Train, beach, temple,beach and train…

October 15, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Food, Friends, Health, Life, Love, Travel | 1 Comment
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A month or so ago VSO lifted the security restrictions for travel to the east and with in a few hours txt messages were flying around the vols suggesting a train trip. So a few days later 7 of us are at Fort station awaiting the arrival of the overnight to Trincomalee( or Trinco as its known here)check  it out on

Trinco has been celebrated  since antiquity allegedly for its  superlative  deep water harbour one of the finest in Asia. Sadly with the onset of civil war in 1983 the town became and remains a flashpoint for ethnic tensions, due to a population evenly divided between Tamil, Muslim, and Sinhalese communities. Its position made it the island’ s collecting point for the war displaced persons. This stretched the resources and infrastructure to breaking point, parts of the town burnt to the ground during the communal riots. Following the ceasefire thousands upon thousands   of Sri Lankans flocked from Colombo and the south some for the first time others for the first time in twenty years.

Since the conflict ended in May of this year there have been security restrictions on travelling, so like us vols once this was lifted again the Sri Lankan s made their way there  again in droves. Need less to say the train was busy but that was all part of the experience. We had booked tickets which meant we got a seat, which was cool, but  nothing like the London to Edinburgh night train by any means. Knowing this I was prepared for the journey, once we were going 20 mins or so I opened the bar! Sat back and looked out in to the night! Our travelling companions were a young family with a sleeping 2 year old, a SL chap working for a charity which funded him based in Leeds ( small world again)lots of older SL men, who were very interested in my  unlabelled plastic bottles of fluid that the other vols would come and partake of from theirseats. As the journey progressed it became apparent that we were in the wrong carriage and we would need to leave the train at a specific stop and join the front carriages or we would end up in Batticoloa( which is a place Id never been to but was not the destination I wanted )why didn’t we just walk through the carriages umm not that easy when people are sleeping in the aisles, it was packed to the gunnels! We dismounted an hour or so later some of the group got seats and 3 of us sat on the floor near the open door which was great in the absence of air conditioning!


We arrived weary about 6am jumped in a 3 wheeler to see vol C who was to be our host , we said hellos and crashed out for a couple of hours before heading to Uppuveli beach. The aches and pains of the journey were soon forgotten at the sight of the Indian Ocean …it was beautiful, the beach of fine white sand was were we stayed for the whole day and into the evening. Sunday found us venturing to the Hindu temple which was swamped by visitors, there  was a great atmosphere! Next we travelled to Nilaveli the second of Trincos popular beaches, described by the prolific novelist and journalist Carl Muller as “peach perfect, picture post card resort, with its sugar sand beach ,a creaming sea of dreamy blue, and a lagoon like a sculptured topaz” and I’d have to agree with him!


As those of you who have holidayed with me know  I’m no beach babe ,however living here being so lucky to be able to visit  and see so many beautiful beaches… I’m getting in to it! A good time was had by all catching up with Vols ,chilling out in  such magnificent settings watching the fishermen with their catch, the families who spent hours in the water, left little time to explore the town .So when we left the next morn we  promised to return.



Which was nearly sooner than I had hoped when we again pulled in to a junction stop I hopped of to use the loo with N, on returning to the platform we saw the train slowly pull away with our mates frantically waving us to make a run for it, have you seen how high those old trains are and it was gathering speed. I cant remember what was going thro my head, a jumble of oh no, bugger, no purse, no ID, this is not happening ,what to do …??? the guards were shouting ‘Madam half an hour,’ the people on the train were laughing, I breathlessly  replied I had to get on , not get a train in half an hour arggh! What he was trying to say was the train is not leaving it is just changing engines and will be back in half an hour! Oh,  ahh, Ok I see,  (Sarah stops running! ) N and I returned to the platform to the amusement of the awaiting passengers. The train did return in less then 10 mins our friends were also bemused ,as they had no idea  what was going on…hilarious!

The rest of the return journey was uneventful, apart from an hour before arriving in Colombo the carriage lights went off ! murder in the dark any one ??was that your hand being shrieked every so often! The countryside slipped by our open windows ,we played cards, ate the short eats,( street food brought on to the train in baskets by men, better than  any BR or Virgin train trolley food  and v v cheap!) we played scrabble, ate biscuits and fruit, had a snooze, listened to ipods, it was a long but a lovely journey, one I would not have missed and look forward to doing again before I leave!


More tea vicar?…

September 29, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Posted in Food, Friends, Life, Love, Travel | Leave a comment


A couple of months ago it was suggested that staff from NIMH submit an abstract for the 10th World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation conference. After much chivvying on my part, the help of the staff at Mull and vols support to get the piece to  the 250 words limit we submitted an abstract. The paper factory project is an example of reintegration and deinstitutionalisation. We heard a few weeks ago that  we were accepted for an oral presentation…whoopee RESULT! I could not pedal fast enough to get back to tell the ladies and staff the excellent news hey! Having already done a photo presentation with the staff for a VSO meeting we have 2/3rds of the presentation done. Following discussions with the director and staff, they have approached me with their thoughts about what else needs to be included. The staff involved will be considered to attend as I have been, but they will do the presentation. We have started to make our preparations for 5 days Bangalore in Nov.

We held our 6th communication and development meeting last Friday another close to tears moment for me. Matron and a nurse as arranged at the 5th meeting facilitated the session with your’s truly saying very little( hard to believe I know!), the nurses as leads for various projects stood and provided the updates it was great their confidence has grown for sure. Post meeting Matron had a word, informing me that she felt very happy, and to cut along story short, during the meeting the penny had dropped everything had fallen in to place for her, a eureka moment hoorah hoorah indeed!

Its at times like these I remind myself it just takes time change does happen …hemin hemin!(slowly slowly)

Which is the complete opposite to events of last Monday? A Sri Lankan friend’s younger brother of 19 years and his girl friend arrived on Sunday from the south having run away from her parents who were against them marrying. They had the clothes they wore and some rupees, made their minds up and wanted to get married they both completed their exams seeing each other for nearly 4 years …this was love.

Monday arrived  a few phone calls a registrar was located, appt booked for 4pm enough time to locate a saree, some thing old ,new ,borrowed and blue with the help of 5 vols this was to be a singalish wedding! It was indeed an honour to attend the short affair (lots of paper work to be signed) and witness two young people so obviously devoted about to make this commitment to each other. After the official bit they popped to the temple while the vols got on with the wedding feast and getting the flat ready. Xmas tinsel was dug out balloons were blown up, I got on the bike to fetch a gateaux and a few beers from the “Bear shop” (SL spelling mistakes are hilarious) at 6ish the couple returned and were over whelmed by the fact that the vols could make such a lovely time for them. The txt messages we received have been so sweet thanking us for our efforts. The pleasure was indeed all ours. The brides parents were contacted made aware she was safe and married.  The extremes of this country never cease to amaze or amuse me.

Which leads nicely in to a brief update of my recent travels, a holiday weekend saw us head south to the beach to celebrate a vols birthday. Unawatuna is a lovely beach but sadly does not agree with me as you remember at new year I was un well, again this happened on the Saturday me confined to my hotel room no 101 by the way at the lovely Norlanka (www.norlanka)   Friday was a poya day when no alcohol is to be served. Some bars disregard this of course, a case of who you know in the local police , others err on the side of caution serving ice cold larger in a tea pot with  cups and saucers …well we had to have one there didn’t we just for the photo opportunity!

I was sorted by Sunday ,the suspect being a rogue prawn coupled with little sleep in the preceding  week( burning the mid night oil in order to complete the assignment for the Human Rights Diploma- I’m still waiting the results of assignment and group presentation …watch this space.

I travelled with a fellow vol to Deniyaya  4 hours form Galle to visit the tropical rain forest of Sinharaja, ( which means Lion King) which  is described in the rough guide as  ‘ one of the islands outstanding natural wonders and an ecological treasure box of international significance recognised as  a UNESCO world heritage site in 1989.A staggering 830 of SL’s endemic species of flora and fauna found here, also a myriad of birds, reptiles and insects with 60%of the reserves tress being endemic too’. So you understand why it was on my list of places to visit. We enjoyed our stay at the Rainforest Lodge, the food was plentiful, and the rooms comfortable, the bats that flew into the veranda as we sipped our beer, like Hitchcock’s ‘Birds’ were entertaining. The staff were very friendly and helpful in organising our trip to the forest. On arrival we met our guide who kindly applied blue soap to our feet as a deterrent to the leeches, ummm not that successful; we were popular targets for the little bleeders! I was very girly initially and  was heard screeching as I made vain attempts to flick the critters off…a couple of hours later the frustration was audible with my use of expletives( sorry Mum yes swearing!)Despite this, the walk of nearly 3 hours was really very enjoyable and I would recommend a visit. We saw ginger and cinnamon plants, cameleon, millipedes, waterfalls, the rivers Gin Ganga and Kalu Ganga, fungi in many colours, monkeys, the amazing forest canopy, trees and noisy cicadas! Sadly few birds due to the fact it rained intermittently, but me brolly was up and down a few times!



The living is easy…red letter days!

November 11, 2008 at 7:12 pm | Posted in Food, Friends, Health, Life, Love, Travel, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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 Part 2 work life balance… 

  The last few weeks including work have been pretty good, certainly makes the time fly by as I sit here tapping at the beginning of Nov, I recall what I’ve been up to. A new batch of Volunteers arrived 4 weeks ago one of which is working at main hospital and living 10 minutes away by bike. She ventured out to see her accommodation with 3 other vols and popped in for a brew on the balcony of the PP. I felt like a 2nd year at school no longer the “newbie”  as I answered the stream of questions similar to the ones I’d asked on my arrival…it seemed an age ago(March that is, not me being a second year coz that is eons ago!!!)

I actually started this 2 weeks ago and have edited it as it went on a bit about a trip to Water World  which boasts to being “Sri Lanka’s first Public Aquarium” and the “jobs worth” on the gate refusing to give me residents rates. I waxed lyrical about a trip down south Ambalantota, continuing with the water theme I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon trip down the river, spied some amazing birds of prey and a crocodile!!!  I saw a few temples at Tissamaharama and ate curd which is infamous in Sri Lanka but curd from Ambalantota apparently the best. They use the buffalo urine to sterilize the clay pot, (the curd is delicious), but they don’t reuse the pot (saw hundreds of them laying about the place or used as edging in gardens) due to the use of urine …folk are funny hey? I cut it short as events of last week  were far more memorable more of them later, my update continues…

New friends have been made in the last weeks, linked to work.  First is Barbara, widow of an ex Medical Superintendant of Mulleriyawa ’69 – ’81. She is an amazing octogenarian (81 to be precise!)In memory of the 10th anniversary of his death, the family wanted to make a donation to the unit. She contacted JM the director he invited her to visit the unit following the purchase of an industrial washing machine, I was dispatched to give her a tour. We hit it off straight away, the visit ended with her asking for my contact details a) so she could keep in touch to make sure the machine got installed and b) so she could invite me round to hers for lunch, which she did the following week. On my arrival a drink was offered in true SL style, water or tea I presumed, no …a beer or a rum and coke with fresh mint, taken a back for a second, I informed her that technically I was on duty. I was corrected I was a guest in her house for lunch, she was having a rum would I care to join her…I left a couple hours later, family and life histories swapped, plus some hand embroidered table mats as a gift, I’m sure there will be more of Barbara in future blogs.

Pat is Scottish married to John of St Andrews Church in Colombo, supported by the Church of Scotland, donor to one of the wards at the unit. Pat contacted me to discuss training for staff at a community home, where 6 women had been settled for a few years. She had been given my name by Lorraine from Lanka Alzheimer’s society(small place this island)We met 2 weeks ago discussed a future meeting and visit to the house with social workers and Occupational therapy staff on Thursday  this week. She and John been here 5 years, apart from church and charity work they also run a Scottish evening at the Canadian embassy every Tuesday, I’m sure that will be visited before long for a bit of a knees up!

Last Wednesday has to go down as the best day in Sri Lanka so far (tissues at the ready). I may have mentioned a trip to Anuradapura in July, to visit AKASA women physically disability project. On this trip a lady( resident at the unit) called MC had travelled with us, as the social worker Ms P who was coordinating the trip had been working with her for a few months, trying to locate her son, who she had last seen 12 years ago. A series of phone calls and letters with only a name and date of birth, to the many children’s homes and orphanages in SL, he had been located in the SOS village in Anuradupura (an Austrian organisation134 village’s world wide)

In July we visited the orphanage to meet the staff but not her son. MC was relieved to know her son’s whereabouts that he was progressing well at school and enjoyed football. Despite our reassurances she was bitterly disappointed that she could not have met him, she did how ever handle the situation well and saved her tears for when she was back on the van. This had been a big day for her, on the return journey she sang a song in Sinhala, which she had made up her self stating her love for her son, her inability to care for him as she had been unwell, and that one day they would be together. She also thanked all the staff for making her feel ‘normal’, she felt very special, but unworthy, she did not deserve this. On return the she wrote the words of the song with the help of the nurse in a letter to her son and enclosed some photos I had taken. Ms P continued the contact with the director of the orphanage who had started to prepare the boy; the letter had been given to him. The problem was when we would be able to access transport for the 6 hour journey to travel north again?

My friend Riza a vol at AKASA, was in Colombo renewing work permits and visa  and came to see me at work we met Ms P, never one to miss an opportunity asked when she was returning to Anuradurpura …could we have a lift( as VSO provide a van), we had business to attend to!

So last Wednesday we headed off, all  of us were quite upbeat as you can imagine, the 6 hour journey  passed quickly as it does when there’s something special at the end…

Ms P and I spoke with the director to discuss formalities what info had been given to the boy how he had taken it. No problems , they were the experts after all. MC was to meet the house mother she had looked after the boy for the last 12 years. We were all shown the shared house and met other children; I was befriended by a beautiful big brown eyed 8 yr old girl, who was quite good with my camera at the end of the visit.  We were told R, the boy had arrived from school he was seeing his key worker first. We waited, I clicked away nervously…then  there he was standing in the door way, there was no doubt who his mother was, that big grin and big sparkling eyes… a mother and child reunion, an incredible moment to have witnessed.

MC and son R spent over an hour together, we shared tea, songs were sung, hands were held, hugs and big grins all round. A fantastic day, one I will remember for a long time…


Forget the rupees…keep an eye on the pounds!

August 7, 2008 at 11:59 am | Posted in Food, Friends, Health, Life, Love, Travel | 1 Comment
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Last week found me experiencing  5 star treatment in two ways;  first VSO held its annual Conference entitled “Safe & Sound” at the Mahaweli Reach (see ) in Kandy. From the title you gather that the focus was on the new security policy and continued development /networking/communication between the programme office staff and vols. Being part of the planning team and self named“Flow Manager” (time keeper ,generally  “chivving”  things along ) over the two days, I am pleased to say, it was indeed an informative and interactive event which was a great success, with work to follow up on as well…

There is of course a price for success, mine being the expansion of the waist line I fear! For the buffet style food (three times a day) was delicious despite daily attempts to resist the sweet table (in the absence of a cheese board), when attempting to walk past a fellow vol would whisper in my ear “go on we are volunteers working in a developing country …you never know when you will get tiramisu again … how could I resist. It was lovely to have a choice of western foods baked beans, cauliflower cheese, chips and the amazing salads ummm! Oh yeah and one or 3 beers in the evenings!

Secondly on return I thought ,double the sit ups, and  I’ll feel ok in a couple of days( I did use the gym on 1 out 3 mornings!) I was however greeted by my landlady Mrs S who invited me to join her on a visit to her family home in Kosagama (45min by car east of Himbutana) for a Dana celebration . A quick trip to collect my washing, a shower  and 2 hours later I was back on the road (having spent 4hrs already on my return from Kandy)

Well it was absolutely wonderful ,they own ( the family) lots of land on which they have a rubber plantation, this was the family inheritance shared between Mrs S, her 2 sisters and 2 brothers, 3 of which live less the 2 minutes walk from each other. They were incredibly welcoming and kind I was shown the most generous Sri Lankan hospitality, the majority of which focused on EATING!!!

I am pleased to report  that after meeting  some of the family, partaking of tea and SL cookies with bananas in two houses ( just like visiting my grandmas in the west of Ireland years ago every house you visited you were fed)a walk up the hill to the rubber tree nursery was suggested. Well the questions started and major concerns voiced…

 “You tired no?” … no, a walk would be lovely

“You can walk no?”… Yes it has been known

 “What about leeches? “… What about them?

 “It is steep no? “… Steep? – You heard of Kilimanjaro?

Furtive looks were swapped between the adults as I was being encouraged outside by 9 year old identical twins girls A pair of wellingtons found (6 sizes to big) I was allowed to go up the hill. Our guide was a family cousin, a man of 65 plus years with the thinnest legs I’ve ever seen he carried a huge scythe (the leeches must be big un’s I thought) and was bare footed. The twins wore flip flops as they chased after their cousins 2 boys’ age 12 and 9. Mrs S, declined stating she was too fat “I never climb” Mr S donned an old Stetson type hat, accompanied by his sister in law in a straw bonnet we looked a motley crew! (No photos sorry I’d un packed me camera and not re packed it)

It was noticeably cooler as we made our way through the plantation, the “hill” was more of a gentle incline nothing too strenuous very pleasant the views were wonderful. The cousin chatted away in SL with the sister (principle of the local school) translating for me. I was informed there had been some heavy rains recently which were making it difficult to collect the sap. It is a profitable business, the majority of the rubber stays in SL for tyre manufacture with some exported.

As we approached the ridge the kids were busy pointing out the small herd of goats that belonged to the people who had acquired some of the government land to try to make a living. Their accommodation was making shift and basic with one family living and sleeping in the same space. They came out to look at the “walking party” and offered us water from the stream, much appreciated. At the top we stood to admire the view, miles of forest stretched around me, a mix of pines and palms. I was informed on a clear day the infamous Adams Peak could be seen from here, – now that would be a climb and it’s on my list of “to do’s in SL”. The kids and I were keen to continue but the olds decided I’d be better coming back to do more another day. We had walked for about an hour; they were concerned about the light, so we wandered back the same path. The footwear had served its purpose, I reassured the welcome party, who were informed I would partake in a coconut drink. Mr S proudly told them I had drunk Tempali (king coconut) from his garden, therefore I was offered green coconut, it was refreshing and not as bitter as the king coconut. When finished drinking, the coconut was split open and I ate the white flesh within, delicious !

The women fussed over me arranging which bathroom I would use, as they all had different facilities, all indoors, they wanted me to use the most modern of the 3, as I have adapted to SL ways any of the 3 were fine by me, but being a guest I accepted their offer and went and had my “body wash” as they called it.

The hospitality continued by being invited to join the chaps for a beer while and of course sample the snacks on offer, some sambol and a root veg similar to a potato with a nutty taste…(again ever thankful to the inventor of the loose fitting draw sting trousers.) I did my best to speak in singalish (or singasarah) acknowledging the fact I was in the company of a fairly senior member of the SL police force, a tour guide (he’d also worked in Paris in the film industry) a senior engineer trying to obtain work in the Emirates, Mr S, and the thin legged cousin, who proceeded to sing to me! I then was asked to go inside to eat, nice I thought eat with the women and kids …wrong I was sat at the head of a laden table, there must have been 14 dishes of various curries and sambols and ONE plate, I was to eat alone watched by the women some of the kids and the men when passing thro to the fridge. It is a tradition in rural areas, to watch your guest eat, I found it a little un nerving but hey never been known to refuse I got stuck in…well you have to don’t you, it would have been rude not to…the trick is to take a little of everything, as if you don’t go for seconds you can offend, luckily I recalled this from my training. This was indeed 5 star home cooking, this was some of the food prepared for the priests (monks ) who would attend the house the next day to pray for the parents as it was the anniversary of their deaths the Dana, which is also an alms giving ceremony.

The priests arrived before mid day, they said prayers all the family, friends and villagers sit on the floor and join in, the senior priest speaks wise words, and he kindly acknowledged and prayed for me apparently! The food was brought in and presented to the 4 priests who then get out the bowls from their bags, are served, we all left the room, then they were presented with new fans and robes by the family. That was it; they were away by ¼ to 1.  Not a bad day’s work in my book!

Then guess what, yep it was time for us to eat, (it less than 5 hours since I had eaten breakfast, and 2 hours since pre ceremony snacks!)Oh well when in Rome…

Like I say it was a 5 star couple of days from the hotel to the countryside… I know I gained a few pounds, but  also I gained an awareness of rural SL family life and traditions therein.  I have been invited back,  and am looking forward to that… now where did I leave that skipping rope!

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 !

Learning the language…shit happens!

April 8, 2008 at 6:52 am | Posted in Food, Friends, Health, Life, Love, Travel | 1 Comment
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 Aaiboowan =  a formal greeting, wishing you a long life… yes  language lessons have started and don’t I know it, my pronunciation has every one in stitches, must be me Yorkshire accent! The problem is the Sri Lankans (SL) like to keep their communication short and simple …difficult for someone like me who enjoys a good old ramble around the houses. It is a functional based language unlike English which is tence based.It can sound very directive or rude, however tone and non verbal’s soften the effect, so with  head on one side, a smile and a wave of me hands I can manage to get through and have successfully bartered the price down with the tri shaw drivers.

The trainers are very experienced so we also are learning about the culture and the practicalities of day today living, sessions are often held in the garden of the VSO offices makes a change from the air conditioned room. This week we are going to go to the markets to identify fruit and veg, to the train and bus stations also visiting the areas we will be living. Saying that we( Lynn and Sarah 2) were out again on Saturday buying safety pins like you do, we ended up counting from one to ten with the shop keeper who giggled at our efforts but like any country you visit if you make an effort the Sri Lankans appreciate it and help you out which is great otherwise I could have ended up with 7 pairs of flip flops!

Other elements of the training have focussed on Sri Lankan history, working in development, political situation, safety and security issues.

Lynn and I left the city yesterday and ventured to Pinnewala to the elephant orphanage. The journey took about 2 ½ hours on the A1 towards Kandy in the hill country. I was amazed at the number of people up and about at just gone 5.30 on a Sunday morning. During the language session today  re time of the day it explained that the SL’s we saw are early risers as their day is different to UK-


Morning= udee 3am on wards

 Lunch time = dawal 12-2pm

Evening = hawasa 2-6pm

raeae= after dark 6pm on wards when dark

This is very relevant from a work perspective, when arranging meetings you have to be time specific, they have no teatime /evening, tea time means a drink of tea at about 3pm… ooh soooo much to remember my brain aches!

Back to the elephants, the were amazing to watch – saw a baby one born on new years eve so cute, and then crossing the road to the river to bathe. It was saddening to hear the stories behind them being there, land minds causing blindness and loss of limbs. They did seem to be well cared for with room to roam. One of the most novel wildlife initiatives in SL in recent years has been the invention of pachyderm paper:  paper made from elephant dung. The dung is dried in the sun and boiled; the pulp is then used to make high quality stationary with an artistically textured finish. The texture and colour varies according to the diet. More than just a novelty stationary item, pachyderm paper could prove an important source of income for the locals- and thus help in conservation measures. By the way important customers to date have included the Colombo Hilton, Sri Lankan Airlines, and the Bank of Ceylon, have a look at if you want to but some.

On route we passed thro Colombo suburbs and then the villages towards the countryside,  taking in the sights of roadside stalls stacked high with annaasi (pineapples), hand made cane work and local vegetables. The roads are in need of repair (there is talk of major road  and waterways developments)hence the time to travel just over 70km.I was pleased to be in the lush country side after a week or so of urban living, as was Lynn  who will be living in Hambantota ( in the south )which is the dry zone

On return the weather changed and the heaven opened. Our land lady explained to us that we are currently experiencing some severe weather at the moment very hot days in the 30’s with rain daily and fierce storms most evenings.  She even took the time to ensure we read an article in the paper about safety   during storms, like turn off electrical appliances… the cynics among us thought she may have just wanted to save her on her lecky bill! (Reminded me of being a kid during storms all the lights off no TV…) When it rains you know about it, un- like Peter Kaye it’s that heavy rain that does SOAK you thro!

3 more sleeps to go…

March 22, 2008 at 8:24 pm | Posted in Food, Friends, Life, Love, Travel | 2 Comments


Time has certainly gone very quickly these past few weeks.


I finished work on the 7th March, celebrating this event with friends and colleagues from Hawthorn Day unit at the local pub The Golden Ball. It was great to share the evening with the folk who have put up with me for the last 4 years and who will get 2 years respite!


The next night was my “Leaving do” at The community centre in Wadworth – the evening started with a pie and pea supper and the entertainment was provided by Band for Life a cheidhl band from Sheffield…what a hoot “dosey doeing” – “stripping the willow” taking your partner etc etc Ruth the caller did a fab job of keeping us going… everybody had a go with some persuasion and gentle arm twisting from yours truly!  £165 was raised for VSO; everybody had a good night according to all the txt the next day.


The 14th was the Manchester leg of the departure tour a Sri Lankan curry in Rusholme with the Manchester posse then back to big Al’s for more wine and songs! (Irish ballads at one point)


Ooh forgot to mention a day trip to London to meet up with  5 folk not seen for 20 years since we worked together in Orpington –  all down to Brenda who took the time to track me down (we last met in Manchester 14 years ago) all a bit Marc Almond – wave hello say good bye…. It was brilliant to see them again and to drink a glass of champagne in the bar at St Pancras Station.


Back to the tour…2 chilled days with bessy mate Denise in London this week ,doing the sights, the theatre, boat on the Thames, shopping, gastronomical delights of Sushi ,organic veggie supper, French brunch and Turkish evening meal, stayed in the YHA in ST Paul’s…not quite Thelma and Louise but a marvellous girly time was had!


Family meal with relatives from Leeds tomorrow just the 21 of us ends the tour – as my tickets and visa have arrived I have no job ,no house and no car-  so I am off on Tuesday the big adventure starts and I cant wait!


Serious bit now… I would like to thank everyone for the good wishes, gifts, cards, support and  the encouragement received over the last weeks quite over whelming at times; I will endeavour to keep this blog going on a regular basis to share my experiences.

Many thanks again with love Sarah x

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