A Trip down Memory Lane and History: My Visit to Kandy and Hotel Tree of Life

Ayubowan!

First off I do apologize for not writing any posts from Sri Lanka except for the one I wrote about my arrival here. The truth is that I’ve been quite disconnected since coming here from most of the world. I haven’t done it on purpose, but I’ve been so busy with people here and the heat has really gotten to me. I know that I complain constantly about the heat, but the heat here is really something else! I even told Nuzaifa from Say it With Books that I was having trouble just staying awake during the afternoons because of the heat. Complete sidenote, my meeting with Nuzaifa was the first time I’ve actually met another fellow blogger and it was wonderful! I’m sad that we couldn’t chat for a long time, since I’m pressed for time now that I’m going back to Canada on the 21st of April. Next time Nuzaifa, our meeting will be longer lol! Also another side note, Postcards! I wrote over 20 postcards to my friends and others. I’ve mailed all of them now and I hope that everyone I sent out postcards to will receive them at some point! I do know that some of you may get the postcards once I return to Canada! If you can let me know if you do receive them, I’d really appreciate it!

Going back to the disconnection, like I said while I haven’t done it on purpose, a part of me has been thankful for it because it gives me time to spend with my grandparents and family. These are people I don’t see on a constant basis, so when I get to see these people in person, I’m really happy. While I was mulling over the lack of blog posts that I haven’t written a friend of mine told me “The reason I haven’t spoken to you in all this time (when I asked her if she received the Birthday card I sent her) is because I wanted you to be disconnected from everything and enjoy your time there. I was going to speak to you once you got back to Canada” and I was so thankful for her answer. It made me feel less guilty about not posting since March and staying in touch with people. Anyways tomorrow is my New Year here and I’m hoping that I’ll have the chance to write a food post about it this week before I return. Right now though, I wanted to share my experience of going to Kandy and to the Hotel Tree of Life  which was previously my Paternal Grandmother’s ancestral home which I visited for the very first time.

Trip to Kandy

On my way to Kandy :). The paddy fields.

On my way to Kandy :). The paddy fields.

Dalada Maligawa. Image Courtesy of Kaputa.com

You’re probably amused by the name “Kandy” for a City, since well…it probably reminds you of Candy, while Kandy does have a lot of great places to eat, it’s much more than that to Sri Lankans. Kandy was the last Kingdom in Sri Lanka before the British came and colonized the country. It is also home to the “Sri Dalada Maligawa” which is houses the Tooth Relic of the Buddha. It is also Sri Lanka’s second largest city after Colombo. It’s located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka is also a popular tourist destination. In July/August a procession featuring Elephants, dancers, drummers and other artists is held in honour of the tooth relic. A Tusker (an elephant bearing Tusks) carries the tooth relic during the procession. This elephant is carefully chosen using various methods. The most famous Tusker to carry the Tooth Relic during the procession was “Raja” who carried it for about 50 years until he passed away.  The irony is that I’ve never actually gone to watch the procession while living here. It always fell during school time, but I’ve watched it plenty of times on the TV. My favourite parts are watching the Elephants, the dancers and the drummers. The drumming in Sri Lanka to me is out of this world. I always get goosebumps when I listen to the drumming during the procession. I also love the fact that the Elephants (especially the baby ones) move to the drum beat and wave their trunks to it.  This is a short video of the procession if you’d like to check it out!

Kandy is also my dad’s hometown and this was my first visit to the city since 2006. Last time when I visited Sri Lanka in 2011 I didn’t have the opportunity to go and this year I was adamant that I visit the place that holds so many of my wonderful memories! Ever since I was about 6 years old I’ve been going to Kandy to spend my holidays with my aunt and cousins. We’ve done some pretty crazy stuff when we’ve spent our holidays there and those are some of the memories that I can look back fondly on and say “Yeah I had a pretty good childhood.” I loved going to Kandy. I really loved my aunt’s house and when she got sick and moved to England to live with my cousin, the house was sold. This time I actually went past my aunt’s house and actually took a picture of it. The house is still the same, but there’s a bigger gate (an Ugly grey one) now and they’ve built  a wall around the house. I guess I’m biased because I want to remember the house as it was, not what it is now. I think the best part of my visit to Kandy, other than taking the train for the first time since 2006 was meeting my aunt’s neighbours after 8 years! I met them last in 2006 when I was staying with my aunt while she was sick, so I was overjoyed that they were home.We spent about a good hour and a half talking and reminiscing about the past. The only disappointment was that their daughter (who is my cousin’s best friend and was her bridesmaid) was not at home. I didn’t have long to be disappointed because she called my cell phone later on. I didn’t get to walk around much in Kandy because we had so much stuff and we had to check into the place we were staying on the first day after 2.00 in the afternoon. So we dropped off of our stuff with my cousin’s friend and walked around the Kandy City Centre which is the city’s mall. It’s a  beautiful place and for a second I couldn’t believe I was in Sri Lanka. It’s a pretty high-end mall when I think about it; with lots of exclusive stores, but still I was able to go and get some clothes and surprise surprise I also bought some books from one of the bookstores as well (Enid Blyton books ftw).

The Bake House has always been one of my favourite places to eat in Kandy. I remember going there as a kid to the bakery to get some goodies. However since this was my first visit to Kandy since 2006 I was shocked to see all the renovations to the place. No longer is just a bakery, but now it’s a place where you can go have breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. It’s really nice to see local businesses prosper.

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Bake house exterior. Still the same, but bigger now :)

Trip to Hotel Tree of Life  As I mentioned before the Hotel Tree of Life was my paternal grandma’s ancestral home. It was formerly a Tea Estate which was owned by a British Family and later it was bought by Great grandfather. The tea cultivation continued until the 1970′s when the estate was sold to another gentlemen who in turn sold it to Tree of Life owners. I had heard numerous tails about my grandma’s ancestral home. My father spent so much time at ‘Yahalatanna’ as it was known back then. My great-grandmother lived there until she passed away and two of my uncles (my dad’s cousins) also stayed there and went to school because it was closer to them. There are a lot of fond stories about Yahalatanna and I’ve always wanted to go there, but never had the opportunity for some reason. Then when dad came to Sri Lanka last December he visited the hotel and he was enamored with it. He was insistent that my mom and I go there. So this time we were determined to go and see the place my dad speaks so fondly of. However our trip was bittersweet and it was because my dad’s uncle (the last remaining sibling of my grandmother passed away the day we left for Kandy). He was the Superintendent of the Tea Estate when my grandma’s family owned it before it was sold. It was his birthday on the 22nd of March and then on the 24th morning he had passed away. We found out this out before we took the train to Kandy, however because there was no way we could cancel our Hotel Reservations we couldn’t make it to the funeral. I adored my great-uncle and I was sad I couldn’t make it to the funeral, but in a way I thought it was fitting that I was going to visit the place he had grown up and where he ended up working till the estate was sold. It’s funny how life works out sometime. My cousin who also traveled with us to Kandy ended up staying the first night with us (we stayed at Holiday Home owned by the Bank she works at) and then left the following morning to come to the funeral, while we continued our trip.

CIMG2289

Entrance sign of the Hotel.

The hotel is about forty-five minutes away from my aunt’s house and I believe it’s the same distance from the Kandy town (downtown if you will). When my dad was small the road to the estate/house wasn’t the greatest and it was apparently quite difficult to get there by car, but now the road has been paved and it’s much easier for a vehicle to get through. Once we arrived we were greeted by the same person who gave my dad a tour of the place. We explained to her what happened to my dad’s uncle and why our cousin would no longer be joining us at the hotel (my cousin who went with us, also went to the hotel with my dad in December). Before we were taken to our room Mari (pronounced Maa-ri) took us to the dining area (formally it used to be the place where my dad and his cousins played) and gave us drinks and we chatted for a bit. The breeze was so soothing and the area was beautiful. The view from the restaurant is beautiful too.  We were given a double and again I was blown away by the view. It was of the tea estate and you could see the road as well.

View from our room.

View from our room.

So after we got settled in our room we walked for a bit and then went up to the actual house where my great-grandmother stayed. Now the house is home to hotel offices and we got to meet some of the staff members. Previously it was the hotel reception, but now the reception is at another area which used to be the Tennis Courts when my great-grandmother was alive. The staff were quite eager to hear the history of when my grandma’s family owned the estate and apparently before the family bought the estate from the British family Lord Mountbatten had also stayed at the main house. I took a lot of pictures of the house and the surrounding area. Mari also took us around the hotel in the evening and told us some of the plans the hotel has for the area.

The biggest surprise and probably the best part of staying at the hotel was the discovery of someone who used to work at the Estate since the time my father was small. We were supposed to go Bird Watching with a man by the name of “Punchi Banda” on the final morning of our stay. As we were walking we asked about him and then my mom asked if he was familiar with the “Jayawickremas” (my grandmother’s maiden name/family name) and he said yes. Then immediately we launched into an explanation of who we were and what we were doing here. While we didn’t see any birds to begin with, Punchi Banda gave us an entire tour of the area,complete with an explanation to everything. We even got to go into the main house (now the offices) and he told us which room my great-grandmother was, which room my great-uncle used as an office-room, the other areas of the house etc. It truly was a remarkable experience. He also told us exactly how much tea was there when the Jayawickrema’s owned the estate. I guess you can say I felt a bit nostalgic in the sense that I wish I could have experienced what my dad did when he was younger. From all the stories I’ve heard about his childhood and spending time at Yahalatanna I think my generation really missed out on all that fun. Before I knew it my stay at Tree of Life had come to an end.

It really was an amazing experience. As I was heading back to Kandy with my mom in our Tuk Tuk, our Tuk Tuk driver actually took us by the Jayawickrema family burial ground. Not all the members are buried there. There is a large tomb stone like thing which houses the ashes of my great-grandfather and some of the other members. My great uncle’s (D.K. Jayawickrema-the one who passed away) wife actually told me the names of the family members who have their ashes there. The death of my great-uncle marks the end of a generation of Jaywawickremas. It makes me sad to know that there isn’t anyone left from that side of the family, but I suppose that’s life. I guess my only wish was that my trip to Kandy was longer, it felt way too short. I’ve included more pictures in a Gallery, so you guys can see them!

Ayubowan From Sri Lanka!

Image Courtesy of Lankandevil

Ayubowan from Sri Lanka!

Before you stare quizzically at your Laptop screens and wonder what on earth I’m talking about, allow me to explain :). Ayubowan is the traditional greeting here in Sri Lanka. Usually the greeting which is said with gesture that is in the picture on the right means “Hello” and “Goodbye”, but it also translates into “May you have long life” so I guess you can say the greeting serves a number of purposes :).

Anyways this is the first time in a week where I can actually sit down and right about my experience here. Last week I was so jetlagged and it’s incredibly hot here that I haven’t felt like doing anything. However yesterday it rained for the first time since I’ve been here and there was nothing short of excitement from my mom and I . I can tell you that literally almost 75% of the time I fall asleep in the afternoon because of the heat. But it’s not for a long period of time, just for about an hour or so! I’m going to get to my experience of being here.

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I’m alive, I swear!

Proof that I'm alive! Trying out glasses while my mom was shopping for her own pair.

Proof that I’m alive! Trying out glasses while my mom was shopping for her own pair.

Hi Everyone!

I hope all of you are having a fantastic Friday! Finally it seems like the weather is slowly becoming bearable and finally we have some sunshine! Also I believe March Break started today, so those who are on March Break I hope you a restful and relaxing week! It seems like this year is going to be a year where I will drop off the radar for quite a bit of time. I’ve also realized that I tend to get hit with bad news at the beginning of the year a lot. I’ve been absent from the blogosphere due to some personal circumstances involving my family and extended family recently. After hearing all that bad news I haven’t felt like blogging to be honest. Things are kind of starting to look up, which I’m grateful for because I really don’t think I can handle such an onslaught of bad news.

On a semi-happier note another reason I’ve been absent from the blogging world is because I’m leaving for Sri Lanka tomorrow! I haven’t finished packing yet, but I’m one of those people for better or for worse does better under pressure. Don’t worry I will pack my passport and ticket (actually that would be horrible if I forgot both of those things). I’m of course taking some books with me to read! There’s one book that I have to read for my publishing course before it starts in April. I’m really enjoying it so far, which is a good thing! I just hope I can finish it before school starts. I’m also planning on taking Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda and Three Day Road with me. The latter I’m hoping to take to read on the plane because my flight from Toronto to Abu-dhabi is  14 hours long (yeah not a fan of that flight at all) while the other one is only 4 hours from there to Colombo. So I have plenty of time to read :).

The other reason I’ve been absent (I know it seems like I’ve had many reasons, but this is a good one) is because I’ve been intensely following Canada Reads 2014. It’s a reality tv program focusing on books. This year the theme was “Which novel can inspire social change in Canada” and as to be expected it was an intense, emotional and powerful week of debating and discussions. The winner of course was Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda defended BRILLIANTLY by Wab Kinew! I don’t mean to sound like a fangirl, but he was phenomenal! The way he spoke about the book in October/November last year was the reason I picked up the book and listening to his arguments and speeches this week was both a pleasure and an education to Aboriginal history and social issues. I don’t know if you can watch the debates outside of Canada because of geographic restrictions or anything like that, but if you click the link I’ve given you maybe able to listen to the debates. I strongly recommend listening to them because they were all so eloquent and thoughtful. I loved this year’s panel and I’m so glad to have seen so many discussions online about gender, immigration, mental health and Aboriginal issues. 

Once again Thank You for all the lovely comments left by everyone who reads this blog. I’m sorry that I haven’t responded to them yet, but I will once I get to Sri Lanka. 

Have a Great Weekend and a Great March Break!

Cheers,

Savindi

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Image Courtesy of Goodreads.Com

From Goodreads

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Playlist

Image Courtesy of etravelblog.com

Image Courtesy of etravelblog.com

Hi Everyone!

I hope your Thursday is off to a good start! Normally I save posting a playlist after I’ve posted a review for a book. At the moment I haven’t written my review for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I’m not sure if I could do this book justice with my words, but I will jot down my thoughts on the book soon. But I’ve had a few songs stuck in my head since I started reading this book, so here they are! I’m going to try to keep this post spoiler free as possible!

La Bamba by Los Lobos

I don’t think my reading experience of this book would be complete if I didn’t blast  La Bamba by Los Lobos after reading this book. I’ve actually loved this song since I first heard it when I was small. I didn’t actually know anything about Ritchie Valens’ death until a few years ago. His story is tragic, but I think he would be happy that his music has been so popular and loved.

Champagne Supernova by Oasis 

This is one of my favourite tracks by Oasis. There’s kind of a silent beauty in the track. This song came to mind when Ari and Dante would go on their drives to the desert (It’s not too spoilery! At least I think so!). I’ve never been stargazing, but I think if I did go sometime, I would include this song in a playlist.

This Will Be by Natalie Cole 

I think I first heard this song when it was played in the trailer for Love Actually and it has never left me. I keep thinking of Ari and Dante along with their parents when I listen to this song. I keep imagining Ari’s parents dancing to this because it seems like such a them song. So more than for Ari and Dante this is for their parents.

Oh What a Night by Four Seasons

This song reminded me of Ari and Dante so much. I think it reminded me about these boys a lot because nights seem to be their thing. Where they got everything out in the open, where they were so honest with each other. So I guess nights are pretty much dedicated to their friendship and honesty. Oh on a complete sidenote has anyone seen the musical Jersey Boys? :)

It’s all right by The Impressions

This song just made me want to hug Ari and Dante all the time. I think every reader wants them to understand that ‘it’s all right’. On a complete sidenote I feel like their parents would dance to this song. I’m just full of dance music now that I think about it lol.

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for by U2

I don’t think this playlist would be complete if I didn’t include this track. I think everyone in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is looking for something, something that would give them a meaningful existence, a purpose that would make them happy. I think the person who knows this is the most is Ari in the book.

So these are my song picks for this book! Have you heard any of these songs? If you have what do you think of them? Did you come up with your own playlist for this book?

Let me know!

Cheers,

Savindi

The Postcard Project…Sort Of

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Hi Everyone!

I hope all of you have had a great week so far :). Before I continue with this post I want to say Thank You to everyone who told me to leave the blog up even if I decide to discontinue with it! I really really appreciate all the encouragement and the kind words from everyone :).

I think I’ve decided that I’m going to attempt to do some posts from Sri Lanka about my time there and of course about the food (that’s for you Cayce!). They’ll be pretty sporadic since I know that I won’t spend a lot of time on the computer since I’ll be going here and there. I’m also excited to go back to my dad’s hometown. I haven’t been there since 2006, so I’m looking forward to going there and seeing some family members and exploring the city. I’ll write about that experience for sure!

Anyways going back to this post. Okay I’ve pretty much mentioned countless times that I love sending and receiving snail mail. Well here’s the part where you guys (If you want to!) come in :). I was thinking that it might be fun for me (and for you of course) to send and receive a Postcard from when I’m in Sri Lanka. I’m already going to be sending out postcards to some of my friends here and I thought I’d extend the invitation to all of you guys as well :). So if you would like a Postcard from me when I’m in Sri Lanka you can email me (my email is in the About Me page) with your address. Once I’ve sent your postcard I’ll let you know and then delete your email with your address. The only thing that I ask is that when you receive it, please let me know! If you don’t receive it for some reason, I’ll send you another one :).

Anyways that’s kind of my idea. Let me know if it’s something that you’re interested in!

Also I wanted to let everyone know that I absolutely LOVED Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I’m going to be writing a review for it soon.

Cheers,

Savindi

Bookish Haul of Awesomeness Numero Trece and Some Personal Thoughts

Bookish Haul of Awesomeness

Hi Everyone!

Wow it really feels like it’s been so long since I’ve been on wordpress and it actually has been quite a while. I apologize for not being around that much. I’ve been trying to sort out some stuff for school and with my upcoming trip to Sri Lanka to visit  my grandparents. I’ll talk about things a bit more later, but I wanted to share pictures of my recent book purchases since well…it’s been a long time since I’ve bought any! I had to buy one book for school and the other I purchased because I  had  heard so many things about it and I wanted to get free shipping (who doesn’t want free shipping seriously? ;) ). Anyways here are my book purchases! I admit that I did edit the pictures!

For School

For School

For me

For me

The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada, 1946-2006 by Roy MacSckimming

So this is the book that I have to read by April 28th so I can participate in our class discussion. I’ve started to read this book here and there and I’m really enjoying it. I like the fact that it doesn’t read like a textbook. I think that’s the biggest I’m enjoying this book. However as I’ve been reading this book I’ve actually wondered about the authors of colour in the Canadian Publishing Industry. I haven’t gotten very far so I don’t know if the book will talk about what it’s like for authors of colour to publishing books in Canada or not, or even Native Canadian authors. So I’m hoping there will be some kind of discussion about them too.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book and after reading Thomas’ Review and hearing Cayce gush about it I decided to cave in and read this book. If I don’t enjoy this book I’m ranting to the two of you lol. But I really do hope I enjoy it because it feels like it’s been a long time since I enjoyed a book.

Personal Thoughts

Phew…so I’m finally getting to this part. I’m sure most of you who read this book (I’m thankful to all of you who do and who are so patient with my erratic posting habits) have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. To be honest I just haven’t felt like posting and I’ve felt like I haven’t enjoyed blogging in a really long time. Before you jump to conclusions I am actually enjoying writing this post because I get to share the books that I’ve bought and I get a chance to say what I want to you guys! Going back to blogging, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with this blog and I’ve contemplated on stopping blogging altogether. But then I think about all the work that I’ve put into this blog and then I go back to the thought of “NO must continue blogging!!.” It’s quite a conundrum for me because I go back and forth with my decision over this. I think another thing is originality. A lot of time bloggers talk about originality, but the thing is when you think about something and you’re so excited about doing it and later you find out someone else has actually done it already and then you get disheartened. So the concept of originality is something that I struggle with and I’m sure a lot of bloggers struggle with it too at some point. My friend Cayce wrote a very interesting post  about Reviews vs Discussions and she talked about Discussion Hangover (Sorry I haven’t commented on it Cayce!). I’m going to be honest when I say looking at all the discussion posts can be overwhelming because there are so many and in all honesty it’s not physically possible to look and comment on every single one. I really enjoyed writing my “Musings” series and I’ve had some ideas about one or two discussion posts that I would like to write, but Cayce in her post said something that I’ve been thinking about

And now almost all discussion posts look the same to me. Probably because the topics are being reused again and again.

I agree with her, a lot of the times the topics are recycled and it’s not necessarily a bad thing because you get to hear other people’s perspectives, again Cayce said it brilliantly

My biggest problem with this is the fact that after I give my two cents once I just don’t feel writing it down again and again.  I want to comment and I CAN’T – I have nothing new to say.

This has been me at some points as well. I think the other thing with discussion posts is when you don’t have the same opinion as the author. There are so many times online communication leads to misinterpretation and then the makings of an online brawl start to stir up. I’ve had conversations online where I feel like I’ve offended the person with the way I said something and then when they respond in a way that I interpret as hostile I’m bending over backwards to apologize because it’s not the way how I wanted to say what I did. But it’s a relief to me when they say “No Savindi, I wasn’t offended at all, I was just going off the point you made about x,y and z.” I guess there are lots to consider in the age of digital communication!

Anyways going back to blogging, since I’m going to be in Sri Lanka for a month and a bit I was thinking of writing some personal posts about my time there. Another thing that I wanted to ask you readers if you would be interested in reading my thoughts on my 18 week course on Creative Publishing. I won’t be posting every day for obvious reasons, but I thought maybe I could do a weekly recap/my thoughts on my classes, what I’m learning, what I think of the industry etc. If it’s something that you’d like to read about let me know!

Ultimately I’m still undecided about my future when it comes to blogging. Obviously there are pros and cons to it, like anything in life. I don’t think I’ll ever come to a proper conclusion about what I want to do with this blog, but I know that I don’t really want to delete it. It’ll feel like all the work I put into it would be for nothing.

I hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday! So have you read the two books that I’ve shared? If you did what are your thoughts on them?

Cheers,

Savindi