Tuesday, March 19 - The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Tourists

We awoke in the morning, and Katie made us "bed tea" - normal tea served in bed, before the day begins. (At least, for the recipient.) We waited until a morning village meeting was over, then went out to see the sights.

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Monica and Ray, going native.

The first sight we saw was the wash pond, where we laundered our clothes and ourselves. To wash clothes, you soap them up, twist them up, whip them against the rocks, and rinse. Repeat as necessary. Washing people is a bit more involved, particularly for women.

You bring a sarong to the wash area, and place it on over your clothes. You then remove your clothes, never showing any taboo flesh. (As I said, it's more involved for women.) You then pour buckets of water over yourself, washing everywhere including under the sarong, again being careful not to be too wanton. Finally you rinse off with more water, place your clothes back on under the sarong, and remove the sarong.

Yes, that first bucket of water is indeed a better eye-opener than any caffienated fluid I'm aware of.

After our morning bath, we went to have lunch with Katie's Tamil friends. I am not a big fan of vegetables, but the rice and spinach concoction they came up with was delicious. They were very gracious hosts, and would not eat with us, preferring to wait in the kitchen while we ate.

The house was like most in the village - mud, with a thin layer of cement over it to give it a more substantial appearance. Like most roofs, it was thatched and there was a gap of perhaps three inches between the walls and the roof, except of course where the supports met the walls.

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The countryside around KT's village. A rice paddy in the center, with tea bushes in the lower right.

(Click here for a fairly big JPEG of the view outside of Katie's house.)

Sri Lanka was once known as Ceylon, and tea is their major export. Tea bushes were everywhere, and on all our bus rides through the mountains we saw people picking tea leaves. They used bags on their backs, strapped to their shoulders and foreheads. They would pick the light green, fresh leaves and throw them over their shoulders into the bags. The supervisors wore western-style shorts and shirts, an echo of the British colonial rule.

Eventually, we stopped at the local kade, where we had a snack. We had some biscuits that were just shy of being sugar cookies, with a brand name of "Nice Biscuits". After that break, we started our descent toward the local waterfall. The valley was extremely steep, and we had to be very careful on our walk down. Once we got there, it was worth the trip, however. The recent lack of rain had diminished the waterfall greatly, but it was still beautiful.

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KT at home in Sri Lanka.

We took a lot of pictures of the waterfall, too many to show here. While we were around, we could see down much of the length of the valley.

(Click here for a largish JPEG of the waterfall.)

Any land that could be used was terraced and tea bushes were either being planted or were already growing. We could see people working in the tea plantation on the other side of the valley and children at the top of the falls, calling down to us.

On our way back, Monica found that two leeches had attached themselves to her as we had been wading. They were quickly disposed of, but we decided to avoid wading for a while. Many of the Peace Corps volunteers, including Katie herself, had caught various parasitic infections at one time or another and we wanted to minimize our risk. We decided to redouble our efforts with the mosquito repellent.

Finally, we made our way along the valley floor and started our ascent to Katie's house. We arrived again as the sun was sinking in the sky, and had some tea outside, watching the sun set over the valley. We could hear the amplified chants of the monks in the Buddhist monastery on the other side of the valley as we talked.

That night, we used Katie's gas stove to cook up some spaghetti and rice and such, while we talked and listened to Katie's small cassette player.

KT's place has a mud-and-cow-dung floor (which needs to be renewed from time to time- fortunately, we missed that). The walls are mud, without even the thin cement layer that most of the houses have. (The villagers consider this pao and plan to cement her walls before the rest of the center.) She has a Lankan bed with coconut-husk mattress, a few shelves, and a desk. She has to fetch all her water from a spring about 300 yards down the side of the valley, and boil it before she drinks it.

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KT's house - one room off to the side of the community center. That's mosquito netting hanging over her bed in back.

That night, Katie started feeling a little ill. We went to bed early, for we planned to head back into Kandy the next day. Late that night we awoke to hear Katie moaning, with a distended stomach and diarhea. As far as we could figure, it was the milkshake that Katie had drunk on Monday morning.

We comforted her as best we could and after a few trips to the bathroom, she seemed improved. We slept fitfully and waited for morning, when the busses would be running and we could get to a phone.

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