These Are Auspicious Times, Parts 2-115

18 May

Building on the proverb that a picture is a thousand words–a belief which Sri Lankans take to heart–I have concluded that to type out blogs about the rest of April and May would consume, well, all my available time from now through June. So instead, here are 115 more photographs spanning four weeks. I’ve put them all behind a break–but nonetheless, it’ll be a bit long to download all the pictures, so for those of you on slow connections, let the page load for a few minutes first.

Avurudhu shopping at the six-story ASB clothing store in Ambalangoda. 10 April.

The Mask Museum gift shop in Ambalangoda. 10 April.

Chaminda’s home in Batapola is also his father’s office. 10 April.

Chaminda’s backyard. Behind the camera is a rice paddy field. 10 April.

Chaminda’s younger brother peruses the bookshelf, while the rest of us watch updates from the cricket game the day before. 11 April.

Squeezing through Kumarathunga Mawatha, known to deaf people as “Muslim Street” due to the many Muslim-owned fabric shops. This area is a shopping hotspot during Avurudhu. 12 April.

Indika’s family at the Beach Inns lights the hearth to welcome the New Year at the auspicious time of 1.01 pm. The clay pot holds kiripol, coconut milk. 14 April.

Indika and some guy I waved off the street light a group of firecrackers. They are more powerful than those sold in the United States. 14 April.

Indika’s parents light the oil lamp shortly before eating at the auspicious time of 2.51 pm. 14 April.

Fiona sits by the traditional feast for the New Year, with kiribath, milk rice, as the centerpiece. 14 April.

The feast is so traditional we find almost the same thing at the home of Surath, the Beach Inns manager. 14 April.

Ginette, Surath’s daughter, Surath’s wife, Surath, and Fiona. 14 April.

The main temple in Matara on the Sinhala and Hindu New Year. 14 April.

Lakmal greets the day. 15 April.

Ginette and I with Lakmal’s family at the end of our visit. We ate two platefuls each of rice and curry. 15 April.

Amila and his older brother near the bus station in Galle. We bumped into them purely by chance while looking for a restaurant. 16 April.

The Dutch fort at Galle. While pieces were originally built by the Portuguese, the majority of the fort was built by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century. 16 April.

A boy jumps off Flag Rock for 300 rupees. A tourist attraction that I once found exploitative, I have come to accept that rock-jumping at this particular location is an old, old tradition and somewhat safe, according to media articles. 16 April.

Following the jump. 16 April.

Ginette and I are delighted to have a very, very expensive Afternoon Tea (1,500 rupees per person!) at the very posh and exclusive Amangalla Hotel. 16 April.

Morning in Unawatuna. 17 April.

Ginette makes a new friend outside our hotel room in Unawatuna. 17 April.

Strolling down the beach. 17 April.

Ginette, Ajith, and Lakmal return from the bakery in Galle after buying cake to present to Sanjeewani’s family. 18 April.

Sanjeewani’s new family home in Imduwa. Most houses in Sri Lanka are built very slowly as families save up money for the next phase, such as plastering or painting or tiling. 18 April.

Sanjeewani’s older brother, Sisitha, and his collection of birds. 18 April.

Sanjeewani’s mother and older sister, Renuka, prepare lunch in the detached kitchen. 18 April.

Lunchtime. 18 April.

Grabbing a glimpse of the new Colombo-Kataragama highway. Due to be completed by the end of the decade. it will transform the South. 18 April.

Renuka suggested I go find some shade to stand under. I told her I was fine under the sun. She then jokingly told me to sit down in the sun, and I obliged. Horrified at the sight of her guest sitting on a dirt road, she pulls me back up. 18 April.

Ajith, Sameera (Sanjeewani’s older brother), Renuka, and Ginette have some fun with the water pump. 18 April.

Back: Sisitha, Sisira, Ajith, Lakmal. Front: Renuka, Sanjeewani, Ginette, Sameera, Adam, and Seetha. 18 April.

Damayanthi negotiates with the three-wheeler driver while en route to Anojani’s (the sports teacher) home in Baddegama. 19 April.

Ginette tries on a sari for the first time. 19 April.

Anojani’s family. 19 April.

I, Ginette, and Damayanthi have a scrumptious lunch at Anojani’s house. 19 April.

Standing under a new overpass built for the same Colombo-Kataragama highway waiting for the bus to Waduramba. 19 April.

A bus stop en route to Mapalagama. 19 April.

Three buses later, we’re in Pelawatta waiting for the bus to Neluwa. About a dozen kilometers before Neluwa is Samantha’s house. 19 April.

Samantha’s house has no electricity because the power lines haven’t reached Yatapatha village yet. Instead, kerosene lanterns are used to see at night. 19 April.

Samantha’s father lights a lantern. 19 April.

Morning in Yatapatha. Samantha and her dog. 20 April.

Samantha’s mother, Ginette, Samantha’s punchi amma (lit: mother’s younger sister), Damayanthi, Anojani, and I eat a breakfast of milk rice cut into diamonds and coconut rice pushed through a tube. 20 April.

Samantha and I. She is home from university for the April holidays. 20 April.

The women pick apart a jackfruit. 20 April.

I get my first try at a motorbike. At 125cc’s, it is too powerful for me to practice without lurching off into some obstacle. 20 April.

Anojani, Ginette, and Samantha pull up greens which grow in the shadows of the tea plants. Samantha’s parents make their living off the tea crop that grow around the house. 20 April.

Samantha’s mother making dinner at the wood stove. You don’t see it because of the camera’s flash, but there’s just the wood fire and a single candle illuminating her cooking. 20 April.

Damayanthi and Ginette as we prepare to leave. 21 April.

I, Samantha’s father, Samantha’s mother, Ginette, and Damayanthi. 21 April.

We bought vanilla ice cream from the ice cream bike while changing buses in Akuressa. 21 April.

Damayanthi’s sister and Damayanthi as we end our journey near the school in Walgama. 21 April.

The deaf association in Matara, in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Red Cross, holds the traditional New Year’s games in the Sanath Jayasuriya field in Matara. The women race to fill up their bottles using a spoon and water from the dish. 22 April.

Along with the men, I race, white thread in hand, to the line where women are standing with needles so we can slip the thread through the eye of the needle. 22 April.

Ginette and I come in last. 22 April.

Ajith, Amila, I, and Ginette take a lunch break. 22 April.

A blindfolded speed yogurt-feeding competition. 22 April.

Five people, seated, must roll a peeled coconut using only their legs, back and forth five times without letting the coconut touch the ground. 22 April.

In one of the most popular games during the New year, two men sit on a raised coconut tree trunk, swiping each other with bags filled with sawdust. 22 April.

I am defeated by Sanjeewa’s older brother. 22 April.

Ginette and I battle it out, much to everyone’s delight. Men and women dueling each other on the raised log is unheard of, much less two white people. 22 April.

Ginette is disarmed when she drops her bag. I am egged on by the crowd below to keep swinging, so I do. 22 April.

To Ginette’s glee, I lose my balance and fall off. 22 April.

Munsif and others play tug-of-war. 22 April.

It’s the women’s turn. The women weren’t written into the schedule of events, and had to argue with officials to get a spot in the tug-of-war competition.

Ginette’s team wins! 22 April.

Men pulling away in the final match. 22 April.

Matara Idol? The men line up for a model competition. 22 April.

The victorious women. Ginette and I were recruited as judges, and did not even place the two women in yellow (who won #2 and #1) in the top three. We later realized that judges will always give top awards to those who wear traditional dress over those wearing Western clothes. 22 April.

And the children’s model competition. 22 April.

Sitting around watching the award ceremony. 22 April.

Gimihan is ready for the school’s special Wesak Day when the school is transformed into a Buddhist teaching academy for the day. 27 April.

The girls are helping each other put on their white sashes, representing purity. 27 April.

Ginette and I wear white as well. 27 April.

The boys and I at the temple down the street from the school. 27 April.

The girls and Ginette. 27 April.

The teachers. 27 April.

Following prayers, the students pay respect to the monk. 27 April.

After the temple, all the students assembled in the main hall, sitting against the walls, with boys on one long side and girls on the other. 27 April.

The former principal’s wife, easily one of the top three teachers at the school, delivers a lecture on Buddhism. We learned that in addition to the five acts forbidden in Buddhism — killing animals, telling lies, stealing, committing sexual infidelities, and drinking alcohol, the Wesak period also bans using perfumes, sitting anywhere but on the ground, and a few others. 27 April.

A monk comes to deliver felicitations to the assembled masses sitting before him. 27 April.

Then the teachers serve the students, including Prasanna, food. Giving food is a sacred act of the Buddhist faith and one of the highlights of Wesak. 27 April.

Back in Galle, we attended another traditional New Year’s game event. This time, it was sponsored by a coalition of community organizations catering to people with disabilities. 28 April.

We had lunch in a park next to the Galle Fort; Ginette and the men. 28 April.

Naushan places in the finding-a-coin-in-a-dish-of-flour-with-your-face-wetted-by-water game. 28 April.

Others and I play a game of musical chairs. I came in sixth, with Udaya winning first. 28 April.

Two entries in the costume contest; the boy on the left is an astrologer. 28 April.

Ginette awards certificates and prizes to the winners of the modeling contest. Even though we had no affiliations with the sponsoring organizations, by virtue of our whiteness as well as our involvement with the same causes, we were asked to present a few awards. 28 April.

Asanka, the green-shirt one, and Munsif, all from Matara, won the 200m run. 28 April.

While waiting for the bus back to Matara, we can’t stop talking about the cricket final between Sri Lanka and Australia that very night. Before boarding the bus, we did this to show our support for Sri Lanka. 28 April.

Amila negotiates with the shopkeeper as to get a good price for Wesak string lights, which I wanted to buy, and did. 28 April.

While waiting for an available three-wheeler, Ginette, Amila, and I were invited into Phillip’s family shop to watch the first few overs of the cricket final. Australia would win overwhelmingly the rain-delayed game which ended around 4 AM local time. 28 April.

The boys help Ginette and I make our very first Wesak paper lantern, an effort which took about 6 hours. 30 April.

On Wesak Poya Day, Amila, Naushan, Ajith, and Lakmal come to the Beach Inns to help us make two more paper lanterns. 1 May.

Amila convinced me that paper lantern-making is something I should bring back with me to the States. 1 May.

A particularly dazzling Wesak display on the main road to Polhena. 1 May.

We help the boys decorate the shrine at the school before the older boys, Ginette, Chaminda, and I head out for a walking tour. 1 May.

The shrine had been repainted at some point during the April school break. 1 May.

A house we saw while on our walking tour. The seven yellow boxes, depicting important events in the life of Buddha, were a common sight. It was one of the most magical nights of my life as every house had lit paper lanterns and string lights illuminating narrow paths through the village. 1 May.

A hallmark of Wesak festives is food halls set up across town, with communities serving free rice and curry to anyone who walks by, to replicate the sacred act of giving food to Buddha. 1 May.

Seven paper lanterns in the shape of lotus-flowers, with each one increasingly larger than the last. 1 May.

Drink stalls serving tea, soft drinks, juice, coffee, and rice drinks are also tremendously popular on Wesak nights. 1 May.

Priyankara, Ishara, I, and Jeewantha following the walking tour. 1 May.

Ginette and I headed to the Nupe area two kilometers west of Matara to meet up with other deaf people. This is an outdoor theatre performance. 1 May.

A colossal light display at Nupe. Matara boasted 10 large light displays in its vicinity; people are encouraged to see as many displays as possible. 1 May.

The next day is also a holiday, called “The Day Following Wesak Poya Day.” On this night, Ginette and I joined Amila, Lakmal, Naushan, and Ajith on bicycles (with me sitting on Lakmal’s bike frame as I’m not confident enough on two-wheelers) and cycled all over Matara. This is a stall serving free cups of fruit salad. 2 May.

Ginette and I with Nishantha, our favorite three-wheeler driver. 2 May.

A large light display near Akuressa Road. 2 May.

Ginette, Ajith, and Lakmal admire the light display near Akuressa. 2 May.

Monks deliver blessings and prayers before the lighting of another large light display on Hakmana Road. 2 May.

The display, with rotating lanterns, is lit. 2 May.

Naushan signals to us to follow him through the crush of vehicles of all sizes on Hakmana Road. 2 May. Finally, we had to abandon our bikes on a house’s front yard and walk for about fifteen minutes to the next light display. 2 May.

Our fourth light display, off Hakmana Road near Kamburupitiya. 2 May.

Ajith, Amila, and Naushan ponder the sixth light display, located on Sanath Jayasuriya field near the Matara bus station. It was about 2.00 am in the morning, and only a fraction of the display was lit–the devil mask image. 3 May.

There was a bright flood light illuminating the field, so we squatted in front of it for a shot. Ajith, Ginette, Naushan, Lakmal, Amila, and I. We cycled back to the Beach Inns only to get caught in a monsoon downpour on the way, but it was a lovely ending to a wondrous month. 3 May.

13 Responses to “These Are Auspicious Times, Parts 2-115”

  1. Erin 19. May, 2007 at 2:44 am #

    Wow! You’ve really taken everything in! Absorbed their culture & learned so much about it! I’m curious though, do you feel as if you’ve made a change at the school & with the people you’ve interacted with while there?

  2. Nick Vera 19. May, 2007 at 3:09 am #


    I truly enjoy viewing the amazing photos of your great personal experience into their cultural festivals especially the lovely lantern lights. It reminded me of “Festival of Lights” during the holidays from late November to December. Also the parade of lights on main street at Disneyland.

    I can imagine how happy the people are in their country especially you and Ginette to share the great celebration. I wish I could see more various minorities to celebrate the festivals around the globe to show their performance and art displays from different contients. Hopefully, the Deaf Way III will return with new expanding of more features for our patrons to visit.

    Speak of devil, I just thought about your previous blog about the holidays in Sri Lanka this morning. For reason, I had my own thoughts about the forthcoming holidays such as Memorial Day and Fourth of July. I found very interesting perspectives about how the holidays take place at different times around the globe and perhaps, it could avoid of getting crowd at the same time. It is best to use at different times to reduce the crowd at certain places in every countries such as the vacation trips. For example, during the holidays (Christmas and Happy New Year’s), many travelers visited the tropical countries where it could become massive crowd at restaurants, bars, beaches, hotels, motels, shopping malls, and more and in the city, the traffice became heavy, jamble, and breathless.

    Thank you for your wonderful sharing with us. I look forward to see more photos to display. Take care,

    Nick Vera

  3. Belle 19. May, 2007 at 6:43 am #

    Awesome! I felt as though I was there! I think I would like visiting Sri Lanka because I do not think I have seen as many smiling people (though I suspect that is because you, somehow, bring smiles to people’s faces). :) :) (see!)

  4. SkyBlue 19. May, 2007 at 3:16 pm #

    Just wanted to say thank you for posting the marvelous pictures and sharing with us. This is outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


  5. amanda 19. May, 2007 at 4:00 pm #

    Loved these pictures so much!! great idea..

    although i have to say they make me miss you more than ever !

  6. Debbie 20. May, 2007 at 6:03 am #

    Hi Adam!
    Loved your pictures and comments. The games looked like a lot of fun. I bet your parents liked seeing you on that motor bike, no helmet or shoes (ok, that would be my own stuff!) Glad to see you did not get hurt!

  7. grandma 20. May, 2007 at 5:17 pm #

    Dear adam :Your pictures are amazing,and are sooo you! We loved allthe light displays and the lanterns especially. But my favorite shot was the elegant tea you and Ginette enjoyed. America will be “pale ” in comparisonwhen you return. Stay well and come home safely soon.

  8. Jen 21. May, 2007 at 4:16 pm #

    It’s a rainy Monday morning here in Thailand and I really should be preparing lessons for my incomming classes, but instead, I was swept away with your photos. It was such a pleasure to me to see the faces of old friends, places I miss and what seems like a magical festival I have never even imagined. Thanks for taking the time to post all the pics Adam

  9. Mr. Sandman 22. May, 2007 at 5:15 pm #

    Wow– great pix! Loved the one of the Mask Museum store– that’s one of the kinds of the few stores I’d shop in if I traveled there… Thanks for sharing with us!

  10. Debbie, Gins mum 23. May, 2007 at 1:33 am #

    Have read all and delighted with the contents.

    I think you have a fantastic ability with words, describing your ventures in previous blogs and think you should look at putting a book together about your life to inspire not only people with a loss of hearing, but people in general would thoroughly enjoy your depictive writing. A life full of extroidinary vim and vigour, inspiration, perserverance, compassion for others and aquired understanding of needs. Keep it up.

    Thanks for showing Ginette around and enabling her to help out where she can, it’s character building for anyone.

  11. Guthrie Nutter 01. Jun, 2007 at 12:33 am #

    Adam –

    I’ve been following your blog for the past year, to see all your joys and challenges; its been wonderful to see and read about these moments, since they bring back so much memories of my working with the tsunami orphans in May of 2005 near Hikkaduwa. We stayed at a small hotel in Unawatuna, so all the locations in and around Galle you mentioned are SO familiar as if it was yesterday. I’m so glad you’re doing this, and having this profound experience. Cherish it wholly and keep grabbing opportunities like this. I have to admit, the sanguine nature of the people in the pictures and the surroundings seem to register a sense of recovery – so I’m glad to see they’re bouncing back rather quickly. I know a wonderful Sri Lankan restaurant in New York – so if you ever come in this general direction, let’s trade stories there! Ayubowan – G

  12. Piyal 30. Nov, 2009 at 3:52 am #

    Hay nice picture.

    i love this gallery. because this is my home town. thank you ///. ill be having good sri lankan photos in the next new year Aurudu season and Wesak season. ooohh. one more thing. i have photos for neluwa duvili ella. next month ill upload them to my website.

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