Everyone loves a birthday, so we decided to throw a big birthday bash for all the children at Sukitha Children’s Home. Over the years, our volunteers have made somewhat of a tradition of celebrating the Sukitha children’s birthdays so this year was no exception. More than twenty volunteers joined in the party, playing games like musical chairs, dancing and blowing up balloons with the kids. A few of us even lent a hand in the kitchen, scraping coconut, peeling carrots and chopping cabbage for a Chinese lunch. The children really enjoyed the day, interacting with all of us and lapping up their special meal. They cut a big, iridescent pink and orange birthday cake, which was washed down with milk packets. Once the kids were satisfied, all of us headed to Tangerine Beach Hotel for a buffet lunch and a good catch up. For next month’s outreach, we’ll be warming up our muscles and applying Ayuvedic balm for break dancing!
A frustrating start to the weekend as I went to Colombo on Friday to sort out my Indian Visa. They had said before that I had to be there at 8am to get my visa – no one thought to mention that I wouldn’t be able to reclaim my passport until 5.30pm! So we went to visit the Projects Abroad office, and then went exploring Colombo. It’s busy, noisy, dirty and basically everything you would expect from a big city. Some of the shops have seen better days, and the area around the President’s residence is understandably heavily fortified. It was hot, so having had lunch we went back and sat in the Visa office, enjoying the air con. The guest house in Colombo was amazing, the architecture was great; there were garden areas indoors with mesh roofs so that the rain and sun could get in. The only downside was that the car was parked next to the three piece suite!
The train the following morning to Kandy was lovely. The journey was mostly flat, until the last 40 minutes or so when we climbed steeply. Every tunnel we went through the children stuck their heads out the windows and screamed! The scenery was lovely and worth the extra money on travel. Kandy was again hot and busy; we went out of the centre to visit a tea museum – tea factories are noisy places. The bus ride back into Kandy was interesting, I had to stand on the steps at the door because I was too tall to stand actually in the bus! In the afternoon we had a look around, saw the lake and went shopping. The rain came down….In the evening we went to see some Kandy dancers who were good, but looked a little bored with what they were doing. After that we went into the Temple of the Tooth – again, heavily fortified and subject to body searches – which was very ornate. We managed to sneak a look at the casket containing the tooth but couldn’t get close enough to become Tooth Fairies.
Sunday saw us again negotiating buses. First stop was Pinewalle, an elephant orphanage that takes advantage of tourists by charging them 200% more than locals to see the elephants bathed and fed! For what it was it was over priced, but the money apparently helps support the 60 or so elephants who live there and are not going to be able to go back into the wild. Then we had to get the bus home. First bus took an hour, second took three and the last took two. I’ve never been so pleased to be home! It was hot and sweaty on each bus, and horribly crowded, but at least we had seats. At one point I had someone’s shopping on my lap, as it the way in Sri Lanka.
Dutch Anne's Montessori got brand new school uniforms this month. The children were so excited to open parcels of custom made, baby blue outfits! All the volunteers had a wonderful time dressing the kids and seeing them smiling in their new kits!
I’m Faye and I recently graduated my MSc in Physiotherapy and thought what better way to start the job hunt than from doing it from the other side of the world? I’ve been asked so many times by the locals why I chose Sri Lanka and I honestly can’t say why. But I do know I love it here. Being stared at is a little intimidating initially but you just look back and smile if they are female, wave if they are a child and if they are male- well I’ll leave that one up to you! I spent my time working on Panadura Base Hospital which is very busy but you soon get used to the noise and very different conditions (hygiene) from your own country.
With so many volunteers the weekend trips are always amazing. We have trekked up Adams Peak at 2.00am (which is really cold – not Sri Lankan cold but Russian cold!!), ridden elephants (recommended but barter your price) and visited enough Temples for me to officially classify myself a Buddhist! A must see is Sigirea with the most beautiful views, history and a bit of exercise to get to the top. It wouldn’t be much of a blog if I didn’t mention the beaches. Paradise has no limits as they are truly amazing. One word of warning - the current. Either send your strongest swimmer in first to see if they come back out or ask a local especially if you are going to surf. And remember there is nothing better than sitting in a hammock drinking a coconut after splashing about in the sea!!
Rule of thumb for the host families, always take off your shoes when entering the house unless told otherwise. When served food you like it helps to be extremely enthusiastic about it (and I don’t mean a pleasant smile- more of a five year old at Christmas to ensure you receive it again.) Be careful when using this technique with rottis!!!!
As for your placements nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm! So try and ask lots of questions and seem really delighted with whatever they let you do. If you are already qualified you are in a great position and do get a lot of freedom, if you are a student you may find your observation techniques are truly spectacular by the end of the trip! The people here are so friendly and even the patients try to bring you food. My advice if it looks relatively clean try the smallest amount, if it looks like something you would rather study in a petrie dish then say how wonderful it looks and that you would like to take it home for lunch – bin when possible!
As for the local transport… Tuk tuks (or the three wheeled marvels of the world) are not to be missed and you can fit as many as five when necessary! The local buses are an experience with the locals swinging out the doors and jumping off when they are still moving. The trains are slower than the buses but have wonderful views depending on the route. Well I hope I have give you enough of an over view…the only question remains..when do you fly in?
When you think of teaching, it need not be confined to the walls of a school. Here in Sri Lanka you can take your lessons to a temple, teaching young monks valuable English skills. At Siri Dhammarathana Bhikku Training Centre, located in the picturesque and hilly Kandy, you can share your knowledge and practice conversation with between 10 and 16 Buddhist monks each morning. There is a temple on site but the property operates predominately as a Training Centre. The centre opened in 1984 and since that time, around 400 Buddhist monks and boys have been educated there.
The classroom is basic – a couple of bench tables on a dirt floor facing a blackboard but it is the cultural exchange that will occur between you and the monks which is the most valuable thing. Many of the monks live on the temple grounds and come from poor villages in the surrounding area. Some of them will abandon their studies to become monks as they grow older and the Head Priest at this Temple has a realistic attitude about this. He says many of the students go and do vocational training in skills like carpentry and welding over the weekends. Therefore, he is supportive of the boys learning other life skills should they decide not to become monks in the end. That’s another reason why learning English is so worthwhile for them!
You will find that the students are extremely eager and enthusiastic to learn! You should bring any visual materials, books, coloured paper, flash cards etc because the temple has very limited resources. Giving the monks the courage and confidence to speak English is very empowering so give it a try and maybe they will teach you some Sinhalese in return! After all, learning is always reciprocal.
This weekend, along with my two new housemates, I headed south down the coast, to Galle and then on to Unawatuna. The bus trip to Galle took a couple of hours. We waved the first bus by since people were already hanging out of the doors and we'd probably have had to stand on the back! On arrival, we found a cheap guest house and headed back out for lunch. Past the cricket ground, but no cricket, and into the new town. After lunch we checked the shops, brought some new clothes and some spices and enjoyed a walk along the new sea wall, constructed after the tsunami.
Later on, we went top explore the old Dutch Fort. It is possible to walk right around the top of the ramparts, as well as enjoy the architecture on the inside. The old buildings were heavily damaged by the tsunami but are being repaired. We walked along the ramparts aiming to enjoy the sunset from the top of them. Sadly, just as the sky was turning red the rain clouds came in and so we got grey instead.
Dinner involved listening to the locals watch football on a giant screen set up by the ramparts!
The next day we headed to Unawatuna - a rip off of a bus ride, 15Rs for about 5 mins. That costs 5Rs up here. The rest of the volunteers were there, so we settled in for a day of serious sun worshiping...ok, I had my book and my mp3 player, but still...Just as I'd finished applying the suncream the rain clouds came in, and they stayed all day. We did get a paddle in the sea when the rain eased off a bit, but after lunch we headed home disappointed.
Charley’s car was somewhat of an icon here in Sri Lanka. Charley cared for it with the tender lovingness of a young mother towards her newborn. He washed it regularly, cringed when people tested the handles while it was still locked and seemed innately happy while driving it – it had a super cool air-conditioner. It brought us great sadness when Charley sold his car this month but alas, he has bought another which we have fondly christened the “Bear mobile.” However, here are some photos of Charley’s last moments with his old Toyota.
Visit Our Main Sites
Be Our Friend