Mum, dad and Kirsty arrived at the beginning of June. We half ran, half waddled in our saris straight from school to meet them. When we arrived at their quiet guesthouse I was convinced that I had dreamed they were coming. But no! There was my mum coming down the stairs, I picked up my sari and ran up to greet her, a warm familiar hug. Kirsty appeared looking a little sleepy and then Dad emerged from his room, looking a little lost but happy. The Shorter family re united.
We sat and we chatted and caught up, they took us out for a delicious meal at a lovely restaurant. We chatted some more and swam on one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka.
It took me a few days to register that in fact they didn't understand half of what I talked about. I was nattering about: Posun day; poya day; vesak celebrations and lanterns; eating roti and curd; observing sill; going along to the pagoda; that the food was rasai and the beach was lasanai. Apparently it was all gobbledegook to them. It made me realise how much we've learnt this year and how much of the Sri Lankan culture we now take for granted. The roads where the drivers seem like they're trying to kill you, the hundreds of stray dogs that wander around. Erin and I laughed when they exclaimed over the coconut trees. It was weird that they didn't know that coconuts are orange when they grow on the trees, then when you pick them, you hack open the outer orange husk and the brown coconut inside is what we have in the shops at home. There, a new fact for you.
We were invited to Lakshmee's house, a teacher friend of ours who lives on rummassala hill. Her house is a beautiful 20 min walk up through a semi jungle. She offered to give the family a well wash, as she knew it would be a novelty to mum, dad and k, although it is the norm for most Sri Lankans. I think they all enjoyed the incredibly refreshing wash, although dad screamed "like a baby,"Lakshmee words, not mine! She fed us lots of delicious rice and curry, showed the family how to hack a coconut and took us to explore the beautiful temples on the hill.
The next day we visited a spice garden near Koggalla lake. Unsure what to expect we rattled up in a few three wheelers, to be met by a guide and some cinnamon tea. The tour of the garden was interesting, although slightly hard to believe, every plant seemed to cure a range of diseases and viruses; it is a breakthrough in medicine unknown to the rest of the world! When it began to rain we were shepherded into a small hut. Herbie was then instructed to take his shirt off. He complied. There was some confusion as 8 men then filed into the room. It turned out they were trainee masseurs and wanted to give us all massages, it was the best massage I've had in Sri Lanka!
We showed m, d and K our house and they came into a few classes, the kids were a good as gold, transfixed by these strange white people! One Grade5 boy exclaimed when he saw dad and joked "But how did he get in the door? Watch out! He will break the roof! "
For Erin's birthday we rented a beach house in Talpe and had a fabulous afternoon, evening, and morning lounging around, swimming, reading, eating cake and pancakes and lots of delicious rice and curry! As a treat we went to the turtle farm. They are trying to conserve turtles, as so many lay their eggs on the beaches and they are consequently eaten by fisherman. There were hundreds of baby turtles, which despite the clear sign saying DO NOT TOUCH, we were told we could pick up. After a few days relaxing at the beach, I deserted Erin, Joan and the boys in Unawatuna and m, d, k and I set off on our adventures.
Our first stop was Ella, a small town in the middle of the hill country. It's a complete contrast to the South which is hot all the time and consists of grubby towns lined with the most beautiful and empty beaches. Ella is set high in the lushest, greenest hills, which stretch out into the distance. We spent a few days with the lovely Gunaseeri, who is a friend from when I last visited Ella. We explored the hills, and had a beautiful walk along the local rail way track. On this particular walk, mum and dad fell behind. When they eventually caught up mum looked slightly nervous. She avoided our gaze and muttered something about leeches. Dad snorted and told us that they had been walking along the track when mum had felt something on her leg, she had shrieked, convinced that leeches had crawled up. They were standing in the middle of a public railway track, which is used as the main road by the local Sri lankan people. She panicked, terrified of the small creatures, she shimmied out of her trousers and jumped about in her pants and trainers, screaming to get them off.
There wasn't any, but I'm sure anyone who saw had their weeks entertainment!
We decided to get the train to Nu Aurelia, Sri lanka's highest town. There weren't any seats, but there were plenty of wooden slatted benches, if you managed to get to them without falling through any of the large holes in the floor. That evening we went to the very fancy St Andrews hotel to eat, I had salad and bread and BUTTER! This may seem like a strange thing to note in my blog, but after months of rice and curry it was the best part of the week for me! Nu Aurelia is surrounded by miles and miles of mountains, all covered in tea, we visited the obligatory tea factory, shopped and enjoyed the cold respite!
Our last stop was Kandy, where we stayed in a fabulous hotel. We visited the Elephant foundation as Mum, dad and k wanted to ride the elephants. It was just as amazing the second time and hilarious to see mum hanging on with a look of terror as the elephant was led along the track! We did lots more cultural things, visited the temple of the tooth, saw Kandyian dancers and all too soon it was the end of their visit.
Waving goodbye was sad and as Erin and I stood on the dusty, dirty street of Colombo I was half tempted to get into their beautiful air conditioned van and be driven to all the comforts of home. Not long now though!
I can now go home happy. We've seen leopards. We didn't just see them, we got close enough to get eaten by them. As an amazing birthday prezzie, Joan took us to Yala, a national park on the South Coast. We spent a happy few hours cruising around in a jeep, we saw hundreds of crocs, an elephant and her baby, deer fighting and a beautiful star tortoise. We spotted a leopard in a tree, which was fab. Then as we were leaving the driver received a call and we rushed to a lake, where a massive leopard proceeded to have an arguing match with a crocodile before disappearing into the distance. The other jeeps sped off to observe it from another point, but our jeep was facing the WRONG WAY. Argh, he had to drive off, find a road to turn around and rush off to try and catch up with the 20 other jeeps. Just as we were careening along we noticed something. The leopard had given the jeeps the slip and was doubling back on itself. He was stalking towards us. It got closer, and closer and then so close that if he had leapt we would have been in trouble. He didn't. He veered round the front of the jeep and disappeared into the bushes. Amazing!
On the way home from Yala we stopped off at Thissa lake to get a boat tour. We drove round these huge trees which somehow grew in the water and were literally covered in millions of bats, swooping, screeching and generally causing mayhem. Our over enthusiastic tour guide made us very nervous when he fell in the lake, which had a few resident crocodiles. He refused to climb back in and insisted on swimming to get us lotus flowers, in an attempt to redeem himself. He came back with all limbs intact, so it was a good end to the weekend!
As always it's been a busy month teaching- We're approaching our last couple of weeks and I've been thinking about how much I'm going to miss the kids, although I will not miss the 6:15 start!
The grade 1's at Mihiripenna discovered I had tickly feet and all delightedly got down on their hands and knees and chased me out the classroom.
We took part in the Dengue campaign, which involved cleaning the school instead of lessons. We tried to teach our younger years as they were not involved but were told our kids were having "too much fun" which was making the older children, who had to clean, jealous. After cleaning we marched through the local village with anti mosquito banners the kids had made!
We were teaching "I want" to classes, when I asked one of the 8 year old boys he got confused and blurted out, "I… want… YOU"! Cue lots of laughing from the class teacher and Erin!
We've been encouraged by some of the mums who told us that their children had begun to speak English at home. Our friend was proud that her son announced to her, "I like mangoes but I don't like pineapple."
That's all for June, July has already been a busy month, with a wedding, lots of English competitions and the end of term approaching. Something had happened with the postal system and we've not managed to get mail for over a month which is always sad, we're not sure what's wrong, we are able to send mail, just not able to receive it L.
Flight is booked for the 18th so will be arriving back in Scotland on the 19th of August!
Lots of love,