After completing Session I and returning from the majestic Northern Tour, the ISLE students are back in Kandy for Session II of the Fall 2008 ISLE Program. There, they are continuing their studies at the University of Peradeniya and at the ISLE Center, as well as participating in some very exciting and eye-opening field trips. These have included visits to an elephant orphanage, a meditation center, a traditional Sri Lankan puppet performance, Kandy's famous Temple of the Tooth and other sacred sites, as well as ISLE professors' homes. Following are photos from some of the activities the students have enjoyed so far during Session II.
A Talk with noted Sri Lankan Authors
Professor Ashley Halpe invited acclaimed Sri Lankan author/poets Jean Arasanayagam and Carl Muller to the ISLE Center to talk with the students as a part of his Art, Drama and Poetry Class.
From the left, Jean Arasanayagam, Professor Nancy Wilkie, Carl Muller (standing), Professor Ashley Halpe, and ISLE students Michelle Granara and Sarah Lord.
Carl Muller answers the students questions about his famously controversial novel based on his own family's history, The Jam Fruit Tree.
Visit to Professor Halpe's Home
On another occasion as part of his Art, Drama and Poety class, Professor Halpe invited his students to Kandy's best art gallery- his own house.
(Left to Right) Professor Wilkie, Michelle, Chris and Dan (not pictured) spent a pleasant morning in the Halpe home discussing and inspecting Sri Lankan art.
Here Professor Halpe shows the students and Professor Wilkie a couple of his own paintings, seen here above and to the left of the door at the base of the stairs.
Professor Halpe show Michelle, Chris and Professor Wilkie around his garden.
Colonial History of Sri Lanka
Professor Kingsley de Silva, the leading scholar of Sri Lankan history, lectures for his class, Colonial History of Sri Lanka.
Images of the Feminine
Professor Carmen Wikramagamage (in the foreground) organized a seminar of leading woman activists for her "Images of the Feminine" course. The invitees came up from Colombo for a day to talk with the students. In this picture, Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran explains her work with the Women's Education and Research Center (WERC). Other presenters included the Director/Founder of the Woman Muslim Research and Action Forum (RAF) and an activist who works on female participation in Sri Lankan politics.
Students in Theravada Buddhism got up early on October Poya (full moon) day to watch the students of Kandy's Buddhist College take the eight precepts, a recitation of Pali verses committing oneself to right (moral) action. Prof. Wilkie chats with the ISLE students as the school children assemble in the background.
Visit to the Nilambe Meditation Center
All the students joined Professor Somaratne's Theravada Buddhism class for a day at the Nilambe Meditation Center outside Kandy. Following are some pictures from that day.
The students enjoy the breathtaking view as Prof. Somaratne leads them along one of Nilambe's wooded paths.
The students and professors sit and meditate in the outdoor meditation area at Nilambe.
Kristin, Sheila, Sarah, Prof. Wilkie and Professor Somaratne try their hand at walking meditation.
Professor Meegaskumbura discusses independent study possibilities with Jared.
Preparing for Independent Study
Professor Meegaskumbura, Chris and Professor Wilkie sit down to make arrangements for Chris to research English language education at a Tamil school in Hatton.
Professor Meegaskumbura talks with the director of the Kurunegala Ayurvedic Hospital in preparation for Kristin's Independent Study.
Visit to the Elephants of the Pinnawella Elephant Orphanage
One day the students visited the elephants at the Pinnawella Elephant Orphanage. This government-run sanctuary allows elephants of all ages to live in their natural habitat. Abandoned or injured juvenile elephants are also trained here to become working animals as adults. The students got to see the elephants close-up during bathing time.
Sarah and Kristin greet a friendly elephant.
Michelle, Kristin and Sarah got the chance to go for a short ride on an elephant.
Student Chris Burke and Program Assistant Dan Brady get a bath while riding a resident elephant.
Students (l. to r.) Chris, Kristin, Sarah, Maria, Michelle and Jared pose for a photo in front of the bathing orphanage elephants. Sheila wasn't able to come, as she went on a short trip with her homestay family.
Traditional Sri Lankan Puppet Show
The students were lucky enough to attend a traditional Sri Lankan puppet show in ISLE Transportation Coordinator Mr. Sumanasena's village. The puppet troupe coordinator comes from a line of puppeteers and has only recently begun to revive this endangered art.
The magic of a traditional Sri Lankan puppet show
The handmade puppets, shown here, were only recently refurbished. They are made of wood and given beautifully intricate costumes. Counting puppeteers, vocalists, musicians and technicians, nearly thirty people constitute the troupe.
ISLE Librarian Tilak and Sinhala Language Assistant Sandimali enjoy the show. All of ISLE's faculty, staff and homestay families were invited to attend.
Chris, Maria, Sheila and Michelle take a look at the intricate backstage workings of the puppet theater.
Sacred Rites and Rituals
Professor Meegaskumbura points out a Kali shrine to the students as they wait for a folk ritual to begin. Shortly after this photo was taken, the students witnessed a soothsayer enter a trance in order to advise local visitors in the words of gods.
After the ritual, Chris listens as the soothsayer answers questions from the students.
The students wait for the evening puja ritual outside the shrine at the Temple of the Tooth, which houses the Tooth Relic of the Buddha and is sacred to Buddhists. It is a ceremony of offering, involving placing flowers at the shrine of the Relic as well as on the Temple's many statues of the Buddha.
A view of the beautiful Kandy Lake from one of the balconies of the Temple of the Tooth.
Celebrating Halloween is a tradition at the ISLE Center. Here are some pictures from this year's festivities:
Following a long-standing ISLE Program tradition, the students and staff dressed up for a Halloween party at the ISLE center. This year, the students dressed in groups: Maria and Michelle came dressed as their ammas (homestay mothers); Kristin and Chris dressed as pretas (hungry ghosts); while Jared dressed as one of the famous 'Sigirya ladies' depicted in famous frescos on Sigirya with Sheila and Sarah dressed as the bees also depicted in the frescos. Prof. Wilkie dressed as ISLE Center manager Rosemary, ISLE transportation coordinator Sumanasena dressed as an English planter, and Dan dressed as Colonial History Professor KM de Silva. Back row: (left to right) Maria, Michelle, Chris, Sheila, Jared, Sarah, Sumanasena. Front row: (left to right) Kristin, Prof. Wilikie, Rupa, Dan.
Rosemary, Sumanasena and Rupa help decorate the ISLE center classroom in preparation for the Halloween party.
The students, in full costume, carve pumpkins on the grass outside the ISLE center.
Rupa, a member of the ISLE center staff, assists Dan, who dressed up as Prof. Kingsley deSilva for Halloween.
Sumanasena lights the jack-o-lanterns at the Halloween party.
Dance and Drumming Practice and Performance
One of the highlights of every ISLE semester is the Dance and Drumming Performance put on by students, their teachers, and other performers at the end of Session II. Following are photographs from this year's performance and the practice leading up to it:
Students work hard to prepare for the end-of-session dance performance. Here, Kristin, Sarah, and Sheila practice Kandyan dance, while dance master Peter Surasena drums in the foreground.
Students practice Kandyan drumming with Drum Master I.G. Sirisoma (left) and Dance Master Peter Surasena (2nd from left) in the ISLE center outdoor classroom.
The dance master, Surasena, and the drum master, Surisoma, drum during one of the many dance classes in the ISLE center classroom.
The performers take their traditional bow before the performance can begin.
Though all the students began Dance class at the beginning of the term, only Sheila, Sarah, and Kristin stuck with it through all the often-rigorous classes. In these pictures, the girls perform two different types of traditional Kandyan dance.
Sheila, Chris and Sarah demonstrate their considerable drumming skills during the Dance and Drumming performance.
The performers in the dance and drumming concert pose for a photo after the performance. From the left: a visiting drummer, Dan, Sarah, Kristin, Sheila, Chris, and Drum Master Surisoma. The Dance Master Peter Surasena is seated in the front.
ISLE students and their host families build close friendships. Here, ISLE student Sarah Lord poses with her homestay family after the end-of-session Dance Performance.