Sri Lanka

Trip Start Jun 10, 2012
Trip End Aug 17, 2013

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Monday, July 9, 2012

We stayed in Sri Lanka for a week or so. Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country located at the tip of India. It is very rural, but it has several world heritage sites. The language they speak is Sinhala, but they don't use the same letters as we do. The letters are are curvy and mostly made of ovals and circles. While we were here, we hired a personal driver (it's cheaper than taking public transportation). His name was Jagath, and he was really nice. He bought us all sorts of different fruits and foods to try. Every single fruit I tried in Sri Lanka was something I have never seen or heard of. I don't think there were any fruits I recognized except bananas and coconut. We tried rambutan, which is a lot like the letchee fruit. It is small, pinkish red with spikes on it and the inside is white and very sweet. I also tried jackfruit, which is really big and green and has spikes. It's sour but really good. I drank fresh tamarind juice, but it was kind of gross. My least favorite fruit was definitely the durian, or smelly fruit. It is about the size of a watermelon, and so hard and spiky you can't even hold it. It smells like rotting roadkill, and is really goopy and sweet, but not in a good way. The taste and smell stayed in my mouth for days afterward, making all of my food taste like it. My favorite fruit was the mangosteen. It is small, hard and dark red in color, and tastes tart and sweet at the same time. I loved it! We also tried dragon fruit, but we didn't know what it was until later. It is white filled with tiny black seeds and is really sweet. Jagath took us to some Buddhist temples. Before entering all of the temples we were required to take off our shoes. One of the temples was the sacred temple of the tooth relic. This temple actually held Buddha's left canine tooth, encased in 7 glass boxes. In the past, it was believed that whoever held the tooth owned the land. So there were many wars fought over it. The monks do a praying ceremony to the tooth every morning and night, and every Wednesday they bathe the tooth. When went to the temple, we stood in the long line to pray to the tooth. You couldn't see it because of the seven glass cases around it, but I can say I was in the presence of Buddhas (reacher in enlightenment and founder of Buddhism in 543 BC) tooth. We went to an elephant orphanage, but I didn't like it because there were tons of people standing around working for tips. I don't think they were hired to work there or anything. If you wanted to take a picture with an elephant, they would step right into the picture, then aggressively push you for tips. Even in the bathrooms, there were people handing out toilet paper for tips. We did feed some elephants. That consisted of pushing whole bananas and huge pieces of watermelon (with the rind) into their gaping mouths. Then they would just swallow it whole. I noticed that there are skin whitening products everywhere. I mean, every single lotion and cream is skin whitening. I noticed that a lot of women have their bellies uncovered, but that seems strange because it is very disrespectful to have your shoulders uncovered in Sri Lanka. They don't use toilet paper in Sri Lanka (that's why they were handing out in the bathroom). They just use spray hoses that are next to the toilets, and sometimes in the public bathrooms, there are towels to wipe yourself off. We went to a spice garden, where we got a tour and saw all the different herbs and spices. There was cinnamon (which is actually the bark of a tree), nutmeg, vanilla, cacao, you name it. There were many that I have never heard of, that all had sorts of healing or health benefits. Sri Lanka is a good place for growing these kinds of herbs because of the high altitudes. We went to see what the poor living was like, or the farmers. The houses were made of sticks and mud, and there were also tree huts to sleep in when the wild elephants came around, so they couldn't attack them. To get there, we rode an oruwa, a type of boat along the river. We went into one of the houses, and they served us some lunch. It was millet and some sort of plant thing, eaten on a lily pad and served with tea in a coconut shell. They said that they normally grew rice, but since it was dry season they were growing onions. The other things they farmed were papaya, tapioca and millet. One of the yummiest foods I tried in Sri Lanka was curd. It was sort-of yogurt made out of buffalo milk and served in a clay dish with coconut honey on top. The coconut honey made it taste good, and I loved it. We went to lions rock, a world heritage site. The stories and history of this rock were pretty cool. King Kassapa built himself a huge palace on and around that rock. Nowadays it is a crumbling mass of ruins, but the first layer of bricks still remain. The walls of the rock used to be filled with paintings of all the beautiful women living in the palace, but there are only a few still intact. To go to the very top of lions rock, I had to wear a full head to toe suit in the 120 degree weather that actually trapped in heat. This was because there were nests of killer hornets along the path to get to the top, and if one stings they all come after you. My mom and Soph didn't want to go up, so I did with our guide. At the end of our stay in Sri Lanka, we went to the beach. It was weird because we had to pay. And nobody was swimming, just standing on the shore so that the water lapped at their feet. Sri Lanka is very different from the United States. From the people, the way they dress, the food (there is curry in everything), all of those different fruits, and seeing all these billboards and posters with strange foreign letters. It is a beautiful country with lots of culture, but I don't really love it, nor would I go back. Maybe it's because I feel so out of place. There is nothing familiar.
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