Sunday, April 28, 2013

More Pictures

Bedazzled Kataragama Elephant

Galle Fort

Galle Fort Minis

Sri Lankan BBQ, note the coconuts to start the charcoal

Good Friday Mass

Ecofriendly shower and transportation 

Coconut Grove 2.0
His escape attempt was not successful... 

Hondema Karem Player Kenek

Mangrove Lagoons

Sri Lankan Hispters

Kandyan Dance performance

This was my very first dance show

Treehouse, Swiss Family Robinson Style

Fishing for rall, issoo or shrimp

3-wheeler in paradise

other Random Blog Post Because I’m sick of working on Independent Study.

This will be about why I have to best independent study site ever

The Guesthouse
I’m staying in Arugam Bay, a chill small town fishing village-turned-surfing-destination along the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka.  I found a small guest house located a little bit off the main beach road with a man, Ram, who at one point lived in Hawaii.  Ram has traveled all over the world working as a chief, in addition to many other jobs, and he even lived in Hawaii, very clost to where I’m from.  He has more stories to tell them I will be able to hear in my three weeks here.  He’s also cooks the best food in Arugam Bay.  I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants here, I can say that.  He’s originally from the Northern Province, but has lived elsewhere in Sri Lanka.
Here, I moved into the treehouse and I’m not leaving.  I love the small little Swiss Family Robinson treehouse. Just this morning, around 9, the monkeys chasing crows woke on my roof woke me up.  I shower in an outdoor shower that is also home to a family of frogs (I try to use as little soap as possible so I’m not hurting them).  The one downside is the 5 am call to pray being broadcasted from three different mosques located within close proximity to Arugam Bay. 

The People
The people here are divided into two camps, the residents and the transients.  Don’t confuse this with Sri Lankans versus tourists because there are a surprising number of white (Displaced Europeans) that live in Arugam for months at a time, the surfing season runs from April until November (I think).  There are also a number of Sri Lankans, both Arugam Bay locals and other islanders that are active in the surfing community of Arugam Bay.  It’s been interesting to meet these people.  It’s a very different experience than I would have gotten living in a small, non surfing village, but I has it’s own value and merit; I’m able to talk freely to the multiple groups that use the area, including fishermen, hotel owners, tourist, surfer bums, and shop keepers.  The community of Pottuvil (the nearby large town) and Arugam is almost exclusively Muslim, although there is a small population of Hindu Tamils and an even smaller population of Sinhala Buddhists. 
            One thing that is interesting to note is the complete absence of Sri Lankan women in Arugam Bay.  No Sri Lankan women surf in Arugam Bay.  There are many female surfers, but they are all foreign.  There are many Sri Lankan surfers, but they are all male. When I asked an aquantence about this phenomenon, I was informed that Sri Lankans don’t even let their daughters swim (This is a HUGE generalization, but there is some truth to this) needless to say I was both offended and angry, one thing I will never be able to get used to here is how women are treated and viewed in society.  I won’t go into details in this post because that would take more time than I have available at the moment; my egg and cheese rotty is almost ready.  
            I’ve also taken to walking an excessive amount, I think I have a walking addiction, although yesterday I had a burger with bacon, pringles, and a coke, so maybe this walking thing is pretty good for me…
I went surfing yesterday and it was so much fun!!!

random things I've picked up traveling by myself

Traveling By Myself.

I guess I'm trying to compensate for falling so far behind on publishing posts, so I'll attempt to write about something of substance.  This will be able traveling by myself in Sri Lanka.
Even before I arrived here in Sri Lanka, I was warned again and again about the possibility and reality of sexual harassment as a women traveling alone.  The early portion of ISLE was relatively easy,  traveling in an airconditioned van with fellow americans with a director who spoke fluent Sinhala and English and all hotels and guesthouse prebooked.  Now, already almost two weeks into independent study, I realized that I am still able to arrange things for myself.  It involved learning the appropriate moments to put myself out there and ask for help and talk to strangers as well as the equally important times when I needed to be quiet and walk away.

My independent study site is located relatively close to a big Sri Lankan surfing hub, which I unfortunately don't have the abilities to appreciate.  This makes my presence here a little less conspicuous as other places in Sri Lanka.  However, I've had to take several day trips in and around the area, in addition to two weekend's worth of solo travel to different site visits.  The last weekend in March, which also happened to be Easter Sunday weekend, I spent with a family in a small Christian fishing village south of Putulam on the island northwest coast.  The following weekend, I traveled to Kotukal Lagoon, in Pottuvil, Ampara District, on the southeast coast of the island.  Additionally, I travelled from Pottuvil to Colombo, the width of the island, in one day on public bus.

While on independent  I have take several trips around the area to survey paddy fields and vegetable farms.  I understand that I stick out tremendously and I usually don't even mind the stares I get.  I can tell when I'm getting tired or hungry, because that's when I start getting annoyed at people.  I have been very fortunate in that I have no experienced any serious sexual harassement.  There have been several instances when I have heard men talking about me in Sinhala, but I prefer to just tell them off in almost perfect, Sinhala, or when I'm particularly tired, I'll swear at them in English...

I have also noticed that I receive more help when I'm traveling by myself.  I try not to stand out and dress in normal, non showy clothing, but people here always think I'm lost.  And I've noticed that it might play to my advantage to let people help me out.  I try and listen to advice, especially with regard to travel and bus plans.  The trick to this is asking as many different people as possible.  I found that then you can take an tally of the several different answers that people give you (trust me, there will be several different answers) and then you get a pretty accurate picture of what's going on. So, I've learned not to be too terrified of strangers in bright, public places during the day.  In my case, people are just too shocked to hear a sudu, white person, speaking Sinhala, they generally respect me.  I've also found it's helpful to sit next to army officials, policemen, or women with children on public transportation, they will not mess with me.

I'm also learning to be a little bit more aggressive than I previously was.  I remember before leaving for Sri Lanka that I told my brother I needed to practice my tough girl look for when I have to walk down the street.  While this is somewhat necessary, the most trouble I have comes from 3-wheel drivers who want me to pay a fare to drive me somewhere I could probably easily walk to.  These drivers are generally the only people I will attitude.  And now I've learned that simply flicking my hand at them and telling them to get lost works wonders.

So overall this post was sufficiently random, but I hope it gives a little more insight into some of the things I've learned about traveling alone.  For my next post, I'll try and talk about things that are specific to my independent study.

Getting Things Done Here

Another random blog post.

Well. I just want to write a brief post titled, ‘how to get things done in Sri Lanka.’  I’ve noticed it’s a little different than how it’s normally done in the states. 

1.     Booking hotels:
Booking hotels here has been considerably easier than I thought it would be.  It definitely helps that most hotel owners speak English, although the Brits definitely screwed a lot of other things up (you know with that whole colonialism thing for starters…), it’s nice that English is still the go to medium language between tourists and locals (and to another extent, Tamil and Sinhala,  but that’s a whole other post worth topic…) Secondly, I have to say, I’ve become very reliant on my PDF lonely planet that I downloaded to my iphone.  It’s easy to whip out when I’m in a hurry and looks a lot less conspicuous that carrying around a hard copy of a guidebook (although having an iphone here feels a little excessive too, although I’ve seen a fair amount of Sri Lankans with iphones).  Basically, I’ve booked four hotels myself and one homestay in the past month, and my friends have had similar experiences, and I’ve called the day before or the day of for all of them, while this isn’t completely new for me, given how last minute my family at home travels.  One caveat though, restaurants and good food aren’t always available, so plan that ahead of time, contrary to home…

2.     Meeting the right people:
I think I’ve realized the longer I’m here, things in this country happen best when they happen by chance.  I know this an absurdly vague sentence and might not make a lot of sense to anyone but me.  However, I’m convinced.  When I’ve been here I’ve realized that the more I try to get things to happen, albeit usually in a timely manner, the less likely things will go smoothly.  BUT, if I just kind of skate by and decide things in a little bit of an indecisive manner, things have been working out great for me! Which I guess is perfect for me, as I am infamously indecisive (read: I won’t pick a place to eat dinner unless physically forced or bribed). 
For example, planning independent study.  I started really freaking out about independent study this week.  Before that, I figured I had enough cushion that I would be able to singly handedly plan the perfect independent study and creatively bring everything together.  And then this week, I knew I would never be able to do anything and I would independent study, and then I would fail study abroad and then I would never be able to do anything, ever.  After frantically emailing several people and then finding the most-perfect NGO that I could work with, and then never hearing back from then, and then repeating this process. I just said what ever, well technically my director said whatever, do want you want to do, let them figure you out later… I tentatively scheduled a trip to Pottuvil, because I read in Lonelyplanet that they have some cool mangrove lagoons, and that mangroves were pretty cool.  It was Thursday at this point, I woke up that morning with the feeling that I was going to travel so I packed a couple days of clothing and toiletries that morning, and I booked a hotel on Thursday night for Monaragala, a town about ¾ the way to Pottuvil, and then another beach-side hotel in Arugam Bay for Friday night. The librarian at ISLE, Tilak (a.k.a. awesome a.k.a. Mr. Giles-esque from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a whole other posts’ worth of material)) gave me some directions about buses.  A quick stop at the dry cleaners later, I was at the Kandy bus stop arguing with a ticket guy in very broken Sinhala about whether or not their was an inner city bus to Monaragala.
      A note on intercity buses, as often as people try to tell me otherwise, I’m convinced intercity buses don’t exist.  For those of you who don’t have to pleasure of using foreign public transportation, intercity buses are these magically buses that only stop at the larger towns along a given route, rather than stopping at every intersection to pick up the many carry a large bag of coconuts, not that I am opposed to taking coconut on the bus, I just wish that when people said there was going to be an intercity bus, that there actually is an intercity bus…

Back to the story.  Well basically on Friday I showed up in Pottuvil and asked the nice hotel owner at the Arugam Bay Surf Resort helped me make a reservation with the Hiddiyapuram Fishermen’s Cooperative to tour the lagoons.  Upon returning the hotel, a Sri Lankan sitting down asked be about my Sinhala alphabet bag that I bought at Paradise Road in Colombo.  I told him that I could in fact speak Sinhala, and write at a the level of a very young child.  Then he tells me he that he is a senior lecturer at the university in Pottuvil in the Science Faculty and that if I need help I can email him.  All I can say about this, SCORE!

But we will see, he sounded enthusiastic about helping me get situated in Pottuvil for independent study.
Moral of this absurdly length anecdote, stuff happens when you go with the flow, contrary to popular belief.

A side note:
The standard interaction with Sri Lankans

S.L.  What’s your country?
Me: America, but I am living in Kandy now, I’m a student at Peradeniya University. 
S.L. What’s your subject.
Me: I study Sinhala, environmental stud~
S.L. Why are you studying Sinhala?
Me: I don’t know, that ‘s a good question.

S.L. (in Sinhala to everyone around them): This girl can speak Sinhala!

Another one
Me (in Sinhala): Excuse me, where is …?
S.L. (in English): What did you say?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Some Cool Pictures

Monks do laundry too
Lankan Moss


This is a beautiful moonstone
Guard Stone

Buddhas in Colombo

Fancy Elephant

Tea Country

More Lankan Moss
I went to the end of the World 

And then had tea after

Words of wisdom
Cows like the beach too, Trincomalee

Pigeon Island, Trincomalee

Big Ice Cream Cone

Big Elephant


5-headed cobra, Kataragama

Pigeon Island, Trincomalee

A Brief Update on things

It's official, this blogging thing mostly definitely isn't for me.  I've so far failed to write one post in the 50+ days I've been in this absurdly complex, beautiful, hot, messy, tasty, and tiring country.  But I'm not going to lie, I expected that.  After sending my dad an email updating him of my whereabouts for the past couple weeks, I remembered I had a blog to get all of my word vomit.  I guess there's no reason to subject my poor father to my unnecessary ramblings, that's what the internet is for.  To keep things short, I'm going to make a list of cool/interesting/on my mind topics and try to be as brief but informative as possible.

1. The food: Rice overload but overall it's delicious.  My favorite part about the food here is my ammaa.  She wakes up at some ungodly hour in the morning (which is impossible because I already wake up at some ungodly hour in the morning as well (6) and she's up and running) and cooks rice and curry for my lunch "packet" as well as the rest of the family, well my appacci (father) and my host sister who also studies at the University of Peradeniya.  While I had to do a little manuveuring and extra grocery shopping, I'm now served oatmeal for breakfast, instead of rice, which is a nice change to my daily intake of plain white rice.  The  food's good, don't get me wrong, but what's cooler is how much work my ammaa puts into preparing it.  It's pretty sweet.

2.  The huge spider that lives in my room:  I've seen my share a big spiders; however, nothing will be able to stop me from screaming when I see the huge spider that has taken up residence in my room.  I thought we had worked out a nonverbal agreement, I would let him/her stay there if he/she took care of the all the other creepy crawlies that would've stumbled into my room during the evening.  That was until yesterday, when I saw my spider having a conversation (I think?)with another, even larger spider (I didn't think that could be possible).  I would have "taken care of the issue" however I didn't have a baseball bat handy, and I also didn't want to make a mess in my room.  When I'm sure that my spider's new friend can't rip my head off when I get too close, I will take some pictures to post.  I think that fact that I just said all of this means that Sri Lanka is finally getting to my head...

3. The beaches along the east and south coasts: To avoid angering or arousing serious feelings of jealous, I won't elaborate, I will just say that these beaches are beautiful, and I know what I'm taking about, I'm from Hawaii.

4. The university swimming pool: My only form of exercise in this absurdly hot/humid place.  It's a refreshing place to cool off and although I started out knowing approximately nothing about lap swimming, I've been able to getting going now and can at least do free style well enough for the pool guys to not ask me in broken English if I've ever swam before.  I would also like to point out that Sri Lankans are scared of the deep end (I'm only selectively joking...)

5.  Gender and women's study class:  First one of my career. Even growing up an avid feminist, tomboy, "equal rights for all advocate," my eyes are being opened.  I have to do some serious calming exercises after every class though to keep my self from getting too pissed at the world though... "I am woman, hear me roar" is my new mantra.

6. My independent study project (and how I have no idea what I'm going to do my research on)
I'm planning on looking at fish, I think, or maybe trees? I should really know by now... Crap

7. my unexplainable liking for taking the bus:  I can explain this one actually, I think I'm the only white person in this city who knows how to take the bus, I get lots of looks from literally everyone, especially when I get back to my town.  People always think I'm lost.  I tell myself to walk with a purpose.  I feel cool, but not too cool because then I realized I'm just taking the bus...

8. Why Pink and Taylor Swift have suddenly become homesick music: I'm only slightly embarrassed by this.

Everything else that's been happing in the last 50+ days of my life will have to be explained via pictures, enjoy.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Refurbishing the Blog

I'm completely overhauling my old blog from AP American Government.  If you care to hear about the political issues I found particularly important in 2009, then just keep looking down. Well, at least I wrote with a certain amount of conviction. 

If; however, you are interested in hearing about my upcoming semester to Sri Lanka, then read "up."  
I leave next Monday from San Francisco for a lovely two day sojourn to arrive in Colombo, fresh-faced and ready for class the next day, hmm... 

Getting ready for this trip has been a long, slow process.  Or should I say it has been a long process because I've been so slow? Either way, winter break has already felt like a haze... It was ages since I was skiing at Whistler with my dad and my brother or in San Francisco for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference presenting on my honeybee research [don't worry I'll pretty much guarantee that honeybees will make an appearance in this blog]. For now though, I'm sleeping in ridiculously late and behind on all my job applications, not to mention my Sinhalese homework. 

Anyways, don't want to complain too much, life in Sacramento is pretty typical, but I leave you with a few details about my preparations.

Most important items on my packing list:
Linen Breeze Target brand hand sanitizer (it just reminds me of freshly-done laundry)
5pk white tees
gift for the father in my host family, I never know what to get men anyways... 

Also, I finally started taking my antimalarial pills, a week late.  My dreams are supposed to start getting pretty weird.  

Okay, hopefully I'll have more interesting information the next time around.  In the mean time, off to the barn to see the horse! 
Ray helping me learn Sinhalese