Back to the present... Yesterday I made the early morning journey from Colombo to Islander, Sewalanka's retreat center just an hour from Anuradhapura. I have to say, it feels a bit like I'm on a safari--I've seen more wildlife in my first two days here than I've seen in the last two years. On an hour-long walk before sunset yesterday, we saw peacocks flying around the jungle, monkeys playing in the trees, a kingfisher catch a fish, a green hornbill, a star tortoise, butterflies, giant dragonflies, frogs, a miniature scorpion, and geckos galore. Today, on a day trip to Anuradhapura, our bus whizzed by a family of three wild elephants stomping into a poor farmer's rice paddies. Unfortunately, I was only ready with my camera to catch a few of these marvelous beasts... so here is a tortoise, some people, geckos, and cute puppies.
The setting sun caught this tree so dramatically on our trail, I had to take a picture.
A family from the surrounding village stopped to say hello.
Somewhere between the 5th century BC and 11th century AD, the Anuradhaphura engineers built brilliantly calibrated irrigation systems that kept farmland watered year-round. The British were flabergasted when they discovered them, as no such system existed in the Western world. Islander is built around one such "bund" and they have excavated it out of the jungle.
Front porch friends.
Amanda, my host and Sewalanka figure for 10 years, having lunch with Govinda, a Korean volunteer at Islander. (Apparently, Indian friends named him after the Bollywood movie star.)
Other than about 30 Sri Lankans, my company consists of two Korean volunteers and a French expat, Arnoud, who makes amazing ice cream. (More on that later.)
Minju's interior insect fortress.
There are no screens whatsoever at Islander, and the roofs are lofted above the walls for airflow. A fabulous design, except for the faint of heart.
Path to the dining hall.
Path lined by a living fence, newly trimmed.