"Being a family means you are part of something wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life. No matter what." ~Author Unknown



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

To Sri Lanka and Back

It’s been a few days since we got home, and we jumped right back into our life.  Our trip seems surreal to think about.  So many amazing things we experienced, and yet we’re so happy to be home.  Happy to be doing the everyday things like laundry and dishes, and cheer and dance. 

There are so many moments I wish I caught on film, but we just didn’t take that many pictures.  Adrienne and I were often separated working on different projects.  Adrienne brought a craft for every day.  It was amazing to see the girls work so nicely together sharing materials and helping each other.  I kept thinking what that would look like in a classroom of students in America.  My conclusion…not well.  These girls have so much more discipline, self control, and empathy than the children I see here in America (including my own:). 

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The entire time these girls were making bracelets no one said:

*she took my…                     *I’m not your friend anymore

*she’s touching me               *that’s ugly

*give me that back                *Stop…

*I’m not helping you again

There’s something we can learn here about our children’s lack of tolerance and social skills.

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The girl on the right is Nilogi.  I noticed her the first day.  She was “around” a lot, but never really talked.  I noticed her insecurity, her tendency to hang back.  I found out later that she is one of two of the older girls that does not have a Skype partner here in the US.  I asked her if she’d like to Skype with me, and her face lit up.  She was so happy to be chosen.  Later she made me a bracelet.    

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This is Mathu.  She absolutely loved Adrienne, and the feeling was definitely mutual!

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One of the older girls braided Adrienne’s hair.

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They put on a large lunch spread everyday.  Neither Adrienne or I eat a lot of spicy foods, but we tried a little of everything everyday.  They are so conscientious to their visitors.  Always serving bottled water, getting you a seat, and cleaning up after you.

IMG_1494 I’m not going to lie, we really enjoyed our nights at the hotel.  As much as we loved being with the girls, our bodies are not used to that kind of heat.  We were ready at night to cool down, and enjoyed the restaurant options that were more compatible with our stomachs. 

IMG_1551 We love the look of these Sri Lankan pants!  Typical tourists, we bought many!

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The girls are on summer break, but they still have exams they have to take at the school.  I rode with to take them one day so I could see a little of the area.

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As we were driving there was a bumpy stretch and Jesi immediately put her hand on my knee.  They have such a caring instinct.

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I did an ABC lesson with the little girls.  They loved the crayons!  I also taught them some math games that they enjoyed playing.  Again, I noticed the focus these girls have.  They worked happily for a long time.  Unlike my students who ask constantly when they can be done.

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When our last day came we almost didn’t believe it.  All of the sudden we had to tie up every loose end.  Adrienne brought her last craft project. I had several girls to still add on Rosetta Stone.  The girls slowly started bringing us notes and cards.

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Adrienne asked Ramiya to rewrite her card in Tamil.  Ramiya thought this was so funny.  Their writing looks so neat though!  This was from Jesi who is one of the oldest girls there.

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The girls call mom-age and up women “Aunty”, and Adrienne age girls “sister”.  So we were Jennifer Aunty and Adrienne Sister.  On the last day I had a little heart to heart with one particular girl, Siva.  She had been very attentive to me the entire week, and I felt close to her.  I learned her elderly father wants her to come home and care for him.  He is threatening to kill himself if she doesn’t.  I talked to her about doing what is best for her, and that being okay.  That she can only help him after she helps herself.  She needs to continue her education and make use of all the opportunities that Grace will give her.  She didn’t want to talk about it.  She just said, “I don’t know”.  I said that’s okay, and let her go about her day.  I couldn’t leave without at least knowing I’d tried.  I didn’t see her all that afternoon, which was odd.  She usually sought me out.  When we gathered for our good bye ceremony, she came and sat with me.  She handed me a note and asked me not to read it then.  She told me she knows her father doesn’t understand why she needs to stay, and that he is just old.  She stayed by my side the whole night, and told me she would try not to cry.  She did anyway, and so did I.  I hope she makes the right choice for herself.  When I opened her note back at the hotel that night it was addressed to “Jennifer Mother”. 

Speaking of our good bye ceremony…so much joy, love, and tears!  The girls started by dancing for us.  One by one groups got up and performed.  We whooped and hollered for them.  They asked Adrienne to dance and she did a little ballet combination.  They loved that!  They got me up to join them, and were shocked that I had some rhythm, lol. 

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At some point someone remembered there were smores supplies left over from the group that came before us.  Alex made a raging fire and the girls collected sticks.  They definitely like chocolate and smores!

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Siva is the girl in between Adrienne and I.  She is the same age as Adrienne, 16.  Such a little peanut.

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After the smores, another round of dancing ensued.  We were having so much fun no one wanted it to end.  It was getting late, and the little girls were getting tired!

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Finally we turned the music off.  Then each girl got up and said a few words to us.  Some breezing through their speech, and some working so hard at their English.  I spoke after, and then Adrienne got up.  When she sat back down she cried so hard.  All the girls went right to her and surrounded her.  It was so sweet.  They all sat there for quite a long time.

IMG_1724IMG_1725Finally, there was no more avoiding it.  We had to leave.  We gathered our stuff and headed up to the van.  The girls all circled around.  All of the sudden Angela gave the nod, and ALL the girls piled in with us!  It was literally like a clown car.  About 25 of us in an 8 passenger van!  When we got to the hotel, they got out to do another round of kisses and hugs.  The receptionist came out and took pictures.  She was bawling by the time they left!

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There are no words to explain the experience we had.  It will always be a part of us.  We will continue to keep in touch with the girls through Skype, and we will return again someday.

IMG_1639 Our last day in Sri Lanka was spent in the capital city of Columbo.  We took a 10 hour car ride to get there.  We stopped on the way at the Elephant orphanage.  We were quite excited about this, but quickly disappointed.  It was sad to see these beautiful animals so trained and enclosed.  Plus, it was a total rip off.

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Adrienne talked me into riding an elephant.  I suppose that’s not an everyday occurrence, so you should do it when the opportunity is there.  I can say we did it, and I don’t need to do it again!

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This might be when I was using some expletives.  Like what the duck am I doing on an elephant in the middle of Sri Lanka?

IMG_1801IMG_1894We got to our hotel after dark, and decided to just order room service, watch some CNN, and chill.

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Pretty fancy.  I am not ashamed of my french fries and Coca Cola!

IMG_1922 The next morning we had about 4 hours to explore the city, before needing to shower and start the journey home.  We decided to start out walking and see if we could find the temple and stores we were looking for.  We missed a turn, but happily ended up at a coffee shop, so no complaints.

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We walked a little more and gave up and grabbed a tuck tuck.  It costs all of $1-$2 to take one, but we so badly wanted to prove we could do it on our own! 

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They always leave plenty of room when driving there.  Safety first!

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From the temple we did manage to find all the shopping we wanted by walking.  Given that it was a thousand degrees(actual temp), we did tuk tuk it back to the hotel though!

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I am not ashamed of my french fries and Coca Cola.  Again.

IMG_1945 It was weird to drive away.  In some ways we felt like we’d been there forever, and yet it also felt like we had just arrived.  We both agreed we were ready to be home though. 

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The Columbo airport without air conditioning solidified our feeling.

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When we landed in DC we couldn’t have been happier.  First stop was Starbucks!

IMG_1980Our flight in DC was overbooked, and they were offering vouchers.  High on our love of travel, we decided we were willing to wait for the next flight in exchange for the opportunity to start planning another trip.  However when we found out the next flight was 9 hours away, we decided we weren’t willing.  We walked away from two $750 vouchers, but onto the flight that was taking us home.

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A suggestion for your future travel…come home on a Friday.

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Home Sweet HomeRed heart

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