Archive for April, 2008


Bringing Home Furniture!!!

April 20, 2008

Helen – We began our round trip – traveling to Matara and Kandy and back to Colombo to show Pat the sights and where we lived.  We were having trouble, as I mentioned, getting our things home through China because of weight restrictions and overweight charges from here to Beijing on Cathay Pacific airlines.  So, on the way to Matara, we stopped at Sudath Antiques, where we had stopped three months earlier, and I bought a rice box, spice chest, and a two door bookcase!!!  They will bring them to Colombo on Friday morning where I can inspect them, pay for them, and then add all our other possessions that we want shipped before taking them for packing and to the shipping lines.  Since I will be on the road, I guess I really can’t say it is all taken care of…but it is close…and hopefully will be done without too much hassle. 

Bodhi tree and flags at Buddhist temple

Tom – We stopped in Galle to do the walk around the ramparts of the walled Fort City built by the Dutch (another UNESCO World Heritage site) that was damaged by the tsunami in 2004.

and then stopped at the Sri Gemunu Beach Resort for ice café in beautiful Unawatuna. 

We also stopped in Weligama to give Pat a close-up view of the colorful outrigger fishing boats.     

After settling into the hotel (Surf Lanka) in S.K. Town right next to the house that we had rented, Luke, the hotel manager, made us the most delicious fish dinner.




Some Colombo Sites

April 19, 2008

Helen – Upon waking, Tom suggested that I ask Ranjan if he would go with us to the Antique stores we visited before on the way to Matara.  Ranjan is also interested in perhaps sending some things to his daughter in Springfield so now we are thinking about sharing a small container. My hopes are up again but tomorrow will decide the outcome


I can hardly believe that our time here is really coming to an end.  Tom drove to the airport to pick up his brother Pat who is flying in from Denver.  He decided to drive since it is another Poya (full moon holiday) day and traffic should be minimal.  We are doing the “redo” trip with him and spent the first day in Colombo.


Shortly after Pat arrived, we took a Tuk-Tuk to the city center to see the Gangaramaya Temple

It was crowded because of the New Year holiday.

We took off our shoes, because you can not wear them on holy ground, and left them by the gate.  I decided to carry mine and someone “carried” Pat’s away.  Yes, within his first few hours in the country, his new New Balance shoes were taken.  They left his socks and Tom’s sandals. 



Satellite temple on Seema Malakaya island 

We had to return to Ruki’s to get another pair of shoes.  When we left the first time, I locked all the doors, inside and outside, because Ruki, Irene, and Ciani all went to a birthday party.   Now I could get into the hallway but had no access to Pat’s room to get his shoes.  I tried everything, e.g. different keys to access the living quarters downstairs, to no avail.  Thank heavens, they returned (with leftovers from the party for our lunch!) and we got his shoes and then returned to downtown to finish our planned trip. 

Pat was a good sport about his loss and wouldn’t let it dampen his spirits.  We finished our touring, took a Tuk-Tuk to the Fort area and had iced drinks at the Grand Oriental Hotel with a lovely view of the harbor (no pictures please – security zone).  The waiters and waitresses were dressed in sailor uniforms.



We then walked to the train station and took the local train (second class) to Mt. Lavinia Hotel for iced cafes on the terrace.  As we waited on the train platform, a man with an arm and neurological disability (e.g. had little use of his arms and hands and could not speak), sat on the concrete, opened his bag with his feet and demonstrated his skills using his legs and toes.  He could cut string, thread a needle, set the string on fire with matches, use a small wrench to unscrew and screw nuts on bolts, and put everything away into his bag.   After giving him a tip, he gave us the Big Toe up sign! 


The train ride was awesome; open windows with people hanging out, ceiling fans, and the occasional beggar.  

We were watching the stops closely but we weren’t sure the train was going to stop at Mt Lavina because we didn’t see a station…so when it slowed down, we jumped off because others were doing it too; stupid – the train stopped!  However we found ourselves in the middle of the tracks and had to make our way to the station – all’s well that ends well!


It was too early for the sunset and dinner at the hotel so we just had ice café.  Pat told the pool attendant that he was staying at the hotel and so got a bathing suit, towel, and a cool dip.   We took a cab back to the city and ate local food at the Green Cabin where Ruki had taken me for my birthday.

 Afterward we walked to the ocean crossing the railroad tracks.  We showed some teenagers how to put coins on the tracks to get them smashed by the train – something Tom used to do in Chicago!

They were delighted!

Pat and sunset across the Indian Ocean



Hot and Sticky, also Youth Soccer

April 18, 2008

Helen – it’s hot, hot, hot!!! AND sticky, sticky, sticky!!!  Ruki and I went shopping this morning for a coconut grater for me and eggs for her….we went to the manufacturing company for the Oridis Grater so I could have my choice but of course they were still closed for the holiday.  Then we went to the big general market and they didn’t have any, followed by several smaller stores and they too were sold out.  It was the same story for Ruki’s eggs but finally in the fifth store she was able to buy the 4 dozen she needed.


Tom did great driving in Colombo because it was still holiday and he went to the Fulbright and book store to exchange the cookbook I bought the first week we were here.  I found a much better one since.  After he returned and had lunch, Ranjan sent his driver to pick us up and we all went to an antique shop.  I am still looking for a rice/spice chest but didn’t find anything I liked.  On the other hand, Tom bought an old suitcase for packing some extra stuff and Ranjan bought two copper pieces (under my keen eye and influence) one a great large rice strainer and the other a large cooking pot…both looked pretty grungy but I said they would clean up; also a nine candle wrought iron holder for his garden or entryway.  He was hesitant but bought them because he got the pots for $30 and the candle holder for $5.  I went away empty handed and disappointed.


STRESSFUL EVENING – Reality has finally set in and I don’t know how I am going to get all my stuff home…then the decisions of what to take and what to leave.  The biggest snag is the flight from here to China which is only allowing us 40 lbs each (are they crazy???) and then charging $7/pound for extra weight.  At this rate, I think Tom would leave me too!!!


Tom – Our morning walk – wall built to include tree –


We came across a youth soccer team passing the national Independence Memorial and going to practice

A happy bunch of kids!




Shopping Day, Dancers and Fire Walkers

April 16, 2008

Tom – I took a picture of a speedboat on Kandy Lake

and the temple elephants as we walked to the central market. 

Helen bought eight metal necklaces from Stone ‘N’ String, some saffron and vanilla from a spice shop, and a pair of pants for Leva on the street. 

She got tired after about three hours, not because of the walking, but because of the people hassling you to buy something from their shops.  We ate lunch at our guest house; drove to a place called Kandy View (or Arthur’s seat) above the lake and then continued on to the university to work on the computer.


 We returned in time to freshen up and then walk to the Kandyan Cultural Center to see the Kandy Dancers and Fire Walkers.

Female dancers 

Male dancers

Finale with Sri Lankan flag and anthem. 

I sat in the center of the front row to get pictures while Helen sat in the front row of the balcony.  They really do walk across flaming coals – the heat even singed my eyebrows!


Tree of Life

April 15, 2008

RELAXING DAY  Helen – Ranjan and his friend Sandy (whose family is from Kandy) came in from Colombo for the holiday and asked us to join them for lunch and a swim at a nearby resort called Tree Of Life which his cousin manages. They picked us up at 10:45 and it took about 45 minutes to get there.  This resort was very similar to the hotel at the top of the falls.  It had lots of beautiful landscaping, trees, flowers, trails, and a great pool. 

We toured the newest rooms which are called villas.  They had private recessed entries with loft bedrooms and private decks.  Each unit was rented with a massage table on the deck complete with private daily massage.  Afterwards we had the buffet lunch with many choices of rice and curries plus delicious desserts.  We swam after lunch and returned home about 5:30


Walked to Pizza Hut for dinner!!


Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and More Leeches

April 14, 2008

BUSY DAY  Helen – We went to the university to drop off some things and then continued to the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens near campus.  It is considered the finest in Asia and we leisurely walked about 2.5 hours exploring every nock and cranny. 

You de-bug me and I’ll de-bug you –

When we got to the Memorial Trees (which were donated and planted by famous people) we stopped at the first large tree and read the plaque.  It was donated by King George and Queen Mary on April 14 (today’s date!) 1901.  What a coincidence!!

We had a great day for photography

Flower houses


We returned to the university to check and write email then went home for lunch.  Since it was early in the afternoon, we asked Shenani and Ananda if they wanted to go to Hunas Falls.  On the way we drove to the top of a hill above Kandy Lake to see the large Buddha statue.  I think it is more impressive from the ground as we walk around the lake.

The view from the top is great.

 I thought Hunas Falls were nearby…a matter of miles, and they are, but the roads are so bad it took almost an hour. In fact, from the base of the mountain to the hotel on the top is 11 km or 6.6 miles and it took 40 minutes.  We knew that the waterfalls would be good because of the rain and we were not disappointed.  When we got there, Tom was taking our picture and to get a better shot he stepped up some grassy, weedy slope.  A man nearby was telling him not to go there and Tom thought he didn’t want him walking on the flowers.  The man was telling him in Singhalese LEECHES!!!  Yep!!!  Tom had several in his shoes and up his pants again!!!   These are black slimmy things, not very big, look like very agile worms.  It’s the rainy season and they are in their glory!! 

We continued to the hotel which was fabulous!  There was even a helicopter landing pad there.  

We had tea on the terrace and basked in the sun then took a short walk around the lake (which fed the falls) and grounds.


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.


Monkey Business #2

April 12, 2008

Helen – Those monkeys have been busy on the roof again.  I think that I mentioned before that they move the red tiles on the roof to get to the spiders which they consider a delicacy.  We have been having thunder storms every day, beginning about 2pm and today it really stormed.  In a matter of minutes the second story had two puddles in the TV room and there were three in our bedroom…the worst was right over Tom’s bed.  We quickly moved the beds, put out several pans with cloths in them to prevent splattering, and covered Tom’s bed with plastic.  We now just do this arrangement in the mornings so that we won’t be surprised when we get home.  It sort of reminded us of home and Chad’s room where we have that ceiling leak even though we have had the mason check the chimneys, the roofer repair several spots and the plasterer repair the ceiling, only to have the leak reappear.


We went to mass at St. Anthony’s church for 5:30 mass.  It was nearby but we still had trouble finding it so were a little late.  After mass, Tom went the wrong way, on not one but THREE streets, trying to get us to the main road to keep a dinner date.


That evening we were invited to dinner by a professor from the Geography Department at the university. Tom was given his name by the former secretary to the Minister of Education in Colombo, who is also on the Fulbright Commission, but he never got around to calling him.  On Thursday, Tom finally contacted him and they had lunch on Friday.  They had so much in common, he and his wife traveled around the US while graduate students at Syracuse, that he then invited us to dinner so we wives could also meet.  I promised to give their son (17) the rest of our peanut butter and maple syrup and he was thrilled!


Tom – This is a picture of the Buddha on a hill above Kandy Lake.

 Here is a picture of a Tuk Tuk in the drink.  It seems he failed to negotiate a turn going around the lake.


Temple of the Tooth

April 11, 2008

Tom – We were up at 5am to go with Namal the Tuk Tuk driver to do the 5:30am puja (offering and prayer) at the Temple of the Tooth.  It was raining but we left our umbrellas and shoes in the parked Tuk Tuk in front of the temple.  Namal had prepared a rice offering for each of us to present to the monk in the doorway to the room containing the sacred tooth of the Buddha.  We got pretty wet before we were able to use the umbrellas provided inside the gate of the temple. 


The drums were beating as we entered the temple and took up our positions in the line waiting to give offerings.  An extended family was sitting in an enclosure in front of the offering doorway – it was their day at the temple (an honor).  We made our offering (with donation) and took a peek at the reliquary inside the room containing the sacred tooth.  As we were leaving, one of the guards asked if we wanted to go into the room with the reliquary.  Again, this is quite an honor and relatively few people are allowed inside.  We said yes but had to wait about 20 minutes to be escorted into the room.  You were only given about 20 seconds inside – just enough to give another donation and get a close up look at the reliquary.  It was a spectacular sight!  You can see a little bit of it in the picture taken of the monk in the doorway. 

This is a picture of another temple shrine hall in the complex. 

We intend to come back to explore the entire complex and museum at a later date.


Helen – It was Tom’s last day teaching but he spent the rest of the day working on tying up loose ends at the university.  Shenani and I stayed home and were getting dinner ready because Shamila and Raj were coming over that night.  She made several dishes which I will make when we get home since the spice level was within our range and absolutely delicious.  Shamila brought us lovely gifts which included a red material shoulder bag for me, a blue batik wall hanging, and a smaller wooden mask which is traditional for the Kandy area.


Thank You Dinner

April 10, 2008

Helen – In the morning I was really organized; put laundry in the washing machine, Tom dropped me off at Food City on his way to work, walked home and then decided to take a Tuk-Tuk to the antique shop to pick up a ring and two small pendants which I had admired last week, and then continued to the university because I felt guilty about Gota and his strokes.  I got there a little early so had time to go on the computer until Tom finished his class.  After his lecture, Tom drove me the ¾ miles to the gym.  I surprised Gota there and we got in about 1 ½ hours in the water before the thunderstorms forced us out of the water.  Tom came back to pick me up and we returned to his office so he could finish up. 


Ananda and Shenani drove Tom and I to a local Indian restaurant where we met Raj, Shamila, and Gota for dinner. We had a good time.