Elephant Sarong and Beach Stories

I bartered for my first item today, and lost miserably. It was a cotton sarong with elephants along the edge. I wanted cotton so it could be used as a towel, blanket, bed sheet, curtain, etc. I need something to cover my legs (which are sunburnt) and something that I can wear to the beach. A sarong is incredibly practical and is specifically made to work well in a tropical environment.

To placate my curiosity I asked if I could watch the sarong get made in the back room of a house — and was granted my wish. Women draw the batik pattern onto a piece of white cloth using wax (in my case elephants). Then they dye the cloth in a huge vat. I chose blue as the primary colour for the sarong, so my sarong was put into the blue vat. After dying the cloth it gets boiled in hot water to melt the wax and get rid of any excess dye. Once this is done the sarong is sun dried and the ends are stitched up. The whole process could take up to a few hours.

In other news, I walked along the beach for miles and miles to see what I could find. During the walk I found locals bring up bits of the reef, the were using snorkels to stay underwater. I’m told that the reef is later ground into gypsum and sold in the market. This has to be destructive to underwater life.

Villagers kept asking me why I was walking. I told them I wanted to see, but they didn’t understand. They were laughing at me because they thought I didn’t have enough money to take the bus.

I walked by a temple on a little island. I asked a man about it and he said that it was where Buddha first came to Sri Lanka. I asked a group of boys about it and they said that is where Siva first came over to Sri Lanka. I kept asking people and kept getting different Gods. I guess that is the port of entry for all Gods into Sri Lanka.

After my walk I went to see the ladies at the International Lodge. They have good advice and tell me local history (or at least what they can communicate). They tell me why things are happening politically. I showed them pictures of my family and they showed me pictures of Mali’s wedding. They are Buddhists and her marriage was arranged. The ceremony is a mere technicality where the couple exchange rings and a necklace. The important part is going to the hotel room where they are blessed by everyone and left to make a child; in their case it worked right away!

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