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January 6, 2009

I just wanted to send in a final entry to say thank you to everyone who took the time to read my blog. I'm really happy to be back in America but I think I may be suffering from a case of reverse culture shock. All the luxuries that I always took for granted now seem overwhelming. I donated most of my clothes because after having maybe 5 outfits in Sri Lanka I couldn't understand how to dress myself with so many options.

However, I think my two biggest cases of reverse culture shock definitely come in the form of food and hot water. I'm sure most study abroad students are ecstatic to return to the food they grew up with but for me every time I eat it's somewhat blissful. I think that's because, as I mentioned a million times in previous blogs, my host family and I had a difficult time finding food that wasn't way too spicy for me. The hot water thing isn't as exciting as food but hot showers really do seem like a blessing now. However, I am way more aware that hot water and excess food are luxuries that much of the world lives without.

All in all, I'm really happy I took the opportunity to study abroad. I learned so much about myself and not to mention about parts of the world I had never really studied before. I think studying abroad is an awesome way too step out of your comfort zone and if you have a really big comfort zone make the leap and spend a semester in Sri Lanka.

December 20, 2008

As I write this I'm on the last leg of my journey, a phenomenally long flight from Hong Kong to JFK. In the excitement that has been the past two weeks of my life I seemed to forget to find time to blog. I figured I would use this entry to give the high lights of my two week post-Sri Lanka Asian tour.

My Dad organized probably, if not definitely, the best vacation I have ever been on in my life. I got to see parts of the world that had never even crossed my mind before and now I'm sure I will remember them fondly for my whole life. I don't think I can fit all of the experiences into a blog so I'll make a list of the top three most amazing experiences and the top three funniest moments.

The Top 3 most amazing experiences:

3. The White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

 I think that if I hadn't taken Buddhism class and then spent three and a half months in a Buddhist country this temple would have been nothing more than a pretty sight, and by the way it was pretty. One of Thailand's top artists Chaloemchai Khositphiphat was commissioned to design this temple. The temple was an immaculate nearly blinding white highlighted with mirrored glass to make it shine even more. The temple was the artist's vision of a Buddhist heaven. To get in you pass over the tormented souls reaching up and cross a bridge to finally enter. When inside the temple, there was a giant painting covering the wall that faced the Buddha statue. You weren't allowed to take a picture and I doubt my words can do this painting justice but I can swear that in all of the Buddhist countries there is no other depiction like that one. At the very top there was the Buddha seated on a lotus flower on top of a skull. It was very punk rock. The closer to eye level you got the more unique the painting got. There was a complex web with life like paintings of Keanu Reeves in the Matrix, a Star Wars battle ship, Super Man, some demons licking oil off a pump and other things that you would never pair up with the Buddha. Our guide looked at us and asked if we knew what the artist was trying to convey, and only because of all my time engulfed in Buddhism was I able to point to the pious Buddhist depicted in a small bubble in the corner floating up and say it's the worldly distractions that keep you locked in samsara and away from enlightenment. The guide said I was right but he didn't seem that impressed he knew I had been in Sri Lanka for a semester and if I hadn't known the answer to that question I probably should have been embarrassed. The temple is a must see for anyone who has the slightest interest in Buddhism or impressive art for that matter. Though pictures are probably easy to come across online, so the trip to Thailand may not be necessary.  

2. The Floating Village, Siem Reap, Cambodia

When my Dad and I climbed into a boat somewhere in Cambodia I was a little bit dazed from all the travel and I had no idea what was going on. Low and behold I'm about to see one of the most interesting ways a human could live. A few minutes from the dock and we are in this muddy looking water and I turn to my Dad, who hates crocodiles, and whisper, "You know this looks like a place that is covered in crocodiles." He got mad and later we would find out I was right.

Shortly after noticing that this was a likely crocodile hotspot we hit what looked like a fleet of boats from the distance, and as we get closer I saw that they were actually houses built out of old boats or on top of floating bamboo rafts. The houses were modest usually only containing one room with a few hammocks to sleep on. I figured that only a few fishermen could spend their whole lives in a river. I was very wrong; the population of the floating village is about 6,000 people. Not only do they live on the river but the village has its own floating school out in the middle of the river. When we passed it I got to see two grade school boys engaged in a fist fight, in school, in the river. I can hardly stand on a boat and they were so steady after being raised in the water they could even fight; it was wild. Then we got to a floating market which was my favorite part. The market was relatively huge and it was held up by bamboo and then built with wooden planks, it was loaded with tourists and I couldn't understand how it was holding up. As soon as we walk in there was a fence, I looked down, and the wood was cut down into a hole that was filled with crocodiles. The owners of the shop leave food there to attract crocodiles and then they sell them to be eaten or maybe used to make wallets I don't know. Inside they sold enormous live fish, stuff I had never seen before not even in an aquarium and of course they had caught it all in the river. After being in the market I made a mental note not to go in the water and then on our way out I marveled again at all the villagers who would carelessly dive out of their house and into the water. I never thought I would go to Cambodia but if ever in Asia its worth making the trip there for the village, not to mention the amazing ancient temples in Angkor Wat.  1. Mahout training, Chaing Rai Thailand  I rode an elephant as a little kid and I rode one in Sri Lanka or at least I thought I had but then I had Mahout training and realized I hadn't even come close. We were at the Golden Triangle, yes where the CIA had worked to shut down the opium trade back in the day, at the four seasons tent. Naturally, I could not afford to stay there as a college kid but I got pretty lucky and I have to say after being there if I had to save my whole life to go back and do it again it would be well worth it.

The tents have something like 50 elephants all rescued and well cared for. I know I was shocked to know that the Four Seasons was active in animal conservation but I was happily surprised. What they do is they take you down and you get to meet six adult elephants, well that is after you've eaten your breakfast and maybe thrown some bananas to the baby elephants that come to the restaurant to eat with you. You get to pick an elephant you like, mine was a no brainer she was wild, loud and never stayed still; kind of like me. Her name was Dancing Girl and for me it was love at first sight. She tolerated me because I kept the bananas flowing. Dancing Girl was definitely the matriarch, if elephants have matriarchs.

First thing they make you do is get on the elephant in the stable or wherever it is where they live with the man who is actually their mahout, which is like a trainer. The elephant lies down and you hop on by grabbing a rope while all the mahouts kind of shove you on. That wasn't so hard but then I learned it's the last time you get on or off like that. Then you scooch up to the elephants neck, lock your knees in behind her ears and drive with your feet. After the morning training class we came back in the afternoon and we were now expected to get on and off the elephant by jumping on or sliding off the head, and no it doesn't hurt them I asked a million question because I was so worried about hurting the elephant. Oh and by the way at this point all the ropes are gone it’s just you and the elephant; very jungle style. Then the elephant and you have a bath, take a walk through the jungle and end up in the river. It was an amazing experience.    Now to the follies of my Asian adventures/bonding time with my Dad.

Funniest moments:

3. My Broken Bike

My Dad, a guide, and I were mountain biking in Chaing Mai, Thailand, on our way to white water rafting. Neither my Dad nor I had been on a bike in at least a decade, yet that didn't stop us from pretending we knew what we were doing. I was going way faster than my Dad which clearly offended him so he speed up and past me, which in turn offended me, so I tried to pass him to prove I was the better biker and in the middle of my sprint past my Dad I kicked the petal and the metal thing that holds it off the bike.

The best part was that I had broken the bike in the middle of nowhere Thailand and the guide couldn't get cell service to call the driver to come for us. He blatantly pretended to fix the bike and told us to go ahead and that he would take my bike and catch up with us. My Dad used this as an opportunity to prove he was faster and took off, however, I knew how well I broke that bike and I knew it wasn't getting put back together that quickly. I stayed with the guide and in thirty seconds it fell off again. I told the guide to take the bike and find the driver and that I would walk the broken one till they came back for me. This seems like a great plan till I find myself in a pack of dogs. There are some viscous dogs in Asia, if my previous blogs didn't make that clear. I'm trying to walk by them without looking at them in hopes they'll go away when these men started screaming which caused me to jump and the petal to bang loudly on the road which was enough for the dogs to leave. The men who were construction workers came rushing over at the sight of my broken bike gesturing that they would help. I didn't speak a word of their language and they didn't speak a word of mine so my refusal was not understood and my bike was beaten with a knife in an attempt to reattach the petal until my guide returned cracking up at the situation I had found myself in. It was just one of those moments when things were so far out of my control I was laughing by myself in the background. 

2. My Dad Falls of the Elephant

The elephants took us to the Mekong River on the border of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand to take a quick dip. The Mahouts had hoped on the back of the elephants to urge them to get us wet. They were commanding the elephants to dunk which is funny because my elephant paid no attention to the command and just let me watch as my Dad's elephant dunked him. All of a sudden the elephant dunked a little too quickly and I watched my Dad soar off the elephant and into the water. I was in tears laughing until I noticed everyone else was panicking. Three of the Mahouts dove in the water after him. My Mahout looked conflicted as he had confided in me earlier that he didn't know how to swim. My Mahout jumped onto the back of my Dad's vacant elephant so as to help out as much as he could. My Dad was fine so I continued laughing and eventually Dancing Girl got bored so in the midst of the commotion she left the river and took me for a walk. The people swore that no one ever fell off before, somehow I think that isn't true.

1. Culture Shock from Sri Lanka to Hong Kong

I got to Hong Kong which I should mention is fashion city in what I think is my best if not least soiled outfit left from Sri Lanka. I can actually hear the jaws drop as I enter the hotel. I allegedly look homeless and everyone else is rocking Armani and what not. We try and get lunch where with one look at me the hostess said, "We have a dress code."

I was really hungry and apparently if I wanted to eat first I had to go shopping. This meant I had to go shopping at designer stores which I had never done in my life and also they were stocked with clothes that had a size 4 as an extra large. I figured clothes would eventually happen and they did but shoes were the real frontier. I was embarrassed to tell my shoe size at one store so my Dad asked while I was in the dressing room. I can hear the girls cracking up as they tell him no. Eventually, and with huge amounts of effort I put an outfit together and was admitted to the various fancy restaurants that plague Hong Kong.

December 5, 2008

Today was our last Sri Lankan event, final tea. It was mainly an opportunity for the host mothers to bond with their host daughters, the sons were a little left out. All of the girls were dressed in their mother's most beautiful sarees and jewelry. The boy's could have worn khaki's and collared shirt, however, Jared took this as an opportunity to wear the Sri Lankan national dress; a floor length bright white sarong and a matching button down shirt. I can’t attach the pictures now but when I get back to America I will be sure to attach a few.

We all came to the ISLE center with our host families. Naturally, my family blended with Maria’s family and we formed one large Kiribathkumbra family. Maria and I both shared the same sentiment while we walked in together which was we couldn't walk, nor breath that well. After wearing the traditional Kandyan saree I am in awe that the women of Sri Lanka perform their day to day task in a similar outfit. My host mother's helper never wears anything but a Kandyan saree while she cleans the bathrooms and does the laundry. Now granted we were wearing fancy sarees so they are a bit heavier then the standard one but all the same I can't understand how these women get anything done.

After my host mother had dressed me, which took at least twenty minutes. She left to dress herself and I collapsed onto the bed; owing to the fact that I couldn't move I laid still like I had been mummified. At the tea my older host brother was laughing with Maria's older host sister and I heard my name so I asked what was funny and he told me that he had seen me collapsed on my bed totally unable to move. My host mother couldn't understand why I had so much trouble moving but all the same I swear it is really hard. However, as soon as Jared walked in his all white dress the attention shifted.

When tea and pictures ended it was time for me to say goodbye to Rosemarie who runs the ISLE center and our director Nancy because I won't see them again. My flight is two hours earlier then everyone else's so I am getting picked up at my house earlier on Saturday and traveling everyone's luggage as my only companions. I can't believe how quickly the time has passed. All I have left to do in Sri Lanka is pack and of course have the sure to be depressing departure from my host family who really have grown into a second family.

December 1, 2008

Things in Sri Lanka have been tame compared to the trouble in the surrounding parts of Asia. A few of the students were supposed to leave for India on the 6th and I was supposed to be on my way to Bangkok. Obviously, neither of those things are happening now do to the violence in India and the riots at the Bangkok airport. The other students are at the travel agent right now trying to find a flight back to America, but I am not headed back to America.

I had the luxury that I was supposed to meet my father in Thailand so he is dealing with all the flights and things which is why I am not in town right now arguing with air line personnel. Now, at midnight on Saturday night I am flying from Sri Lanka to Hong Kong with a lay-over in Singapore. I am supposed to meet my father in Hong Kong -- it is one of the only free ports in Asia, which means I can get in without a visa. We will spend a few days in Hong Kong which is a much unexpected addition to our trip then we will head to Cambodia and after a few days drive to northern Thailand. Pretty wild, right?

Now, that all the travel questions have been for the most part dealt with I have to get back to reading all the other student's independent studies. That is all we have left for academics in Sri Lanka just talking about each other’s independent studies.

I can't believe we have been here for over three months! I will try and write at least one more entry before I leave Sri Lanka, and then I don't know when I will have internet again. I'll keep track of what I'm up to though, and be sure to post when I get back to America if I can't post along the way.

November 24, 2008

Today Maria and I went with my host family to a 21st birthday party. I know the connotations any American would make with a 21st birthday party which is what makes it so funny. Every year for my host mother's nephew  birthday they hold what she refers to as 'little monk danne.' There is most likely an official name for this but I have no idea what it is.

We went to what looked like a boarding school but it was for monks between the ages of 8 and 16. When we arrived all of the guest were seated on mats in front of a Buddha shrine and to the right of the shrine sat this monk that couldn't have been over 14. He was belting his heart out and all the adults had their heads bowed in respect. Maria and I stood awkwardly in the back, because we can't really sit still like the Sri Lankan women, or at least I can't, and I can never get my hands in proper prayer position.

After the prayer the room filled with over 100 child monks. They were silent and respectful; which was flat out shocking as there weren't any grown up monks around to keep them in line. They all had their little alms bowls and cups in front of them and all of the guests gathered up the food and had to serve them. Maria and I were given the task of handing out small fried vegetable things, most likely because Sri Lankans are very generous with the rice and curry so they probably figured Maria and I might starve the monks if we didn't pile their bowls sufficiently.

Shortly after eating all the monks shuffled out and then all of the guest ate. This may have been the funniest part of the day owing to the fact that my host mother is still under the impression I hate rice. I don't hate rice but I really don't mind not eating it, so she packed a bun and a cupcake for me to eat. I was happy, but I got some pretty weird looks

Little boy monk

November 22, 2008

Lately I have been unable to write because independent study has allotted me some free time to travel and get to enjoy a little bit of Sri Lanka with out the limitation of classes. Not having classes is very awesome because for most of us this will probably be the only time we are in Sri Lanka so its been really nice to have a little free time to enjoy it. Now of course free time is over because I have a 20 page paper to write on the poet I've been meeting with over independent study. She has published something like 40 books and I have at least half of them in my room, so as I said play time is definitely over.

I'll relive some of what I've been doing over the past couple of weeks because it was pretty fun. Everyone's independent study took them out of Kandy, but my poet lives about two miles from the ISLE center so I was left behind.

Everyone in Sri Lanka talks about how beautiful Nuwara Eliya is, it's mountain covered and touristy and when Sri Lanka was a British colony it was called little England. All though I don't personally support colonialism I decided to pay a visit to Nuwara Eliya anyways. It was gorgeous and kind of cold, which after being on a tropical island for three months is actually an added bonus. So for a few days I took hot showers and ate huge buffets filled with Western food. I had a blast even though I had never eaten at a restaurant alone before, but I quickly got over my fear and embraced the buffet food.

While I was packing up to leave Nuwara Eliya to head back to Kiribathkumbra Maria called.  She asked if I wanted to spend two nights in a hotel in Kandy with a few of the other ISLE students that were back from independent study. The day after I returned home Maria and I headed into the 'city' to meet the others. They all raved about how awesome it was to get a vacation after what sounded like some stressful independent studies. I bite my tongue and didn't rub in the fact that my poet who is something like 78 was anything but stressful. We all had a greet time in Kandy and as an added bonus I got to eat more western food.

Now we are down to almost the last two weeks in Sri Lanka. The fact that we've been here since August is surreal, in some ways it feels like we've been here forever and in other ways I can't believe how quickly time passed. I know that didn't make that much sense but it is the best way I think any of us can explain how we feel at this point.

November 9, 2008

Michelle Granara

11/9/08

I've noticed a reoccurring theme in my entries of dogs and insects and what not. After this past week or so of creature mishaps I have to say that the rest of my time in Sri Lanka has been virtually creature mishap free, well minus my host mother getting bitten, that was pretty bad.

 

I guess I can start with the newest addition to our family, this cat, notice I didn't say kitten, indicating clearly that my host family and I chose not to learn our lesson about adopting full grown animals after my host mother was bitten. Though, I can't really say we adopted this cat I'm not sure where it came from but one day it was outside the door crying we feed it and now it spends every night and morning at our house, I have no idea where it goes during the day. The cat won't eat anything it doesn't kill which is awesome because it kills everything that grosses me out like giant spiders and cockroaches. The cat now has taken to breaking into the house. The roof is made of wooden planks covered with tin. The cat slithers its body in between the wood and the tin and then keeps finding holes big enough to leap through. I find it entertaining but my host parents seem displeased with the cat. There not that displeased though because they too appreciate its service of killing things.

 

Then the other day when I was leaving to meet the lady I'm doing my independent study on, it's a cool independent study I'll write about that later, the cat was engaged in hand to hand combat with a lizard. If the cat wasn't enough I had been warned that I was about to encounter some very vicious dogs. The woman that I'm doing my independent study on had invited me over, insisting though that I came on a day that her husband would be there to control the dogs. Rosemarie who works at the ISLE center had warned me never to touch Jean in front of the dogs otherwise I would be in trouble. I made my way to the gate where I was greeted by two of the angriest looking lab mixes I had ever seen. One of her daughters wrestled them into the house, then came back to get me. She told me to sit still in the chair and then her mother accompanied by the dogs would come out.

 

My mother and I have a slight addiction to the Dog Whisperer so I kind of knew how to act. I sat really still and refused to speak or look at the two dogs as they rushed at me barking. I could feel their breath on me but I did my best to stay calm while finding it hard to forget the damage one bite did to my host mother. The women I'm doing my project on is a very gentle lady who could be heard in the background scolding the dogs by saying, "Oh really, that’s enough now, that is very, very bad behavior." Her husband came in and jostled the dogs and eventually they must have decided that I was boring and they lay down at her feet. She then turned to me saying, "I hope they didn't scare you. Not so long ago we had a BBC reporter here who just left and refused to do the interview." I had to laugh because she seemed totally in the dark as to why the BBC reporter left.

The following night I'm eating my dinner when my host father said awkwardly, "Michelle don't get excited."

I could not figure out what he was talking about as he repeated his sentiment this time staring at the wall. I look at the wall and screamed on the top of my lungs running to hide behind a chair. A giant spider was on the wall, it wasn't a tarantula but it was as big as one.

My host father shook his head and said, "Really they are harmless fellows."

My problem is that everyone in Sri Lanka declares everything harmless without discrimination. They go as far as to describe bomb blasts as harmless so I was not buying that this spider was harmless.

My host mother popped in, apparently she was reading my skepticism because she said, "It’s true very harmless only the spiders with hair are bad the rest are harmless."

I said that I would rather find Osama Bin Laden in my room then that spider. That may have been an exaggeration but at the time it seemed the logical way to stress the dire nature of the situation.

My host father said regretfully, "Poor fellow," then he smacked it with the broom. I screamed as the dead spider fell from the ceiling. They laughed at me and then searched my room for fear that I would actually have a heart attack if there was a giant spider in there. I probably would, but at home I used to be scared of tiny spiders and now I only scream when I see ones the size of my hand so that’s a step in the right direction, right?

November 5, 2008

I can say without a doubt that today is a day I will remember my entire life. It’s important to remember that Sri Lanka is nine and a half hours ahead of Massachusetts. This morning Maria and I woke up early to join the others at the ISLE center. We all huddled around the small antenna TV and glued our eyes to the TV until about 11:00 a.m. when Obama was declared the future president.

At first I was really sad that I wasn't in the US for the election. However, soon we all realized how cool it was to be out of America today. After Obama's speech one of the students asked if we thought that people would instantly think higher of us as Americans. We all joked about it until we went for a walk about an hour later.

Maria, Jared and I take the same walk almost every day, we pass a lot of the same people, but we've never really talked to them. We weren't even sure that they knew we were Americans. Today as we were walking by this man cheered for Obama while we passed.

Then when Maria and I got home members of our family were waiting there to congratulate us as if we personally had one some great victory. When I got into my house the first thing my host mother said to me was, "Now people will like America much more."

What made today so amazing was that I got to see firsthand an instantaneous change in the view of America and of Americans. Of course, I'm speaking with a strong third world bias. After all the first time I thought that people might like us an awful lot more if Obama won was in Tanzania when some people chased our van shouting, "Obama's a prize." I have no way of knowing if the new positive way of looking at America is a third world phenomenon. I'll have to wait until I hear from my roommate Maggie who is in France, and my other friends who are scattered around Europe to see if people like them more now too.

November 3, 2008

The past week has been insane. It is remarkable how much harder it is to accomplish academic tasks when you’re abroad. A couple papers and exams that would have been no big deal at Holy Cross, were an ever looming presence for the past two weeks or so. Luckily that’s all over with now. We’ve finished session 2 which was all our academic classes and now we’ve moved onto the final session independent study!

Our Sinhala exam was the final thing we had to do for session 2 and that was on Halloween. The exam was really tough and we all had wasted a ton of study time by fretting over how hard it was going to be. However, when the last student had finished their oral we all were ready to celebrate Halloween.

The people who run the ISLE center had organized a party for us, which was pretty awesome. It was funny though because it was the antithesis of a college Halloween party. Instead it was very reminiscent of the school sponsored Halloween parties we had in grade school. We all wore costumes that our host mothers had prepared for us and then we had pizza, ice cream and soda. Like I said it was pretty awesome, as the past few months have been very limited on pizza, ice cream and soda.

The seven students are divided into three villages, and so each village had matching costumes. Maria and I representing Kiribathkumbra, came dressed as our host mothers, which meant we looked lovely in nightgowns, house coats, and aprons. Plus, we got the added benefit of scolding everyone for not eating enough and being too skinny. Chris and Kristin representing Kandy town came as Pretas, which are the Buddhist hungry ghost that eat and eat but their appetite can never be satiated. I think the best moment of the night is when Kristin turned to us in her Preta costume and said, “I’m so full I didn’t know that was possible.” We reminded her that she wasn’t actually a Preta. Then Jared, Sarah and Sheila from Anniwatta probably had the most creative costumes. On the northern tour we climbed Sigiriya rock and on the climb up there were all these warning signs saying that noise would provoke the bees to attack. Now we’re not talking normal bees, these were some huge deadly looking bees, and when we got into Sigiriya there were ancient frescoes of very voluptuous women holding flowers. Jared was one of the women from the frescoes and Sarah and Sheila were the bees. We had a fun night.

Saturday night also was really fun because we had the Kandyan dance performance. Nancy, Jared, Maria and I couldn’t hack the dancing or the drumming so we weren’t in the performance, Sarah, Sheila and Kristin were pretty much the whole show as they did three dances and then Sarah and Sheila drummed with Chris. Our assistant director Dan even got his own solo dance. All of us in the audience were highly impressed by how far they had come with the dancing since we had been spinning in circles alongside them.

October 23, 2008

A former ISLE student said to us before we left, that our host parents would actually treat us and think of us as their own children. At the time I doubt that would be the case but after being here for a while I’m pretty sure my host family has forgotten that I am not their actual daughter.

We went out to dinner the other night with most of my host mother’s side of the family, because her older brother and his wife were visiting from the U.S. When we got to the restaurant my host father said to some of the other men, “mage dua,” which means my daughter. They looked at him because obviously they knew he didn’t have a daughter. Then he said that I was a student from America but that I was still his daughter.

Maria, who had been to a similar dinner early that week said that the table was divided by gender and age and that she had to sit at the children's table. I said that if we were in that situation I wouldn’t sit at the children’s table because I was certain my apache (father) would sit me with him at the older men’s side of the table. I said this because at my home it is always my host father and I joking around and hanging out, which is not exactly to be expected because Sri Lanka is still a very patriarchal society, but I think my host father really wanted a daughter. I was joking, but that was exactly what happened. He told me to sit across from him, which was funny because all the women were to my right and all the men to my left and I was dead in the center of the table. 
The dinner went well, but my host father has taken to use me as his excuse when really he wants something. At home he is always saying, “bade ginne,” which means I’m hungry, but at dinner he just kept saying that I was hungry so we would have to eat right away, then he announced that I was tired. Which was absurd because there were children there that were under two years old that weren’t tired yet.

Most of the evening was interesting though, because everyone I was with spoke English and Sinhala, even the small children. Still when everyone got comfortable they started speaking rapidly in Sinhala on all sides of me. I finally understood what it must be like to come to America, and try and learn English. I made a mental note to be exponentially more considerate towards people in America who had yet to master the English language.

Now, if it isn’t obvious, my host parents love children, and they were very happy to play with all the babies. However, in Sri Lanka you are still a child until you are married then instantly you’re an adult. My host brother is 26 but as he is not married my host mother still refers to him as “baba,” which means baby. I knew that it was coming because everyone was dotting over their children so I knew eventually I would have to swallow my pride and be dotted over. Then after I had finished eating my Amma, swooped in behind me and she said it in Sinhala but basically, she said, “Baby, please eat some of mother’s fruit.” Everyone looked at me as if this was a test of whether or not I was really their daughter. As my host parents are so insanely kind to me I consented and let her feed me. It was hilarious because I can only imagine how hard any of my friends would have laughed at me at home if my actual mother had tried to feed me.

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