ISLE Program

Fall 2013 Session II Activities

In the first week of Session II, the students began to cultivate their artistic talents even further! They began Kandyan dance and drum lessons at the University. In their first lesson, they learned the pre-dance ritual movements as well as the basics of Kandydan dance.


Hannah, Derek, and Eli practice the basic positions in Kandyan dance.


The drum master from the University of Peradeniya also led the students in their first drumming lesson. Pictured below, Sam learns basic rhythms on the Kandyan drum.


The following day, the students had their first batik class at the ISLE Center. Batik is a traditional Sri Lankan cloth that is decorated using wax and dye. It is a long process that will take many classes for the students to complete. In their first class, the students sketch their designs on cloth.


Sam, Maja, and Derek have fun while meticulously sketching their designs.


The students began their first Session II weekend with a trip to Nuwara Eliya, accompanied by Ecology professors Savitri and Nimal Gunatilleke and Economics professor Sangaran Vijesandiran. 

On the road to Nuwara Eliya, the group stopped at a tea plantation for a field lecture. Professors Savi and Nimal guided the students through the tea field as they spoke of the water security issues that threaten the sustainability of tea plantations. 

tea field lecture

Professor Vijesandiran (right) showed the students how tea pickers pluck the tea. Here he points out the different parts of the tea leaf.

vijaysandiran in field

The group also visited the Hakgala Botanical Gardens, one of the most popular spots in Nuwara Eliya. These gardens are home to a variety of plants, which are both on display for the public and used for scientific research.

Here Professor Nimal Gunatilleke points out the different sections of the gardens.

map of hakgala

During their walk through the gardens, the ISLE students met a group of Sri Lankan students from a technical college in Batticaloa. Here they pose with a rose from the garden.

students with flower

Professor Vijesandiran gave a lecture to the students on Tamil tea workers. He himself grew up on a tea plantation and is personally familiar with both working and living conditions on the plantation.

vijay lecture

The students then headed to Horton Plains with Professors Savi and Nimal Gunatilleke. Horton Plains is a national park, known for its beautiful mountainous terrain and impressive biodiversity. On the hike through Horton Plains, the group stopped to enjoy a scenic waterfall. Picture from left to right is Andrew, Maja, Eli, Sam, Derek, Hannah, and Robin.


In the following weekend, the students took a trip to Nilambe Buddhist Meditation Centre, just one hour outside of Kandy. Joining other visitors and Buddhist monks, the students enjoyed a session of guided meditation.


In the fourth week of Session II, the ISLE students traveled south to Kataragama, a pilgrimage site for Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. Mr. Konara, the students' Sinhala teacher, acted as their guide on the trip. The students witnessed and took part in many traditional devotional practices. 

Pictured below, Sam, Maja, Derek, Hannah, and Mr. Konara eat fruits from a platter that was offered to the god Kataragama. The fruits were deemed sacred after the offering was performed.


Sri Lankan worshippers perform devotional dances and songs. The program assistant took a video of the ISLE students, as they joined in the dancing!



Maja throws a flaming coconut. This is a common practice at Kataragama. If the flaming coconut breaks when thrown, it is an auspicious sign!


Eli places a lotus flower at the base of a small shrine.  


After visiting Kataragama, the students traveled to the southern coastal city of Galle. This city was a fort and trading port built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Below, the students look out over the water at Fort Galle.


The group poses by the water with Mr. Konara on the far right!


Professor Mat Schmalz hosted a Halloween costume party at the ISLE Center for students, host families, staff, faculty, and friends! Below, Professor Schmalz welcomes the guests to the party inside the ISLE Center. 


The ISLE students invited a few friends from the university to join in the festivities.


The students show off their creative Sri Lankan-inspired costumes, including a village fisherman and President Rajapaksa!


Andrew, Malik (Program Assistant) and Derek pose in costume.


Even Sinhala instructors, Mr. Konara and Dr. Amare Liyanage joined in the fun by putting on a Kavadi dance for the students and guests.kavadi

In addition to the Halloween celebration, the group also celebrated Hannah's birthday. Below, Hannah feeds cake to Sam and Derek. This is a traditional practice on birthdays in Sri Lanka. 

cake feeding

The students in the Traditional Medicine elective course took a field trip to several Ayurvedic medicine sites. 

They visited the Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Teaching Institute and Hospital in Yakkala. Robin, Maja, and Sam are pictured at a class where they spoke with students studying ayurvedic medicine.

class visit

Andrew, Eli, and Professor Schmalz enjoy the exhibits at the teaching institute.


They also visited the Meegoda Ayurveda Hospital Herbal Garden in Boralle where they got to see where medicine is made. Sam (below) leans over a pot to inspect the medicinal concoction. 

making meds

They also walked through the herbal garden to see the ayurvedic ingredients growing in the natural environment.

walk through

Finally, the group visited the Bandaranaike Ayurveda Research Institute in Maharagama where they observed the many species of herbs, spices, and plants that are used to treat patients. 

growing plants

In the final week of Session II, the ISLE students put on a dance and drumming performance. They had been working for several weeks with the dance and drum masters at the university to learn Kandyan dance and drumming. The students performed in front of friends and family at the ISLE Center. Below, Hannah and Malik lead the group in their first dance. 


Maja impresses the crowd with her Kandyan dance form.


Maja, Hannah, Sam, and Malik dance together.


In the second dance, the ladies took the floor. 


ladies 1

Sam and Malik joined the women in the third dance

dance 2

The group also presented a Kandyan drumming performance.


Sam shows off his new drumming skills.


The dance and drum performance was a great end to Session II. Check out the Session III section on the website for pictures of Independent Study and more!