Holidays ,Holy days…Happy days!

May 9, 2009 at 4:39 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I’ve been and come back or as they say here gihan ennan ..I’ll go and come.
Returning home at the end of March to join the family celebrate my parents golden wedding anniversary was a great way to start nearly 3 weeks holiday in the UK. Wow an instant hit of my nearest and dearest which included going to mass the receiving of a Papal blessing ( its like the Queen sending a telegram for birthdays of significance, but this is from the Pope!) eating drinking lots of laughing and catching up, staying at Ripley Castle, North York’s, more eating ,drinking and much merriment and many happy memories.
I had a great time seeing friends in Chester, Manchester and London including going to the theatre to see “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” which was fabulous darlings! Time was spent with my family, visiting relative’s, a day at the coast in Scarborough by train with my nephew, eating, seeing friends from work ,more food, shopping ,hot chocolate in M&S, cheese, cinema, DVD’s, walking, and gardening pretty well sums up the vacation! On leaving I was naturally a little sad but was I ready to return, I’d missed the heat… my mum’s heating bill will certainly be up this quarter!
So I’m back all is well. George the geeko had moved some more mates in lots of geeko poo to sweep up along with 3 weeks dust was the first job before unpacking. My Landlord and family were keen to hear about my visit and invited me for an evening meal with them which was a lovely welcome back.
Returning to work, I was interested to see what had happened in my absence. Before leaving I had met with Matron and a few senior staff to discuss on going projects, agreeing a list of things ” to do”.I am pleased to say that matron met me with a beaming Sri Lankan smile and before we had time to say hello, beckoned me to the flip chart paper on the wall with big ticks all over it WOW …she and the staff had been busy. She gave me an up date of progress and a rationale for why something’s had not been ticked, about 65% complete I was blown away …YIPEE! On the Friday of that week we held our 4th communication meeting this time (with much encouragement from yours truly) Matron facilitated, updating the action plan and establishing 2 working groups …slowly slowly things are changing!
The rest of that week was spent listening to the events that had happened relating to the New Year celebrations I’d missed; the thing is here events go on for 2 weeks after the event so I was able to spend time at Angoda Hospital New Year Festival.
This year instead of each ward having an event all wards combined to have a big event in the sports field next to hospital. You may remember last year I spent a similar day at the horticulture project where I took part in the ‘ eat the hanging cream cracker, hands tied behind your back game.’ This year I got knocked out in the first round of musical chairs!
It was good to witness, staff and clients having fun together. New games this year, guess how many seeds in the Papaya( size of a rugby ball)this was a hard one as some papaya that big have been known on opening to contain less than 10 and others 1000’s.I had 3 goes …no where near the answer of 894 …glad I wasn’t asked to count!
An event I’d not seen before was a pillow fight…with a difference. A wooden ‘A’ frame was erected about 7ft high and 8ft long, 2 contestants mounted with pillow in hand the other hand behind their back. The idea was of course to knock your opponent off to land on the mattresses below…it was hilarious, some of these chaps put so much effort in to taking a swing they fell off with out delivering a blow. Others were veterans at the game and held their position while receiving the blows rained on them picking their time when the opponent was tiring to take one swing and off he’d go. Watching with a colleague she enquired did these events happen in the UK? I had thoughts of Eddie Waring and Stewart Hall on TV’s ‘ Its a ‘Knock Out’. Thinking about the NHS … health and safety and fun in the same sentence…
Yesterday was Vesak Poya the Festival of Light, I went to watch the Perahera (parade) with my landlady and landlord as their son was taking part. This reminded me of the perehera I watched in Kandy but with less elephants (there were 2 )the children in their class groups were dressed in traditional brightly coloured costumes from 4 -18 yr olds, lots of noise from the drums and singing. It was supported by proud parents with family and friends .Despite a few showers of rain we walked about 3 km through the town, passing the shops and booths displaying their lamps and streamers cars and buses heavily decorated also. On our return home we were stopped at roadside booths ‘dansal’ which were erected for the purpose, to give away free food yes rice and curry, some with drinks and biscuits all the villagers out smiling chatting a real sense of community …this is where I live at the moment and I’m happy to be back!

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Oh didn’t we have a lovely day the day we went to…Kalutara?

March 10, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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On Sunday 1st of March along with the other 3 volunteers at Angoda (plus 2 of their friends from Holland) we were invited to the home of AA (a senior social worker collegue). She lives in Kalutara about 40 km south of Colombo. Kalutara was one of the northern most points along the coast to be hit by the tsunami, the hotels have been patched up and the effects of the tidal wave are visible in the ruined houses and fishing villages on approach to the town. We travelled by van the journey taking about a 1 1/2 hrs (AA uses public transport daily leaving her home at 5.30am to get to Angoda for 8am!)
On our arrival we were immediately fed in true SL style banana, fish cutlet and freshly made milk toffee (condensed milk, vanilla and sugar) delicious. Following our elevenses, we boarded the van with AA as our guide to go to Gangatilaka Vihara. A huge white dagoba I had admired on my previous travels down the Galle Road. Built in 1960’s on the site of a Portuguese fort it is unusual as it is the only one in the world that is entirely hollow. Once inside the cavernously echoing chamber you get a fantastic view of the Kalu Ganga estuary, the coast line beach, Railway Bridge and the surrounding environs inland. These were once famous for spice trading, now more famous for the islands source of finest mangosteens (looks like a purple tomato, with a hard shell like skin that softens when ripe, the delicate flesh within tastes a little like grape with a citrus tang!)The walls of the interior are covered by a sequence of murals depicting various scenes from Buddha’s life…my he had an interesting time let me tell you! (Perhaps another time hey?)On existing we crossed the road to the other temple buildings where we observed the usual lighting of incense sticks and the offering of flowers to the many Buddha shrines, it was after mid day the sun was hot so was the sand underfoot(footwear removed in the temple area)so we moved around pretty sharpish I’ll tell you! AA blessed us all by rubbing hot oil on our foreheads, as we watched the locals tying prayers to the bo tree or pouring water into the channels to water the bo tree roots.
We hot footed it( literally) to the van to return to AA’s for our lunch which was laid out for us by her son and daughter. Again masses of food, 2 different rice’s, 8 or 9 curries on offer for the guests, who have to eat before the hosts. We did all eat the dessert fruit and ice cream together, or was that because I was on my second helping?
After a short rest we again boarded our van and headed for the beach (deserted) for a paddle (warm water) before going on to AA’s business venture a rehabilitation home. This project is a house for up to 10 residents( currently only 2) set up as a halfway home AA will work here herself when she retires next year, since she became a widow 5 years ago she used some family land to build the house, the gardens need some work. She had invited us as she is proud of her achievements which are fantastic, but also for our ideas of how to support the future developments, the discussions of course aided by chocolate cake and tea! After an hour or so in this retreat, we dropped AA off at home and wend our way back up the coast road passing the temple with its roadside donation boxes, fed by motorists who stop to say a prayer and offer a few coins for a safe journey… when you’ve seen the state of the road you’d understand why!
A good day was had by all…

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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