After our drive through Scandinavia last August, we came to Seattle for a long weekend for my nephew’s wedding celebration at Sunset Hill Park in September. It was a beautiful celebration, and we were able to get in a quick visit to catch up with friends and family.
We returned to Switzerland, then went almost immediately to Sri Lanka. It’s one of Pete’s favorite places; he’s been there about 11 times, and this was my fourth visit (first in 1994). On Pete’s first visit, he stayed at a bed and breakfast place run by Punchi and Wansa (Gala). Over the last 37 years, Pete has kept returning there. When we were in Australia last year, Punchi and Wansa were visiting one of their sons and his family (and a cousin) in Melbourne, so we stayed with them for a few days; we also saw a niece in New Zealand, another nephew in Andorra, and another son in Germany.
By the time we got to Sri Lanka, about 10 months into our trip, we were getting jaded from traveling. Also, since we’d been in Sri Lanka several times already, we didn’t feel like we needed to see anything ‘new’ so
we mostly hung out at Punchi and Wansa’s place. Wansa has seven sisters and a brother, and we also spent some time visiting with some of them. One sister, Shanthi, lives downstairs from Punchi and Wansa. Between the three of them, they made sure we were never hungry; each night, they spent about two hours making fabulous dinners. Eating in Sri Lanka means eating with your right hand; no utensils needed. A main scoop of rice is placed in the center of your plate, and then side dishes are placed around that. Rather than eating with a fork and knife, you mix each or all of the side dishes with the rice with a clean right hand, and enjoy. I once tried using a fork to mix the food, but it just didn’t taste the same. Some of Wansa's sisters live in a house up the hill and they invited us to another fabulous meal one night.
Punchi is involved with the Blue Rose School, an organization for mentally challenged students associated with SCI (Service Civil International), so we usually spend some time at the school. We just missed a gymnastics class at the University gym they take part
The biggest city of Sri Lanka is Colombo, where the recent bombings took place. We haven’t spent much time there, mostly just passing through. Punchi and Wansa live in Kandy, Sri Lanka’s largest hill town. Because Sri Lanka is tropical (i.e., very hot and muggy), many people like to go up to the hill towns to escape the heat. It can still be very hot in Kandy, though. There are also several tea plantations in the area, since Sri Lanka is well-known for its Ceylon (old name for Sri Lanka during the colonial time) tea.
Kandy is famous for its Temple of the Tooth, a very sacred place of worship in the Buddhist world, which houses one of Buddha's sacred relics. In July or August, Kandyans celebrate the Esala Perahera in celebration of this relic, when nicely decorated elephants and Kandyan dancers and others parade down the street each night for 10 nights; each procession is larger than the last, culminating on the full moon day - the biggest, longest parade lasting into the night. If you’re not in Kandy for the Perahera, you can also see the dancers perform in a nightly show. We've also seen
some of them performing around the island at weddings.
We did make our way to the beach, in Unawatuna. Sri Lanka was hit hard by the tsunami in December 2004; we had gone in January 2006. Friends of Punchi have a house on the beach, about 100 yards from the water, in Unawatuna. The tsunami flooded the house, even the back of the house. The family was okay, and they were able to remodel and build onto the house, and now run it as a guesthouse (Sam's Guest House). With more great food. During the tsunami, it didn’t matter who you were, or where you came from, it totally came down to where you were at the moment when it struck. Their house was about 100 yards from the water and there was a Buddha statue between them and the water; although the interior of their house was badly damaged, the statue was fine.
There is plenty of things to do in Sri Lanka. In the past, we went on an elephant safari, and there are also “ancient sites” to visit - Annuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya.
Since we've already started our USA Road Trip and we're so
far behind with the blog, we're going to put our “European Adventure” from last year on hold. We’ll try to catch up with updates of our current Road Trip.
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