Monday, February 4, 2008

So Much Has Happened

So now that I have a friend and a bit more to do at work, I am neglecting my blog. Thus I apologize to readers who may have become accustomed to my daily ramblings. For those of you who complained I write entirely too much -- this month has been my present to you.

Of course, now that I haven't written for a while, I have a lot to say.

Last week Sewalanka officially opened the Islander Centre. The Centre is supposed to be this place to promote peace in Sri Lanka. They do agricultural and leadership trainings for all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. It is a really good idea on paper.

To open a facility here you have to go through various ceremonies. This time they were Buddhist ceremonies, but usually Sewalanka does both Buddhist and Hindu. First they had a Pirith, which involves several monks chanting all night. It starts with a group of Kandyan drummers, which was fun to watch. I didn't stay up all night to listen to the chanting.
The next morning I had a nice tour of the fields around Islander. They grow a lot of organic rice and other produce, a great deal of which was used for our food over the two days. The tour ended when we couldn't get past the most skittish cows I have ever met. We actually caused one to break his rope and run away!

Then we had the alms giving ceremony. Of course, no one bothered to explain the purpose of this ceremony, but from I could ascertain, they fed and provided a new robe, umbrella, clock, and Sewalanka calender for the blessings from the monks. There were more monks there to receive alms than were present for the chanting, so the alms are not to say thank you for the chanting. I've been told by people in Sri Lanka that you are expected to give monks new robes, etc. for every ceremony or official meeting that you have -- even funerals. And then it was over. We ate the leftover food for lunch and were sitting around talking and having a good time. Someone came up to us and said it was time to leave. We were around all day, but no one bothered to tell us what time we would be leaving, so of course we were not prepared. We convinced them to give us half an hour to get ready. We were making our way back to the rooms to get our stuff and people started yelling at us to go, "NOW." Um, this is Sri Lanka, everything is late and this was 15 minutes into our half-hour. When I arrived at the vehicle they actually threatened to leave Barbara. At this point we still had 10 minutes in our half hour. So I pointed this out to the man yelling in my ear. I also mentioned that I was not at all happy about this double standard (the double standard being it is o.k. to let me wait for two hours, but not o.k. to let Chairman's wife sit for five minutes).

Barbara got in the car and we left. We drove like maniacs on this really terrible, pothole infested, dirt road. Then we got to the good road in Puttalam and we stopped at every freakin' fruit and knife stall along the road! Seriously we easily added another hour on our trip because of this. So my question is, were we really in a hurry or was this just another mind game?

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