Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 30, 2015

Happy Birthday to my Dad today!  He is the finest, most wonderful man and I love him so very much!  87 years young today!
Our mission president, President Berrett and his wife were in Sri Lanka for the weekend.  They had interviews with the elders but we were still in Kandy.  They left for Kandy as we got home!  So we had them over for lunch on Monday before they headed back to India.  We talked to the kids first and that was really great!  We had a very nice visit with the Berretts and had a wonderful lunch with them.  President Berrett is a master teacher and very smart.  Sister Berrett is so loving and kind.  It was fun sharing stories and just having a nice, enjoyable afternoon.  We went to the church in the evening to meet a few people to put the gifts together for our District Relief Society activity coming up on Saturday.  We were giving the sisters the pocket size Books of Mormon.  We wrapped them up and put bows on them and made them look so pretty!  It was great visiting with Sister Primali and Sister Ann and getting everything together!!  We had District Meeting on Tuesday followed by our seminary classes.  We took the elders with us to Sherines so they could teach of our latest baptisms!  Really had a great visit and lesson.  We then headed to Wattala for the next lessons.  It was a really fun night!  We practiced dancing with the girls and Steve learned about video games!  They are always so eager to hear the lessons and we had a really great discussion tonight!  Darshini spoils us with a yummy dinner each week.  Just a really great day!  Steve went with the elders on Wednesday morning and I got some paperwork and billing done!  We headed to Inoka's and had a great visit there!  She is just the sweetest gal!  It is great seeing Naveen doing so well and wanting to learn the gospel so much.  They are making big decisions in their lives and praying and reading their scriptures....doing the things that will help them do the right thing for their family.  It is so wonderful watching them grow and feel the Spirit.  We hurried home for our visit with Shanika and her kids.  We made dinner for them and the elders.  It turned out so nice.  They were very grateful and happy and we enjoyed the visit so much.  The elders taught Joel and Sherami helped them!  She is done with her class soon so we hope she will be able to come to church.  She really wants to and still wants to serve a mission!  The next day, we headed south to visit Sister Gnana.  Her father recently passed away at the age of 97.  She had been taking care of him.  They had his body there in her home.  Several of the neighbors were there helping and visiting.  It was so good to see her.  Her aunt was sitting there just crying and moaning and wanted to touch the body.  The neighbors were trying to soothe her and keep her sitting near by.  Sister Gnana was happy and I think relieved.  It had been very hard work for her to take care of him.  She is such a tiny little thing.  Steve really likes her husband, Brother Jayawardina.  He was recently baptized!  He wanted to get us some more fruit.  He climbed the coconut tree and got us oranges (that are not orange at all...they are green!) and other fruits.  It was very nice doing all that while we were there at her home for the viewing.  We ran a bunch of errands after....getting ready some more for the Relief Society activity!!  But I found everything that I needed so I felt ready to go!  I had piano classes followed by our English class.  Had a good turnout and a fun lesson.  I always take the ladies in another room and practice with them.  I go to the Young Womens room where there are lots of posters and signs about the gospel!  Everyone always reads them and asks about just never know!!  Had a nice dinner at Dolce Italia!  They spoil us when we go there!  We came home with beautiful big tomatoes and italian bread!  Friday I taught piano classes and we had our final dance practice!  It turned out great!  These gals are really great and we have a good time!  Then it was off to Negombo for me.  Steve went visiting with the elders all evening and really enjoyed that.  Sisters Primali, Sonali and Ann rode with me with Kumar...our trusty taxi driver!  We stopped at Arpico in Negombo to order balloons and some of the food we needed for the next day.  Sister Harshi was at the church waiting for us when we got there.  We started right in getting everything ready for the Relief Society Birthday party we were having the next day.  We set chairs up, set tables up, even cleaned the toilets, swept and mopped the floors....everything we could think of to make it a great outing for the sisters in the District.  We didn't get back until just before 9!  Steve came home even later than that!  President Anton came over to get some money and ended up having some fruit and rolls!  Then the big day arrived for the party!  Sister Primali asked if Steve would help with the kids in the primary.  So he went early with me.  We picked up Sister Ann and we were off.  We had enough time to finish decorating and have everything ready for the sisters to arrive!  Kandy had hired a bus, Colombo hired a bus and Chilaw hired a van to get everyone there!  I think we ended up with about 90 sisters!  It was wonderful seeing all of them together.  We had Pres Kolitha welcome everyone and bear his testimony.  We had a short video, we had a sewing demonstration, we had a talk on Family Preparedness.  We had a RS quiz for each of the branches.  We had some tablecloths made for the branches for their RS rooms which we gave them.  We then had the talent portion of the party!  Each branch plus Chilaw had 15 minutes to do some talents!  It was so fun hearing Sri Lanka songs and seeing Sri Lanka dances!  Negombo did a funny dance and song with a bunch of their sisters!  Then it was our turn to do the dance we have been practicing for so long!  Shake It Off....Taylor Swift....."the English dance" as they called it!  We ended up with 9 ladies and young women doing the dance with us!  It was really fun!  I was definitely the oldest person out there!  We then had our surprise for the sisters.....we had decorated the overflow part of the chapel with birthday signs and tables and a big birthday cake!  They kept saying....Finally, we can say we had something like the American's!  I guess usually they give the sisters the rice packets and send them out the door!  We had each sister sit at the table with the other sisters that had birthdays in their same month.  We had balloons and decorations all around the room.  We had a really big cake also.  We began by singing Happy Birthday to the Relief Society.  We then followed Sri Lankan custom by having the first piece of cake shared by the Presidencies in each branch and by us!  Then we served the rice packets.  Americans should try this.  No plates, no utensils....just a box and your fingers!  During the lunch, some ladies sang some Sri Lanka tunes.  It was really great!  Then we cleared away the tables and had some dancing!  Sri Lankans love to dance!  I was thinking about getting one of the men in our ward to teach some Latin dances and also thinking about doing some line dancing.....but the more I thought about it, it just seemed like we should put on music and let everyone do their thing.  The elders helped me with the music.  I was hoping it would turn out.  And it did!  It was so fun seeing these ladies just dance to their own beat and really enjoy themselves! Not everyone danced but most everyone stuck around and watched and clapped and sang to the was a lot of fun!  The sisters really enjoyed the day I think!  I had a lot of fun meeting new people and being able to see and visit with the people I already knew!  We had to clean up of course and get everything put back for church tomorrow!  The elders wanted us to meet their landlord after the party so we drove to their apartment.  He was very nice...and his wife.  It was a nice visit.  We then headed back to Colombo!  I was pretty tired!  Old people don't usually dance for a few hours in a day anymore!!  I am sure it was good for me though.  Very happy with the day!  I love working with Primali and Harshi!  They are wonderful and inspired women!  Sunday was church!  Great sacrament meeting as usual.  I helped with the piano in primary today.  Nuwani was working with the kids and does such a great job.  We headed to the Hagobiens for lunch today with the elders.  However, Radi was a little confused and thought we were coming for dinner so she had nothing prepared.  But she wanted to do something so I visited with her while her and her mother prepared a fabulous meal!  She is such a great cook!  It was worth waiting for!  We didn't get home until after 8 tonight!  Wonderful week!  We are going to India next weekend and are looking forward to that!  The church is true and we are loving our wonderful adventure in Sri Lanka!

Shanika and Sherami!


The whole gang for dinner!

Sister Gnana at her fathers viewing

Sister Gnana's home for her fathers viewing

Once again, we got the wonderful coconuts from her husband!

District Relief Society activity set up with Sister Ann

District Relief Society Presidency before the party!

Enjoying some dancing!

Brother Nishanti and his family from visiting from Dubai

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 23, 2015

Wow, what a wonderful week!  This week was a total play week....kind of a break in the action for a minute!  Some planned, some not planned!  The week began with elections here in Sri Lanka.  We had a new President elected in January but these were elections in the Parliament.  The old President who was defeated in January, was running again and trying to get the majority in the Parliament.  there have been rallies all over for the past few weeks...lots of hype and emotion!  We were asked by the Mission President to not go out for 2 days.....just to make sure there weren't any problems from the elections!  So, we ended up having the missionaries over on Monday afternoon and watching a couple of church movies!  We ordered pizza for lunch and had a very enjoyable day.  It was strange not going out and about all day!  Tuesday, we did go to District Meeting at the church but then came home for the rest of the day!  We were able to catch up on a lot of paper work and emails, etc.  So crazy not to put on a skirt for 2 days!!!  3 months ago, we made reservations in Kandy for the Perahera festival that falls on the Poya day in August.  Someone told us it gets really really crowded and you can hardly move through the people.  They suggested we get a room at the Queens Hotel because we could watch the parade from our balcony window.  It sounded like a good plan!  The hotel was booked except for the first day of the Perahera which sounded fine to us.  We decided to go a day earlier so that we could see the sights of Kandy.  We had Kumar come and get us in his taxi and it took 4 hours to get there.  But the drive is so beautiful!  He dropped us off at the hotel!  Wow!  It was like an old movie!  It was so fun!  It was clean and everyone was very attentive.  It is funny how many tourists were here in Kandy......but no Americans.  We think it is just too far for Americans to want to come here.  But there are so many Asians and Europeans that come.  So we saw quite a bit of white skin!  The hotel was right next to a lake and right next to the Temple of the Tooth.  We unloaded everything and headed out to take a walk around the lake!  We saw monkeys running around, carp in the lake, fancy birds and a huge monitor lizard.  There are quite a few street vendors around for the big celebration week....trying to sell you little trinkets and food.  There were hundreds of people saving places on the sidewalks for the first night of the Perahera on Thursday night.  Some stayed almost 24 hours.  Some of the restaurants sold seats for lots of money.  I was happy for the balcony after seeing all the people!  We had a nice lunch at the Pizza Hut that was across the street.  We then went into the Temple of the Tooth.  The Buddhists believe that Buddha died and was cremated.  In the sandalwood that was used for the fire, they found one of his teeth.  So it is encased in a guarded vault like tomb room inside this temple.  As we entered, we had to take our shoes off and all foreigners had to pay.  If you are Sri Lankan, it is free.  There were a lot of drums and pageantry going on the whole time.  You could stand in a line to see the tooth.  Once you got to the room, there was a monk there making you hurry by and not stop too long.  They had an ornate presentation of the tooth.....although the tooth is inside something so you really can not actually see the tooth.  In fact, no one has seen the tooth.  They just think it is in there I guess!  But there is a huge celebration for it anyway!  It goes for 10 days.  We walked around the temple and the temple grounds.  Lots of drums, lots of candles and incense , lots of monks and believers in white that stop and chant (pray) all around.  There were several elephants around getting ready for the parade the next day.  They all have heavy chains around their ankles so they can't go anywhere!  Dinner was included in the hotel stay and it was a fabulous buffet with all sorts of different kinds of food.  Of course, I took pictures!  It was a very nice day!  Thursday, breakfast was also included in the hotel stay and it was equally as good as the dinner!  We met one of the sisters in the branch at her home to give her some piano books.  We then headed to the famous botanical gardens a little bit away from the city.  Again, a foreigner price to pay!  It was a beautiful place.  Lots of different kinds of trees, flowers, cactus, bushes, herbs, etc!  It was massive and it took quite a while to see everything!  We really enjoyed it.  Yes, it was hot but there was lots of shade!  We ate at a cafe that was there and that was very nice.  We caught a trishaw back to the hotel.  We visited a Hindu temple close to the hotel.  Lots of lights and statues.  We also did a little shopping on the way back to the hotel.  Found some "deals" for Christmas!!  Steve was close to melting completely so we went back to the hotel and  decided to go swimming!  It was so clean and just the right temperature!  It felt good after the heat of the day!  Steve had a hard time getting out!  He could have stayed all evening in there!  We had another wonderful meal at the hotel and then headed up to the room for the big celebration to begin!  They said the parade is not as good on the first night.  As the nights progress, there are more elephants and dancers.  But it worked out great for us.  In fact, Steve really enjoyed being able to go inside the room and cool off and not hear drums for a minute as loud!  There was lots of fire, lots of drums, lots of dancers, lots of elephants all dressed up so wonderfully!!  They would take the outsides of coconuts, doust them with kerosine and light them and put them in a basket on the end of a pole.  These young men would walk by the side of the parade to help light the way!  When the fire would go out, there was a little wagon coming around filling them to get them going again.  Everyone in the parade had bare feet.  All the dancers, drummers, etc.  If some pieces of hot coals fell on the ground, they would just brush them to the side with their bare feet! I am so glad we were able to go see this festival!  Friday morning brought breakfast and some more sightseeing!  We went up to the big Buddha that was on the hill.  It was beautiful looking out to see all the green and gorgeous surroundings of Kandy!  We met with the seminary teachers from Kandy at Pizza Hut for an Inservice meeting!  They are such dedicated, wonderful women.  The numbers in Kandy haven't been very good at church but they keep plugging away, doing so much for their little branch!  We walked up to another park and took in one last glimpse of the beautiful city!  We decided to take the train back to Colombo....just to try the experience.  We reserved seats in an air conditioned part of the train.  We had wonderful seats and had big windows to see out of.  The scenery was gorgeous.  One of the things that the kids in Sri Lanka do for fun is fly kites.  Big kites!  And we saw hundreds of kids along the route that were out in the big open fields flying their kites.  There were also a lot of people working out in the rice patties and that was really interesting too.  It only took us 2 1/2 hours to get home by train and we only stopped once and didn't worry about traffic or bikes or people on the roads!  It was fabulous!  Saturday brought piano lessons for me.  Steve taught the early morning seminary class that morning.  When he was done, he went to the store.  As I was teaching, he called me and asked me to give the phone to one of my students.  He asked him to go take some pictures of a parade that was going on down the street from the church.  So Abishek took my camera to take the pictures.  He brought the camera back a little while later and I looked on it to see why Steve wanted him to take pictures.  There was nothing there.  He wasn't able to figure out how to use my camera.  When I was done teaching, we walked outside the church to go home and noticed the parade was still going on.  I saw these young men swinging from some cables on the back of a big truck.  I couldn't tell what the big deal was but I took pictures anyway so I could give them to Steve.  As I finally looked a little closer, I saw what Steve was looking at!  These guys were actually swinging from cables.....that were hooked in their bodies with big, honkin, fish hooks!  It was crazy!  Apparently, this is a Hindu tradition.  If they have prayed for something and it has come to pass.....this is a way of thanking the Gods.....or something like that.  OMG!  It was totally gruesome.  When I walked a little farther, there was some little boys ahead....about 11 years old I would guess.  I noticed that the boy in the front had 8 or so hooks coming out of his back and his friends were pulling the cables...keeping them tight.  I asked if I could take their picture and they let me.  It was nuts!  We drove to Chilaw later and had a great time their teaching with the elders.  Got home late of course!  Sunday was a great day.  Wonderful talks, great lessons and such fabulous people!  We worked on our dance for the RS Birthday party.  It was fun as some of the young women wanted to join us!  I was tired after.  I just don't dance every day like I did 40 YEARS AGO!!!!  We had Inoka and Naveen and Stephanie over after and then the Elders came later for their Sunday dinner.  YUM!  Enjoy these great young men!  We are so grateful for them and for being missionaries in this great country!

Sights of Kandy

The Queens Hotel...just like the old movies!!

View from our balcony!

Lunch at Pizza hut...across from the hotel

A little friend we saw on our walk by the lake

Kandy traditional dancers

Eating and walking on fire

Buddhist Temple of the tooth

Walking by the tooth

Fabulous hotel buffet

Mariachi band

Kandy Botanical garden

We were amazed by all the bats in the trees

Outside the Hindu temple

This is how we found the bed in our hotel room!

The crowds still continue to gather for the parade

And so the parade begins!!

A Christian church!

Food for the elephants

Sister Nemishi and her sister for Inservice meeting

Getting ready for the train home!

Now it is time for the pictures from my camera!

Piano player at pizza hut!

The Queens hotel!

Beautiful orchid display!

Obsessed with the giant bats!

King Coconut with the elders

Is there a church in Korea??!!

Guys with big hooks in their bodies and then getting pushed back and forth 

Look at their skin!  All that is holding them are these hooks in their skin!!

This young boy wanted me to take his picture of his hooks.  OMG