Living like a local!

Living like a local!

After we left the monks in Minuwangoda we went to a little city a bit farther into the country situated northeast of Colombo called Mirigama because we had arranged another helpX project there. The bus ride to this place was a little adventure in itself because we knew, that we needed to take like three different busses until we would arrive at the little farm where we wanted to stay for the next week. The bus transport system in Sri Lanka is very good though, there are lots of busses going quite often during the day, some up to every quarter/half an hour. But still… Many people do not speak good English and the bus is more like a local transport system most of the time so the bus drivers and cashiers do not speak English as well and it is a hassle to know where to hop off the bus and where to get to the next one. Luckily we always found people on the bus who knew enough English to understand where we were going and knew how to help us. And after the first bus change we even met a guy, who knew the place, where we were headed and the person associated with it. So he helped us really a lot because he basically was heading the same way we were heading, to a little village close to Mirigama.
The bus rides themselves were actually not that interesting over all, quite hot and sweaty, many people in a small bus, and 99.9% of them locals. We were seriously the only white persons and were stared at throughout our whole trip in disbelief. The giant backpacks did not do their best to attract less attention because we needed everybody to move out of the way somehow when we wanted to get off. But hey, after all we arrived in Mirigama safe and sound and met our host Naween at the busstand there. Another lucky coincidence, which made our lives a lot easier. And the bus was really cheap… for a roughly three hour long bus trip we paid under two Euros… for both of us.
Naweens place was how should I say without being rude… far off and a really simple, local house.

The roof structure was quite old, covered in cobwebs and rotting away due to the high humidity present in the Sri Lankan jungle climate. We needed to share our bed because there only was one (later we found out it was actually Naweens own bed and he slept in a smaller one for the time we were there) and the mosquito net had some holes and was not the best overall but the mattress was ok. That’s not the best we thought at the start and Flo and I actually agreed that we did not want to stay that long, maybe more like three days or even just two. I guess one could say that we felt quite uncomfortable because of the way Naween interacted with us, which was a bit cold and he was definetely not as hospital as the monks were.
It definetely did not help that I woke up this first night and wanted to go to the bathroom – to understand that you need to know that our so called “bathroom” was a little hut behind the house with a hole in the floor and a tap to fill a bucket of water to flush. Walking through the night with a little headlamp on, surrounded by jungle and the noises of it I was a bit scared of whatever was living there, out in the shadows of the headlamp (spiders, scorpions, snakes … whatever), which could be running over my feet any moment because I did not see it properly before. But luckily nothing to bad happened, except for a big, roughly hand sized whip spider that grossed and freaked me out a bit, because it made up its shelter behind the bathroom door. They are not dangerous at all but look extremely dangerous, really
gross and can move quite fast, which still makes them a little nightmare to encounter at something like three in the morning while being on the toilet, especially if you thought they were only native to Australia…
But the days in the jungle, helping Naween out with gardening, cutting down trees, removing plants from the grounds and sweeping the floor, cleaning the area were quite fun and the things around his place he showed us were so cool, they made up for the little inconveniences of local life. Actually we also did not need to work really much or hard every day (Naween said something about 5-6 hours every day when we first arrived and he handed us a timetable), but in fact it was maybe something more like two to three hours every day interrupted by a little teabreak and snack time and therefore we had quite much freetime after all. Also his behaviour became warmer and more hospital by the day and in the end I must admit that I was completely wrong about him in the beginning.
During some of the freetime Naween showed us some really awesome things and places around his home. The first and second day we went out at night to watch and photograph the stars because Naween wanted to see how to use a tripod to make awesome starry night pictures. It was magic and we saw a lot of stars because there is not much light pollution around his place because it is quite far off from Mirigama actually. The second night we even went to a little rock amidst the jungle trees, from which we could see Mirigama roughly five to six kilometers into the distance, emitting its light into the fog around the hills and illuminating the night sky above it.

The food was quite simple, fish curry, rice, normal curry, flower curry, coconut curry… curry and rice mostly. But even though it might have been simple it was always enough and tasted awesome! (even though it was a notch to spicy for my taste sometimes)
One day Naweens mum prepared some coconut milk rice for breakfast and with sugar, some freshly cut coconut and some from Naween himself harvested and grinded cinnamon it tasted gorgeous. Sweet, warm, sugary, the coconut taste, some cinnamon flavour… I could have eaten it for hours and am still longing to find a place where one can buy something similar. Flo was equally amazed about it.
On another day we went to a local public bathing well, which is a small pool of water tinted in a greyish blue colour due to all the soap and dirt inside it. And then we washed ourselves the way most locals from the village do it every day. We had a big bucket and we basically poured buckets full of water over our heads repeatedly. For like half an hour… It was amazing. Cold water rushing down the skin, refreshing you after a day of work in thirty degrees hot and humid jungle climate. There was nothing more to be asked for. Except for jumping into the little well because the blue looked soo inviting and promising. But sadly jumping into the pond was forbidden.

Later that day we went hiking up and over a nearby mountain, through the jungle and up to the peak and then onto some giant rocks that stuck out of the jungle forest roof. The view from up there was really breathtakingly stunning and it was not possible to capture the feeling of complete freedom that we got standing up there, watching the sunset, eating corn and listening to the soft guitar sounds of Flos ukulele but also the adrenaline rushing through the veins when I got really close to the edge to look down onto the jungle tops below and then let my gaze wander off into the wide misty distances of the Sri Lankan jungle hills.

    

It really was amazing and the photos we took can not really convey the way we felt up there close to the sky. After that we went back through the now quite dark jungle path, which was a thrilling experience because in the end we did not really see at all and stepped along the small path we came more or less guessing wether or not the thing we stepped on was a stone, leaf or animal.

When we did not work or made some hiking adventure trip with Naween or went into the city to buy something we mostly just had a chilled and relaxed time, eating coconuts we found in the jungle and cracked open ourselves, drinking so called plain tea, which is like mediocre black powdered tea with lots of sugar, showing the nephew of Naween how to play Plants vs Zombies or talking to him about science, Physics, the vastness of the universe, black holes, fusion, relativity and such and had a really relaxed time and even regretted our decision of wanting to leave so early.
In the end we stayed four days, which was still not that much compared to the planned seven, but we figured we needed more time to visit all the places Naween told us to definetely check out before we leave Sri Lanka again. Still he seemed quite sad, that we left him so early, because he seemed to have also enjoyed our company, the talks about photography and science, the little help we gave him and the experiences we had together. And after all we did not mind the rather bad condition of his home (compared to the temple or the hostels/hotels we stayed in since then) because he was just an awesome host and the experiences we had with him made up for that totally. Dreaming about temples and coastlines and figuring out a route we could go along in  the end was so nice and we could not await getting into the next adventure. The train ride to Anuradhapura the next day. But you can read more about that in our next blog entry…

Rico

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