Oh to be beside the seaside…

May 25, 2008 at 9:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Yes my first trip to the coast was to UNAWATUNA  3-4 hours drive south. We left Colombo via the supermarket I’d mentioned in  last blog how I enjoyed the eats on trips out, so armed with watura ( water)Pringles and sesame seed balls(delicious) we headed off, picking up the Joanne and Podi joining Helen and myself. We were travelling by van, booked earlier in the week. I sadly report that there was another bus bomb on Friday (16thMay), killing and injuring both police and civilians. We would have been in that area to catch the bus had we chosen to travel that way. I won’t dwell…

I was unable to see very much as it starts to go dark about 6-6.30pm , but was aware of the coast line on my right hand side (dakuna, I am doing ok with my directions in sinhalen by the way- wama is left.)Some reconstruction was evident post the tsunami devastation of 2004. I remember watching the news on that Boxing Day, never thinking I would be here some 4 years later…strange hey?

We reached our destination The Shangri La guest house – cabanas (Wooden chalets/huts to you) surrounded by palm trees with the odd hammock strung between them it was a beautiful spot. Cabanas house cater for 1-2 persons  toilet/shower ,they  are round and have a little balcony, price at this time of year £40 for 4 nights based on 2 sharing (£5 a night each!) we deposited our bags and headed off in search of a late supper which we found at the Happy Banana (sathutu kesel). 4 deck chairs on its beach front setting  in the moon light with fish and chips (Grilled tuna, salad, and fries)  and a beer …ah bliss just like I’d seen in books and on travel programmes about SL. 4 days of this would I cope???

Well I did in deed cope I had a fab time not alone the setting but enjoyed the time to catch up with other vols .Saturday found us chilling on the beach in a pretty semi circular bay and as my guide book informed me “picturesquely terminated by a dagoba on the rocky headland of the northwest” you can check it out the photos if you follow the link in the e email..  In the evening dancing into the small wee hours at the Happy Banana Disco!

Sunday morning found us not to worse for wear, despite the late night. However I lost my phone and a camera belonging to another vol was possibly stolen, putting things in perspective we took our selves for a hearty break fast at “Zimmer”. An appropriate venue for our pace I thought! We enjoyed healthy fodder of papaya juice,3 grain porridge, fruit and kitul (Honey from the kitul tree a type of palm)followed by toast…yes brown home made bread machine toast, I had not realised I had missed toast , it was well tasty!

Late morning we took a trip in to Galle to the Fort area .Galle is known as SL fourth largest city, and declared a World Heritage site in 1988.The tsunami devastated the east coast with the direct impact of the tidal waves, but the southern coastline suffered the greatest destruction of property and loss of life. We spoke of the TV clips we had viewed showing waves breaking against the walls of Galle Fort where we now sat. We got chatting to some locals who had been diving off the rocks that day, they spoke of  their immediate reactions and experiences in the days that followed hearing of the loss of friends, families and livelihoods. They openly shared their disappointment at seeing anything of the money raised worldwide to help those who survived, rebuild a life. It made me think of the impact on my work , some of the women able to be discharged , will never be reunited with family as they died  or are no longer traceable following this disaster…


We continued our meanderings aware it was very busy with locals having a long weekend ,it was VESEK POYA. This is one of the most important Buddhist Festivals which revolve around the days of the full moon- poya days; this one was a three fold celebration of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Lamps are lit in front of houses. (I had left the hospital on Friday with most wards patients and staff busy making their lanterns to decorate the wards)

Monday saw enjoying the beach, with a gentle stroll to explore the dagoba on the headland watching the locals enjoy the sea, seemed like a really family affair. The women tend to maintain their dignity and mess about in the water fully clothed! The kids splashing  about with Dads, teenage lads playing football, the girls in groups plaiting hair giggling, could have been Blackpool?… not – no penny arcades, no rides to queue for ,no donkeys, rock or fish and chips, and no tower… no comparison !

On Monday evening we ventured to Galle to see the streets festooned with lamps and lanterns no 2 alike, some very ornate and intricate in their design , a whole street being the area for competition between local schools, and police forces they were pretty spectacular. Buses and cars were decorated with streamers; roadside booths gave away free rice and curry… one of the best meals I have sampled in SL.

On the return journey on Tuesday we stopped off at the idyllic Brief Garden- named after the father of the artist and writer Bevis Bawa, who raised the money to buy the estate from a successful legal brief.BB began landscaping the 5 acres garden in 1929 and continued until his death in 1992, encouraged by his brother Geoffrey who embarked on a career in architecture and landscape design. The garden is a series of terraces which tumble down the hillside below the house. The guide who nursed BB in his last days informed us that as the two brothers never married, the will of BB left the estate to the workers of the land, otherwise it would have gone to the government.  This made a welcome stop and was really interesting with influences from around the world. Great venue for a party was my thought as I wandered about looking at huge plants and flowers including a black orchid from Thailand! Visitors whose pictures decorated the walls included Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier … nice bit o’ culture to end the weekend don’t you know!

So that was my first little break from work, one which I felt I deserved I enjoyed every minute and am already thinking about the next… I’ll keep ya posted!


It’s life Jim …but not as we know it!

May 15, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Posted in Food, Friends, Health, Life, Travel, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Ooh where to start, the VSO welcome hand book informed me that I‘d go thro’ a cycle of emotions  


2- friendship


4- fulfilment

From my previous entries you are aware that stages one  and two are ever present in my life, they are what makes me me…may it never stop ( ever the child!) However the last few days in SL, I have felt like I’m entering  stage 3, nothing too serious, settling in, living here some things have got to me. Like the  lack of recycling and littering thro’ to basic human rights. I know it is part of the challenge I’d face by working in a developing country but some days it just gets to me. So if you get an e mail or text from me off loading-  I’m having a moan – thanks for reading.

 Now what else has been going on, well Stanley from VSO transport dept…sorry programme office support (checked the welcome folder!)more like Stan laurel! delivered my wheels on Friday. Yep Barbie has a bike she is pleased to report it is not pink, it’s silver actually, a ladies bog standard bike, 3 gears, basket and the all important BELL! A test ride on Sunday saw me ,to the amusement of the locals negotiating the pot holes ( road maintenance not a Gov priority at the moment or ever it would appear)in first gear to shout s of “sudu”  = whitey. The ride to work is 15 mins I do manage to get in to 3rd but 2nd is ok. It is a fairly quiet stretch of road not too many buses, I have used the bell but it appears the cows are deeff!  Sadly they are not the healthiest specimens; even as a “vegetable” I can see that!

On Saturday 10th I visited Kurunegala hospital and the rehabilitation facilities in its district north east of Colombo. It was a 3 hour drive heading on the A1 towards Kandy. My   12 colleagues were social workers, nurses, support staff and a doctor. I was collected an hour and ¾’s  later than arranged…umm a few phone calls and text after an hour I found out the transport had not turned up hey ho Sri Lankan organisation not… so after lots of apologies we were on the way ,out came breakfast ,so they were all forgiven . My family will know my love of eating on journeys, as a child heard to ask “can we eat yet” havin’ not even gone a mile! There was loads of small eats really tasty veg rolls, roti – spicy stuffed chapati, and sandwiches, as my porridge had been well and truly digested whilst waiting, I tucked in.

I really enjoyed the drive the time to contemplate (as they were all talking SL) my situation in comparison to UK it had been a long time since I had worked a Saturday, being here I had done 2(no worries I get the time back) the SL tend to work a 6 day week, nurses do many long stretches to gain days off so they can travel back to their family homes. The social workers get over time to supplement their low salaries. Talking to one of the docs the other day about working terms and conditions, he gets 26,000 rupees plus 12,000 for on call etc  = 36,000 (remember I get 30,000 which is  £142)  4 weeks holiday which they usually work to get extra money as they cant really afford to go anywhere they do take the odd day off for weddings and some of the many festival/bank holidays (26 of them ) I thought about the privileged life  and choices I, or should I say “us” westerners have. Don’t worry I’m not going to get all philosophical, but just sharing my thoughts with you.

Every body was chattering away, laughing, I did not feel excluded, quite the opposite they made every effort to include me telling me bits of history or sharing a joke, they are such a generous race of people despite the war torn country, its political situation,  lack of funding to health services and development, they get on with living. It has to be more than just the weather, I  digress to thoughts of my travels around Australia with Stephen my bro in 1988, I drove him to distraction (and to drink I’m sure) with my daily “Ooh its looks like its going to be another nice day, makes you feel good when the sunshine’s  don’t  it ! As we approached Kurunegela I spied a huge Buddha sitting atop of the hill side, I pondered upon religious beliefs, mental note to read about Buddhism, I’m here for 2 years, I need to understand what makes these folk tick…

The sights you see, back at the bus stop ( flat tyre after one day) I mused about road safety the number of people that can be squashed in to a tri shaw, 6  is the most I’ve seen so far ,plus the weekly shopping. Then on a motorbike, a family of 4, youngest child, the dad driving with an infant sandwiched between him and mum at the back…amazing. Cycling  well that’s another thing  no wonder I was stared at, there was only me on the bike ,usually its 2 ,one on the cross bar or handle bars, plus what ever you need for the days work –  6ft pieces of plastic piping, a large bundle of some crop or other…brilliant !

So that’s been my week fairly quiet, went to the laundrette (got bitten by the mossies, so now taking piriton and using hydrocortisone as I have reacted to them badly … (the sensitive girly that I am!) to be met by the LL and wife who kindly informed me they had taken my bike to have it repaired and that they had a washing machine I could use at anytime…bless ‘em!

Had a lovely evening of hospitality yesterday at the home of Mike (Vol of 5 months) and wife Natasha (2 kids, in bed 9 and 11) in Colombo. Very civilised, great food and conversation went with Podi, Jo Anne, and Jesse.

 That was after we had been to visit Riza who in hospital in Colombo been investigated for a “fever”. Thankfully she is ok feeling much better; they think it is viral, but needed to rule out Malaria and Dengue fever! She made us laugh at her experienced of being seen by a local Dr. who asked her questions looked at her ,no pulse ,temp or BP taken, did not examine her in anyway, then proceeded to prescribe 6 different types of medication. This is apparently standard practise, go to the Dr’s; you usually come away with 3 types of meds, some white ones, a couple of blue ones and 3 days of anti biotics!

Work not too bad, saw the boss today got a bit of clarity, (I think I’m missing supervision – it just does not exist here) anyway we seem to be talking about the same issues and priorities which is tickety boo! Then we went to a ceremony he opened a Buddhist place of worship in the hospital grounds.

So its all good, as I e mailed to Alistair the other day I wouldn’t change it for Rotherham that’s for sure… the weekend beckons ,we are heading off to the coast don’t you know, details next week.

Best wishes to all, I believe you are having some fine weather at the moment – ENJOY!

Girls just wanna have …wheels?

May 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


 Hi there May is here and don’t we know it the temperature is hot hot hot! Have been told it is the hottest month …luckily the last few days have been a little cloudy which gives a little respite from the rays. Now don’t get me wrong I am not complaining just adjusting. Its ok when you’re walking, all beit slowly, its when you stop, I feel like am leaking..ok not a pretty sight so have taken up some Sri Lankan ways i,e using my brolly for shade and always having a hanky …yes a hanky – a tissue will  simply not do – its for dabbing!- (a hanky is more absorbent.) Therefore I recently purchased 4 hankies just like mum used to pack us off with to school many ,many years ago, they never lasted very long I always lost them… no fear of repeating that as these are always in use.

You may have seen the photos of some of my recent activities… guest of honour at the Horticultural Project, which involved taking part in the games such as eating a cream cracker hanging from a thread, the pics made realise that I certainly am an obvious sight, taller with whiter hair than the average SL! Has its benefits – once met never forgotten – resulting in getting a couple of lifts to work recently – no fear of mistaking me for any body else is there?

On the social front last week we were invited to the American Embassy, pleased to say much more enjoyable than the BHC. Met Keith from Skipton(who had been at the BHC last week as he works there)who was drinking with Dave from Hampshire who was on a flying visit  to SL on duty as a body guard to the Duke of Gloucester( who …that’s what I thought, he opened the new BHC building last Monday so now you know where your taxes are going!). Mores to the point whilst asking Dave about his job he informed me that his daily allowance varied from country to country…whilst in SL it was equivalent to my monthly salary! Well I had no hesitation in my insistence that he buy the beers for me and the gang for the rest of the evening…bless him he did as well – result! So we all had a great night lots of chatting and dancing til about 1.30am.

We think thats it for “ nights out “for a bit  although we did spot a quiz night advertised … of course we will have to give it a shot!

I had an interesting evening on Saturday I was planning on an early night but was called by my landlord down stairs, to be informed that it was his birthday and was offered a drink of brandy to celebrate. I think I mentioned he speaks little English- it appeared that he may have been at the bottle earlier! So there was I sipping my brandy, trying to make small talk with a tipsy , happy SL ,who was very repeatative-  telling me that SL was very poor country – that he was a union man and had been powerful in his job ,then he asked “you are vegetable?” I did smile as I replied that I was indeed a vegetable! I did think how many times have  people tolerated me when drink has been taken, so if you are one of them … many thanks!

Sunday was a very civilised affair meeting up with the gang at the Galle Face Hotel for high tea eat as much as you like for 630 rupees, it was a treat as VSO informed us earlier in the week that we were to receive a rise in our allowance in line with rising costs in SL …we now get 30,000 rupees a month about £140. 

This Saturday (10th)I am working-  going up country to Kurunegela on a field trip to visit a rehab unit  with 4 other collegues.I am looking forward to seeing more of SL and of course the progress made in other areas.Work is  getting interesting I have a better idea of what I am supposed to be doing …writng an action plan, and generally trying to co ordinate the changes …ooh very exciting.

Next weekend is Poya weekend  we have Mon and Tues off so we (Podi, Jesse,Joanne ) will be heading south to UNAWATUNA we will meet Lynn there and some other VSO Vols so a good time to catch up and chill. For those who have holidayed with me know I’m no beach babe… but I feel that SL is the place to try being quiet , enjoy the sun and read for hours at atime …the sun cream will be packed!I have however spotted a SL cookery course at Una …involves going to market to buy the goods then being shown how to  prepare a meal to which friends can join in the evening …sounds right up my street I’ll let you know how it goes!

Finally  wheels… what she up to now you ask? I have put in a request  for a push bike for work-  it will be more conveinent and it will keep me fit  of course there will be pictures!

Bye for now

 P.S. in the garden this morning I saw a huge MONKEY! i am in the jungle !

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