• Tara B. Vasi

Day 21 Sri Lanka: Boat Safari, Cinnamon Island, Kindergarten Concert, SPACE

Today is Saturday, December 14th.

I wake up at 7:30pm, road trip hungover.

Today we plan to go on the boat safari to Cinnamon Island. We head to the safari around 9am. Chamara’s brother is the boat driver and we have a boat all to ourselves. Mangove trees line the river on both sides. We cruise down the Madu River entering some of the Mangrove forests looking for crocodiles. The forest create canopies and its like entering a tree cave.

When we ride through the narrow part of the river I notice ropes from one side to the other that are strung and sit on the surface of the water. I see that they act as speed bumps. Every time you reach a rope bump in the boat, you have to slow the boat almost to a complete stop so that you can lift the motor out of the water and over the rope. Clever.

We learn that there was originally 64 islands on the Madu river, but sometimes the water level gets really low and some of the islands join into one. Even with all the rain, global warming has lowered the water level more and more each year, so more and more islands are joining.

There are four different mouths to the ocean, the biggest one being in Balapitiya, where I live. The boat ride is awesome. I don’t get motion sickness at all, therefore, I feel way more chipper today then I have in a while. I even make a joke or two, which are obviously hilarious. I am back to loving Sri Lanka.

We ride the boat to Cinnamon Island, an Island full of cinnamon trees. They make the cinnamon in a hut. The roof of the hut is made of woven palm leaves. Two layers of woven palm leaves last two years as a rooftop and successfully keeps out the rain.

They offer us cinnamon tea and its delicious. I have never thought of drinking hot cinnamon water, but the drink is nice and as they explained, so incredibly beneficial to your system. Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants, can ease stomach aches, the flu, sore throat, headaches, is effective against Arthritis and osteoporosis, has anti-inflammatory properties, lowers blood sugar levels and has a powerful anti diabetic effect, just to name a few…

The cinnamon trees are saplings. The width only as big as when you join your index finger and thumb together as if gesturing OK, or the mudra of peace. They easily cut one down with a machete. I fucking love machetes, and remember when I slept with one when living in South Africa for a month. Oh, how differently I feared for my life on that travel experience. So many great memories, haha

None of the cinnamon tree is wasted in the production of cinnamon. First, they peel the skin from the tree. They use this for fertilizer or burn it to repel mosquitos.

The layer under the skin, the bark, that is where the magical cinnamon lives, the kind we all know and love. They cut the layer of bark, and it rolls into itself like an old time paper scroll. The cinnamon lady tells me that they then dry the bark to make the cinnamon sticks. They dry them super slowly outside in the breeze and with the moisture of the elements so that the flavor of the cinnamon stays securely inside the stick. If they dry the bark too quickly the stick loses its luster. Once the sticks are full dried, they grind it up to form powder. The rest of the tree trunk is used for cooking or made into toothpicks. The leaves of the cinnamon trees are boiled down and made into cinnamon oil.

After the presentation, they sell us bags of ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, and cinnamon oil. I don’t buy any, but Cristy buys a ton to take back with her to the USA.

We walk around the island a little bit and see where they grow CURRY. You can break a leaf open and smell curry. I want to lick it, but I don’t. Its fantastic and I have never seen a curry plant before. We clear it with the Cinnamon people and take some for the Villa to use for dinner.

I remember when I was a little girl, my sister and I would play and yell that we were the King of the Curry Curry Island. I have no idea where we got that from, or what that meant, but I just want to point out that I am now the real queen of the Curry Curry Island.

We leave the island and tool around the river a bit more. They show us where they farm prawns and we search and search for a crocodile. I find crocodiles fascinating and so scary because they are pretty much dinosaurs still living on the planet today. They are much scarier then sharks if you ask me, because those assholes can come out of the water and eat you on land, too.

We head back to the dock and then back to the villa.

Today, Chamara is going to be honored at the annual kindergarten end of the year concert for all the amazing work he has done on the Kindergarten Project. The village monk was also in attendance. The hall was packed full of parents sitting on plastic chairs and the teachers a bit stressed and scrambling to get everything up and running on schedule.

I have met the kindergarten children before when I visited the school with Vera. They seemed to recognize me and smiled and waved when they saw me. They were all dressed up in costume and so so so adorable. The girls had on full faces of makeup and it was almost as if it was a little girl beauty pageant. They had at least four wardrobe changes. The boys and the girls danced together and separately. They were all sooooooo cute.

The microphone they used was bright pink. We sat right next to the speaker. I wanted so badly to put my bright orange ear plugs in, or move my seat, but didnt want to be that pain in the ass high maintenance white girl, so shriveled softly in my seat and focused on the cute kids. And why did I wear jeans? Why did I go out of my way to purchase jeans in Sri Lanka? I dont wear jeans... Silly Silly Tara…

I was expecting Chamara to be introduced and handed a plaque or something but instead he went on stage with the teachers and they all bowed to the monk. I wondered if that was the honor? What just happened? I excused myself a little early and waited outside for the show to finish up.

I had officially reentered my dark cocoon, a sad, nauseating yet familiar place.

We all planned to go shopping together, but I needed space, so I broke off from the small group. I wanted to go to the pharmacy to get antibiotic cream for my wound and gauze. I wanted to buy dog food to feed the stray dogs. I wanted to browse at my own pace.

We went back to the villa. I opted out of dinner and stayed in my room for the rest of the night doing pushups, eating my fancy peanut butter, and watching Suits. I didnt feel weird about it it in the slightest. You do weird shit too when you’re alone, don’t even pretend you don’t.

Ahhhhh SPACE. Space is such a beautiful thing. I am so obsessed with it. Especially this last year. I truly only feel comfortable being myself when I am alone.

I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with that statement.

Also, if cinnamon isn’t included in your day to day life, ADD it. Its incredible good for you. I’d ship you some, but its illegal.

Do something fun by yourself today. You are good company. Xoxox


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