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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…..it 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!!!

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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!!  

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 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. 

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

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 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.

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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. 

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 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!!

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