The fruits of Sri Lanka are also incredible; I still cannot look at the bananas in the grocery store the same. The pineapple is remarkably sweet and juicy, the mangoes are insanely sweet, and my favorite of all, the star fruit, is crisp, sweet and tart all in one.
It didn't take long for people to realize I was Indian, and once they did, they would start telling me their stories about someone that they from India, how they did business with India in the past, how much they would love to visit and how excited they were that I was visiting their country. India and Sri Lanka have had political differences in the past, so I was expecting some apprehension, if not animosity, from the locals, but all they showed me was warmth and love.
We visited an elephant orphanage which adopts orphaned elephants from the wild whose parents have been killed by natural causes or human intervention. Elephants are the number one pest to agriculture in Sri Lanka, destroying hundreds of fields a year. The problem has become so big that many fields are under 24/7 in the attempts to prevent an elephant attack. At the orphanage we were able to pet, bathe, feed, and take pictures with many elephants of various ages.
The people of Sri Lanka work hard day in and day out to have enough food to eat for one meal and watching how hard they work taught me how to be thankful for the simple things in life like having a loving family and food on the table at night.
We got to plant our own rice paddy, something that most agriculture students cannot boast about. We worked with small farm families and learned first-hand what it takes to farm in Sri Lanka.
My close friendship with these Sri Lankan students took me on trains, planes, and automobiles, motorcycles, tuk tuks, and tractors. We rode on smooth tracks, lumpy roads, two wheels, four wheels, three wheels, wooden benches, and cushioned chairs.
I saw animals I couldn’t even imagine in my wildest dreams, including elephants, cobras, several species of monkey and giant fruit bats. I was completely out of my element but loved every minute of it.
To be honest, I had not expected to develop such a deep friendship during my study abroad. I applied for this program expecting to sit in lecture halls writing notes.
It was doing this that introduced us to the Sri Lankan super tool: the mamatee. It is most similar to a large hoe, but the Sri Lankans are able to use it to weed, and as a shovel, hoe, or rake. Virtually everything for the garden (besides watering) could be done with this tool.