A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

My First Birdie

An event for a cold one...

sunny 96 °F

Since we were staying at a Country Club, we had to get a around of golf in. Saturday we relaxed, slept in, setup our tee time for 8:30 on Sunday morning with hour long massages after golfing (yeah it sucks to be us). We checked out this great view of the golf course and the houses on the hillside.


This golf course has a few rules.

1) Everyone has to have their own caddy, even if you rent the only golf cart in the club.
2) Need at least one ball chaser per two golfers.
3) You have to wear a collared shirt, which means I can't play golf in my tank top.

I am sure there are other rules but these were the ones that effected our group. The golf crew was Larry, Ceni, Dan and I, each with a caddy and two ball chasers, which meant that we had ten people in one 'foursome'. I was a little nervous to play golf with all these people watching, but after a couple of holes I realized that I had no reason to lift my head since I had six people watching where my ball went. After a while, I really got used to the whole concept.

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The golf course was a little dry, but that was expected since the course had not had rain for four months. It was sunny and warm, but since Kandy is higher in elevation it was actually a welcome change from Arugam Bay.


We ran out of water about the eighth hole and even though we found a vendor to buy water and soft drinks, Dan wanted beer to "lubricate his swing". Larry and Dan took off with the golf cart to raid the stock of beers in the ice chest. They only brought back four beers, then realized that one each was not enough and didn't want to share with Ceni and I. Plan B was to call our Wonder Driver Razak to load the ice chest in the back of the car and follow us from hole to hole. We had barely enough cold beers for the last nine holes.


Dan's golf game improved after a couple of beers. Razak kept the cold beers flowing and then became the official photographer for our team.


My caddy and I bonded after a couple of holes and I started to hit really well. Actually, I think I played the best 18 holes of golf in my life. Grandpa and Dad you would be proud - I got my first birdie which included a twenty plus foot putt.


Posted by JenGarbely 22:27 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged events Comments (1)

Elephant Parade


Since our last vacation was in April, Dan and I were overdue for a break from Arugam Bay. After a five hour car ride to Kandy where I managed to only to puke once, we made it to the mountain city of Kandy about 5pm. Ceni and I had decided to stay at the famous Victoria Country Club, which is about 30 minutes outside of Kandy. The room was fabulous with a walk in shower that had a view of the stars and a balcony that overlooked the golf course. Dan and I were starving due to not having lunch so we went to the club house for much anticipated hamburgers and cold Lion beers.

The main reason that we went to Kandy, was to witness the annual Perahera festival. Kandy Perahera is a procession that honors the sacred tooth enshrined in the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This event occurs every August for ten days depending on the moon cycle in Kandy. Larry and Ceni had made reservations for the four of us on Friday August 15th at the Queens Hotel. The tickets were $40 and we were informed they are worth every penny. We were suppose to be in our seats by 7:30 pm, but we were late. Traffic was bad, we left a little late, and the check point took their time (and seem to enjoy) frisking Ceni and I head to toe. Talk about invading your personal space, I was shocked they didn't have us strip for them. Jeez. We scored second row seats from the street, but they packed us in like sardines. We, literally could not move and I barely had enough space between chair in front of me...so you can imagine what Dan knees were feeling. Larry was under the impression we would be able to order beers for this event, so I didn't bother to bring a water bottle. After sitting down I asked the guy where do we order the beers, he freaked out a little. "Madam this is a religious event we do not serve alcohol or drinks." Oh right...what was I thinking this is a Buddhist event, damn a cold beer would be nice while sitting here in this cramped chair on a really warm evening. Someone could make some serious cash selling at least cold water and snacks. Maybe I should have taken a religion class in college to remind myself not all events involve the right to drink cold beer. So we sat there waiting for the parade, I mean procession, to start and playing with the night time settings on our cameras.


The show finally started at about 8:30 pm.

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These guys with long whips started the parade off. People throw them coins and only these guys received coins. They sure could crack the whip! You could even see a spark and it was very loud.

This guy was rolling on the ground while fire was attached to a string that was some how attached to his head and spinning it in circles around his body. You would think if you were rolling on the ground that one would wear black or dark colors, so the dirt does not show and easier to clean. Oh yes the religion thing again, I bet only allowed to wear white. Go the power of Bleach!

Lots of talented fire dancers making their way down the street, dancing and showing off their skills.

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Then there was firer dancers on stilts! Cool beans man.....

Next the flag men came marching down the street.

The drummers were next, but you could hear them coming from a kilometer away.

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The costumes on the elephants were amazing. Very detailed, colorful, some had lights and pretty much head to toe covered. I wonder how long it takes to dress an elephant?

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The Kandy Dancers were fun to watch with bright and very detailed costumes as well. The fun part of this celebration was the wide range of people that participated. There was very little ones that could barely walk to the wise older men that most likely have been part of this event for years.

Boys with swords marched by.

Many different shapes and sizes of horns were played.

Some elephants had a rider and some didn't, but they all had a Mahout (elephant handler) walking along side of them. One elephant totally took a dump in front of us and a Kandy Dancer almost stepped in it.

Pretty brass flags with different symbols on each. There was many different types of flags throughout the event, but not sure what they all mean.

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More drummers come down the street.

More dancers.

Not one elephant, but three at one time. Really at this point I was thinking 'thank goodness', because we were told there would be over forty elephants tonight in the procession.

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Yes those are indeed hooks in that guys back, I could not stop staring at them, but at the same time I so wanted to close my eyes.

More pretty elephants walking by. There was one elephant that I felt truly bad for as it limped by. Otherwise most of the elephants looked like they were enjoying the music and a few were actually dancing.

This guy looked important so we took his picture.

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The strongest smell that comes to mind from the event is kerosene. The fire torches were the only light for the parade (except for the elephants!) but also kept us hot and embers were constantly flying into our laps.

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Many talents for this event.

The Grand Elephant! This is the largest elephant from India that is caring the Sacred Tooth Relic. The old one died a few years back, but they stuffed him and can be viewed at the museum by the temple of the Tooth Relic. One would think after the grand event the parade would be over, but no way we had to sit through yet another hour. The event didn't finish until after 11 pm and 60 plus elephants. The last hour would have been easier to handle with a "cold one."

Here is a video, I hope you enjoy.

Posted by JenGarbely 01:39 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged events Comments (1)

Who's got balls?

My first hair cut overseas...

sunny 90 °F

After being in Sri Lanka for six months, my hair was in desperate need of a trim job. It was always in tangles and I had a ton of split ends. Our bathing water is also a bit on the salty side (go figure living on the beach) which doesn't help the situation at all. And to make matters worse, Pottuvil and Arugam Bay don't have what I would call a suitable hair salon.


This is a picture of the local barber shop, which you only see men in. I figured either women cut their own hair or don't bother, which would explain the very long hair they all seem to have. I didn't grow large enough balls to get my hair cut in Pottuvil, but I did manage to on my next trip to Colombo.

I went with Dan to a "His and Hers" salon. Dan has been to this salon a couple of times and comes home looking good in his new doo. I know it is a little different with women, but I really wanted my hair cut so I had to suck it up. It took me five minutes to find the hers salon, which is tiny compared to the his salon. You would think this would be the first warning sign. In what salon is the men's larger than the woman's?

It took another five minutes to discuss prices and what I wanted. There was some confusion if the shampooing and hair drying after cutting was included in the price. This might be considered the second warning...should I really get my hair cut by this person who I can barely communicate with? Screw it...I wanted my hair cut, so I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best.

My favorite part of having my hair cut is actually the washing. There is something about another person washing your hair and massaging your head that is so relaxing. The washing stationed looked normal but I didn't really fit in the chair. There was no leg rest so I had to hold up half of my body weight. Then the water was freezing cold. I was so very glad when the washing was done, but the shampoo did smell lovely.

We discussed how much I wanted trimmed off and my layers redone. Then I realized the only pair of scissors sitting in front of me had orange handles and looked like paper scissors (warning number three?) I was near complete panic mode until I took a deep breathe and said to myself "hair grows back". Thankfully, she soon brought out her little cart of goods and thankfully, another pair of scissors. I think she cut every hair on my head, meaning she was very thorough. You would think this was a good thing, however it was taking forever and since there was no AC in the salon... I was accumulating major boob sweat.

Finally she begins drying my hair, which escalates the heat issue by ten. I swear I almost passed out in the salon. The hair dryer smelled bad, probably burning my hair along with my scalp. I couldn't take it any more and screamed "stop your burning me." She backed off and felt bad, but finished her job. I paid the girl 700 rupees, about $7, and walked out the door to fresh air. I have never been so thankful to leave a hair salon.

Overall my hair cut was cute and there are no visible signs of permanent hair damage from being burnt. It might, however, take another six months before I try getting my hair cut again overseas.

Dan, meanwhile, walked out of his salon with a sharp haircut, a straight razor shave, a beard trim, and a head massage for about $9. He couldn't have been happier, since there is very little he loves more than a good bargain. He says that he still misses his salon back home for the free beer and the hot stylists, but I know that he is going to bitch about paying $50 again as soon as he gets back.

Posted by JenGarbely 21:27 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged events Comments (0)

The tea boy…

rain 90 °F

The culture of Sri Lanka is to have tea twice a day. Some have coffee instead of tea in the morning but the tea boy keeps tabs on how the whole office prefers their tea or coffee. First tea break is in the morning approximately 9 am. The challenging aspect of the tea break is you have about five minutes and thirty nine seconds to finish your tea or coffee before the tea boy comes back for your tea cup and saucer. The Sri Lankan’s actually use a saucer every time with their tea cup. I believe the last time I used a saucer was when I was around the age of eight having a tea party. I never finish my tea before the tea boy comes back and he just laughs at me. Personally I like my tea warm, not flaming hot, it burns my tongue and then I can not taste anything the rest of the day. I really confuse the tea boy when I bring a tea pot of green tea into the office. I make sure to always take his tea as well. The second tea break is around 3 pm. Once again the tea boy is waiting for me to finish, what pressure for a simple little tea break. Although today we had three tea breaks. When I looked at the tea boy funny and said I already had my tea today he said, “Black tea it is raining.” I smiled, bobbled my head, and drank the tea.


Niyas The Tea Boy and his work space!

Posted by JenGarbely 05:07 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged events Comments (1)

Pottuvil Market

A true farmers market...


Pottuvil Market is a true farmers market, you get what is fresh and in season. The market has a dirt floor and a bunch of stands with the local farmers goods. Usually the farmers have a specialty and your trip to the market means dealing with multiple people if you got a large list. You have the fruit guys, the veggie guys, the beef guys, the chicken guys, and of course the fish guys. The lime guy is pretty sweet, he gets a bag of ten limes ready for me as soon as he sees me coming (20 rupees for 10 limes and throws in an extra one). As I am walking through the market taking pictures, this one beef guy would not allow me to take a picture. I was told he was not proud of being a beef guy, but who really knows. So I found a different beef guy who was the uncle of my driver (everybody is related somehow here). Then you have the farmers that setup shop on the edge of the road by laying a tarp down. Afterwords, I found out this is an illegal place to setup shop and when I took a picture of the guy he starting yelling at me. Just another day in Sri Lanka.

The Fish Market Area - Currently it is the off season for the fishermen the winds are too strong, so we can't get lobster and the prawns are on the smaller side.

A proud fisherman.

You never know what kind of fish you will find at the market.

The chili and spice guy.

The Potato Guy.

The beef guy.

The Veggie Guy.

The market alley.

The guy that was yelling at me for taking his picture.

The chicken guy and we buy our eggs from him too.

Posted by JenGarbely 02:59 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged events Comments (0)

Mmmm...Fresh Bread

Actual Pottuvil Bakery...

93 °F

One of the many delights of Sri Lanka is the fresh bread. Occasionally they burn the top of the bread, but if you get to the bakery right after the bread comes out of the oven you get to pick which loafs you would like. This event occurs every night at about seven. If you want something like a hamburger bun you need to wait until 8. A loaf of bread is 35 rupees which is about 30 cents. The oven looks like a massive pizza oven so Dan is considering making a real American style pepperoni pizza and seeing if they would cook it for us. I believe the health inspectors do not come by very often so it shouldn't be an issue.
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Posted by JenGarbely 02:24 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged food Comments (0)

Cultural Exchange

Independence Day in Sri Lanka

sunny 89 °F
View The Garbely Adventure on dgarbely's travel map.

Jen and I decided that since we had been spending so much time soaking up the Sri Lankan culture over the last few months, that it was only fair to share some American Culture with our Sri Lankan staff. What we found, however, is that it is relatively difficult to come up with an "American Cultural Experience" that people aren't somewhat familiar with, given the ubiquitousness of American TV, food, etc. Nevertheless, we thought that since both Americans and Sri Lankans had tossed the British out of their countries, there was no better cultural event to share than Independence Day! And there is no better way to celebrate Independence Day than having a good old fashioned BBQ!

The first step in any good BBQ is getting the meat together, which in Pottuvil, Sri Lanka, is easier said than done. Since we live in a Muslim community, beef is rather easy to come by but it is not particularly tender, nor does it come in neatly wrapped packages. The only way to get meat is to find the person who slaughtered a cow that morning and literally go buy a 'chunk o' meat'. No tri-tips or rib eye steaks here. So, we decided that instead of steak we would settle for hamburgers. Unfortunately, the only way to get ground beef is the grind it yourself. Ugh.


Luckily, being the boss means that I can quickly rally the staff to get to work to help us with all of the party planning (something that I have some familiarity with). So the morning of the 4th, I sent out all of our drivers to gather the requisite party materials while I busted out the meat grinder and went to work on the 6 kg (~13lbs) of beef. I hadn't finished by the time they all got back, but I was plenty happy to turn over the arm workout and get started on the rest of the meal. I cooked up a tasty tri-bean chili, Jen made some potato salad, and the drivers put together a beautiful fruit salad. Add several cases of beer and a bottle of rum and we were set. I rewarded all of the drivers who helped cook with shots of my Patron Tequila - to which they all took an immediate liking too. Go figure. Jen got rewarded by Razak, our driver, with a new Sri Lankan outfit that his wife had made. It was a little strange at first to see her wearing Sri Lankan clothes on the 4th of July, but it was also oddly appropriate.

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As we were just finishing up the food, the rest of the staff came by and we started up a game of volleyball. Usually, we can't get them to play anything but cricket, but since it was a special day I think they humored me. Actually, we all had a great time - even though Jen and my team ended up losing after being ahead the entire game. Grrr.


After volleyball, we got the grill going and cooked up all of the burgers just as it was getting dark. Everyone helped themselves to the food, but I think we got some mixed reviews. Everyone seem to like the burgers and the fruit salad, but were a little iffy about the potato salad and especially the chili. I was a little surprised about the chili since it was the most like "curry" that they eat here - but what to do? Instead Jen and I ended up eating chili for almost a week.

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Finally we finished up the evening with some more drinking and playing with fireworks (Safety First!). One of our drivers refused to light the fireworks on the ground and instead would light them in his hand and throw them in the air. Meanwhile, I kept trying to figure out whether this was going to be considered a workplace injury or not. After a few errant bottle rockets, he was voted out of fireworks duty by the entire party.

In the end, I think everyone had a good time and we all learned a little bit about each others culture and found a few similarities between them. Getting drunk and blowing stuff up seems to be a universal cultural activity (at least for men), chili is NOT the same as curry, and everybody loves hamburgers (even when you have to grind it yourself). My next challenge is figuring out how to explain what Labor Day means to America and why it is that we pretty much do the same thing as we do for Independence Day. Or maybe I'll just buy an extra case of beer and several bottles of tequila and forget all the technicalities....

Posted by dgarbely 13:33 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged events Comments (1)

Ants in My Pants

Five months down!


I have now been in Sri Lanka for five months! It is weird to think it has been only five months but in other ways it seems like we have been here for a long time. I've been dealing with the hot and humid weather, but am thankful that we have AC or I think I would have melted by now. It is quite pleasant to be able to step out of your cabana and walk 50 meters to work and then be able to return to the cabana at any time. This is most convenient for lunch and bathroom times. Being the only female in the office, the bathroom is not quite up to par and is missing a toilet seat. I am still white even though I live on the beach or as Dan would say “cracker ass white…oh I mean snowflake white.” My work outfit consists of pants, boots, button up shirt, hard hat and a beautifully bright orange vest. Orange is sooo not the new pink!


Lately, I have been on this peanut butter kick and can not figure out if it is due to being out of the States or what, but damn peanut butter is good! As a kid, I did not particularly love PB&J’s, but here in Sri Lanka with some fresh baked bread they are delicious. Maybe it is the fact I can whip out a PB&J sando in like two minutes. For a while, I was having PB&J’s almost every day for lunch, but then Dan started complaining and I ran out of “Christine’s homemade Jam.” But I recently found Reese’s peanut butter cups in Colombo, so I stocked up on our last visit. Dan does not do peanut butter and chocolate so they are all for me. :)

The cockroach killer has been on standby after the last battle. The cockroach stepped over the line when it crawled onto the bed and across my tummy in the middle of the night. There was a complete lack of sleep that night, but I built up an extreme desire to kill the next morning. Dan and I tore the bedroom apart to find the sucker, but instead found three large cockroaches living under our bed. After Dan captured them and I drowned them in the toilet, we sprayed the whole bed with Anti Cockroach stuff, and placed traps throughout the cabana. You would have thought the battle was over, but after remaking the bed we found another one in the mosquito net. He also fell victim to my intense wrath! The cockroach killer has found two more since the big battle but they were both belly up. We have perhaps won the WAR!

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After five months I am still having a little trouble with the ants. Yes I really do mean ants! They get into everything and in no time at all. Really, it is unbelievable how fast ants can travel. I finish my PB&J and only leave a smudge of jam or peanut butter on the plate and leave it on the coffee table while I finish watching the news. The next time I look down at the plate it will be swarming with ants. When trying to wash dishes I usually find a few trying to climb up my arm. That just gives me the itches...damn I am starting to itch just writing about it. Nine out ten times if you think you feel something crawling on you, most likely you actually do have ants in your pants!

Posted by JenGarbely 12:12 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged events Comments (1)

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