Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Wedding

My son's wedding was the most incredible wedding I have attended.   I do not have photos from the ceremony as I have only what I took after it was over.

I will describe the ceremony as I recall it, although there were so many aspects to it that I'm sure I will miss some.   It was a traditional SriLankan ceremony.

The wedding started with the grooms family, his attendants, and traditional Sri Lankan drummers and dancers waiting for Justin.  He was taken away from the hotel minutes before and was to make a ceremonial enterence.  He was driven up in a car, decorated with flowers and got out of the car and greeted us all.  The dancers/drummers proceeded him into the hotel.  We walked behind, hotel guests gathered to watch and take photos.  It was that cool!

We all made our way up tenth floor where the wedding was to take place.  The dancers/drummers proceeded us again and when we came to the enterence of the hall, a younger cousin Harshana's, washed Justin's shoes and then Justin dropped a ring into a glass of water.  The symbolism of the washing of the feet was a welcome to Justin and the dropping of the ring (not their wedding rings, another ring) symbolized Justin's appreciation. Once this was done, we walked in to greet Harshana's family.   We were then taken to the area where the marraige recording would take place.  Justin and Jay were seated at the table.  I stood beside the table.   The dancers/drummers came in again as Harshana was escorted in by her parents, followed by her attendants.  She wore a gorgeous dress and a long veil.   After the dancing/drumming, she was seated at the table with her father, her mother stood beside them.   The registrar performed a legal ceremony and vows were recited.   Both fathers and the bride and groom signed the paperwork. I then came around and lifted Harshana's veil and hugged her and welcomed her to our family and then I hugged Justin.  This was the legal portion of the ceremony.

At the right time, we moved to the traditional portion of the ceremony.   Justin and Harshanawere ceremoniously helped by their fathers, stepping with their right foot first, on to a platform, called a poruwa.  Their were a number of things that happened here.

The exchahange of rings, the betel leaves signifying seven generations, the tying of the pinkie fingers signifying unity, the gifts to the parents as a show of respect and thanks for raising the bride and groom, the feeding eash other milk and rice signifying that they will take care of other, the lighting of the oil lamp and presentation of the saree all occurred on the poruwa.  After the ceremony was done, a coconut was chopped in half with a big machete!  Some dry ice was put into white liquid to make it bubble over, signifying boiling milk, which is for prosperity.   The cake was then cut, Justin and Harshana fed each other cake, then their attendants and other family came up and took a piece of cake and ate it.  The cake was coffee flavored, so delicious! Celebration music started playing. Later came the food - huge amounts of delicious Sri Lankan food and then dancing.

Some photos:
Bride and Groom, Harshana is holding her extremely long veil train.

The wedding party table.

I loved my saree.

Beautiful couple.

The rings and a view of Justin's cuff link, loaned to him from my mom.  My dad wore these cuff links at my parents wedding so they have a special history.

Justin, Harshana and Jelisa.

Dance floor.  

Harshana's hair was full of flowers and the back of her saree was stunning.
This group all attended Concordia College together.

Jerry and Carol made the long trip to see Justin married.  Carol's saree was beautiful.
The first dance was "Yellow" by Coldplay; this was my son's choice.

Congratulations to my son and daughter in law.   May your life together be blessed.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Some of my observations about Colombo, Sri Lanka.  Our hotel is fancy but not all of Colombo is like our hotel.
Wild dogs are common walking in the street and laying around.  They appear not to bother anyone, we walked by many of them and watch them cross the street from our hotel room window.  I heard quite a lot of barking one morning at around 4am.   The dogs appear healthy and must be getting food from somewhere.  

There are old cannons along the ocean wall, these are non working and left from when the Dutch controlled Sri Lanka.
There are a lot of police here,  the white sleeves signify the are traffic control in the street (although traffic and control should not be used in the same sentence here!) The police officers are friendly, polite, young, typically appear very fit,  and do not carry guns. We are next door to a police station.  We have seen police mostly on foot but a couple on horses and a few on motorcycles.   I've seen a couple police cars parked, but none driving.
 The bottom of this photo shows a military officer at the steps to the sea wall, the military officers carry machine guns.   We asked if we could go down the steps and he said yes.   We have seen only afew military officers and were told they are in the area because we are close to the president's house.   As we pass the president's house, more military are visible, but not too many.    They stand out because of the guns they carry.    In the background of this photo, construction is visible.  Everywhere you look there is construction.  
This fire tuck was parked in the street.   It is obviously quite old.  I saw another on on a street that did not appear nearly as old.   Colombo is remarkable for the lack of sirens.   It is a sound I associate with big cities but here I have seen/heard sirens only three times, all coming from ambulances that look to be of the same vintage as this fire truck.

The three wheeled vehicles are called tuk-tuks.   You must be careful to agree on a price prior to the ride or the drivers may scam you, as we found out.   

Traffic is crazy on most roads.  The street in front of out hotel is much less congested than most streets. No lanes are observed by drivers, motorcycles cut in and out, you are often within inches of the vehicle next to you and pedestrians need to be very careful.   Yet, I have not seen any accidents and if you are near a cross walk, the police will walk out and stop traffic so you may cross.   Drivers seem to follow police traffic control reasonably well however, it seems they only control during gridlock or to let pedestrians cross.  Motorcyclists are common, often with two riders but we occasionally have seen three riders and one time observed four riders on one motorcycle!

Construction is everywhere.  It may be difficult to see in this particular photo but while the workers are wearing hard hats, flip flops seem to be the footwear of choice for them.

Everything is in English and we have had no difficulty communicating.   Here are photos of a downtown area showing the signs in English.

I will update more later on our trip, this has been an experience of a lifetime.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Kingsbury

I wasn't sure exactly what to expect when we arrived in Sri Lanka.  The airport was very nice and modern, cleaner and nicer than Dulles or Dubai.   When I stepped outside the first thing I noticed was the humidity, seriously humid and hot at 2AM!  A driver from our hotel was waiting for us and we took the freeway to our hotel.  It was an uneventful ride and almost no other traffic on road, which I have since learned is most definitely not the norm!

Our hotel is very nice. The room is not too large but has a king and twin bed and a bathroom with a  rainfall shower that I love; it is very clean and modern.  It has a view of the Indian Ocean.  This the view from the room.

The lobby is beautiful and had two of the largest centerpieces I have seen in my life, hundreds of large, red roses. They are stunning.   There are many beautiful chandeliers. Those of you who know me know I love sparkly so I have to throw in one photo of a chandelier!

 There are a number of restaurants in the hotel, all with gorgeous views of the water.  The breakfast buffet far surpasses any I have ever been to before.   The food is delicious and the variety is incredible.  There are numerous chefs manning stations to prepare food like crepes, omelets, meats, curries and other foods.   There are literally hundreds of choices from fresh mango, orange or watermelon juice to salads, meats, pastries, cereals,  and all sorts of foods I have not eaten before.  It has been so fun to go to breakfast each morning to try something new.   These photos show just a portion of what is available!

I found it hilarious the first afternoon while we sat in an open lobby restaurant area after ordering a bottle of water when an employee noticed me looking through my purse, which was propped on the chair next to me, he immediately brought me something to put my purse on.  I called it my "purse couch!"   How cute is this!

There is a swimming pool with lounge chairs, table seating and a small bar and deli.

I have not yet had much time to spend at the pool as we've been really busy but I did sit here at night with my iPad to write my post about the flight and it was beautiful.  All of the fountains surrounding the pool are lit with blue lighting.  I have seen a wide range of clothing here, from tiny bikinis to a woman swimming in a burka style suit which showed only her face.  Rest assured, however, I will be wearing neither a bikini nor a burka when I spend a day here.

One thing I have seen often in this hotel is weddings!   There are many well dressed wedding guests beginning early in the morning throughout the day coming through the lobby.   Most are Sri Lankan and the women are wearing beautiful sarees and the men dressed very formally in suits and ties.  The hotel is a fun place to people watch.  

There are a couple of bars we have visited at in our hotel, one is an open air bar on the rooftop.   You hear and see the ocean all around.   The bartender was trying to impress my daughter with his bar juggling skills. He was good!    The other bar is near the lobby and had an impressive lounge singer.  Her was very stereotypical to what I imagine a lounge singer...older man, balding, shirt open, vest, gold chains, shaking his hips and his tambourine ....he did have a fabulous voice and the two young men playing the music were great!   We stayed quite a while to listen to him.

My son, Justin,  his wife to be, Harshana, and their friend and bridesmaid, Peace,  came to the hotel to see us the first day.   That, of course, was the highlight of my first day!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A long long trip

I an sorry for no photos in this post.  I did not have my camera out during the flights to SrLanka.

Getting to Sri Lanka takes a very, very long time....

After a two hour and then a three hour flight, my husband, daughter and I arrived at Dulles in Washington DC and flew overnight for thirteen hours on a 777 to reach Dubai.  It was difficult to sleep but the service was excellent on the flight. As we neared Dubai, a young woman in front of me, struck up a conversation.  She said she was from Dubai and wondered if I was visiting there.  We looked out the window to the desert below and she told me what I was seeing.   I explained it was just a layover in Dubai. She told me Dubai was beautiful and there was a lot to do and everything was open very late and I must come some day to vacation.   I explained to her that I was on my way to Sri Lanka for my son's wedding.   She said that her language was Arabic and in Arabic they say "mabrook" to say congratulations so she was saying "mabrook" to me on my son's wedding.
When we landed in Dubai, it was very, very hot but the airport was comfortable.  I was most happy to get off the plane, brush my teeth and wash my face in the airport.  I was also pleased that I had chosen to wear a long sleeve sweater and scarf over my tshirt.  Everyone was very conservatively dressed in the airport.   There were women in brightly colored headscarves and those covered from head to toe in black with only a narrow opening for their eyes.  There were many men in religious garb too but not as many as the women.  My daughter and I were the only blondes in the airport.  

We boarded the plane to SriLanka.   I was not seated near my family on this flight, which I did not mind because I love to talk to strangers...or as a friend once said "Mary has never met a stranger, they are all just new friends."  The airline we flew, FlyDubai, had the best safety video, entertaining in Arabic and in English as a animated video.  I think you may be able to find it in YouTube .  It was great! The woman next to me, Silva, was from Lebanon, and a Jevovahs Witness.  She was on her way to SriLanka for a Jehovah's Witness convention.   She loved Lebanon and was a taxi driver there but told me they did not always have water or electricity.  She said that the Bible said when Jesus comes to reign on earth the fruits will be like those of Lebanon and we discussed fruit and weather.  She also said "mabrook" to me and explained the meaning when I told her my son was to be married in Sri Lanka.  I also spoke to some Sri Lankan women who were friendly and  wanted to hear about the wedding.

We arrived in Sri Lanka at around 1 am Thursday Sri Lankan time which would be about 1 pmWednesday  Minnesota time.  We will gain back this half day when we return.