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Everywhere you go in Sri Lanka, everyone you meet has three questions for you. Where have you come from, what is your family and where did you go to University.
The first of those questions is easy to answer. The second, not so. Marriage is for life here and the concept of parents re-marrying and so gaining parents and brothers and sisters is very strange and many just cannot understand. They also frown on discovering that I live a long way from my family and that at 32 I am still single and living in a house on my own! Here, you live with your family until you are married and if you go away to study you come home at weekends. I’m still not sure why it matters where I went to Uni – that was a VERY long time ago. I’m guessing it’s because most volunteers who come over are either pre or post uni. I’ve admitted to being a Science teacher for the last nine years, which impresses some of them – that I’ve done nice years, not that it’s Science! I’m keeping the Physics part of my degree to myself for now; there’s signs up all over the place for tuition in A-Level Physics…and I’m not here to do that!
The roads are, as in the UK, drive on the right. And, from what I’ve seen attached in very large print to the walls surrounding the Transport building in Colombo the Highway Code is the same. That is really where the similarities end.
Pedestrians are the lowest of them all. There are no pavements in the more remote parts of the country and in Kaluthera there are white lines on the edges of the road to show where you should walk. If you are in the way, someone will sound their horn at you. Next come tuk-tuks – 2 stroke taxis that are small enough to squeeze through the gaps in the traffic. The white lines for lane markings are ignored. If in doubt, drive down the middle. Then there are motorized carts – not so many in the built up areas. Motorbikes and pedal bikes are a hazard to pedestrians, but at least passengers on motorbikes are expected to wear helmets too. Private cars are generally well driven, because it’s a privilege to own a car here, seat belts and indicators are optional. They still sound the horn to get you out of the way. Taxis are air conditioned and drive as though you are an emergency patient. Much use of the horn, lots of expectation that slower moving vehicles will get out of the way. Lorries are immune to any road laws – they have ‘fully insured’ painted on the back which means they own the road. Well, they think they do. The only thing a bus will give way to is another bus coming the opposite way – and then only if the road is a bit narrow. Buses will overtake anything on the road, even if they are then going to screech to a halt at a bus stop (local knowledge needed here, since most aren’t marked in any way) and cause chaos behind them. Buses don’t ever get too full for passengers, and ...
So, it was the first time I'd met the other volunteers, and I was going away with them for nearly 4 days. A half day at work, and then onto the bus to Panadurra. This didn't take too long, and the others were easy to spot ! We first of all went to Ude Walawe National park. This involved 2 bus journeys, totalling about 6 hours - at least the scenery was good - and then 7 of us hitched a lift in a Landrover to our hotel for the night. It was a series of forest cabins, very nice, and dinner was very tasty. Follwoing morning heard the alarms going off at 5AM - yes, that's right! - and we piled into two Landrovers at just gone 6am. One of the Landrovers then managed to break it's gearbox, so after we waited for a bit for a new vehicle, we were off to the park. Some cunning negotiation later got us in for student prices, which were still extortionate. However, once inside the park we caught our first glipmse of elephant - way off in the distance, but still, it was an elephant.
Then our Landy screeched to a halt. Our guide had seen a Python! It looked just like a stick, until it moved. Very good. Then onwards to see water buffalo and so many elephants we lost count. One of them got quite angry and tried to charge the Landy, but our guide was there to send him away.
After a couple of hours we headed for the hotel and breakfast, and a chance to plan for the rest of the day. Two more buses, and most of the day later, we had been up a mountain, through a tea plantation or two and back down the other side of the mountain and when we arrived it was raining. It always rained when we changed buses! Our host for the night came to collect us. Nice people in a car for 6! Again, the food was good and the accomodation satisfactory.
Another silly early start, but at least we got breakfast ...
Video killed the radio star? – Never!
It’s no wonder that we no longer hear the term, “you have a good face for radio!” That’s because as the media becomes more globalised, there is greater cross-over between TV, print and radio. Radio has gained a somewhat glamorous image in recent years, disseminating the very latest music, news and current affairs. If you’re keen to get your dulcet tones over the airways, why not try out a Journalism placement at Colombo’s TNL Radio Network?
The station is made up of three radio channels, TNL – predominately playing music and aimed at a younger audience, Lite FM for easy-listeners and a more middle-aged target listenership, plus the Sinhalese language Asura FM. TNL has a partnership with Voice of America so plays tunes from the US’ top 40 charts on a regular basis.
Located in Kollupitiya, Colombo, the station has modern audio recording equipment and a vast music library. Volunteers on journalism placements of three months or more are welcome to work here. You can join the news team in the studio or out in the field if you’re interested in news or if music is more to your tastes, you can shadow the presenters or producers of different programmes. Before long, you could even be hosting your own weekend show!
Your supervisor Bimalee De Silva has been in radio for several years now and will be ready to share her skills and knowledge with you. Just make sure you give us a shout out when you go on air!
(Above: Cape Town Stadium in Greenpoint)
After years of many people believing the FIFA World Cup TM would not remain on South African soil… the optimists have come out tops, and are cheering all the way to the stadiums - which were completed on time, and are most definitely world-class works of art.
Being a Capetonian and Proudly South African, I have loved connecting with Projects Abroad volunteers from all over the world and hearing their excitement to be in Cape Town, especially during this incredible time. The streets are covered with a sea of South African flags, with a scatter of the other participating nations as more and more tourists arrive. The soccer fever is contagious and it is an amazing experience to feel a nation come alive as we host the FIFA World Cup TM for the first time ever in Africa.
(Above: Two proudly South African soccer supporters, with Care Project volunteer Elinor Hampson-Jones (UK)
This tournament has a diverse ripple effect on all projects as volunteers from the Human Rights Office focus on anti-human trafficking campaigns to increase awareness about the dangers of this growing industry. While on Care Projects – volunteers help paint national flags on the children’s faces (see photo above). Business interns also benefit from the busy times, especially those related to soccer merchandise (see photo below). It is definitely a privilege to be involved in giving back to the communities in Cape Town and making a difference, as well as being able to celebrate with the Rainbow Nation in the Mother City. Both staff and volunteers are enjoying watching the matches at the stadiums (for those who have managed to get tickets) and at the many FIFA Fan Parks ...