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We knew it was going to be a good weekend when Pooja, Rani and Raja left for the Kandy ball! Its Vesak weekend, a celebration of Buddhas birthday, enlightenment and death- a special night! We left MEF and drove to Kandy, past lots of families giving away free food and drink, including ice cream! The roadsides and houses were strewn with beautiful coloured lanterns, it was almost like mardi gras- without the booze, the atmosphere was great, families and kids lining up for free food, a friendly, fun mood, people constantly wave and call to us and the hills in the distance are so pretty with all the houses lit up with coloured lights and oil wicks line the street!

Vesak Lantern at Millennium Elephant Foundation
Vesak Lantern at Millennium Elephant Foundation

We were welcomed into a friends home in the traditional Sri Lankan way with a cup of tea and after playing with friendly dog Jameson we headed into town. After grabbing a pizza we headed to the best seats in the house! The balcony of the Lakeview room at the Queens Hotel- overlooking the gates of the temple of the tooth!

Best seats in the house for Millennium Elephant Foundation Volunteers in Sri Lanka
Best seats in the house!

Raja was the second elephant in the parade, bedecked and bejeweled in red and gold, we all shouted together to get Sameera’s attention and he was shyly waving up at us, soon after we saw a characteristic, familiar head bobbing and grooving which meant Pooja was on the way! She was along side Rani which was lovely as we know what good friends they are, Rani got a bit spooked by a dancer who got a bit close and once again we called out to the mahouts and got some big grins and waves! The parade was quite short but the dancers involved are fantastic, whips, fire and amazing costumes!  It was a great night!

Pooja and Rani of Millennium Elephant Foundation at a pera hera in Sri Lanka
Pooja and Rani

The next morning, a little bleary eyed we joined the MEF staff in the traditional Vesak practice of generosity by giving out free juice to any one who stopped by, there were huge barrels of juice and when a bus pulled up it was all units deployed to make sure everyone got some and then a mad dash to collect, wash and refill the cups! It was really fun, people were very friendly and thankful and it was great to feel part of the community, some cheeky boys cycled past a few times, it was a great collaboration between staff and volunteers with lots of jokes and good feelings! By the end we were all sweaty, sticky but still smiling! We also made it onto the local news!

Volunteers giving out free juice at Millennium Elephant Foundation in Sri Lanka
Volunteers giving out free juice

Then we watched the fitting the new ankle restraints ordered to try out on Rani and Raja and paid for by a very generous former volunteer- the mahouts are very pleased, especially as an elephant recently died from lightening strike so now they all want them! They are very becoming in green with red trim!

Rani the Sri Lankan Elephants new ankle restraint
Chandana and Rani approve!

After all the hard work we headed to a nearby pool, at first it seemed we had crashed a wedding! They didn’t mind and were leaving shortly so we had an epic game of tag which left us even more exhausted! So we recovered with ice cream, fruit salad and cramming seven of us in the tuk tuk!

As ever the compassion, generosity and good sprit of Sri Lanka continues to amaze us.


MEF volunteers

For more pictures see the photo album on facebook

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