ISLE Program

Spring 2009 Session II Activities

For Session II of the ISLE Program, students have returned to Kandy to immerse themselves in Sri Lankan culture, staying with local host families. They are continuing their study of the Sinhala language, as well as their chosen elective subjects, as they lay the groundwork for the independent research projects which they will undertake during Session III. But just because the students are studying hard doesn't mean they haven't had opportunities to get out and explore Sri Lanka! Below you will find scenic pictures from a recent field trip.

On the 13th, 14th, and 15th of March, Professor Udaya Meddegama (the ISLE Myth and Ritual instructor) guided the students on a weekend excursion through Southern Sri Lanka. The trip contained many highlights, from visiting the tea country to visiting the coast, but perhaps the most memorable part of the trip was the students’ visit to Kataragama for an evening puja. Kataragama, named for one of Sri Lanka’s four “guardian” deities, is a multi-religious pilgrimage site that attracts many thousands of Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims each year. After visiting Kataragama, the group proceeded to the Southern coast and then headed back up to Kandy the next day. In total, the group logged approximately 800 kilometers before returning to Kandy for an evening with their host families.

Lunch at the tea estate

The drive to Kataragama took the group up through the hill country and into the tea estates, where they stopped at Labookelle Tea Estate just off of the Kandy – Nuwara Eliya Road and refueled on chocolate cake and tea.

Sumanasena and Becky

Sumanasena offers Program Assistant Katie Hyman a big bite of fresh chocolate cake.

Becky at Tea Estate

Becky stands in the foreground with a background of rolling hills lined with tea bushes.

Hindu Kovil

After passing through Nuwara Eliya, the group stopped for a brief tour of the Sita Kovil, a Hindu shrine commemorating the Ramayana epic.  The shrine is built on the spot where King Ravana is said to have taken up residence after capturing Rama’s wife Sita and coming to Sri Lanka.

Profs. Meddegama and Lutchmansingh

Before lunch, the group squeezed in one more stop at the Dowa Cave Temple complex just outside of Bandarawela. Professor Meddegama explains the three-story tall, bas-relief Buddha statue, as Prof. Lutchmansingh looks on.

Students at Ella Gap

A delicious lunch of rice and curry was served at the Ella Rest House that overlooks the impressive Ella Gap.  Damian, Podi Andrew, and Becky pose for a picture above the Gap.

mind the gap

"Mind the gap." Program Assistant Katie Hyman and Program Director Larry Lutchmansingh also pose for a picture in front of the Ella Gap.

Students at Falls

Carrie, Joe, and Becky take in the view of Ravana Falls (named after the Ramayana’s demon-king).

Two Andrews

The two Andrews enjoy a few laughs.


One of the ISLE Tour drivers, Mr. Gunawardena, displays an impressive platter of fresh fruits that the group took with them to Kataragama for the evening puja.

Becky smashes coconuts

Becky smashes a coconut at the Kataragama Devale, hoping that it will split into perfect halves–an auspicious omen.

Emily at Kiri Vihara

Emily offers a white flower at the Kiri Vihara.

Professor Meddegama explains

The group started Saturday off by visiting an ancient stone pillar inscription in Tissamaharama. Professor Meddegama explains the significance of the inscription.

Damian in a pensive mood

Damian is caught in a pensive moment.

students at beach

Upon reaching the coast, the students stop to take in the sea breeze and the warm sun. Loku Andrew, Carrie, Emily, and Becky pose for a picture with the gorgeous tropical backdrop.

girls wade in

The girls wade into the ocean.

Lunch at Galle

Arriving in Galle around mid-day, the group stopped for lunch and then had some free time to walk through the Dutch colonial-era fort.

Joe at Galle Fort

Joe sits at the edge of the fort not far from the lighthouse.

Becky at Galle Fort

Becky enjoys the view of the ocean from her perch on a Galle Fort wall.

Dinner at Ambalangoda

A delicious dinner with fresh fish, prawns, and crabs was cooked up for the group at the Sumudu Guest House in the Southern town of Ambalangoda.

Boys and Baby Turtles

Loku Andrew, Joe, and Damian display three one-day-old sea turtles during the groups visit to a turtle hatchery in Kosgoda.

Damian and Turtle

Damian holds up a more mature sea-turtle for a quick picture.

Boys at Beach

Loku Andrew, Podi Andrew, and Damian catch some rays at the beach.

Emily and Carrie at Beach

Emily and Carrie smile for a snapshot at the beach.

During Session II, the ISLE students have had the opportunity to take Kandyan dance and drumming lessons.  Their gurus, Mr. Surasena and Mr. Sirasoma, have dedicated many an afternoon to preparing the students for the final performance, which will take place at the end of the session.

Surasena, Damian and Joe

During dance practice, Damian and Joe refine their technique.

Surasena and Joe

Mr. Surasena demonstrates the choreography for Joe.

Surasoma, Emily and Surasena

Emily follows Mr. Surasena’s lead in the final steps of the cobra dance, as Mr. Sirasoma plays a traditional Kandyan drum.

Joe, Becky and Damian in costume

Joe, Becky and Damian wearing their traditional Kandyan dance costumes.


Every Tuesday afternoon during Session II, the students have gathered at the ISLE center to learn how to batik.  Joe, Emily, and Becky work on their batiks by applying hot wax to dyed fabric. 

Emily at Peradeniya

Recently, several trees on the campus of the University of Peradeniya burst into bloom.  The flowers only lasted for a couple of days in their full glory, so the students made the most of their gorgeous and aromatic blossoms. Here, Emily eats lunch under one of Peradeniya’s flowering trees.

blooming tree at University

Peradeniya students walk to and from class among the blooming trees.

On the 20th of March, Becky, Damian, Podi Andrew, and Loku Andrew went to Galaha Town and Deltota (about an hour outside of Kandy) to conduct field research for their course on Ethnicity and Social Identity.

muslim school

Podi and Loku Andrew visited three schools (one Muslim, one Sinhala, and one Tamil) in order to conduct a comparative study.  Here, the two Andrews meet with a teacher at the Deltota Muslim Central College.

meeting with students

University of Peradeniya graduate student, Ashoka acts as a translator for Andrew K. and Andrew S. as they interview two students at the Deltota Sinhala College. 

Sinhala school

The students meet with the principal of the Sinhala College.

up-country dance practice

Two students demonstrate a traditional up-country dance for Andrew S. and Andrew K. as they tour the school.

Andrew S. greets students

Loku Andrew greets students at a Tamil school located on the Deltota Tea Estate.

Tamil students

A group of Tamil students greet the ISLE van.

meeting at tea estate

Dr. Dhammika Herath, Podi Andrew, Damian, and Becky meet with the Chief Clerk of the Deltota Tea Estate.

Alut Nuwara

Professor Meddagama brought his Myth and Ritual class to Alut Nuwara for an afternoon fieldtrip.  The students participated in a small puja and discussed the religious and mythical significance of the site. 

Low country dance

Professor Meddagama arranged a Bali Tovil ceremony for his Myth and Ritual class.  During the Tovil there was a demonstration of traditional low-country dance.

Sumanasena and Tovil

After the ceremony, Sumanasena is seen receiving a blessing.

The students also got a chance to visit the famous Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage during Session II.

Elephants at orphanage

Elephants at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.

Joe at elephant orphanage

On a visit to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, Joe poses in front of the bathing elephants.

Becky, Emily and elephant

Becky and Emily go for a ride on a friendly 35-year-old elephant named “Noona”.

Noona bathing students

They also get a bath…

On the 28th of March, Becky, Emily and Program Assistant Katie Hyman, joined a group from the University of Peradeniya for a day-trip to the Knuckles Mountain Range.

group at Riverston

Reverend Ja-Ananda (a student from the Arts Faculty of Peradeniya), Danushka (the fieldtrip’s tour guide, a botanist from Peradeniya), Katie, Becky, and John Stiffler (a Fulbright-er who is teaching English at Peradeniya) gather on a rocky outcropping for a picture.

Rev. Jaananda and Emily

Rev. Ja-Ananda and Emily take in the gorgeous green expanse from atop the Knuckles Mountain range.

Riverston mountainscape

A view from “Mini-World’s End”

Mini World's End

John, Becky, Emily, and Danushka look out over “Mini-World’s End.”

stream crossing

Later that afternoon, the group stopped to enjoy the beauty of a mountain stream.  Shamala, Becky, Danushka, Rev. Ja-Ananda, and Emily venture across the stream.