Everyone arrived safely in Chicago from their respective points of departure, some barely managing to dodge serious delays due to thunderstorms and other weather events. Sree Padma flew in from Boston, accompanied by several students from the New England area, and held a brief meeting – mostly for introductions - before everyone boarded for the first leg of travel to London.
Students arrived at the Colombo airport, a bit delayed and exhausted, but excited about the experience ahead. On the road to Kandy, in addition to stopping for tea and snacks at the Ambepussa Rest House, the group stopped to drink thambili, try rambutans and take pictures of roadside porcupines. Lunch was served after checking in at the Kandyan Villas; the students loved the view from the balcony and many even tried eating with their hands for the first time!
The group then walked to the ISLE Center after lunch for a tour of the facilities and a neighborhood walk. The students and the assistants went back around 6:00 p.m. to the Kandyan Villas for dinner and much needed sleep.
The next day Sinhala class started at 8:00 a.m. After lunch at Kandyan Villas, the students met Drs. Ram Alagan and Seela Aladuwaka at the ISLE Center for more cultural orientation. The group went on a walk to the university temples, visiting the Hindu shrine, the mosque, the Christian church and the Buddhist monastery. At the church, students met the caretaker who is a young lecturer in the department of Sociology. He also operates a charity organization that helps poor Tamils from the neighboring former tea estate regions who have been displaced by development. He offered an opportunity for ISLE students to volunteer with this organization.
Upon arrival at the Buddhist temple, Ram talked with the monks and arranged a spontaneous lecture by a British monk in residence there. The students were fascinated by his personal story and enjoyed a question-and-answer session along with tea and snacks. It was a very stimulating experience for everyone.
On Sunday, after Sinhala class, the students checked out of the hotel and came to the ISLE Center to meet their host families. They were all eagerly looking forward to this, and the meetings went well. Some students had experienced an unfortunate bout of illness after eating dinner at the Kandyan Villas the night before (fish had sat on the buffet, waiting for the late arrival of the group, perhaps too long) and these students' host parents were informed. (Students were concerned with offending their families at dinner that evening, due to lack of appetite.) Many of the ammas immediately administered home remedies that made their host sons/daughters feel much better, exhibiting the kind of nurturing and hospitality typical of Sri Lankan family life.
The students began attending Material Culture classes on August 9th, preparing for the eight-day Northern Tour excursion. Session I is devoted equally to Sinhala and to Material Culture, and the ambitious Northern Tour really sets the tone for their academic experience in the ISLE Program.
- Go on to Session I Activities