Wednesday, November 30, 2011


After my time in Mirrisa, I headed to Hikkaduwa to meet up with other teachers from Kuwait. Janaka, my host at the tree house drove me and a friend there in his Tuk Tuk. We left early in the morning so we could get 2 full days (one night) in Hikkaduwa before it was time for me to catch my plane home.

The first thing we did was rent a scooter. I had never driven one for an extensive amount of time and this was a great place to enjoy the ride. It was super cheap too, only about $6 to rent it for the entire day. We got it around 11 and were told to have them back by 7 or 7:30. I didn't want to drive the scooter in the dark so I planned to get it back by 6, as that is when it was getting dark in Sri Lanka at that time of year.

Unfortunately my camera was only working some of the time by that point, so I only have two pictures of the scooter ride, and all of Hikkaduwa really. They are both of a monitor lizard. It was pretty cool driving through the rural area despite not having a camera. We had no idea where we were going, we just drove. The roads were so narrow that cars couldn't drive down them. They were used by scooters, bikes and the occasional Tuk Tuk.

I ended up going to a temple we came across by chance and decided to see if we could check out. Very little English was spoken, but they were very willing to show us around and very eager for us to take pictures. I couldn't appease them as I already mentioned my camera wasn't cooperating.

We also drove our scooters through the city of Galle. It was super busy there and an interesting experience on the scooters. A taste of some heavy traffic where I had to exercise extra caution. We didn't spend much time there as we knew it would be dark soon and didn't want to ride our scooters back in the dark.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whale Watching

One of the cooler things I did while I was in Mirissa was whale watching. I had never gone before and never seen either whales or dolphins in the wild, which I was assured i would see both.

I saw whales when I was in a plane about a thousand feet in the air while visiting Byron Bay, but the only reason I knew they were whales was because someone told me they were. That was when I in a plane getting ready to go sky diving. This would be different.

Even so, I have been to Stradbroke island at the same time some friends saw dolphins and whales. I just never saw them for myself.

It was really cool just being on the boat with the ocean breeze whipping through my hair. It was bright out, so I was relieved to be wearing my hat and sunglasses. It made picture taking more difficult however as I couldn't see the screen to see what exactly I was taking a picture of. My strategy was to just keep snapping photos and I am bound to capture something.

As a result, I have several pictures of just the ocean. I maybe got a picture of a small part of one whale, they don't really stay out of the water for very long. It was still pretty cool, I saw them blow water out of their blow holes and saw how big they were, even if it was very brief.

Eventually the whales left and the dolphins came to play, either that or we drove to where the dolphins were. They were faster than the whales and may have been harder to catch on camera, except for the fact that they loved to jump through the water and there were so many of them. I would literally try to take a picture of one in the air, miss it but catch the next three jumping. I got some fantastic pictures.

I also have a couple videos of the dolphins jumping. They are kind of cool but the pictures are probably better, and easier to upload.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Tree House

In Mirrisa I stayed in a guest house that was built basically in a tree. It was a really cool looking place. It was very basic, but I was not looking for anything fancy. It was a typical place compared to the other places I saw in Sri Lanka.

I got one of my first impressions of Sri Lankans from the man who ran the guest house. His name was Janaka and he is one of the nicest people I have ever met. I don't feel like he was being nice in order to be a good host, I think his kindness was very genuine. He offered to drive me places in his tuk tuk as well as he told me I "can borrow [his] surf board, no problem."

When I arrived he introduced me to some of his family whom I assume all lived in the main house. His mother, sister whom is a teacher, and his little brother. I think I also saw his father in the garden one day but I am unsure.

As I said, the place was very basic. It had a double bed with mosquito netting, a desk and a bathroom. The bathroom believe it or not did have plumbing, with a toilet and a cold shower. It also had a little grassy patio area equipped with a hammock!

On a tuk tuk ride to the beach to grab some food he asked what I was planning to do in Mirrisa. With no real plans other than to meet up with a friend I made in Korea (he teaches in Abu Dhabi) I told him I wanted to relax on the beach and take pictures. He asked if I wanted to go whale watching. I had never been whale watching before so I thought why not. He got me a good price on it and he drove me to it and picked me up.

Very nice. He also ended up taking me to Hikadewa in his tuk tuk early on my last morning at his place and offered as well to take me to the airport in Columbo. So nice!

I would highly recommend the place to anyone traveling in Sri Lanka. My first impression of Sri Lankan's were how overly nice they are and it seems so genuine.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Walking around Mirrisa

When I arrived in Mirrisa I dropped my things off at my accommodation and went to the beach to find some food. It was a long ride in (almost 4 hours) and I hadn't eaten since my flight. I didn't eat much on the plane either as airplane food isn't my favourite. After ordering food I wanted to use the internet and because I finally had smaller bills I thought I would pay back the internet charge I couldn't pay from earlier in the day.

I walked along the road for over an hour and still did not find the internet place. Along the road, here and everywhere else in Sri Lanka, there were stray cows just walking around and eating grass on the side of the road.. It was a really hot day and I eventually decided I couldn't go any farther or else I wouldn't be able to make it back. Of course I could have taken a tuk tuk (a very popular transportation in Sri Lanka and other places, I first saw them in Thailand), but I wasn't really thinking at the time. I decided to turn around and walk along the beach.

What I didn't realize was that you can't walk all the way back to where I was staying along the beach. I eventually came to these rocks that my judgment told me it may be unwise to try and cross. I noticed what I thought may be a path that lead back to the road at the top of a hill, in through some bushes. I decided that was my best bet.

Along the way, I started to worry about what I could encounter in the long grass and brush. I do not like snakes. Sure enough, I start walking down the path and I see an unfamiliar creature on the path. It was a monitor, a big lizard. Not too scary, but it confirmed that I had no idea what I would encounter and off to continue over the rocks I went.

I'm glad that I took the rock route. Not because of any impending doom from walking beside the long grass--I am sure I would have been fine--but because the rocks were peaceful. I took a break at what I assumed was the half way point (although I couldn't know for sure as the rocks went around a couple bends), and felt so relaxed just sitting with the ocean at my feet and hearing the waves crash against the rock cliff. The breeze of the ocean air and the mist of the waves also were quite refreshing.

Once I finally crossed the rocks, I continued along the ocean edge until I got to some more rocks. These rocks were right in the water and had a slime film on them. That meant they were slipperier and I would need to be extra careful crossing them. I also had my camera and my blackberry in my pocket, so I put them in my hand and my hand in the air. That limited me to one hand to stop myself from slipping. The water eventually got deeper and I decided I didn't want to go past the waist high water I was in. After all, my passport and wallet were in my pockets.

Thankfully I bought that passport wallet and my passport ended up pretty dry, my camera and phone also didn't get wet, success!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sri Lanka

My first break from the rigors of school brought me on vacation to Sri Lanka, a country I admittedly knew very little about. A large group of people from my school were headed there, so it seemed like a good place to go and unwind. The plan was to spend a lot of time on the beach and just relax.

Most people I knew started off in Hikkaduwa, a beach town a couple hours south of the capital Columbo. To be different, and to get a chance to venture out on my own I went my separate way at the airport. Instead, I went to a smaller beach town even further south, Mirrisa.

I arranged before hand for a driver to pick me up and take me to the place I was staying. I could not find anyone holding a sign with my name despite there being so many named. I figure I didn't confirm in time, so I needed to explore other options. I walked out of the airport and someone asked me where I was going and offered to take me for 10,000 rupees. I did the conversion rate in my head (although I was converting from rupees to KD and then from KD to $USD, so not overly accurate) and determined he didn't want too much if any more than the driver that was supposed to pick me up.

Off we went, and after maybe a minute he took out a piece of paper and looked up Mirrisa. He had made a mistake, Mirrisa should be 11,000 rupees. It annoyed me a little as I felt like he may be trying to take advantage of me, but I continued on anyways. I figured he just wouldn't get a tip. Then we arrived at a gas station and it seemed like he wanted me to pay for gas as well. He saw that I was annoyed and asked for the 11,000 rupee at that time. Fair enough, I guess. I was not giving him another rupee though.

After that I saw the good side of Sri Lankans. The cab driver ended up being super nice. I had no idea where in Mirrisa my accommodation was, just that it was in Mirrisa. He took me to an internet cafe where I looked in my e-mail, he took the phone number and called the guy directly for me, and then took me right where I needed to go without asking for anything more. I also did not have any small bills and the internet guy could not make change so was allowed to check that e-mail for free.

The ride in was interesting. I was very tired so was falling in and out of sleep. It wasn't overly busy out because of how early in the morning it was, but there were still a lot of people and vehicles on the road. I woke up several times to us being on the wrong side of the road and headed straight for a giant bus, just to move out of the way at the last second in order to pass a tuk tuk or scooter.

The thing that stood out most to me was all the green. Especially coming from the desert in Kuwait. Perhaps it has something to do with how it rained in a 5 second span there more then it has in the 2 months I have been in Kuwait?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Arabian Gulf

As I mentioned in a prior post, I live only a 10 minute walk from the Arabian gulf. In fact, you can see it from the windows of other people in my building. A couple principles from the ACA family of schools live just down the road from us and the view from their balcony is phenomenal. This is it on the right. You can see Kuwait city in the center with the gulf on the right. I imagine it looks very pretty at night as well. The apartment on the floor below this one will host American Thanks Giving, so perhaps I will see it with the lights of the city at night.

I haven't gone swimming in the Arabian Gulf as of yet because I am unsure of the water. Mostly, I just want to enjoy it with someone and not by myself. I have walked along the shore lines with my feet in the water though. On the beach I have participated in a number of activities. One day I brought my baseball glove there and tossed the ball around with my neighbour. Another couple of days we tossed the Frisbee around. I've laid on the beach to tan as well. There also is a basketball court not too far from the beach that I have played on a few times.

Last weekend I had a larger experience of the Gulf. I walked from my apartment in Salmiya along the water to the Kuwait towers, in Kuwait city.

The weather has cooled down a bit. It was not nearly as hot so walking in midday was totally a bearable experience. I had my trusty water bottle with me still, but it was not needed nearly as much as the first month and change I had been here.

These are pictures of the city along the way. The walk was not a short walk. It took probably just over 2 hours to get there. I was asked why I didn't take a cab, but the whole point of going to the towers was to enjoy the weather and the scenery. I walked a long the beach pretty much the whole way there. It was a cool atmosphere, there were tons of people out and having BBQ's on the grass just up from the beach. The only bad thing was some of the food smelled so good and I didn't have any.

Once I got to the tower it was onward into the city to revisit the Old Souq, a market we went to on my birthday. I knew it was beside the other Kuwait tower, and used that as a land mark.

I got to the area in and around it. I knew it was close, but it took about 2 more hours of walking meaning I had spent over 4 hours of walking that day (actually more because I took an hour or so walk in the morning). By that time I was hungry and just wanted to get home and get some food into me.

Although I never found what I was looking for--the reason for the expedition--I still consider it a good relaxing trip. I love the weather right now because it is bearable. I even consider wearing a sweater to school for the early mornings without the hot sun.