ISLE Program

Fall 2010 Session I Activities

 After settling in at their homestays and getting to know ISLE faculty and staff, as well as the ISLE Center, the University of Peradeniya and the historic city of Kandy, the ISLE students began Session I of the program in earnest, embarking on a tour of Sri Lanka's most famous cultural and historic sites.  (For more of the students' first few days in Sri Lanka, including the family and university social teas, please see the "Getting There" section of the ISLE Fall 2010 web pages.)

Below you will find information and scenic photographs from Session I and the Northern Tour of the Fall 2010 ISLE Program. 

The students take two courses during Session I: Sinhala Language and Material Culture. As part of the Material Culture course, the students participate in the the much-anticipated Northern Tour. This is one of the highlights of the ISLE Program, on which the students visit some of Sri Lanka's most famous and historically important cultural sites.

The First Days in Sri Lanka

The students spent their first week and a half in and around Kandy. There, they were busy studying Sinhala and getting to know their professors, fellow students, the University of Peradeniya, their host families and surroundings.

Rachael, Caitlin and Sandamali

Rachel and Caitlin work with assistant Sinhala instructor Ms. Sandamali to expand their vocabulary during the close of their first week of Sinhala class.

Henry and a friend

During the Kandy city orientation, Henry shares a refreshing drink of King Coconut water with a Sinhala learning partner from Peradeniya University.

drinking tambili

Jess and Jen do a tambili toast as they stop for a drink outside of the general market in Kandy.

Kandy Lake boat trip

Sasha, Emily, Katy, Josh and Caitlin get down from a boat ride around Kandy Lake. While cruising the water and checking out the view of the surrounding neighborhoods, the students also spotted a couple of four foot long monitors!

Prof. Meegaskumbura and students

Inside Dalada Maligawa, or the Temple of the Tooth, Professors Punchi Meegaskumbura and Udaya Meddegama talk with students about the historical journey and religious significance of the Buddha’s tooth relic in Sri Lanka.

discussion circle

Dr. Tissa Jayatilake, the director of the Sri Lanka Fulbright Program and a long-time friend of ISLE, talks with students about “When Memory Dies” and “Life Means Not to Kill”, their assigned summer reading books.  Mr. Jayatilake engaged the students in an illuminating discussion exploring two major sources of violence in the past thirty years of Sri Lankan history: the Tamil separatist movement and the youth socialist uprising.

Visit to the Singithisevana Orphanage

The students traveled to the Singithisevana Orphanage in Kandy to meet and play with the thirty-five children currently living there.  Not to mention it was a wonderful place to practice Sinhala!  Many of the students were touched by the brief, yet powerful, hour spent with the children and hope to have the opportunity to return throughout the program.

Caitlin at the orphanage

Caitlin with two children at the orphanage

Jen at the orphanage

Jen at the orphanage

Liza at the orphanage

Liza at the orphanage

Justin at the orphanage

Justin at the orphanage

Katy at the orphanage

Katy at the orphanage

Emily at the orphanage

Emily at the orphanage

Henry at the orphanage

Henry at the orphanage

Visit to a Craft Village

ISLE students and a group of archaeology students from the university spent the afternoon in a craft village that specializes in drum making.

Mr. Sisira explains a point.

Here, Material Culture teacher, Mr. Sisira, talks to the students about the drum making tradition.

The redheads

Josh, Chantal, and Rachael pose near the village’s water tank.

at the drumming village

Katy talks with a University of Peradeniya archaeology student who explains to her the details of drum making.

Jess and university student chat

Jess and a Peradeniya student chat about the types of vegetables growing in the village garden below them.

children of the village with ISLE students

Liza, Caitlin, Chantal and Emily spent part of the afternoon getting to know some of the children living in the village.

Visit to the Halpés

ISLE students were invited one evening to Ashley and Bridget Halpé’s home for a discussion of Sri Lankan art, literature and music and, of course, some tea.

at the Halpes

Here, Professor Halpé talks with the students about the many pieces of art in his own house, as well as the artists and significance behind them.

Rachael and Professor Halpe

Rachael and Professor Halpé chat about a particular painting during tea time.

Mrs. Halpe explains

Mrs. Halpé talks with students about music traditions in Sri Lanka before playing several examples.

Dr. Liyanage and students

During the final days of Ramazan the University was closed and Sinhala class was held at the ISLE Center. Here, Professor Liyanage assists Chantal and Rachael with a worksheet.

Sumudu and Caitlin

Caitlin works with Sumudu, one of Professor Liyanage’s assistants.  Sumudu is also the coordinator of a new program started this year in which the ISLE students are paired with a Sinhala learning partner from the University.

The Northern Tour

On Monday, September 13th, the students set out with archaeologists Daya Sisira and Aruna Rajapaksa on an eight-day tour to Sri Lanka’s most significant archaeological and historical settings. In traveling through Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, and many places in between, the students were able to gain a unique, first-hand experience of such sites and a comprehensive understanding of Sri Lanka’s past.

Caitlin rehydrates for the trip

Caitlin gets rehydrated with some tambili before leaving the next day on the Northern Tour.

Students explore Ibbankatuva

Students explore Ibbankatuva, a megalithic burial site and the first stop on the Northern Tour.

Emily and Mr. Sisira discuss a question

Mr. Sisira answers Emily’s questions at the cave dwellings of Vessagiriya monastery.

Sasha at Vessagiriya

Sasha flashes a big smile while exploring the rocky interior of Vessagiriya.


Katy and Jess celebrate following their successful climb on the rocks of Vessagiriya.


Henry and Justin take in the sunset over Tissawewa reservoir.


Ms. Sandamali teaches Josh and Jen how to identify a ripe wood apple on the fringe of Anuradhapura’s Citadel.


The students take a quick break outside of the Abhayagiri Museum. The museum holds hundreds of artifacts found at the Abhayagiri Monastery, a Buddhist monastic complex founded in the second century B.C.


Students listen and observe during the archaeologists discussion of a particular moonstone in the Abhayagiri complex.


Josh and Caitlin relax for a few minutes under the shade of an umbrella. A particular challenge of the Northern Tour is that in the several hours it takes to get from Kandy to Anuradhapura the climate becomes significantly drier and warmer!


Professor Jenkins, Ms. Sandamali, and the students pose outside of Sri Maha Bodhi, one of the eight sacred sites in Anuradhapura. The tree is regarded as the right branch of the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment in India.

Below, the Venerable Ankumbure Rewatha Thero performs a pirith ritual in a privileged ceremony for the students in the Sri Maha Bodhi temple.


Pirith Ritual: Chantal and the Venerable Ankumbure Rewatha Thero


Pirith Ritual: Chantal and the Venerable Ankumbure Rewatha Thero


Josh and Rachael spread out and take in the view on their way down from Mihintale, the ancient rock where it is believed Theravada Buddhism was introduced in Sri Lanka.


Mr. Sumanasena, the one-of-a-kind ISLE driver, sits with students atop a large rock complex at the Black Water Pool in Mihintale.


At the Jetavana Monastery, Katy makes a presentation to the group on the subject of “Stupas”.  All the students chose a topic to explore and present on throughout the Northern Tour.


The students gaze ahead to observe the Aukana Buddha statue, a rock-cut image of the Buddha that is one of the tallest in Sri Lanka.


Justin and Mr. Sisira chat atop Pidurangala.


Ms. Sandamali, Mr. Sisira, Mr. Rajapaksa, Emily, and Liza take in the breathtaking view (and a little wind) on top of Pidurangala.


Rachael takes a solitary stroll across the rocky peak of Pidurangala.


Josh engages Mr. Sisira with questions as they sit in the shade at Sigiriya, an impressive palace complex built on top of a rock in the fifth century A.D.


The girls pose on top of Sigiriya.


Jen takes a quiet moment to enjoy the view.


Jess awes her fellow students with her natural musical talent during a break at Potgul Vihara.


Henry and Mr. Sisira chat in the ruins of Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital of Sri Lanka.


Chantal, Jen, and Jess listen as Mr. Rajapaksa explains how the images and aesthetics of the moonstone have shifted from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa.


The group takes a seat as the night falls over Polonnaruwa’s Lotus Pond.


Mr. Sisira gives the students some background information before entering Dambulla, one of the largest and most beautiful rock temples in Sri Lanka. Dambulla is a living monastery that is still active to this day.