10 Days in Sri Lanka

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April 24th 2009
Published: April 24th 2009
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Last NightLast NightLast Night

Niamh B, Mary, Niamh C and myself in our Sri Lankan dresses ready for the last nite!
We left Friday early morning for Sri Lanka with a quick hour stop-over in Dubai before the 4 hour flight to Colombo. As soon as we got to Colombo we hired a taxi who drove us the 2 and a half hours to Kandy. With the current civil war going on in the north security at and around the airport is extremely tight with many checkpoints around. The trip to Kandy probably could have been done in about 45 minutes if the roads had been straight but there wasn't a single straight path the whole route. We all commented on the fact that we had never been on such windy roads before in our life. The rainy season was just starting there so the afternoon skies quickly turned black as we made the trip before an extreme downpour, slowing the taxi ride even more. Upon arrival in Kandy we found a hotel and then went to get some food and of course some liquor into our bellies! We found a great restaurant with seats up on a balcony overlooking the city streets. We ate delicious fish with some sort of vegetable that is actually out of this world, though still have noo clue what it was even though I asked as I had never seen nor tasted it before, and of course drank some beer. Now I normally wouldn't drink beer but I do like a cold beer in the heat and know that trying the local beer (3 Coins is just one of three or four) is a must when traveling.

The next day we woke up early to go and visit the Temple of the Tooth (holding the actual tooth of Buddha). 70% of Sri Lankans are Theravada Buddhists, 15% are Hindus, 7.5% are Muslims and 7.5% are Christians. It was quite a beautiful temple with Sri Lankan Buddhists lining up to give offerings to the shrine. Then we went to try some Sri Lankan food for lunch, seemed quite yummy though my body doesn't take spicy food well so only have about 2 bites I had had enough with my nose running, eyes full of tears and upset stomach due to the heat - some definite spice in Sri Lankan food. We then walked around the town of Kandy before heading to a Sri Lankan dance show that evening where we had quite the surprise. We were waiting for the show to start when we heard one of my friend's name called out we turned and looked to see 2 of our friends standing there. They were meant to have gone to Lebanon with 2 of our other friends but my friend Mary is South African and was told, when buying her ticket, that she could get her visa upon arrival at the airport in Beirut only to find out when they were checking in for their flight that this was not true and it would take up to a week to get one so instead they came to Sri Lanka. The show was great with great dancing and ourfits and was concluded with fire eating and walking!

We woke up early the next morning as well to head north to ride elephants and see some infamous Buddhist statues. The elephant riding was FABULOUS -- sooo much fun! They walked us out into the rainforest where monkeys were jumping from trees to trees, mongoose and iguanas were roaming along with large, colorful birds. I didn't want it to end as since Africa I have had a fascination with elephants (and I'm definitely not an animal person whatsoever - I'm scared of cats so I def should have been a bit more afraid of the elephant). We fed it bananas and limes and took only a million pictures. Then we stopped over at a restaurant that had been built along with the hotel that it was in during the 1950s for when Queen Elizabeth came to stay, for only 1 nite. We ate Sri Lankan food ( I had to tell them ABSOLUTELY NO SPICE) and had ice cream which melted before our eyes in the glass cups. The we were off to see the Buddhist Statues - they look absolutely MASSIVE in the pcitures - I'm talking skyscraper size only to find out that they were about as high as a two story house, if that. Oh well, they were nice to see and we did see other statues along the way, including a massive gold statue in Dembulla and stopped off at a Hindu Temple that was extremely impressive with the ornamental decore.

That night we drove to Negombo, just a lil north of Colombo as it is not that safe in the capital with the war, which is where the "trouble started". I won't go into too much detail but the day had already been a bit "iffy" for me as my stomach was quite upset and had to make frequent bathroom trips and started feeling ill on the ride to Negombo and then realized as I was freezing cold in the van, though with the heat I definitely shouldn't have been, that I had a fever. At the hotel that night I took a quick shower before hitting the bed only to wake up about an hour later and was awake the rest of the night vomiting and going to the bathroom. I was bummed because the next morning was my birthday and this was NOT how I wanted to ring in my 26th. Unfortuantely, that's definitely how it was. We found out the next morning that we had missed the first train to Colombo where we were goin to catch another train to head down to the beach town of Hikkaduwa. I was glad only for the fact that there would have been no way that I would have made that train ride without my head or ass stickin out the window. So I got another 2 hours of sleep before jumping into a tuk-tuk - lil motorized bikes with cabs to ride in. When we got to the train station we were told that there were bathrooms on the train only to find out once we were on the train that there weren't. I just closed my eyes and prayed that the 33 km train ride would be over quick and thinking that it would only to find out that 33km in 'train distance' is actually an hour and a half. I actually thought I was going to die on the train and ran to the bathroom as soon as we got off to be quite sick again. I knew I wouldnt last another train ride so luckily I have amazing friends who were all quite concerned about me and didnt mind dishing out money to take a taxi to Hikkaduwa (the train only cost us about 2 bucks so the taxi was quite a bit more). Knowing that if needed the taxi would be able to stop for me brought such a comfort. I just tried to sleep for the 3 hour trip but found it impossible. As soon as we got to the hotel in Hikkaduwa I was in bed. When you have to go to the bathroom like that you HAVE to go, no if and or buts or WAITING about it so I was glad to have one near. I've never had such stomach cramps as I did for those 3 days. We decided that April 6th was just any other day and decided to celebrate my 26th the next day instead. I hadn't been able to eat and drinking water didn't help at all as I was just throwing it all back up so knowing that I was becoming increasingly dehydrated the next morning I woke up early to go to the clinic. This was quite difficult as his English was extremely limited and he thought I was having back pains as I was trying to tell him about my bathroom "issues" and was pointing to my ass. Finally I got my message through loud and clear when I had to tell him " Me shitting water". He had about a million boxes on his desk and kept picking pills out of them, looking at them and then putting them back. Giving me 5 different types of medicines for about 4 days worth I was worried that none of them were actually going to "cure" my illness. He did tell me though that I must have eaten contaiminated (dirty) food or water which I had figured myself as I definitely had that in Africa though I never had the stomach cramping before. Luckily enough by that evening I actually had an appetite so tried food for the first time in 2 1/2 days and was able to keep it and water down.

I then spent the next 4 days lying on the beach, boogie boarding, trying my hand at surfing - proving to be too difficult a task in the strong current of the Sri Lankan waters. We ate delicious food and drank Arak - Sri Lanka's local whisky - with Sprite. I also did a LOT of shopping. While Sri Lanka was definitely cheaper than Qatar it proved to be a bit expensive compared to my travels in South America. HOWEVER you can get the most beautiful clothes and comforter covers made with Saris. So I had 3 dresses and a top made, and 6 comforter covers (a few of which will be for my apartment in Egypt). My top was 5 dollars, each dress was about 6 bucks and each comforter was about 10-15 dollars to have made (double sided and one even has beautiful beadwork on it). I got extremely dark in the sun, yes I actually did use sunscreen but still got really dark, and my friends told me that had they just met me lookin this dark they would have thought I was of mixed race...haha. We had a birthday dinner at a restaurant on the beach and the restaurant people even put off firecrackers for me (well, thats what they said at least!)! It's the low-season there now so the party reputation that Hikkaduwa has wasn't really "all that" since there were hardly any tourists around but it was great cause it seemed that we had the beach all to ourselves!

All in all it was a great and very relaxing holiday and I would def recommend hitting up Sri Lanka as the people are extremely lovely and hospitable.

Back to work and regular Doha life now. My kindergarten class had their music concert this past Tuesday. We sang "Skinna Marinky Dinky Dink" and "Bringing Home My Baby Bumblebee". They were sooo cute as we had them bring in yellow t-shirts and black pants. My assistant made wings for them along with headbands with antennas and she even made gold stingers that we tied on their butts. They were just soo cute and the parents were soo happy and thankful for it. One parent even bought me an ENORMOUS tray of chocolates with this massive flower display on top that she brought in the next day - the chocolate displays are actually ridiculous over here because they are soo ornate and massive I was shocked to receive such an enormous thing of chocolates and shared it around the school with the other teachers and assistants the next day (this is also the parent of the child in my class who bought me 2 perfumes and a wach for Mother's Day - its in March over here). We get "quite" the school gifts - no apples and coffee mugs. Here its jewellery and perfumes!

The school head secretary is supposed to be buying our flights home this weekend - the end is finally in sight! 8 Weeks to go...we're all just looking forward to the end and being home again to what we say "normality" because nothing around here seems normal. This past week 4 of my friends went to some restaurant for dinner when the rest of us were down on the corniche hanging out. Turns out some man and his wife had a fight and he started beating her up in the restaurant in front of everyone. Did anyone do anything..no of course not, except for one English guy who went up to the man but the man just turned around and said "Do you think I'm scared of you". The police came and what did they do....laugh....nothing is "normal" about this place and unfortunately lots of this is part of the culture - not to say its like this with all the people in all the Arab countries and while many wouldn't be accepting of it in their homes it is somewhat "expected" or at least its common. It's really quite sad but unfortunately here in Qatar this stuff happens all the time, especially with the Indian, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, and Filipino workers who come here. They are promised a bright future of a good job in money but upon arrival they are pretty much enslaved and work long hours in the unbearable sun for little pay and sometimes no pay is given for months. This is an article I got from a friend the other day about this type of thing in Dubai and we have heard similar stories here. They have some of the worst human rights violations in Qatar and the government recently signed some things with the United States and a Human Rights Group about trying to improve their status but who knows if and when this will actually happen. But check out the document when you have a little time (it is quite long).

Hope you're all well and I've heard spring is finally in Vermont! Enjoy it! It's starting to become extremely hot again and the unbearable heat will be here within a couple of weeks I'm sure. Here are just a few photos on this blog - I've got tons so once they are all uploaded this week I'll send out another note with them all. Here is also the link to some photos that I recently put up of Doha.

Love to all

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