I am writing to you from Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. It is my third day in this country, though it feels like I have been here a week. Let me explain why.
On a mid-internship vacation, I flew to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, on the afternoon on June 24 and met my good friend Helen at her office. Helen and I became friends while we were teaching at Asian University for Women (AUW) in Bangladesh in 2012. Currently, she is in grad school and is spending her summer internship working in Colombo for Save the Children. I got to meet her boss and see the office. Next, we went to get a drink (because there is alcohol in Sri Lanka) and watched the sunset over the Indian Ocean. After enjoying a delicious Sri Lankan meal, we went back to her apartment.
Tuesday June 24, 2014
11PM: Bridesmaid pick up. Shashika Ambepitiyage, one of our students from AUW and who we call Shashi, came to pick us up for her wedding! Helen was a bridesmaid and needed to leave early to get ready. I wanted to be part of the all the pre-wedding festivities so I tagged along. We drove and checked into the hotel where the bridal party was to prepare.
Wednesday June 25, 2014
1 AM: Dance rehearsal. The groom’s party came over to the hotel to practice the dance to be preformed at the wedding. I had the important job of turning the music on and off.
2AM: The beauty team arrived. Time for hair, make up, jewelry adornment, and sari wrapping. I took pictures and painted forty toes and fingers.
4:30 AM: Informal photo shoot. I was the main photographer.
5:00 AM: Formal photo and video shoot. This photo session took over two hours. Admittedly, I took a nap.
8:30 AM: Pack and leave. We traveled to the next hotel where the Buddhist wedding would be held.
9:08 AM Wednesday, June 25, 2014: The wedding began.
Shashi is Buddhist and in Buddhism the couple goes to see a religious leader who will determine based on a number of factors, the auspicious time and auspicious day the couple should be married (I know this is vague, but it is the explanation I received and I do not wish to elaborate into inaccuracies). The leader determined that Shashi should be married at 9:08 AM on a Wednesday.
This was my first Buddhist wedding and the ceremony was beautiful and very different from the Catholic weddings of my family: a coconut was cracked, leaves were passed around, and gifts were exchanged between the families. As you can see from the pictures, Shashi looked beautiful in her traditional Buddhist clothing. (You can’t imagine how heavy the sari and all the jewelry are.) Though I can’t understand Sinhala, I could tell which were the very special moments and was happy to witness such a dear friend get married.
9:30 AM: The President of Sri Lanka arrived. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a friend of the groom’s family and the President of Sri Lanka, came to be the witness on the marriage certificate.
10:00 AM: More pictures, toasts, greetings, and the special dance performed by the wedding party.
12:00 PM: Lunch and dancing.
2:30 PM: Shashi changes dresses and takes more pictures. Mashitha Perera, her husband and who we call Mashi, is Catholic. (Yeah, Shashi and Mashi, don’t they come branded to be a celebrity couple?) Now that they are married in Buddhism and registered with the state of Sri Lanka, they must also be married in the Catholic Church. To respect the Catholic tradition, Shashi changed out of her Buddhist clothing and prepared for her final “I dos.”
4:30 PM: Catholic wedding.
5:30 PM: Second reception. Shashi finally got to take off her shoes and sit down.
9:00 PM: Our train leaves for Trincomalee. Helen has a two-day work conference in Trinco that begins Thursday morning and it takes about nine hours by train. We had no choice but to leave the wedding and go catch the overnight train to get her here in time.
Fortunately we were able to get first class “sleeper” tickets so that we could finally sleep! As you can see by the photo we had our own compartment and beds. Even though the train was pretty bumpy and I slipped into some scary lucid dreams, it was quite the luxury. (I know this might sound like sarcasm, but genuinely this was a very nice way to travel relative to what Helen and are used to.)
Thursday, June 26, 2014
5:30 AM: Arrive in Trinco. We checked into our hotel and grabbed a couple more hours of sleep. Helen left for work and I headed to breakfast and the beach.
Though it has been a crazy couple of days, it was packed with fun! I got to see so many of my AUW students, experience rich Sri Lankan culture, see the president, and support a wonderful person on her wedding day. But it has worn me out! I am looking forward to spending the next four days in Trinco. As you can see it is quite beautiful here. I think I will recover nicely.