As students settled in to life in Sri Lanka, they were introduced to their new surroundings by going on several short trips in and around Kandy. The city of Kandy, the last of Sri Lanka's royal capitals, is the home of the Dalada Maligawa, or the sacred Temple of the Tooth, which contains the most sacred relic of Buddhism.
Here the whole group (dressed appropriately in white) with Professor Punchi Meegaskumbura, Independent Study Advisor, at the Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
Kate and Pete leaving the Dalada Maligawa
The group also visited the children at two local orphanages, the Singithi Sevena Orphanage and Evelyn Nurseries.
Val Vetter reads children's books in Sinhala at the Singithi Sevena Orphanage.
Alex plays with kids at the orphanage
Kate with some of the younger girls
Sarah laughs as one of the girls poses as an elephant
Jen plays with two little girls
Alex tosses one of the girls in the air at second orphanage the group visited, Evelyn Nurseries. Kate and Pete are also pictured.
Dan, Kate, and Pete and children at the swing set
Sarah and Jen play a game of "Simon Says" with some of the older girls at the orphanage
Kate and Alex getting dizzy with some of the girls. Professor Roger Vetter, Dan, and Pete are in the background.
Bryanna and one of the girls from the orphanage on the swings
On Thursday, September 10th the students, Professor Roger Vetter, Val Vetter, Program Assistant Katie Berringer, Sinhala instructor Sandamali, and archaeologists Aruna Rajapaksa and Daya Sisira departed from the ISLE Center in the direction Anuradhapura, an ancient capital of Sri Lanka and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the group's three-day stay in Anuradhapura, the students visited cave dwellings from the 3rd century BCE, a royal pleasure garden, an ancient fortified citadel, Buddhist monastic sites, the sacred Bo tree (the world's oldest historic tree), and the Great Stupa, a recently restored stupa built in the 2nd cent. BCE.
The group's first stop on their way to historic Anuradhapura was Ibbankatuwa.
The group gathers around a prehistoric burial site in Ibbankatuwa
Alex climbs the first of many rocks
Dan, with the Anuradhapura tank behind him, at sunset
Pete, in front of a small stupa, looks out over Anuradhapura.
The students at the Anuradhapura Citadel, where the group was lucky enough to stumble upon a very active achaeological dig supervised by Dr. Siran Upendra Deraniyagala, one of Sri Lanka's foremost archaelogists.
Mr. Rajapakse shows the group a highly decorated urinal at a 6th century monastery in Anuradhapura.
Jen and Sarah taking in the sunlight, while Val and Mr. Rajapaksa enjoy the shade behind them.
Dan and Sinhala instructor Sandamali, getting ready to place flowers before the Sri Mahabodhi, the sacred Bo tree of Anuradhapura.
The students and Mr. Sisira have a brief discussion beneath the Bo tree.
Jen views the the Ruwanweliseya, the Great Stupa of Anuradhapura, from a distance.
Kate, Sarah, Pete, and Alex circumambulate the Great Stupa.
Mr. Sisira talks to the group as they watch a procession around the stupa.
Sarah takes a photo at Mihintale (near Anuradhapura) with a stupa in the background.
Kate and Bryanna enjoy the view at Mihintale.
Alex relaxes in an ayurvedic bathtub at an ancient hospital.
On Sunday morning the group checked out of their hotel in Anuradhapura and made their way to Sigiriya, the 5th century CE royal capital. On the way they stopped at the Aukuna Buddha, an enormous statue of the Buddha. After checking into their hotel, the whole group headed out for a hike up Pidurangala, a mountain just north of Sigiriya which offers a spectacular view from the top. The next day, Sept. 14th, the group climbed the Sigiriya rock fortress itself, checking out the frescoes and the poetic "graffitti" inspired by them along the way.
Sandamali and Dan after the group's hike to the top of Pidurangala for a view of Sigiriya.
Kate in front of the Sigiriya frescoes just after successfully overcoming her fear of heights.
Mr. Sisira and Jen at the top of Sigiriya
Sarah, Mr. Sisira, Jen, and Dan walk through the newly opened Sigiriya Museum.
The group left Sigiriya for the third and final city of the tour, Polonnaruwa, on Tuesday, Sept. 15th. After visiting the museum on the first day, the group spent Wednesday exploring sacred and secular sites built largely during the reign of the 12th century king, Parakramabahu. The last discussion of the tour was held that night at Gal Vihara in front of three large rock-carved Buddha statues.
Jen stands in front of Nissanka Malla's Throne in Polonnaruwa.
Alex enjoys the breeze over the water in Polonnaruwa.
The group poses for a photo in the Lotus Pond on the last day of the Northern Tour. (Back row: Sarah, Bryanna, and Jen; middle row: Mr. Rajapaksa, Val, Kate, Dan, and Alex; front row: Mr. Sisira, Sandamali, and Pete.)
The group has now returned back to Kandy where they are settling back in with their host families while preparing papers and exams for their Material Culture and Sinhala 1 courses as Session I draws to a close. During Session II, the students will continue their Sinhala studies, study their chosen elective courses, and prepare for their independent study projects. In addition, they will study traditional dance, drumming and batik and will prepare a dance performance, so please be sure to check the Session II web page for updates on those and more upcoming ISLE program activities.