Published: October 16th 2008October 16th 2008
At the pre-school for the past couple of weeks they have been practising for their end of term concert. They practice all morning, everyday. Its good to practice, but the concert isn’t until the first week of December! They practice from 9-12 sometimes they stay later, until 2.30pm! That’s an immense amount of practice! The songs are stuck in my head all day, and don’t even know what the words mean as all the song are in Sinhalese, apart from the finale, which is que sera sera. I’m looking forward to the concert, it will be good but I’ve got another 6 weeks of practice to get through yet. I could do the concert by myself, with my eyes shut by that time!
Last week at the pre school a coconut fell from a tree and hit a girl on her back! It’s a good job it wasn’t her bleeding head, it would have killed her! Apparently more people die in Sri Lanka form being hit on the head by a falling coconut then through any other accident. I try not to walk under them! The girl was ok, she went to hospital and nothing was broken. I bet
it bloody hurt though; she’s only 4 years old!
The staff have started at the Rosie May Home. They are sleeping there now, and kids will be in on 27th October. Everything has pretty much come together; all the small finishing details are just about done. The laundry house is nearly complete and we’re just in the process of buying all the little bits and bobs we need to make the home complete.
I arrived at work on Monday and there was a shrine set up at the RMH. On one of the tables there was a statue of the Buddha, some incense, flowers leaves and other small objects. There was also a piece of white cotton connecting the main building to the dormitories. I asked Kumudu what was happening and she told me the monks were coming to bless the RMH! The monks arrived by tuk tuk and the driver washed their feet and they entered the building. When they came in, everyone knelt at their feet. I didn’t really know what to do as I’m not a Buddhist so I really shouldn’t do that, should I? Or was it disrespectful not to? But while I thought
about this, the moment had passed so I didn’t end up doing it! One of the monks was about 50 I think and the other was only a boy, about 12 years old. They both had bald heads and orange robes. They came and sat behind the shrine and we all sat on a rug in front of it. The white cotton from the shrine was passed along us all, so we all had it running through our fingers and we were all connected. Then they all started chanting. First the people on the rug chanted something then the monks chanted for ages while we all sat on the floor with our hands together like we were praying. Sometimes some of the others chanted stuff too, or repeated what the monks said but I didn’t have a clue so just sat there trying to look religious! It lasted about 15 minutes then Karuna, the grounds man, brought the monks a cup of tea and some water, all that chanting must be thirsty work!
In the middle of the floor was an old chair, and on its seat there was a pile of sand and three bricks. They brought out a
clay pot with milk in it and built a fire on the chair seat and put the pot of milk on the fire. They were desperate for me to take photos of it, especially once the milk started boiling over! They all stood round the chair, tending to the fire and watching the milk. After about ten minutes the milk boiled over and ran down the sides of the clay pot. I really have no idea what this symbolised, or what the point of it was. But they were all very happy when it did and clapped!
Later on the teachers told us they were all sleeping at Rosie May Home that evening. They said it was Alms Giving, that’s why we had the ceremony today and there would be a bigger one tomorrow. They asked Claire and I to go and were genuinely excited at the prospect. I didn’t want to disappoint them so we said we would. They made out it was going to be some sort of party and we’d have a big meal, they made it sound brilliant!
We went back to work about 6pm and were soon disappointed. It wasn’t a party at all! I
wasn’t expecting sex drugs and rock and roll, but peeling garlic, onions and stripping leaves from branches isn’t a party by the stretch of even the most optimistic imagination! If that’s what its like to party like a Sri Lankan woman then I’m glad I’m not one! I suppose it’s a break form sweeping for them! We did have a meal of fish, dhal and rice, but then it was back to more food preparations! Claire and I went to bed, as did some of the teachers but some of them stayed up all night cooking, no sleep at all! We got up at 6am (under duress!) had a breakfast of string hoppers, hoppers, dhal and coconut sambol and waited until 11am for the monks to arrive! The monk tally had reached its peak of 6, 4 adults and 2 children. Some had orange robes, some had purple. They sat on the floor this time with their backs against the wall. We all sat on a mat to the side of them and they chanted and everyone sat with their hands together as if in prayer. Afterwards the monks were served food. Everyone got in a line and walked down,
piling the monks’ plates high with different types of food. It all looked lovely and I was starving! Then they got jelly and ice cream then fruit and sweets and a present of robes! They didn’t do too badly out of it! After that we all sat back on the mat this time in front of the monks. They chanted some more and then talked to us, in Sinhalese of course. Afterwards somebody told me what had been said. They were blessing the RMH and Rosie May and ensuring she would always have positive births and lives from now on, so she would never again go through such a horrific and painful experience, and praying she would always have long lives in the future. It was really special and touching, once I knew what had been said. After that, water was poured from a teapot into a cup that was stood on a saucer stood on another plate. They kept pouring until the water spilled over the sides of the cup. Then we all got in a line again and drank holy water given to us by the monks. Next we all had white cotton tied round our wrists by
the monks while they chanted something. I’m really not sure what all the above symbolised and when I asked someone they sort of garbled at me, so I'm still none the wiser! I know Alms Giving is a religious ceremony. I know it’s performed for just about anything, home-warming’s, births, when a girl starts menstruating, deaths, any occasion really! I know it’s to give thanks and blessing. But I don’t know what the details symbolised; the actual rituals that they performed, like pouring the water form the teapot into the cup so it spilled over the sides for example. it’s probably nonsense for the sake of tradition like many rituals are. I do feel privileged to witness such a tradition though, and grateful that I got the chance to be involved. It was special, and something I will always remember, and also very touching, with the blessings they did for Rosie May.
After the monks had left, the food came out! Thank Buddha, because I was starving! There was a right good spread on! Rice, dhal, popudums, tuna, cutlets, loads of different vegetable curries, loads of stuff! No wonder they had to cook all night! It was lovely. Then jelly
and ice cream for afterwards. Everybody ate; people who were present at the Alms Giving ceremony, some villagers, the mosquito net fitter who had come to deliver the mossy nets, his son, daughter and grandkids, even some of the lads form the local cricket team who had been hanging round RMH all day (it was a Poya day so children were not in school).
So all in all the Alms Giving was a bit odd, but interesting and a great experience. I’m glad I got to be a part of it, and see what goes off at a Buddhist ritual. I’d never get to be a part of something like that if I wasn’t in Sri Lanka. An experience of a life time! A bit like bungee jumping, but with less adrenaline!
The day after the Alms Giving, Claire and I went to watch the lads’ cricket practice after work because they had been begging us to go for a couple of weeks. They are called Boossa’a Barmy Army, although have no idea what that means! They practice in Rathgama which is the home town of Lassitt Malinger for all you cricket fans.
After the practice we walked past
Rathgama Police Station and saw one of the monks from the Alms Giving coming out of the station and getting into a tuk tuk! Bad ass monk, I wonder what he had done wrong?! We waved at him and he waved back; Sri told us monks aren’t allowed to wave. Proper bad ass monk, he doesn’t give a damn about the rules! Don’t oppress him, with your rule book! Then today, we called at the Commercial Bank to use the ATM and the SAME monk was sat outside the bank in a tuk tuk!! Surely that’s got to be a sign of good luck, seeing the same monk three days in a row?! Or maybe he’s a stalker……
On our days off Claire and I have been chilling. We also went up to Colombo on Saturday for a bit of shopping. We got the A/C bus up; Claire was terrified! She clung on the whole way there. She’s been on short bus journeys here but not a 2.5 hour one and admittedly, this driver to Colombo was a bit of a maniac. I think he was trying to get there within the hour; he was over taking everyone at
great speed on narrow rounds and blind spots. I don’t think Sri Lankans know about blind spots, or if they do they don’t care! We went shopping at Majestic City and bought some dodgy DVDs then to House Of Fashion, which sells Prada and Gucci bags, although I don’t think they are real as one of the Prada bags P and R had come off so its was actually an ADA bag. They also cost about 7 quid!
We went to a Pettah (market) but it was rubbish - like Mexborough Market! Nothing exciting just crap clothes, and all the market traders were following us round and trying to get us to go to their stall. We couldn’t look round in peace. After about ten minutes we got bored and got a tuk tuk back to Majestic City. The driver was crackers, as mad as a box of frogs! He kept laughing like a maniac, telling us he loved us in Sinhalese and told us he would drive us back to Hikka, he would drive for an hour then I could drive for an hour! At one point he even shifted over while he was driving and tried to get
me into the front to drive his tuk tuk! On the way back to MC he took a slight detour to a temple (at no extra cost!) And there was an Elephant there chewing on some leaves!
Today we went to Asian Jewel again and spent the day at the pool for a bit of R + R. we had a full English for breakfast and fish and homemade chips for tea. Lovely!
We go on tour on Saturday, travelling all over Sri Lanka so the next blog should be interesting. I can’t wait for the tour, its going to be great!
There are more photos below