The sun rose up, giving light to my plants and shadowing my house. The birds were sitting in the tree as if they were having a conversation of their own. There is nothing more beautiful than chickens walking around making sounds, waking up the neighborhood. My alarm clock vibrates as it falls down from my chair. I was too excited to care about picking up the clock. I heard a phone ring; it was my mom. She wished me good luck and safe return. Today, I am going to South Korea to visit N Seoul Tower, in order to explore its culture. I am a traveler, and so far, I have been only to South America. Now, I wanted to explore Asia starting with South Korea first.
I didn't pack any clothes since I wanted to wear clothes unique to South Korea. Therefore, I only had money, a camera, my passport, my id and my ticket envelope which I ordered online and came in the post. I till put them in a luggage, I did not want the security to get suspicions and question me. I took a picture of the ticket and posted on Instagram. I left my house saying goodbye, even though I wasn’t going away for long.
When I went to the airport, it was really early in the morning and everyone was still sleepy. I ask the woman for a window or aisle seat at this time. She asked me to place your checked bags on the scale next to the desk for weighing, and tagged and placed on a conveyor to be taken to the plane. No one was even paying attentions to anything that is happening. Then, I went through security. I Waited for security to wave me through the metal detector, and walk through. I looked at the paper to see which door I was supposed to go to quickly because my flight was about to leave as it said on the big board. I put on my headphones as I gave my ticket to the lady. “Have a nice trip to Sri Lanka,” said the lady with no enthusiasm.
I was truly astounded to view my house in a different perspective as I said goodbye to America. At the top of the sky the windows were covered with clouds, which appeared like the sunset. Dark and yellow, as we said goodbye to the sun and welcomed the moon. The moon shined like a glow stick.
I landed in the airport, and saw a sign that said “Welcome to Sri Lanka”. Flags that had a Lion instead of a flag with a red and blue Yin-Yang symbol. I got my phone to see the picture I posted on Instagram. I could not believe it really did say Sri Lanka. South Korea and Sri Lanka sound alike. I mean they are both in Asia.
I went to the money exchange counter and asked the lady who was wearing a beautiful dress with a long robe that went through her neck over her shoulders like long flowing, river with reflective stones attached to it, I wanted to know if I could get a refund.
“No you cannot get a refund. You just have to pay 81080 rupees,” said the lady.
“I do not have $81,080. It does not take that much money to go to South Korea” I said to her.
“Which country are you from?” she asked me.
“I am from America,” I told her.
“Okay, 81,080 rupees is the currency in Sri Lanka. 81,080 rupees would equal to $554 in America.” she said to me.
“That is still too much for me. I would have to cancel my plans on traveling to the Forbidden City in China to be able to afford $554,” I said sadly.
“Are you a traveler? There are a bunch of places you can visit in this country. Just go to Kandy, which is one of the most popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka,” she said to me happily.
“Really? How am I supposed to go to Kandy?” I asked her confusedly.
“Oh, just get a three wheel.” She said to me
“What’s a three wheel,” I asked her
“A three wheel is like a cab but instead of four tires there is three wheel,” she said to me.
I asked her if she can give me Sri Lankan money in exchange for American dollars. I gave her $1,000 and then she gave me 146,355 rupees.
I got a three wheel, and went to Kandy. The driver stopped in front of the Temple of the Tooth. He said that if I wanted to travel I should start with going to The Temple of Tooth. I gave him money and walked to the back of the Temple. There were people all over the place, like bees in a beehive.
There were people there buying a variety of white, pink, red, and purple flowers that I’ve never seen before. I saw a girl buying a lot of those pink flowers. I decided to go up to her and ask her about theme. I hoped that she knows English because I did not know the language they spoke in this country.
“Hi, I am Regina. What kind of flowers are these?” I asked her, hoping she could understand me.
“My name is Hiruni. These flowers are Olu. They are one of the native flowers in Sri Lanka. People buy these flowers to worship Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of Tooth,” said Hiruni.
“Why do you need so many flowers? How do you understand English? What is the Temple of Tooth? What do Sri Lankan people wear? Where can I buy them? I did not bring any clothes,” I asked her, eager to know the answers to all of my questions.
“Wait, one question at a time. I need so many flowers because some of them is to put in the Temple and some of them is for my father. He is sick and these flowers can also be used as medicine. My father has an upset stomach. I know English because I am so interested to learn about America and its culture. I cannot afford to go to America. The Temple of Tooth has one of the tooth of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha). Sri Lankan people wear Saris, which consists of a cloth wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder and a blouse underneath. You can buy these things at Olu. I can come with you to help. The store is named after the Flower Olu too,” said Hiruni.
“Okay, but is the Temple of Tooth the only place we can see?” I asked Hiruni
“No, there are a bunch of places you can visit in Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is an ancient rock and maybe the world’s biggest rock. The Royal Palace of Kandy was the royal residence of the Sinhalese monarchy. Adam's Peak, a mountain in Sri Lanka, actually took me two days to climb it.”
“Wait, what is the Adam’s Peak? Did Adam Levine climb it?” I asked her confusedly.
“Who’s Adam Levine? The Adam’s Peak has the footprint of the Buddha. It has existed for thousands of years,” said Hiruni.
“Adam Levine is a famous singer in America. Can we visit the Temple of Tooth and the Royal Palace? I’m here for only three days,” I said to her, excited.
“I forgot to tell you since you about the Vesak celebration we have right now as it is the month of May. We celebrate it because it is the day Buddha was born,” Hiruni said to me.
“Wow, let’s go to Olu first,” I said to Hiruni.
When we went to Olu, it did not look like a normal American store. Everything was decorated with lanterns for Vesak. It was four stories high. On the third floor we found the saris, made with fabrics of different colors.
“What’s your favorite color?” Hiruni asked
“Yellow,” I said to her.
“That looks good. You should try it. Go to the fourth floor.” Hiruni said.
The fourth floor was divided for people to try on clothes.
Hiruni told me step by step how to wear one of these saris. I told her that it fit me perfectly and wanted to buy it. When I got to the counter I had some troubles. I did not know how to speak Sinhala. Hiruni had to do all the talking and when I gave her my debit card, but she said that it doesn’t work here in Sri Lanka. I remember having the money I got from earlier at the airport and payed with that instead. I wore the siri and the dressing room at the store and got out to the Temple of Tooth with it.
Hiruni got the flowers to put in the Temple. When I got there I couldn’t believe what I saw! Everything was colored in gold! There are magnificent statues of Buddha in the Temple. The tooth was not really visible; it was protected by a golden little temple case covered with necklaces. There were monks in robes, and people playing Gata Bara, a traditional form of drums, with their bare hands.
Next, I went to see the Royal Palace of Kandy with Hiruni. She said that her father is fine, thanks to the flower. Hiruni said that elephants are here because of the Esala Perahera, a parade joined by hundreds of people, next month. The elephants are a big part of the Perahera because they are one of the native Animals in Sri Lanka. There was a museum inside, about the Palace and the King and Queen, who lived here.
Tomorrow will be the last day in this country, but also the most exciting, since I will be here to celebrate. Hiruni let me stay at her house, which is much smaller than my house. It took us about an hour to get to Hiruni’s house since she lives in the village. She was kind enough to take me to her house, in America people would never trust you to take you to your house. Sri Lankan people are really welcoming and kind., and is totally different from American people.
The sun came up from the top of the mountain, like the yolk of the egg which Hiruni made me for breakfast. The food she made me was very spicy. She told me that Sri Lankan people eat a lot of spicy food. She made me rice, beetroot, and Parippu. Parippu looked like yellow circles, and it was my first time ever seeing anything like that.
For Vesak we made lanterns, in the shapes of stars, circles, squares, and another one that looks like a dress. When me and Hiruni’s family went to the city to see how the town is decorated, we saw a lot of lanterns, some as big as a skyscraper. Some of the lanterns also had motors which made them move in all directions. There were places on the road that gave out food for free.
“It’s time to go to home,” said Hiruni sadly.
“I guess so I have to leave back to America tomorrow.” I said.
I took some photos to remember what this day looked like. The next day came around quickly, and I only got my camera, my money, and the clothes I wore in Sri Lanka. Hiruni insisted on going to the airport with me.
We said goodbye to each other. I gave Hiruni an envelope and told her to open it when I leave.
“Good bye Hiruni,” I said to her as I hugged her.
“Goodbye to you too Regina” she said.
I left to enter my plane and looked back seeing that she waved her hand as she said goodbye again to me.
“Looks like you have had the best days of your life. Hope you come here again.” said the lady in the counter.
I told her “Yes, I did have the best time of my life.”