Staying with monks

Staying with monks

First week’s over. I’m so glad we realised our travelling dreams. After some difficulties on our first day we finally arrived at the temple. It was such a warm welcome and we didn’t know how to return their hospitality at all because they were more than nice to us. All of them were so friendly – they basically gave us everything for free asking us again and again wether or not we would need anything else and they even took us to different quite far away places with their own private car. Places we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see and experience. The only thing we had to do in return was teaching the little monks English, which was a no brainer considering that the only language we had in common was English, which made the task more than easy to realise. We also became friends with the little monks in no time and found out that our expectations of monks living an isolated, asketic life full of meditation does not fit the reality of Sri Lankan monks at all. We were astonished how well theý knew how to handle phones and our camera – modern technology in general and they were the biggest Facebook junkies we’ve ever met.

1st day, January the 9th
Even though the Jetlag felt like a punch in the stomach, we went to another temple connected to ours in the afternoon. We had a nice little chat about whether or not Buddhism is a philosophy or a religion there and met another volunteer from Korea called Lee, whom we actually met two more times during the following days (one time by coincidence at Negombo Beach). We liked spending time with him so much, that we directly agreed to meet him again in Chennai, India for some days in February. Let’s see if that works out.

2nd day, January the 10th
We visited a beautiful temple close to Kandy at Kurunegala. On our way to it we got in a really big thunderstorm. I have never seen so much rain at once before. Lucky us: We were in the car. Unlucky us: The traffic got even crazier than before, which meant we were overtaking cars with a breakneck-speed without seeing anything except for the headlights of the other vehicles. And there was one thing which really confused us: We did not know at all how we should have interacted with the monks without being rude. It turns out it is quite different to speak to and behave in front of a monk compared to speaking in front of other “normal” people. The monks we stayed with actually also did not tell us everything about their social rules and status because they were used to dealing with people who already knew those things or maybe they just did not mind after all. There also was a quite big language barrier but later more to that I am drifting off… I am quite sure we failed at some points and I am so sorry for that. But anyways most of the monks easily smiled our mistakes away, so it was not that huge of a deal to them. In Germany people would have been more upset about something similar to this definetely. Still the temple in Kurunegala was exceptionally beautiful, they had lights, buddhist flags and little statues everywhere and it looked awesome. Running around the ballustrades with the monks, barefoot through the darkness was a memory we will never forget.

3rd day, January the 11th
We have been to Negombo beach. First time swimming in the warm Indian Ocean. And it was “Soo nice”, as Lee would have said, whom we actually met there. The waves, bigger than us, carried us with them back to the shoreline. The power of the ocean was quite overwhelming and I nearly lost my shorts. As I said … overwhelming. Rico actually got a few scratches on his knees. The monk and the driver, who accompanied us did not swim at all because they did not really know how to swim as we would discover later on. This is something that seems to be quite common in Sri Lanka.

4th day, January the 12th
An overall amazing day. In the morning we ventured out a little around the temple and explored the surrounding area, seeing cows, rivers and lots of jungle. And our first try to climb some coconut trees failed miserably (and looked quite funny).

In the afternoon we attended Bodhis birthday, which was quite impressive due to the fact that there were twelve monks staying in one house. We planted a fruit tree with Bodhi and played with the children at the next playground. Rico could not stop laughing because he was so happy.

But again we felt a bit  out of place because of our small knowledge of Sri Lankan manners. However the food was by far the best we had eaten so far because it had really much variety and tasted all exceptionally well. What also called our attention was the jelly. Even though both of us normally would not like really sugary foods, we could have actually eaten the whole tablet of this pudding on our own – We definetely had lack of sugar. Something that we will come across quite a lot on our path the next months, I think because sweets are a real rarity among local peoples food. In the evening we took some really nice photographies. Long time exposures of firecrackers and candlelights. I think one of them will even be my new WhatsApp profile picture.

Sadly Rico got quite sick over night and his fever did not decline throughout the next day without medicine. Damn it. Not good. But the monks where there for cover. They brought Rico to the nearest doctor and even paid the pharmacy bill for the medicine. We were really astonished about that and again did not know how to thank them well enough because they were so generous once again.

5th day, January the 13th
Due to Rico being seriously ill we did not do anything except for playing with the little monks. Rico slept throughout most of the day and tried to reduce his fever and headaches any way possible.

6th day, January the 14th
On Sunday there was a so called Dhama school at the temple, which meant that the place was crowded with over 200 children, who all were wearing a white uniform kind of clothing. You need to know that white is the national color of Sri Lanka and that it is a sign of respect to wear white colored cloth in temples and wherever there is an important buddhist meeting. It was quite spectaculous and became even more so as we, the white exotes, took out our camera. We were literally surrounded by laughing children, who all wanted that we take a photo of them. It was quite funny and even Rico, who was still ill on that day, got up to be part of this.

In the evening we went to Kaluthara. Rico felt a bit better so he decided to come with us, too. It was really worth it. At the temple we visited, was some kind of Buddhist event similar to a Dhama Preaching, where at least eight monks where chanting different buddhist preachings in the ancient Pali language. The place was gorgeous, the food was awesome and the people were once again more than nice to us. Some of them even spoke really good English and it was a real pleasure to have a little chat with someone, who understands the things you are trying to tell them.

The night in the hotel there was for free again, even though it was a hotel. I don’t want to make things bad, but our first meeting with bedbugs could have been later… the mattresses definetely looked like they had little carcasses and old bedbug skins and bedbug poop all over them. Luckily our moskito nets worked wonders. Not a single bite, let’s hope they are no blind passengers in our backpacks.

7th day, January the 14th
Our little trip to Kaluthara went on with a beautiful boat tour in the morning, sitting in a boat with eight monks – what an honour. All of them were taking selfies for the entire time. As I mentioned earlier – they were really into Facebook ^^
Afterwards we went to a beautiful beachside. All the monks except for one wore life jackets. It looked so funny. We tried to teach them some swimming technique, but in vain. It just looked clumsy 😀

After lunch, where we ate ice cream for the first (!) time here, we went back home by car, which took us like two hours. Surprisingly neither the ice cream nor the unfiltered water, we drank for the first time here, infected us with diarrhea. Sri Lankan water seems not as bad as we thought, but maybe we were just lucky. Though our water filter does it’s work properly for sure…

8th day, January the 15th
Last day in Minuwangoda. Nothing was planned and there was nothing to do. After lunch we had a little discovery tour around town to find out whether it was actually possible to walk to the bus station, from which we wanted to take the bus to the farm in Mirigama. Rico’s sickness was nearly over. We felt relieved that the medicine seemed to work, because otherwise Rico would have needed to go to an hospital to check, if he had been infected with the Dengue fever or something similar.

Generally spoken, we were more guests than volunteers and there could not have been a better start. Next we moved on to a farm in Mirigama 20 km from here. We went by bus. Let’s see how that works.

Flo

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