A day at the office…Did I tell you the one about the dentist?

June 20, 2008 at 10:45 am | Posted in Friends, Health, Life, Love, Travel | Leave a comment
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 A couple of folk have asked “what do I actually do at work”? , well as I am in the process of completing my 2 month review, I can tell you my official title is VSO volunteer- Co –ordinator Mental Health. This is a new placement  there is no job specification as such “likely roles the volunteer will undertake” provides 3 general broad objectives, which will hopefully meet the needs of the partner (Mulleriyawa Unit 2-MU2) ,VSO and the funders of my post , the European Commission.

So for the last 2 months I have been meeting the nurses , doctors and patients at the unit, spending time on the wards ,observing the routines, trying to  converse with the women who talk at me. I have spent time with the psychiatric social workers(PSW) at Angoda with the other vol who has been here 18 months again asking questions , observing, listening to explanations of the way the services work over here. Getting to grips with the hierarchical structure that exists ,being non judgemental, some things are very different  that doesn’t mean they are wrong ,just equates to a very interesting time!

I have visited community services other NGO (non governmental organisations) used the time to find my bearings and write peoples names down(especially the nurses who all look alike)made a lot of notes and reflected on what I’ve found in order to produce my objectives for the next 6 months. These focus on the support/rehabilitation of those able to be discharged (stable mentally but institutionalised in behavour) targeting one ward at the moment with 45 patients – working with the PSW formatting a data base to keep a track of what’s happening- trying to locate relatives is extremely time consuming the telephones system often does not work, often don’t have a number in the first place or the address no longer exists.

 I have worked with staff on an assessment form for the nurses  to use as they currently do not document anything …it’s the doctors who do that you see! Therefore training on use of said form is next, remember these nurses are general trained and have had little or no mental health training!  I am looking forward to that as the majority are keen to learn…I have to remember to speak slowly and not prattle on, the flip chart will be out ,group work and role play will be involved hope they have fun and learn something!

Supporting the OT‘s with the opening of a new unit (old ward), trying to figure out how to target the activities on a rehab model. These things take time due to language difficulties; anything I produce has to be translated to Sinhalese.

As the government does not provide a great deal of money I am gathering information to support proposals for international funding and the involvement of Sri Lankan businesses in a more co ordinate fashion. In short I have spent the last 8 or so weeks settling into place, trying not to be hard on myself, attempting to establish a routine, and being realistic about what I can achieve! Will keep you posted on how I’m doing.


Oh aye the dentist …I damaged a filling the other day on  a date stone, VSO kindly arranged for me to visit the dentist at a private hospital. I did not feel particularly at ease when asked to feedback as they had never used this women before! I was also told to take a book I could be in for a wait! Feeling a tad apprehensive entered the dept handed in my letter did not even sit down before being asked to enter the surgery the dentist( he) would see me straight away! Anxiety levels rising, would I be able to explain about the hole in my tooth that felt like the Grand Canyon ,would I understand him , would he appreciate being a nurse I was not keen on injections, what would they be using ahhhh….

All was well, he spoke  very good English, he was very charming, obviously aware of my anxiety, told me  where he had trained in London, was very reassuring with out being patronising I felt at ease as he began his examination. He explained exactly what he was going to do, was very gentle, he spoke of how he enjoyed his years in London .As he filled my mouth with bits of dental instruments he moved on to politics …he then stated how he thought “Mrs Thatcher had done a marvellous job for Britain”, I of course tried to reply but could not, he thought he had hurt me “you are sensitive my dear have I touched  a nerve” well that certainly kept me distracted whilst he finished the procedure, I did not bother to respond once everything was sorted  I just  paid my rupees ( about £8 actually)thanked him and left grinning to myself! I have recommended  him to VSO,  it was after all a pain free experience !


All in a day…

June 4, 2008 at 11:26 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Thought I’d share with you the day to day stuff I get up to, the things that have now become part of my routine. I usually wake at about 5.30 to the sound of the monks chanting being broadcast through the tanoy on the post opposite my balcony. The first time I heard this I actually thought they were on the balcony as it was so loud! The volume does vary, mostly it is  tolerable,  barely audible. I equate it to the living near a railway line or under a flight path…I will get used to it I tell my self.

 So I stick the radio on tuned in to the Sri Lankan broadcasting company, they are no competition for the BBC stations 1-4 let me assure you…it is dire – it does make you get out of bed. The only thing going for them is that they are linked to the world service channel so I get the world news at ¼ past the hour.

The kettle is filled and set to boil on my 3 ring gas burner (only 2 work…that’s another tale) while I then do my sit ups! Yes despite the bike I still feel the need to keep toned, so with the fan on I can manage to do about 100 before the whistle goes, put a t bag in a cup do a few stretches and I have a brew on the balcony with a bowl of fruit , curd and kitchul (palm syrup).

The temp is quite pleasant at this time, I watch the kids late for school, running down the lane ah bless they start at 6.30…oh yeah the SL ‘s are early risers up at about 4 am to do all the days cooking while it is cool. I make a salad box to take to work which always raises a few looks from the staff who can not comprehend I do not eat rice 3 times a day, sometimes not 3 times a week. For them it is their staple but it is not cheap rice prices have gone up again it is 140 rupees a kilo which apparently double what it was last year…put in context some people only earn that a day!

Tidy up the kitchen sweep the floor, wipe the surfaces –  no trace of food left about as the place would be full of ants on my return.I make my bed, tidy the mossy net away, open the windows to air the place. Put the rubbish in the big pit in the garden (burnt twice a week by the land lord.) No official refuge collection , people burn their own or take it to skips place on the road side or leave it for the cows to get!!!

Time for a shower which is quite refreshing, it is cool water (no hot water unless you stay in 5 star accomadation)I have got used to this especially in the evenings when really hot and sticky! Clothes are always ironed as at home in UK in advance (I can never iron in the morning -just one of my spinster ways) it is important here as power cuts are a frequent occurrence, ever the girl guide , be prepared!

Load my bag with water, lap top ,lunch and lock up.Obviously weather permitting un lock my bike and off I go. It is monsoon season now we have experienced some particularly heavy rain fall since Friday( today is Wed 4/6/08) there has been sever flooding locally!

 Things I see on route, the old lady who looks 190, a tiny wee thing stands at her gate smiling a toothless smile,( the SL have dreadful dental problems) over the weeks we have progressed to Morning! Next the fruit stall sells predominately Kesel (bananas) but a range of seasonal fruit and veg I usual stop at on way home she knows I Sinalen chuTTak pulawan ( speak a little sinhala)so writes the price down before I buy, then we play can I guess how much it costs. They appreciate I try they laugh at my efforts-  no offence taken ,they also ask when do I want to eat the paw paw for instance and give me the fruit ripeness to when I want it …very considerate!

When it was raining the other day I saw work men on a small building plot in flip flops,T shirt and shorts digging away, each with a plastic bag on their heads to keep the rain off …you never have a camera on you at sights like these it made me chuckle. On the corner of my road there is a little bakery with a table, a couple of chairs,  big enough for about 6 folk but they squash about 14 in have a brew and a bun and away they go. Denise asked what the traffic was like,  well there are some new cars Toyotas are popular as are 4×4, you  don’t see many old bangers, I presume the pot holes are too much for them the main vehicle on the roads is the buses, tri shaws, motor bikes and cycles not many people walk only me. The other thing is that people sell stuff bringing to your gate like the guy who has a suitcase on the back of his bike opens up the case gets out the scales and weighs the fish …only want a small piece no prob,he gets out his large knife and board puts it on the ground agree the size, weighs again-  hand over the rupees away you go! He is around on alternate days and I meet him as I am coming down the little hill just before the communal washing bathing area. This is a an area with a large concrete tank of water where people wash wearing a cheetah ( wash cloth) like a sarong. They have a good wash rinse off or if accompanied some one throws a bucket or two over you and then you set too with you laundry, giving it a good ol’ bash on the stones …you ‘re clean so are you’re clothes jobs a good ‘un!

Are you getting the picture lots of stuff going on in the neighbour hood which is filled with palm trees, butterflies, flowering plants and lush greenery…oh yeah and the monkeys swinging over head apparently this is a good time to see them about.

By the time I get to work I am a little hot, but stick the fan on in my office, have a drink and plan what my day may entail. I have learnt not too get too upset if I am not able to cross stuff off my list just transfer it to the next day… this is SL it will get done no worries…

I will leave work stuff for next time needless to say I am having some good and not so good days it remains a time of adjustment and settling in! Thoroughly enjoying the whole thing.

So home time about 4 go back the same route buy me fruit, head home some days via the internet place. Get in open up the house,to air the place, sit on the balcony drink a litre of water to rehydrate, contemplate my day, plan whats for tea, do my ironing, write a letter or read,phone or text other vols then  shower. It gets dark at 6.30pm in bed about 9ish with a couple of mossy coils burning… ooh all in a day not a bad one …what do you think?

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