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New Year Celebration

April 13, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR’s EVE  Helen – We woke up late this morning and decided to walk in the Udawattekele Royal Sanctuary which is located nearby.  It was a lovely two hour walk to the sanctuary developed by the last king.  He purposely designed this area with a pond for relaxation and to get away from the heat.  It was also a reserve used to feed the elephants.  We didn’t have a good map and only knew the general direction so when we set off it was a challenge.  As we neared the sanctuary, we noticed several signs asking the visitors to use another entrance.  We didn’t know how to get to this other road, so we took our chances and just continued.  When we finally got to the top, we found soldiers with a machine gun guard post overlooking Kandy Lake.  We were afraid that they would make us turn back but they didn’t and in fact wished us a Happy New Year. 

 

BLOOD SUCKERS: As we continued to walk we began hearing the firecrackers going off for the holiday.  We were also told that with the rainy season there would be leeches in the area and to put liquid soap on our bodies so they couldn’t attach themselves to us. Of course, we forgot to do this.  We got sand in our shoes from all the mud and when we sat down on a bench to clear them Tom said I got a “leaf” in my shoe, I got two “leaves” in my shoe.  I’m thinking “big deal!!”  Then he says “LEECHES!!” Oh yuk!!   I looked around and didn’t see any on me so wasn’t too concerned.  When we got back to the house, I took off my shoes to wash off the mud and found my heel was bleeding a lot!  The heel of my sock was also soaked as was the inside of my shoe.  Ananda was washing his car in the yard and said, you must have a leech in your shoe.  I gave him my shoe because I didn’t want to see it; he found it and showed it to me.  They weren’t very big but when they bite their saliva has heparin, an anti-clot agent, to make the sucking easier and you have to wash it off and then apply pressure to stop the flow.  It was pretty gross and now I had to wash my shoes inside as well.  When I changed my clothes I found another bite on my leg and blood on my pants but couldn’t find the leech. Tom found a couple more inside his pant leg as well.

 

After showers we went with Shenani and Ananda to her family home in Matale to have New Year’s lunch.  Since her mother’s domestic went home for the holiday, Shenani took all the left over food from our Friday night’s dinner to her mothers so she wouldn’t have to cook.  The drive was about an hour away on the same road we took last weekend; in fact their road was next to the Hindu Temple we visited.

 

The homestead was a lovely old home which belonged to her mother’s parents.  The open wraparound porches had thick pillars supporting low hung roofs.  Beautiful gardens surrounded the house. 

Shenani’s parents had moved here several years ago for retirement.  Her father (83) is a renown lawyer and still presents important cases to the Sri Lankan Supreme Court. We were surprised to find that Shenani’s two sisters, their husbands and children had also come; one from Peradeniya and the other from Colombo.  While the sisters were getting lunch together with their mother (the electricity was out), the men were on the front porch talking, and Tom and I introduced Dominoes to the nieces and nephew.  Lunch was delicious; Tom and the father shared a toast from the bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey Tom had given him as a gift. 

Afterwards we walked over to her mother’s sister’s house for a quick visit and tea.  She and her husband had spent the last 25 years before their retirement in Nigeria and returned home two years ago.

 

We had to hurry home because there were several rituals we had to follow in the home for the New Year.  We had to dress in the auspicious colors for this year of red and gold.  Ananda prepared a brass oil lantern with five wicks, one for each of five Hindu gods.  This was interesting because they are Buddhist and demonstrates how close these two cultures are intertwined here in Sri Lanka.  The first ritual involved lighting your fire while facing south (now a stove) for boiling milk rice at exactly 6:54.  We stood at the stove, with the watch to be exact.  Then you ate this milk rice with sweet sugar cubes made from the jack tree mixed with bananas.  It was really good!!!

 We had to begin our meal at the auspicious time of 8:10pm when Ananda fed the first spoonful to his wife, then to us, and then Shenani fed him while we faced south in the dining room.  

The whole town was alerted to these two times with lots of fireworks and noise.

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