The ups and downs of life in SL continue…

February 15, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Last Sat morning at 6.15am I got the first of 5 buses that would eventually get me to my destination of Dalhousie some 10hours later for less than 200Rs/=The reason for this journey was 2 fold ,firstly it was a get together of vols for Lynn’s birthday, secondly to Climb Adams Peak (Sri Pada check out the website on http://sripada.org/)

Travelling with the large group was good fun, catching up, sharing food, snacks (yeap my favourite part of any trip!)Listening to music, a chorus of “ging gang goo lie”( well the SL ‘s song sounded like it) and marvelling at the wonderful scenery making the journey not seem that long at all.
Adams Peak is situated at the south western edge of the hill country; it is one of Sri Lankans most striking features and one of its most celebrated places of pilgrimage- according to my guide book a miniature ‘Matterhorn’. It was indeed an impressive sight to behold (at 2243m it is SL’s 5th highest peak) as we weaved our way through the tea plantations and surrounding hills.
Arriving at Dalhousie we checked in at the River View Wathsala Inn, a beautiful spot with views of the river, hills and the Peak looming in the distance as the sun began to set.
We agreed to eat and get a few hours rest /sleep before making the ascent to arrive at the top to watch the sunset. I think I’d mentioned to folk that I was no novice at this having successfully climbed Kilimanjaro in 2001… Did I tell you???
Anyway we set off about 1am the temperature was very pleasant, although the locals were obviously were feeling the cold as they donned hats, jackets ,scarf’s and towels around their shoulders ( never got to the reason why?). As it was a poya weekend, we anticipated it to be busy with others making their annual pilgrimage we expected the ascent to take 4 or so hours including time to stop for tea at one the stalls lining the steps (approx 4900) en route to the top.
It was indeed very busy, we’d made good way after 2 hours stopping for tea everyone was feeling ok no serious aches at this stage. There was a great atmosphere amongst the pilgrims, old and young groups of families and friends the age varying from months old (being breast fed as mum walked up) to late 80’s.Lots of stalls selling food , drink,plastic flowers ,hats, scarf’s etc ;It felt like a festival of sorts, without the music and the mud of course!
Sadly after another couple of hours of very slow ascent of the steps (suiting my knees) we came to a complete standstill for over ½ an hour (a real people jam, no movement either way!)We were 2/3rds of the way up the lights from the top twinkling down at us. We were told the top was completely blocked with early arrivals waiting for the sun to rise in 2 hours time. What to do??
A group decision to head down was made as at this rate we would not make it to the top for sunrise. So a little disappointed we started to make our descent, but I did managed (in my typical brown owl style) to rally the troops to raise a chorus of ging gang goo lie with much hilarity from a group of SL lads if front of us! Stopping for tea again we met Brenda an 80 yr SL guide who at 6 in the morning had great pleasure in entertaining us by telling us that she had managed the peak 72 times, she had the press cuttings and photos from grateful tourists to prove it, we left promising to return and go with her the next time!
After a bit of brekky we again retired for a few hours rest, we had a walk around the local area we were a bit stiff. It was just fab to out and not perspiring. We meandered through the tea plantations, photographing lakes and waterfalls; it was lovely, confirming my love and preference for the countryside over the beach, vowing to visit the area again very soon.
With our disappointment at not reaching the summit behind us, it was after all Lynn’s birthday weekend we returned to the hotel for birthday cake and the party started! Hoorah!

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New kid on the block…

April 28, 2008 at 11:21 am | Posted in Food, Friends, Life, Travel | 2 Comments
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Pink Palace balcony

Balcony of the Pink Palace!

Over one week later I am pleased to say a little wiser . I met my landlord, his wife and son on my return  from a Tuesday evening soiree with the others in Ragagiry-  podi Sarahs neighbour hood where we  enjoyed some cheap local food very tasty. They ( the LL and family) welcomed me into their house and apologised for not being there  when I had arrived as it was the New Year they had visited relatives in the hill country. As I sipped plain tea ( tea no milk but suggered)I found out Mrs  S,is a teacher at a local school  who speaks good English. Mr S,is 66 and proudly  informed me he is a retired government worker. Tilekash is 12, goes to the British Commission School up the road. His mum suggested that I could help him with his English homework…I agreed as one does …poor lad! They enquired about my job and offered sympathetic looks when I said Mulleriyawa  unit 2…bodes well I thought!

As I made my way to leave to prepare for my big day  I was presented with 6 advocados,1 dozen huge bananas, leeks , peppers , green and white beans ,lettuce and  a kilo of carrots gifts from the country where all this stuff was grown by their rels …lucky me!

Wednesday dawned following a better nights sleep than anticpated(must be the calming pinkness) just before retiring I met a couple of chaps wanting to share my pink palace …Mr Cockyroach got short shrift( a quick blast from “mortein “ the recommended spray for unwanted visitors of the insect variety) is no longer on the tenacy. Mr Gecko (George) however is welcome to stay,I hardly know he is there he likes to hang out in the bathroom or the kitchen.

Mr S greeted me as I was about to leave to get the bus at the end of the lane to Angoda Hosp he insisted on driving me there… and has done so every morning since…

Kindness, helpfulness, friendliness and generosity is what I have experienced by the people I have met at work; nurses, social workers, doctors support staff and patients or on my way home the shop keepers stall holders and bus conductors’ feel humbled by these people they have so little in financial /material terms but give so much…Is it because I am a tall white westerner, bit of a novelty…? no, I  don’t think so., they seem to belike it to everyone .I read about it before arrival and from people who had visited this Island , certainly something I am going to get used to…

They are also very amusing- the kids are all very cute, who do stare at me, nothing intimidating but with curiosity. I saw a couple of teenagers get one of those “wait till I get you home looks” from their mother who caught them glancing at me wide mouthed and giggling on the bus t’other day.

Staying with the buses I witnessed a driver changeover the likes never seen before… the bus stops a chap gets on, the bus progresses on its way, the chap chats to the driver, as we approach a bend the bus slows down a bit but does not stop no handbrake applied, the driver gets out of the seat the other chap gets in and drives the bus…perhaps I should let National Express in on this novel time saving method?

(Sadly there was another bus bomb on Friday night with lives lost – security / safety is high on my agenda and I do adhere to guidance from VSO)

I have had some other attention, as warned in our training…walking t’market last Saturday I was called by a tri shaw driver on the other side of the road- madam madam…I looked over to view him having a “jimmy riddle “standing behind his vehicle and towards the wall … when I said ‘epaa’ (don’t want) and proceeded on my way – he turned to face me and waved his willie at me! Oh matron the sights you see!  (Gerry you can edit that bit from the folks ta)

Work has been interesting, I spent the first few days at Mental Hospital Angoda (MHA The only Mental Health Hospital in Sri Lanka, general hospitals have a psychiatric ward) As I said earlier I have been taken under the wing of the social work dept which has been most informative .Helen is a social worker (fellow VSO vol been here since Nov 2006) her help in settling in has been really appreciated. I have been getting to know the systems, procedures and policy or lack of it in some cases. This week after meeting the boss I have spent time at Mulleriyawa (Mully).I am pleased to be able to write that it is not as bad as I had imagined or seen on the photos…it is very different to the Western environments I have experienced. It has been taken over by MHA since May2007 the changes have taken place pretty rapidly (4 full time Medical officers – there had been little or no input previously) with plans to continue in place – including my role in its development!  A horticultural project has just received funding from WHO, a new OT dept opens on the 28th April, a rehab ward to be developed to hopefully reintegrate its in patients with family if possible or in community housing. The women have institutionalised for 20-30  some even 40 years! It is my plan to take things slowly, spend time with the staff before I get into training etc there are some enthusiastic staff so I intent to meet with them and draw up a plan of action for the next few months.

Taking it slowly …Helen daily reminds me to slow down when walking if you over take a Sri Lankan I’m moving to fast, I hope that’s raised a few smiles …yes Sarah is dropping in to first gear!

On the social front I’ve been out to a Sri Lankan birthday party this week. Invited by Helen to the 6th birthday celebrations of her gym owners son.Once again I experienced the generous hospitality SL style. The birthday cake was cut once all guests arrived, the birthday boy took the first piece of which he had a bite, and then shared it with his mum, dad, sis, bro, and gran ahh! Nice tradition! Once that was over we enjoyed fresh mango juice, the men then sat outside at tables and consumed the alcohol on offer SL women do not drink! Helen and I sat with the women doing our best to make small talk with my chuTTak sinhalen( little Sinhalese) conversations were short with lots of smiling!

The host’s dad however asked us if we would like a drink, obviously we did not refuse and were shown to an empty table and offered beer or brandy and coke luvvly jubbly! The caterers arrived the  food was ready in no time traditional SL fare- 2 types of  rice, fish curry ,cashew nut and veg curry, salad  and sambol (onion,chillie and dried fish) not a chicken leg, quiche, or vol o vent in sight! Sambol is the new taste sensation!

My other outing was on Thursday to the British High Commission (BHC) BBQ and 80’s disco…not SL in any shape or form as you can imagine lots of paid ex pats from BHC, various NGO and aid agencies, darling.  Jesse and Joanne made some contacts and have signed up for the 5 a side team. I enjoyed a couple of beers and a Haloumi kebab, oh silly me I haven’t put next months date in my diary!

All is well at the pink palace, which last Sunday had its first guests. Joanne, Jesse and Podi came to the jungle for soup. It made me feel at home rustling up a lentil broth for the troops, followed by some cheese (Edam with cumin seeds) and bickies proper cheese is available at a price-Podi and I spotted it in Apirco on Saturday, we decided it would be purchased as a luxury on special occasions…  Sarah brought along cake (which is a SL tradition when visiting- they like their cake.) which was eaten with yoghurt …a veritable feast!

 

This Sunday  afternoon finds me chillin’ might go for a walk see if ‘tinternet ‘place is open to put this on ,then back for a bit of ironing as I treated my clothes to the laundrette on Friday. An early night beckons -sleeping not good at the mo, cos the mossies got me the other night, slight discomfort from itchiness hey ho… Honest I’m not complaining!

More soon…

Hi posting this on Monday 28th 16.45,its the rainy season so is pissing it down as I type. Got the bus from work to stay dry but the bus leaks…it made me smile.

All went well with the opening of the new OT dept, met the secretary to the minister of health for Sri Lanka!Then spent the afternoon with the nurses on the ward and the patients of course They follow visitors around and want to touch my hair and kiss my feet ( that will soon stop).The nurses try really hard to speak English so although it taks\es a while we get there in the end…slowly slowly!

till the next time …where’s me brolly!

 

 

 

 

 

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