The Temple of the Tooth. The ordinary day turned extraordinary when we entered the palace that houses the Buddha’s tooth. No matter your religion or walk of life one comes from, it is impossible to deny that there are some places that have the power to take your breath away, and in this temple you could feel it. This experience is humbling, yet it makes you feel as if you had more power than ever before. The palace, for about four hours, became my classroom. It was the best learning experience I have had so far. I learned about the power that lies behind the statues that they would bow down to.
After the temple, the orientation had the group going to a carving factory. We decided to go on a better adventure. “The Big White Buddha” we didn’t know the name of it, so that's what we called it. This is a statue standing 88 feet tall, visible from outside of Kandy.
We ditched today… 12 of us volunteers saw no reason to sit around the volunteer house, and endure through a Sri Lankan cooking lesson. So we asked the head coordinator if we could go to an elephant park and temples. The coordinator, to our surprise, was ecstatic that foreigners wanted to go out on their own and see his country without needing a guide. So we left.
We visited a safari park and a hindu temple. The temple was the most beautiful thing I had seen in a while. The colors and the stories merged together in a beautiful array of worship. The safari park on the other hand taught us how to be patient and how to not give up on a deal. For instance the people at the Jeeps were trying to charge us much more than we should have paid, so we bargained the jeeps down from 12,000 to 8,000.
We went to bed that night knowing that we didn’t give up easy.
I had absolutely no clue that today was the fourth of July; a person from Spain reminded me, but in all honesty that had no affect on me. I am not here to be an American, I can do that everyday back home, I am here to learn what being a Sri Lankan is like. Today I did just that.
We visited two factories today, a spice factory and a tea factory. I quickly caught on that these two places were simply tourist traps with set prices that can not be bargained with. So after going to the factories we went in to Kandy, ate lunch, and then we met a nice man named Pali who took us to the local market.
The market was an experience - I mean technically speaking everything is an experience, but the market more so. The amount of people trying to steal your money forced you to keep a sharp mind, and give an even sharper “NO” when a man tried to sell you some over priced piece of wood.
Tonight I had had my first lesson on Buddhism with a man named AJ. AJ is a coordinator for IVHQ who lives in Sri Lanka. According to AJ I am the most advanced student of Buddhism that he has seen through the program, but a mountain of knowledge is still left to climb.
I’m not quite sure when I woke up today - or how I woke up. None the less I found myself sitting around a table eating a fried egg and banana with people from around the world; from Lebanon to Spain to The Netherlands to Uganda. Breakfast came and went, but we did nothing; we sat still in our seats waiting for someone to come to us and tell us what was going on. It was quite reassuring to know that I was not the only person confused; in fact absolutely nobody knew what was going on. Finally the head instructor, Dhammike, (really cool name) came to our group, and he lead us to the temple in which our first class was held. In this class we learned about the different placements that volunteers could go to. I really hope that i am placed in the Hill Country, but I think that a lot of other people want to go there too, so we will see.
After Class we had lunch... it was interesting. Good. But interesting. Lunch flew by, and immediately we went to the mall. the mall was nothing like a western mall, but it had a mobile telephone provider so that those who hadn’t gotten a sim card could. I had not done so yet, so I queued in line with the others. Fifteen minutes of standing in line passed, then another 15, and another. Ultimately, 45 minutes of simply waiting in line gave me time to think. “Is a mobile data a necessity?” I questioned the nature of assuming that having accessible internet at your fingertips was absolutely a need. I decided that there was so much more to do in this amazing island than sorry about what my friends are doing on snapchat or Instagram.
This night was really fun. we literally only sat around, played cards, and ate. No Phones. No Worries. As far as first days go in foreign countries this was best I have had so far.