Sunday, April 12, 2015

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 13

Eva Stone photo, Sri Pada, Adam's Peak, holy mountain, pilgrimage, April 2015
If you're wondering what this expat has been up to lately, I can share that I've literally just come down the mountain a few days ago - I climbed Sri Pada (a.k.a. Adam's Peak) with a group of friends and we also organized a dansel offering free food and drinks to pilgrims making the climb to the peak. Presently, my legs are aching and I guess it's obvious I've worked muscles in my legs that haven't been worked hard in quite awhile. Notwithstanding the physical fatigue and body aches, there is a deep sense of grace and joy from making this pilgrimage. It was heartwarming to ring the bell twice at the top of Sri Pada to acknowledge my two visits.

I'll be writing a more detailed post on this second visit to Sri Pada in one of my upcoming "Travel Monday" blog posts! I have so much to share from spending a few days around Sri Pada. If you're interested in reading about my first visit to Sri Pada in the blog post "Travel Monday: Sri Pada - Pilgrimage, Faith and Spectacular Sunrises".

It does seem strange that this will be my first "An expat in Sri Lanka" blog post for 2015. It feels like 2015 has raced along! Can you believe it's April already with Avurudu in a few days? If we were having a drink together, I'd ask what you've been up to these past few months. I hope it's been filled with opportunity and happy times. Aside from work and everyday life, I've been quite busy hosting family and friends and exploring old and new places around the island. I'll be sharing more of these adventures over the next little while on the blog.

So let me share with you some of my expat highlights of the year thus far...

Eva Stone photo, fresh cloves, harvest season, Sri Lanka, February 2015Back around February it was harvesting season for spices like cloves and nutmeg. A friend of mine kindly invited me to come visit their land during the season to try my hand at plucking cloves, separating out the stems and setting them out to dry. Although I had previously visited a few spice gardens on my travels around the island (which tend to be more like tourist traps), I had never actually experienced the harvesting process, so this was something new to learn.

Luckily, I didn't have to master the art of climbing up clove or nutmeg trees! I left that to the agile young lads who made it look far too easy. Instead, I was given baskets of cloves to work through.  As I plucked my way through baskets of cloves, I found the task to be great exercise for my fingers, the experience somewhat meditative, and there was delight in the aromatic smell. You don't waste anything in this process...both the cloves and the stems after the separation process are both dried.

Eva Stone photo, fresh nutmeg, harvest season, Sri Lanka, February 2015
The nutmeg was more curious. The fruit looks a little like a green fig in shape and size. Once you open up the fruit, there is a large seed covered by an aril attached to the seed.

I was surprised to find out the aril covering the seed is what I know as mace. And of course, the seed is nutmeg.  After separating them from the fruit the idea is to dry both items.

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Eva Stone photo, Sri Lanka, ordination ceremony, Buddhist monk, April 2015
I was recently invited to the Buddhist ordination ceremony of a friend-of-a-friend as he ordained as a Buddhist monk.

My friend's friend had been involved in Buddhist activities and meditation for quite some years, and had finally made the decision to go forth as a monk rather than remaining as a lay practitioner. It was really fascinating to witness the rites and rituals associated with formally entering the Buddhist Sangha, and to see him ordain alongside a young boy.

The ceremony lasted around four hours including the offering of the meal and other requisites. Many family and friends participated in the events of the day that included the bodhi puja offering, Dhamma talk, hair cutting, taking of precepts, meal offering, blessings, naming and more.

For the average person who follows the usual social conventions of going to school, finding a job, looking for a partner, getting married, having kids, taking holidays and so on, this kind of ceremony follows a very different convention. In it's spiritual essence, renunciation appears to be one of the main drivers as you witness the person going forth into monkhood. He is literally renunciating all the usual social conventions and voluntarily adopting an alms mendicant life and the rules or Vinaya set out by the Buddha.

When I contemplate how each of us is conditioned to "be somebody who is going somewhere", the contrast to that of a traditional Buddhist monk whose aim is to "be nobody going nowhere" is a startling one.

Overall, I found the ordination ceremony quite humbling as I witnessed my friend's gentle friend transition into monkhood with a certain amount of grace and determination.

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You may have noticed a new tab and page I have introduced this year to the Adventures in a Tuk-Tuk blog called "Jar of Awesome Things in 2015".

Basically, I've decided to share some highlights from my personal jar of awesome things in 2015. My objective in doing this is to capture experiences during 2015 for which I'm happy, grateful, blessed or where I have learnt something important or transformative. The idea is to reflect back on the list at the end of 2015 or more specifically on New Year's Eve.

I've been updating the list as the year has progressed and will continue to do so throughout 2015.

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If you haven't read these yet, but are interested in reading my "Expat in Sri Lanka blog posts"... you can click on the links below:

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 1 on what it's like living as an expat in SL
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 2 on local attitudes, dual pricing, behaviors
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 3 on police force, corruption and stories
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 4 on garbage collection, waste and recycling
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 5 on the case for expat fatigue
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 6 on miscellaneous encounters at the post office, around the neighborhood, Mt Lavinia Beach and more
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 7 on New Year celebrations, firecrackers and dodgy doctors
An expat in Sri Lanka - the Good, Bad and the Ugly - Part 8 on Avurudu, Sri Lanka T20 World Cup win and cooling fruits
An expat in Sri Lanka - the Good, Bad and the Ugly - Part 9 on living as an foreign expat woman in Sri Lanka
An expat in Sri Lanka - the Good, Bad and the Ugly - Part 10 on visa renewal process, helping Chinese tourists and enjoying roadside corn-on-the-cob
An expat in Sri Lanka - the Good, Bad and the Ugly - Part 11 on things they don't tell you about living in Sri Lanka, Peenas oil, Colombo apartments and taxes on imported food items
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 12 on an unusual picture of a local man; gathering local plants for ayurveda; and commuting between Colombo and Kandy

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