Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day 356

How on earth did time fly by so fast?

One year already? 

I'm awake at 2am half packed and realized that this blog needs it's final post. 

The past month has been pretty crazy. Sinhala New Year meant a lovely extended weekend. I did one final trip in Sri Lanka. I went on a completely unplanned trip with the interns from work. Four girls from Bangalore with an extremely limited Sinhala vocabulary, but ready with our backpacks, sunglasses and cameras. :) We took the bus to Dambulla. Visited the Kandalama hotel- Geoffrey Bawa's crowning piece of work. The hotel was stunning. Nestled on the side of the hill, 1km in length and split up on 7 levels with breathtaking views of the Kandalama tank and Sigiriya rock in the distance.

We managed to make it to Sigiriya by evening and climbed up and down before sunset. The heat was torturous, but the view was totally worth it once we got to the top, drenched in sweat after 1700 steps. 

New year weekend meant that the towns were desolate, shops and hotels were all closed. We had to skip out on Anuradhapura and were lucky enough to get a bus back in the thunderstorm. 

All my pictures are on my camera. I don't know why I didn't take a few on my phone. But I do have two to remember the funniest incident of the trip. Between Kandalama and Sigiriya, our auto ran out of petrol. The driver deserted us and went off on a cycle with an empty bottle. We were left in the middle of nowhere for what seemed like forever. He did eventually return on a motorbike with petrol after we had attempted moving the auto by ourselves. (Tanvi might just kill me for posting this picture)

The following weekend, Cheryl, Andre and I got haircuts. It was a fun day with lots of posing.
Work has been the usual. Alternating between busy days and not so busy ones. Rainy afternoons with coffee and good music followed by wet muddy journeys home. 

I had to get sick at least once in this country. A few days of fever and being stuck in bed with no voice and no appetite and in between them- dragging myself out of bed to go to church and preach! 

The final few days in the country meant winding down with work, finishing off all last minute things in the few days before I left. I hate goodbyes- farewell surprises and last meals and final fun days with my new friends here.
I visited Geoffrey Bawa's Colombo residence on my last day- beautiful house with such intricate details in the house design, the interiors and the exquisite furniture- all so perfectly fitted together. Perfect way to spend the last day.

I should probably finish packing. 

Goodbye Sri Lanka- couldn't have asked for a better year- The people, the beautiful beaches and mountains, the food and a great work experience. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 331

I've had quite an eventful past few weeks. One of the highlights was definitely a big trip with 4 of my friends from college. 

We've been planning a big girly trip for ages (have been discussing it all through college) and it finally happened. The many hours of planning over google hangouts, the 101 changes to the itinerary and many pictures of beach clothes trials at home and then they were here. 

It was the craziest of all itineraries- 7 destinations, all possible modes of transport, places from beaches to the city to the mountains across the country in just 5 days. 

It's kind of hard to summarize. The first leg of the trip covered the south western coast- the beaches, Dutch fort and Geoffrey Bawa's hotels in our luxury van. 

After a day in Colombo, we set off to the East coast on the overnight train and spent a glorious day snorkeling with the sharks off Pigeon Island. Once we got back we immediately left by bus to the mountains in Nuwara Eliya to cool off from all that sun and humidity in our very own cottage with a fireplace.
(Shall save all the exciting details for the exclusive blogposts once I have time to sort through my pictures) 

Aside from the actual site seeing and traveling we spent a good amount of time taking pictures of ourselves and talking endlessly and making monkey faces in the mirror with face packs on :)

Another highlight from the past few weeks is all the music and drama! Last weekend we had our Easter musical. All those choir practices are now over, sadly, but it came out really well. We had another musical programme in the evening for which we did a hand mime with white gloves and UV lights- enough reasons for a super weekend. 

And then the ultimate highlight (and probably one of the highlights of the whole Sri Lanka year)-- the three of us auditioned for roles in the Colombo version of The Phantom of the Opera. 

Only a few of you or less will actually get why this is a highlight. It is the greatest musical of all time, the craziest set design and the most amazing score ever and The Workshop Players were going to stage it. Now, I knew that I wouldn't even be here in October for the performance, but even being a part of the audition process was exciting enough. 

Once we chose which roles we could try out for, we struggled with difficult tracks and the horribly difficult vocal ranges required that we almost chickened out of going. But, for the sake of having fun, we went to audition for the ensemble cast. 

To summarize the few hours we spent there- insanely talented people, super energy, fun vocal exercises and some scary ballet lessons-- and the three of us got through the auditions to be part of the ensemble. Not just general singing ensemble, but (believe it or not) singing and dancing ensemble!!!

We came back singing all the songs and walking with pointed toes. It's just really sad that I can't be part of it. Oh well. :(

So, my year here is coming to an end. A few more weeks to enjoy this lovely country. Probably only time to squeeze in one more trip. :) More about that coming soon. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 307

300 days in Sri Lanka already!!! The end of my year is actually in sight- happy/sad feelings.

My posts are so spaced out that I'm not even sure what I've been doing. Work is as usual. Busy work days alternate with fun days with the work people- potlucks, ice fights and lots of laughter usually at someone's expense. We visited the architecture exhibition recently, but dinner after was probably more exciting than the exhibition itself.

The past month, I've spent two Thursday evenings at the Good Market. It's my favourite after-work-chill spot. Mostly because of the really awesome cake at the Butter Boutique- those humongous rich decadent slices have never fallen short of amazing. Water's Edge Park is also so beautiful at night; the breeze, the grass and the lights on the water. One time, the four of us lay down on the grass and watched the stars till we were chased off. 

Church has been fun the past month too. Easter programme practices means more singing and more acting! We've been practicing for a hand mime too which reminds me of all the mad practices with the AY gang in Bangalore. 

Last week my parents and uncle were here. It was so nice to have them visit again even though I couldn't take more leave to travel to Kalpitiya with them. Sunday morning, a few hours  after they landed, we left for Mirissa to go whale watching early in the morning. 

Despite the sea sickness and the harsh sun, watching the whales break through the surface of the water to breathe was a thrilling experience. The 50ft giants barely surfaced, but we were able to watch parts of their backs and tails for a short while before they dived back into the deep. Most of them, we watched at a distant, but a few were really close. One of them even swam alongside our boat about 10m away. We could see the dark outline of the whole whale below the water. This was definitely one of the highlights of Sri Lanka. I was so awestruck, I forgot to take videos. Here are a couple of pictures that my Dad took. 

Next week, I have visitors again. Four of my classmates from college are visiting for 5 days. Lots of traveling, lots of pictures and plenty of girly gossip time coming up. :) 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Day 276

Sadly my posts are beginning to become once a month entries. 

We have two new people at work this month, so the office has a bit more life. Busy work days alternate with days to appreciate mid morning hot cinnamon tea and pink Tabebuia trees lining the gardens of the Kelaniya temple. 

This month's getaway was to a retreat centre in Bokkawala with the church family. We spent 3 lovely days tucked away in the hills with a schedule packed with plenty of fun things. From the sessions, the music, the walks around the area, campfires, lots of picture taking and laughing; the few days was perfect for fellowship with people and with God. 

The building we stayed in was quite interesting. The circular radial plan of the retreat centre was once a hospital. The rooms and dorms we occupied were once wards and clinics. The main corridor enclosed a fish pond in the centre opened to the sky and others formed double height courtyards framing mountain vistas at the ends. 

The weekend finished faster than I hoped and sadly have to begin a new week with another bout of post-trip depression. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 258

Need to quickly write before January is over. 

Happy New Year. I'm still writing 2013 everywhere and a month has already flown by.

The first two weeks were busy with routine work-home-work-home. Then the weeks after were quite different.

My parents and brother were planning to visit me and the buildup of excitement as I counted down the days started early. With a week long holiday to plan, I researched hotels and travel itineraries by the dozen. 

The week before they arrived, I had a site visit to the south east of the island. Set inside the Kumana National Park, this project would had the most beautiful surroundings. As we scaled the site, we could see elephants on the other side of the lake, a couple of jackals and so many species of birds. Our ride into the centre of the park was well into leopard territory.

We spent the afternoon and rest of the day at Arugam Bay- a beach well known for its surfer waves watching fishermen sort through the evening catch. 

A few days later I was counting down hours to the airport pickup. The 6 days of traveling the country began early the next morning. We visited Yala National Park (even managed to see a leopard), drove up the southern coast to the Dutch fort in Galle. We spent one day back in Colombo before we set off North to the perfect beaches of Kalpitiya. 

The morning boat trip to watch the dolphins in pods of hundreds was one of the grandest things I've seen. Lying over the front of the boat while dolphins crisscrossed arms distance away and watching the spinners do somersaults and flips in the air was just amazing.

We had a rather embarrassing yet fun kayak ride into the ocean at sunset- capsized over and over again before we had no other choice but to swim back to shore. 

We ended the trip on another high- snorkeling in Sri Lanka's largest and most living coral reef- bar reef. The variety of colourful fish and coral was breathtaking despite choppy wave and turbid water.

And now it's back to mundane. Always the downside of traveling- saying goodbyes and getting back to normalcy. 

It's been quite a brilliant start to the year, I must say. :) 

I sent my poor dying laptop back to India. Maybe it might be revive there. Until then Fudge Together will continue to be sort of dormant. :( 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 230

It's the last day of 2013 and what a year it has been! 

Christmas was grand. Had so much fun. The Christmas musical at church came out well. The week after was a mix of sleepovers, get togethers, lots and lots of cooking, movies, presents. It was great to get a few days off for the season. 

In order to eliminate post Christmas blues, we went on a grand trip up into the mountains of the Uva Province for 3 days. Hiking with the breathtaking scenery, clear air, clouds and pine forests  and train rides through the mountains was a perfect trip. Couldn't have been a better way to complete to year.

Alas, my laptop needs some repairs. Have to rely on phone posts and phone pictures till then. :(

My New Year's Eve will be spent at home with movies, pizza, cake and finishing up my year end blog post. 

Here's a picture from our breakfast picnic. What a view it was!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 218

Sigh. If only my laptop wasn't so fussy and stayed on for more than 5 minutes at a time. Woe to all the pending posts of trips long past.

November came and went so fast. Every weekend was busy. I traveled a lot, had visitors and did so much. Even work was busy. Sadly the interns leave this month and it'll be a bit quiet at the office before the next ones join us. 

This post has been in the drafts section for so long and I've had to change the post Day so many times.

The past month has gone by fast. Work has been busy on and off. And weekends have been as busy as weekdays with play and choir practices for the Christmas programme.

But it's December and it's the bestest month of the year and even though I am away from home, it's going to be a great Christmas.

Aside from the music and the baking, we really needed a tree to get our house in a true festive mood. We researched many kinds of DIY Christmas trees before deciding to make one out of paper cones. We spent about 4 hours of folding and sticking and trying to keep it from toppling. The final touch of the lights made it just perfect.  :)

We went for an absolutely grand concert last week. The Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka. Watching an orchestra live is a totally different experience. So many instruments it's hard to focus on one thing at a time. They played some familiar classics in the first half and then played a selection of Christmas music with a choir backup. It was so perfect. For the last 3 songs, the audience could join in. The three of us sang loudly, with absolutely no shame. So much fun. :)

With a few days off next week for Christmas, we'll hopefully squeeze in a trip to the hills in between all the other Christmas things.

Here's one of the interesting covers I heard over the past few weeks.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day 196

Sooo I've had such an eventful past week but have been unable to post. My laptop cable burnt out and haven't been able to use it. :( 

Two of my friends from Bangalore came to Sri Lanka for a week long holiday. Time went extra slow that Friday waiting to get home and pack up and catch the train to Trincomalee. 

We spent three glorious days on the East coast; beaches and more beaches, snorkeling in clear waters offshore Pigeon Island, the colourful coral and aquatic life with an occasional black-tipped reef shark swimming by. Our lazy walks on the beach led up to moonlight dinners in fancy hotels. We watched crabs and snails brought in by the waves and counted dead jellyfish and pufferfish washed up on the shore. 

We met many interesting people, ate lots, laughed lots and if I get carried away with all the descriptions, I'll have nothing left for a big feature post on my main blog. 

I was back at work the following week and back into a busy usual schedule. 
December is almost here. Bring on the carols! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 185

I've had a really exciting week so far and it's only Thursday.

Sunday morning started off really early. I was at the bus stop at 5:30 in the morning way before sunrise. We got on a rickety rusty bus that took us up the really windy roads to Kithulgala. Any longer and my stomach may have just given up.

Breakfast was at a tiny travelers pit stop after which a pick up truck from Ceylon Adventure Sports picked us up for the last leg of the trip. 

We walked over tiny pathways through the trees and bridges over streams to the site by the river. The ten of us geared up and got into 2 rafts. The water alternated between calm steady level areas to rocky steep rapids. It was great fun trying to battle the currents. I'm sure our efforts were very feeble and our guide took control of the raft most of the time. 

At one point we all got off the boat and climbed the rocks at the side of the rapids and plunged 12 feet into the white water. I wish I had jumped again. At another calm stretch, we jumped into the water and floated downstream with the current. 

The view was breathtaking. All around us the forested mountains loomed over the river, some peaks partially hidden in the clouds. The river meandered between them creating multiple vistas at ever turn. After we got back to base, we swam in the cold water for a while, sitting in the rocks with the rapids massaging our backs. The clouds gave way for light rain soon after. Mist covered the view with a hazy filter. Really wish I had a waterproof camera.

A hot shower, big lunch and the lazy afternoon afterward went by fast and soon we were on another rickety rusty overflowing bus on the way home in a thundershower. 

2 days later and I had another day trip. This time to the south of the island to the lovely Galle fort. I was meeting up with a friend from primary school in England. We had kept in touch all these years and had only met once in between about 10 years ago. She was in Sri Lanka for a few days on a Asia tour with two of her friends.

I took the really comfortable bus direct to Galle and met the ladies at the Pedlars Inn Cafe. The courtyard house converted into a cafe with it's yellow walls, antique mismatched furniture, blackboard menus and smooth jazz music was a perfect setting for the late morning catch-up.

We strolled the cobblestone streets and walked along the fort walls. The ocean was blue and so clear. We walked into the 19th century Gothic All Saints church. We walked in and out of the boutique stores with souvenirs and hand loom clothes and pottery and knickknacks. 

We had a huge traditional feast at Lucky Fort Restaurant with a large variety of curries with generous refills. More wandering around and shopping and catching up on so many years of news continued in the afternoon. We ended the day with gelato from the Pedlar's Inn.

With two splendid day trips this week, I can't really ask for more. But, two of my friends from Bangalore will be landing in a few hours and then we will be off for three days to Trincomallee on the East coast. 3 days of sun, sand and ocean. :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 176

Had such a lovely weekend nestled between some busy work weeks. 

We set out early Saturday morning for Lakpahana Advenstist School, about an hour from Kandy. Midland driving is just as beautiful as driving along the coast. Mist blanketing over forested hills, clean crisp air that you can take deep breaths from and windy roads that put my stomach in unease. 

We were visiting the school as part of the AYF team to do a programme for the students there. The setting of the school was beautiful; nestled in between completely untouched mountains. The day was great- the morning service, activities in the afternoon and in the evening. It was hard to keep up with the enthusiasm of the children. 

We stayed over in Kandy with some friends. Loved their hospitality, their house, and the view too. Built on an extremely steep site, the entrance at the top and the rest of the house divided into many different levels going downwards with large windows at every landing with no limits to the Kandy scape.

The next day, we visited the Trinity chapel. Definitely one of the nicest structures in Sri Lanka so far. It's such a rare thing to find a church that is built with local architectural influences as apposed to the standard Gothic references that most churches in the early 20th century mimicked.

Completed in 1935, the church was constructed with 50 monolithic stone pillars sculpted by local Kandyan craftsmen that supported a steel trussed tiled roof. Loved how the breeze moved right through the space. A chapel like this really didn't need biblical sculptures or paintings to add to the sanctity. 

I found some pictures online of elephants hauling the pillars up to the site- here

I wish I had my camera. I will have to visit again to take pictures. Posting some that Nen took.