Sri Lankan fire-walking ceremony? Check. Spice plantation? Gem museum? Check. Check. Organic oil massage? Check.
At the gem museum, I purchased a cat’s eye moonstone ring for a mere 6,000 rupees bargained down from 10,400 rupees, which was way ghana vadi. I’m not usually one for rings, but this one’s way beautiful. It twinkles like your eye does when it catches the light (hence the name ‘cat’s eye’ right? Duh). The cat’s eye moonstone is something that is only mined in Sri Lanka, and not only is it rare, but it is a rock in its purest form. It will forever remind me of my travels to Sri Lanka and my first experience bargaining.
Bargaining is something that is definitely new and uncomfortable for me, but is something that is expected in Sri Lanka (and once you get the hang of it it’s pretty fun!). Japan is a very polite country so arguments (no matter how friendly) with shopkeepers seems weird and disrespectful to me. Not only that, but it seems silly for tourists to be haggling over a couple rupees that mean so little to us and so much to them.
“500 rupees?! No I only have 200…”
“Go ask friend! I give you blue pants, red pants, and mango for 250 rupees. Special volunteer price. Just for you”
Something that I have observed since touring the city is that there are no neighborhoods as in the States. The U.S is distinctly split into different segregated neighborhoods. In Sri Lanka there are tin roof huts, shingles falling off, no doors, and no electricity next to several story houses with floor to ceiling windows on top of the hill overlooking Kandy. Like almost any society, the distinction between the upper and lower socioeconomic status is palpable, but it does not make people elitist like it does in the States. The main difference is using public transportation or owning a car. Big whoop.
Speaking of public transportation, today was the first day that I rode a public bus. I had the same pit in my stomach I had getting into the shady van at the airport. Halfway through ascending a mountain the bus would stall and roll down a couple centimeters. I’m fully aware that a couple centimeters doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re on a creaky bus shoulder to shoulder with old sweaty men, anything uncomfortable is multiplied. Buses hit other buses or the sides scrape up against each other while in motion. Multiple times I have thought that I was going to be stranded on some mountainside jungle without a phone, unable to speak the language. If not stranded, then at least hurt killed in some accident by some reckless tuk-tuk shuffling tourists by the fives. Thank god I don’t have to scooter my way to my volunteering location (not that I could, still being that Asian girl who can’t drive..)
On my way out to frolic with some fireflies, the coolest of all insects, our coordinator informed me that there are vipers in our backyard that will kill you within 15 mins.. umm no thank you. So my dream of going firefly catching was burnt (get it?), but we have a cow as a pet so I guess I can’t complain.
Things I learned about Sri Lankan culture: they do not use their left hand to eat, there are seats specially reserved for monks on the buses, women cannot sit next to monks in said buses (I’m torn between respecting the religious beliefs but simultaneously wanting to do something about the status of women in this country), and children under 16 are forbidden to work because schooling is mandatory (and free) for all children. THERE’S SO MUCH I HAVE YET TO LEARN and these tidbits are just the tip of the iceberg.
My mission before my next post is to take a selfie with a monk.
Mama oyata adarei.