Travels with my… colleagues

January 4, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Food, Health, Life, Travel | 1 Comment
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Apologies for my tardiness in posting a blog for some time but as you will read I’ve been a bit busy at work and on days off been hither and dither so with out further delay I’ll crack on with update as the 2010 begins. 

In my last blog I stated I’d love to visit Trinco again well no truer the word spoken  as I’ve been twice since!!

 The first time involved the discharge of 25 ladies to the Mother Teresa Home there. For me it was another memorable occasion in my time here. After several weeks of planning and preparation, the bus arrived we loaded up,the ladies boarded and with the Matrons blessing the ladies were heading East to their new home. The criterion from the Home was that the ladies were to be over 60 and destitute. (sadly there are many to choose from) seeing them seated on the bus with a reusable bag from the local supermarket holding their worldly possessions certainly brought a lump in my throat, some of these women had not even been out of the hospital  let alone on a bus for many many years. We set off late ( tyre change) arriving at our destination unfortunately in the dark, so the ladies had to wait till morning to see their new home and location at the side of a beautiful lagoon!

The journey was uneventful apart from another tyre change. We stopped for the usual refreshments and toilet needs which were quite a lengthy process as you can imagine 25 ladies one toilet….

A highlight however was as we neared Trinco the bus driver stopped and pointed out a heard of wild elephants, which everyone was “ooohing” including the accompanying staff. I had to remember that they also had never traveled to the East before so were experiencing sights for the first time.

 Greeting and settling in took a short while as the ladies shown to the freshly painted dormitory housing a new bed with sheets, and mozzie net for each of them. With an evening meal and medication given out, the staff and I were shown to our accommodation for the night. Eight of us shared a room and bunked up 2 in a bed my first SL experience of sharing with this many people. Great fun just like camping making do with the facilities no shower, just a tap and bucket , with a small sink and toilet it was fine. I didn’t sleep too well as sharing with my colleague Ms P who is smaller than me  I was worried I’d roll over and squash her or roll off the high bed. Happy to report neither occurred.

After our brekkie we were keen to see how the ladies had slept and were finding the place. Well… teary eyed I listened to staff translate comments from the women saying how lucky they were to in this place, some had been worried but it felt a good place, others full of thanks to the staff for bringing them here….

We left after the staff completed the necessary paper work and documentation.The ladies smiled as they waved us off I wished them well in there new home it certainly was an improvement from what they had left behind in Mulleriyawa that’s for sure! 

The journey home took equally as long as we went to visit the temple and the beach then lunch set off again to stop 30mins later to buy dried fish , then mangoes then a cuppa tea, then a reservoir as another tyre needed changing, it was a memorable journey for more than one reason … 

The second trip to Trinco I’ll cover in the next installment I’l l  quickly update on  other work stuff.

The Psychosocial Rehabilitation Conference in Bangalore( www.WAPR ) in Nov was really interesting, staff enjoyed it, seeing for themselves that the grass is not always greener,when attending workshops hearing the difficulties  and challenges faced (and over come ) by others in similar developing or middle income countries! The presentation about the Paper Factory Project was very well received , I felt very proud of  the team in their presentation . The conference was attended with representation from 55 other countries.

 I am also glad to report that progress is being made with reintegration on a small scale with a community living project. Having secured funds from W.H.O , we are in the process of renting a property for 6 ladies to live independently. A project team  has been established, training needs identified and individual plans written all good stuff with me supporting the project leader! Plans to move in by the end of January so fingers crossed please.

Enough for now next one soon about my recent travels here and there…

Kandy Perehera and David Beckham???

August 23, 2008 at 11:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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15.35pm on Friday 15th August 2008 found me on the Inter city train from Colombo bound for Kandy, accompanied by friend’s food and drink for the 2 1/2 hour journey. We were off to see the Esala Perehera, documented as one of Sri Lanka’s most spectacular festivals and one of the most colourful religious pageants in Asia. Its origins date back to the 4th century AD.

The train journey was my first in SL so I was very excited; having been to Kandy on 2 occasions the train journey gave me the opportunity to really see the country side not visible by road. I had managed to purchase seats in the observation carriage for 3 of the party (2 travelled in 2nd class as they had been on a SL train  last month )this is situated at the rear of the train with a huge window so you travel backwards as you take in the views. Intercity refers to just that, not the speed it travels which allowed many photos to be taken without being blurred (very different from my high speed train travel in Japan!) I would recommend it, the views are amazing!

We were met by the guest house owner Malik, (this is a common service offered of the SL’s when booking the accommodation). We had booked a 3 bed roomed apartment 15 min walk from the centre of Kandy for 2,700 rupees each for the 2 nights(£13)the Palm Gardens- www.palmgardenkandy.com

This was a good find and will be used again I am sure; we enjoyed our evening meal at the terrace restaurant as the sunset and the views of the hill country in the morning as we munched our brekky.

We took a stroll in to Kandy where we checked out the preparation s for the evening. We had arranged tickets through Malik for seats to observe the parade at a third of the price of what the touts offered us as we meandered our way through the streets. Being a Poya day no alcohol was sold in Kandy until 2pm the next day. We took a rest at the Queens hotel with ginger beer and cadju nuts (cashew) chatted to the life guard on duty as we envied the swimmers in the pool as the temp reached the 30’s. He turns out to be a scuba diver instructor in Hikkaduaw so details were taken as I really fancy having a go whilst I am here… we’ll see!

Kandy was busy with people arriving from all over the island, some coming for the whole ten days. They were taking their place on the pavements, large groups of friends, 3 or 4 family generation s together enjoying picnics or ice cream whilst arranging their sheets of plastic. Security was tight lots of check points, with the army and police visible in huge numbers; I noted police dogs for the first time.

We made our way back to Palm Gardens to change with time for a quick G& T before being transported back to Kandy for the tickets, it was quite farcical, the van driver was to meet Malik with the tickets but the roads had been closed off so the van driver was asking us which way to go in Sinhalen…we did meet Malik who then sent us off with a name less chap to the entry point but we were up against it, the check points would close at 6 and no entry would be allowed. We did manage to locate our seats following a hurried pace (for SL) plus the 2 very thorough body and bag searches we were seated at 6.15. Kick off was due about 7.30pm but we were prepared for a SL time delay armed with litres of water, and snacks we sat back and waited. I commented on how quiet it was, the last time I had been in a crowd this big was at a music festival in the UK. I had read that the perehera was not about spectator participation, being described as “a carefully orchestrated quasi theatrical event” this one was to be televised for the first time in over 165 countries .Basically the perehera consists of 5 separate processions, the main one is from the Temple of the Tooth with the replica Tooth Relic, which is the centre piece. Each of the other 4 processions made up   from devals around the country, consists of elephants, various dignitaries in Kandyian costume, with dancers and drummers. A canon being fired signals the start of the perehera, so we had our cameras at the ready and were snap happy for the next 3 and a bit hours as we watched elephants adorned with lights file passed with dancers, musicians mainly drummers, torch light bearers burning dried coconut shells, some trumpeters and free form dancers costumes various .The male dancers were of all ages and sizes all seemed to be having a great time. Even the guys who had various back piercings attached to pieces of string being held by a guy as they danced along, oh matron, made me squirm a bit it can tell you! The TV crews were close to where we were seated so we had good views as they stopped to be filmed. The Pattini procession is the only one devoted to a female deity and attracts mainly female dancers. The girls certainly did it in style one group had Marge Simpson  type multi coloured head pieces 3 or 4 foot on their heads fantastic. Yeah it was indeed a sight to see despite the numb bum!

We waited back to let the crowds thin out a bit before we join the thousands making their way through the streets. As we passed the train station looking for a trishaw, thinking of a cool beer that awaited us back a guest house I went over in my left foot on the road side, I hobbled a long thinking it was a bad sprain. Back at the ranch first aid was provided a bag of frozen chips produced and applied to the swelling, pain killers taken and a beer for medicinal purposes accepted.

 The next morning at breakfast Malik insisted I visit the local Ayuvedic doctor. What did I have to lose? With my interested entourage in tow we literally popped next door. No conversation with me was made, no therapeutic relationship embarked upon between Dr and patient, as an elderly gentleman lifted my foot and stared to pummel it quite hard, well with tears in my eyes I with drew my foot and asked him to proceed hemin hemin( slowly slowly)He got the message! I think I did actually settle back in to the chair as he rubbed oil in to my foot, applied some heat, via a ball of cloth from a pot on the stove next to him which was quite comforting, then slapped on some henna coloured paste, followed by what looked like stuffing mixture, Malik informed me was herbs and bark of local plants. An oiled cloth was applied followed by a blue strip of material as a bandage then a white bandage on top 300 rupees madam I was sent on my way. If nothing else it enabled me to get to the front of the queue for the  A/C bus back to Colombo.

I slept surprisingly ok, on removing the bandage as instructed I realised the swelling had increased and I could not weight bear. A quick phone call to VSO at 9 ish and by 11.30 I had been to hospital, seen,  x-rayed, and a plaster cast applied to the fractured 5th metatarsal. The pain/aching is less each day ,it being more awkward than anything, and has slowed me right down! My friends and colleagues have been brilliant and rallied round. As I type from my balcony leg outstretched on a pillowed chair I am smiling to myself, I was aware on leaving Blighty I would have lots of experiences in Sri Lanka, but sustaining an injury similar to Mr Beckham was certainly not one of them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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