From Full Moon to Full Moon

Trip Start Oct 21, 2009
Trip End Jan 17, 2010

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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Southern,
Sunday, November 8, 2009

The idea of Full Moon that formed in my mind was very much connected to what I experienced in Thailand last summer during my 6 weeks stay there. Saying that my experience of Full Moon in Sri Lanka is the exact opposite of Koh Phangan beach raves, washed up bottles, flip-flops and people on the sea shore at 6 am is an understatement. Monday was Poya, and in the evening we went to the closest Buddhist temple to meet the monks and join in the celebrations. We walked along the train tracks to the temple at about 18.30 clutching a folded big leaf that acted as a basket for beautifully delicate frangipani flowers, a few incense stick and a bottle of coconut oil. Once in the grounds of the temple, we removed our shoes and entered this beautiful courtyard soaked in a warm rich yellow light, created by the hundreds of burning coconut oil soaked wicks. Families and friends were gathered and paying their respects to the various Buddha statues by placing a few flowers in front of them, lighting incense and re-filling the oil holders so that the flames could keep on burning.

               I ran into some of the younger school children and their parents, who shily said hello and waved. I felt privileged to be able to access what to me, as an outsider, felt like a private part of their social and religious lives. As the rain began to descend upon us once again we made our way to see the head monk and some of the younger monks in the temple. D introduced me, and I was kindly allowed to take some photos of them. One of the youngest boys, of roughly 10 years of age, almost mechanically posed for a picture by standing up straight and looking into my lens; apparently a lot of people came to take his photo, but he complained he never got to see one. I will print mine out and give them to him as soon as I can. I'd also like to bake the kids a cake, it seems parents and family bring them sweets and food, so I thought that could be my thank you. Before leaving I sat in front of the head monk and as he tied some white cotton thread around my right wrist he chanted some words in Pali, a blessing it seems. I was very honoured and on my way home, I couldn’t help but have a little spring in my step as I walked along the railway lines, having been part of such a beautiful and humbling experience that for me, went far beyond religion.

                November 4th was the celebration of the death day of the school’s founder, marked by no lessons, chicken curry and ice cream for the kids, a Buddhist  ceremony, and finally an opportunity for me to wear a sari. The kids get one free meal a day at school (rice and curry), usually consisting of rice and vegetables and sometimes a little bit of fish. Chicken and ice cream create great excitement (not least on my part). Having bought what I thought would be a plain dark purple sari, I discover with horror once the little top is made for me that infact I look like what I imagine a cheap copy of Kingfisher Airlines airline crew would look like. There is gold. Everywhere. Nevertheless, after having got someone to come and dress me at 7.30 in the morning (i really do hold the highest admiration for women who wear saris everyday, I cannot understand how anyone with less arms than Ganesh would manage on their own), it’s too late for me to change my mind even if I do look like a purple Quality Street.

                Do not be fooled by the apparent lightness of the cotton, once you are wearing an underskirt and have been wrapped in 6mt of fabric, any potential ventilation is gone. As usual i was the only one sweating, as the kids sat there in their prim pressed white uniforms.
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pierre on

wahouuu, looks like a great experience...
ok even if you look like a srilanka airlines crew member, you re very pretty wearing a sari.. will choose this air company next time ))

paolacleps on

si si me too.....I want the dogget as well to amuse me on the very long flight.

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