ISLE Program

Fall 2009 Session II Activities

Having returned from their archaeological tour to Kandy, the students have been continuing their Sinhala studies, taking two elective courses with faculty from the University of Peradeniya, and laying the groundwork for their upcoming independent study projects through research and consultation with faculty advisors. They also took elective drumming, dance and batik classes and prepared a dance performance. In addition, they went on several exciting field trips relating to their studies. All the while, they have been living with their Sri Lankan host families, learning first-hand about Sri Lankan food, customs and traditions in a welcoming family atmosphere. Below are photos and commentary from some of the highlights from Session II of the Fall 2009 ISLE Program.

This semester's elective courses were Colonial History, Theravada Buddhism, Art Drama & Poetry, and Images of the Feminine. With field trips and other events for most of their classes, in addition to a Southern Tour of the island, the students had ample opportunities to explore many varied aspects of the life, culture, history and environment of Sri Lanka.

Sinhala Language Class Field Trip

For their first field trip of Session Two, the group visited a local farmers' market as part of their Sinhala class. The students were given a list of produce needed at the ISLE center and asked to use their Sinhala to talk down the price. There was a prize (a Rs. 400 phone card) for the student who found the best deal.

Bryanna and Jen negotiate

Bryanna, Sarah, and Jen negotiate a deal.

Kate scopes out the green beans

Kate scopes out the green beans.

Jen, Alex and Tilak at the market

Semifinalists Jen and Alex, try to win over our judge, Tilak. The two ended up sharing the prize.

Art, Drama, Poetry Trip to Colombo

On October 17th the students headed out to Colombo with Ashley Halpe, our Art Drama & Poetry professor, and his wife, Bridget. We spent the weekend visiting museums, attending the play, Sinhabahu, and staying at the beautiful Galle Face Hotel.

Alex and Prof. Halpe at the Gallery

Alex and Professor Halpe at the Sapumal Foundation, a gallery of contemporary Sri Lankan art.

Kate views painting

Kate takes in a painting.

Sarah at the Gallery

Sarah at the Sapumal Foundation

At St. Theresa's Church

Jen, Professor Roger Vetter, Professor Halpe's wife Bridget Halpe, and Alex, checking out Richard Gabriel's murals at St. Theresa's church.

Jen and Bryanna at throne

Jen, Bryanna, and a throne at the National Museum.

Professor Vetter views musical instrument collection

Professor Roger Vetter enjoying the musical instrument collection (and the fan!) at the National Museum.

Kate and the whale skeleton

Sarah beneath a whale skeleton at the National Museum.

Southern Tour

On October 23rd the group departed on the whirlwind Southern Tour. They visited in the holy pilgrimage site of Kataragama, a popular pilgrimage destination frequented by adherents of all religions in Sri Lanka. They also visited the beach at Unawatuna, the colonial town of Galle, and the mask-making town of Ambalangoda, and a Turtle Hatchery.

Kate and Sarah tea break

Kate and Sarah, with a hill plantation in the background, at a tea break in Nuwara Eliya.

Group photo on the road

Prof. Meegaskumbura, Val Vetter, Jen, Sarah, Kate, Alex, Bryanna, Dan, and Katie pose in front of the mountains as the group breaks for lunch somewhere betweeen Nuwara Eliya and Kataragama.

Temple at Kataragama

A temple at Kataragama.

Kate and Sarah receive protective threads

Kate and Sarah having protective threads tied around their wrists at Kataragama.

students at a coastal temple

Bryanna, Sarah, Kate, and Dan at a temple on the coast.

Exploring the coastline

Sarah, Roger Vetter, and Bryanna exploring coastline.

Bryanna watches the waves

Bryanna watches the waves.

Bryanna, Sarah and Prof. M. at statue in Galle

 Bryanna and Sarah (with Prof. Meegaskumbura in the background) pose next to a model of a fisherwoman at the National Maritime Museum in Galle.

Alex at the Maritime Museum

Alex examines a sailboat at the Maritime Museum.

Kate and sea turtle

Kate and a seaturtle.

Alex at the Mask Museum

Alex having some fun at the mask museum in Ambalangoda.

Bryanna, Sumanasena and Jen in Ambalangoda

The group's driver, Sumanasena, models a mask with Bryanna and Jen in Ambalangoda.

Alex holds a baby turtle

Alex holds a one-day-old turtle at a turtle hatchery on the coast.


The annual Halloween party at the ISLE Center was a great success. The students' costumes were so well done that the judges of the costume contest (ISLE staff members, Rosemary and Violet) refused to pick a winner. The students carved pumpkins, bobbed for apples, and enjoyed pizza, ice cream, and homemade apple pie and fruit salad provided by Bryanna and Jen, respectively.

Group in Halloween costumes

The students in their costumes.

Dan, Rosemary and Alex

Mahinda Rajapaksa (Dan) and a hindu holy man (Alex) with Rosemary, the ISLE manager.

Jen, Bryanna and Kate

Sinhabahu (Jen), a Sri Lankan nurse (Bryanna), and the goddess Kali (Kate).

Ganesh, Sinhabahu, Rajapakse, and pumpkins

Sarah, as a trunk-less Ganesh (it was getting a little hot), poses with Sinhabahu, President Rajapaksa, and the students freshly-carved jack-o-lanterns.

Sarah, Dan and Kate break character

Sarah, Dan, and Kate struggle (and fail) to stay in character.

Buddhism Field Trip
On the poya (full moon) day, Professor Somaratne led the students to a temple in Lewella to observe a ceremony in which the laity of the area present the monks with new robes.

Alex at a small stupa

Alex in front of a small stupa.

Jen, Dan and Prof. Someratne

Dan and Jen with Professor Somaratne.

volunteers and temple robes

Volunteers at the temple show the group a set of newly-sewn robes.

Robes and bowls for the ceremony

The robes, packed along with begging bowls, before the ceremony.

Lay people present robes and bowls to monks

Lay people, in a line, carry the robes and bowls into the temple to present them to the monks.

Dance Recital

After seven weeks of practice, the students invited their host families and professors to the ISLE Center for a Kandyan dance performance.

New! ISLE Fall 2009 Dance and Drumming Videos on YouTube! (links below)

New YouTube Video!- Sarah, Bryanna, Val, Katie and Jen perform the Girls' Dance

Sarah, Bryanna, Val, Katie and Jen dance

Sarah, Bryanna, Val, Katie, and Jen in the first dance.

Sirisoma and Prof. Vetter

Drumming instructor, Sirisoma, with ISLE resident director, Professor Roger Vetter.

Drumming video by Program Director Roger Vetter, Jen, Alex and Dan (New!).

Dan performs solo

Dan performs his solo dance. New!- See a video of Dan's solo dance performance on YouTube!

Jen performs the cobra dance.

Jen performs the Cobra Dance.

the elephant dance

Jen, Val, and Sarah waving their trunks in the Elephant Dance

Jen, Val and Sarah finish dance.

Jen, Val, and Sarah finishing up their dance.

shoveling rice

Katie, Kate, Jen, Bryanna, and Sarah shovel rice into baskets in the final dance.

Poetry Reading at the Halpes' Home

Just after exams ended the students spent a lovely evening in the Bridget and Prof. Halpes' art-filled home. Professor Halpe and other Sri Lankan writers shared their poems and short stories with the group.

Bridget Halpe and Alex

Bridget Halpe and Alex.

literary discussion

Kate and Pete with writers Vihanga Perera, Carl Muller, and Professor Ashley Halpe.

Carl Muller reading

Professor Halpe and writer and professor, Nimal Sanderatne, listen as Carl Muller reads to the group.

Jen, Sarah and Prof. Sanderatne

Jen and Sarah chat with Professor Sanderatne.

Pete chats with professors

Pete chats with two visiting University of Peradeniya professors.

Alex and Sarah chat with Carl Muller

Alex and Sarah on the porch with Carl Muller.

We hope you have enjoyed these reports and photos from the Session II activities of the Fall 2009 ISLE semester. Now that Session II has concluded, the students are ready to conduct research for their independent study projects in their respective research locations. They will return to Kandy by early December, where they will wrap up their research papers and present their findings to their professors and the rest of the group, take their final Sinhala exams, and say goodbye to their host families and ISLE staff an the traditional ISLE final tea. Once we get photos from those activites, we will post them to the Session III web page of this site.