Friday, December 6, 2013

speaking English in Kandy

Despite the heavy skies, complete absence of sun, and rain, we decided to go into Kandy anyway. So what -- we have umbrellas, we're here, and who knows if it will be better tomorrow? Our destinations were the botanical gardens, the Temple of the Tooth, and the market. We'd passed the botanical gardens on our way into the city and they looked absolutely beautiful, but they were even better than we'd expected:

beautiful botanical garden

this giant tree is a BOUGAINVILLEA, y'all!

the exotic PETUNIA.

that tree looks like it belongs on a movie set!

the walk of leaning trees

a blossom from one of those orange-covered trees

beautiful flowers

crazy tree

crazier tree
When we were walking through the botanical garden, we came upon a group of 8 to 10 girls, very young teenagers. We passed them once and they seemed to want to talk to us, and we paused, but they kind of giggled shyly and we kept going. They came back and approached us, and the girl who spoke was shaking with nervousness. They were taking an English language class and wanted to know if they could speak to us -- "can you help us?" they asked. We were glad to talk to them, but it turned out that they really wanted us to sign their papers with our name, nationality, email address, and signature. But for each one of them. And they wanted it from Marc and from me. If they just wanted to speak English that would've made sense, but they wanted us to fill out these forms. So we did, we stood there and filled it out for each of them, and then they tried to speak a little more English, explain more about what they were doing, what they'd do after they completed the course. We thought it was a little strange, but it was also kind of sweet because they seemed sweet.

But it turned out the park was full of these big groups of kids, all of whom wanted the same thing. Their English wasn't good enough to understand our answer -- "we've already done this with one big group of kids, sorry we don't want to do it again," so finally it hit me: We pretend we don't speak English. I speak a bit of French, and to ANYONE else in the world it would be obvious, once you heard me speak, that I am not a native French speaker. But people here can't tell whether we are from London or America or Germany or France when we speak English, so I felt pretty good about the experiment. When we were approached by the third group, I launched into my French: "Nous ne parlons pas Anglais. Je suis desolee." They asked where we were from and I said, "France, Paris." (The Coneheads were in my mind: France. We come from France.) They kept trying, do you speak English, we kept responding, "Parlez-vous Francais?" and Marc would say Hola, Adios, Habla Espanol? It was so funny, but it worked. If only they wanted to speak English, we'd have been glad to do that, but all that writing, all that information, we had stuff to do and places to see and only one day in Kandy. It made me laugh, every single time I played a French-speaking non-English-speaking person.

After the park, we went to the Temple of the Tooth, which apparently contains one of Buddha's actual teeth. The rain had stopped and we enjoyed walking through the place:

This was on the base of a statue in front of the Temple
murals above

big giant tusks welcome you to the Temple of the Tooth

exterior architectural detail

every temple needs a moat

Temple of the Tooth. Plus rooster.

more murals inside, really beautiful

more architectural detail

interior detail

schoolgirls with their flower offerings

to the far left is a tiny little inset with a box or some kind of container that we assume holds the relic itself.
here are all the Kandyians placing their flower offerings.
lots of incense outdoors, plus candles

so serene -- inside the temple

so serene, outside the temple
We decided against going to the market because my head was killing me, and the camera battery was completely dead. Heading back to the hotel led us to consider the tuk-tuk, which is our very favorite form of transportion, ever. As Marc said, it's half taxi and half amusement park ride, which was the perfect way to say it. The tuk-tuks generally have things written on them; ours somewhat ominously said "Better You Don't Come My Way." I didn't like to think about what that might exactly mean. We saw one that said CHEGUEVARA across the back, and a couple with skull-and-crossbones across the bottom.

Kandyians crossing the street

rainy tuk-tuk driving day

giant street-level Buddha watching over Kandy
Tonight we're eating 17 curries for dinner -- shocking, how can we possibly eat 17 curries -- and tomorrow morning we head to Negombo, where we'll hang out before we board our flight at 4:30am. I'm surprised by how much I adore Kandy; my expectations were unreasonably low for some reason, but it's really a beautiful, beautiful city. I hope we get to come back to Sri Lanka one of these days.

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