daycare.  Our return trip to Kandy was now at dusk (not a good thing with Tom’s bad night vision with the new lens) and the traffic was still just as bad.  I took a picture of a rainbow as we turned onto Kandy Lake Drive. 


 We finally made it back about 6 o’clock and were thankful when they invited us to eat dinner with them.  We shared a bottle of wine with them and our showers and bed never felt so good!!


Easter Sunday

March 23, 2008

 Helen –  We went to church at 8:15 for the English mass and then spent most of the day repacking our things, deciding what to leave here and what to take with us to our new location.  Tom made dinner reservations at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel (a really plush and beautiful place) for the Lagoon Restaurant.  They have a very large pond filled with beautiful large carp and two outdoor restaurants, one on each side of the lagoon.  The setting is especially charming at night and after you order your drinks and starter, you go into the restaurant to the fresh fish table and pick out your dinner and how you wish to have it prepared.  We shared a delicious dessert and then went inside to the grand lobby to listen to the band.  They played current music and we even jitterbugged to one song.  Afterwards, several people said we were very good!!

Tom – the pictures are of VJ cutting grass,


Irene cooking on a wood fired clay stove,



Ciani smoking for mosquitoes,


and Ruki going out.



Return of Favor and Badminton

March 22, 2008

Helen – We took Tracy and her daughter Charya to dinner for being so nice with the transportation to and from the airport for our India trip.  Mano, her husband, couldn’t make it and Charya chose a Chinese restaurant named Kinjou which is her favorite dining place.

 Tom – I took a walk this morning and passed the Sport Ministry Badminton center.  They had a couple of cool Badminton billboards – see picture.