All sorts o’ stuff going on…

August 4, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Where to start, been soooo busy?…ok work first. Pleased to be able to say progress continues. Last month the ladies who go out to work at the paper factory were invited by a VSO colleague to visit her rehabilitation centre down south in Ridiyagama Hambantota District. The visit was an opportunity for the ladies to share their work experience with the residents and staff. I had a small part just set up my laptop and projector to show the photographs I’d put together of the project. Ms PP social worker explained this with the ladies chipping in, then a question and answer session followed. The ladies were brilliant taking it in turns to respond with such confidence and enthusiasm to the questions posed. It was a great afternoon which was finished off with music, singing and a little dancing before tea.
Hambantota is a seven hour drive from Mulleriyawa which meant an over night stay for the party of 18 another experience for some the ladies had never been this far in their lives! We had a great journey down staff and ladies singing along like one big family. This was exactly what they said when I asked for feed back of the trip, from both groups. The staff kindly wrote their thoughts for my report, they too appreciated the opportunity to leave the unit and share the trip with the ladies …tear jerking stuff!
As my friend lives there, I did not travel back with the ladies and was joined by 2 other vols and we took the chance to visit in the area which included Kataragama and Yalla National Park. First Kataragama which is one of the 3 most venerated religious sites in SL (along with Adams Peak and the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy …I didn’t realise this – I’ve done all 3!)according to Rough Guide“ held sacred by Buddhists ,Muslims and Hindus alike-even Christians visit in search of divine assistance” that’ll be me then one can always use a bit of divine assistance! The town is famous for its festival with its varying forms of physical mortification, pilgrims express their devotion to the god Kataragama, ranging from crawling from the river to the Temple, (its a fair ole way!) to acts of self mutilation some pierce their cheeks or tongue with skewers, others walk across burning coals- all believe that god will protect them from pain. We were a day early for the festival I am glad actually reading about it was enough!
Instead we rose at 5am to go to Yala SL most visited wildlife reserve. We hired a jeep and set off in search of the leopard the parks most infamous resident we were disappointed we saw only footprints. We did however ooh! and ahh! over herds of Bambi deer, a wild elephant, water buffalo, crocodiles, and amazing birdlife which included storks, pelicans, egrets, kingfishers many brightly coloured parakeets. Our guide informed us of the devastation caused by the tsunami, despite the human casualties in the area virtually none of the parks wild life perished in the tidal waves.
Nuwara Eliya and Badulla are 2 other places I’ve visited recently, they are in the hill country and a real contrast to the dryness of the south, green and lush. Nuwara Eliya is known as little England it was a fantastic trip we did some walking at Horton Plains. Badulla was a trip with work to a community psychosocial programme launch. The drive was breathtaking, 7 hours east of Colombo climbing through the countryside in the moon light is a memory I’ll treasure. To avoid being accused of being in Judith Chalmers mode, I’ll cease my travel warbling and give you the link to the Rough Guide to Sri Lanka for more info for those of you planning to visit http://www.roughguides.com

Back to work , which finds me being involved with long term strategy proposals for mental health nurse education and curriculum development, I am member of a steering group for mental health community nurse training, supporting colleagues with funding applications for a bridging course for development social workers to convert to psychiatric social workers and facilitating the delivery of training in practical dementia care. Then back at the ranch, supporting the staff at Mulleriyawa develop and deliver training for the support staff. We did the first 2 hour session on Sunday these staff having worked there for many many years and never received any training, were brilliant. Animated , asking questions, doing group work with out hesitation , being proud to tell us what they knew. I was time keeper as usual but they were not bothered,they could have sat there for another 2 hours!!!
Apart from work and seeing the island, in the last weeks I’ve been to a recording studio to help a friend of a friend (an English teacher) produce some audio learning materials for her students .She wanted some different accents to read out various scripts. You know me and my social phobia had to have my arm twisted to get involved…not! It was jolly good fun and a great laugh.
Last Tuesday British Nationals were invited along to the British High Commission. The Colombo volunteers went along to check out where the tax payers money goes! It was terribly nice don’t you know I enjoyed the cucumber sandwich, a scone(or 3… they were small) and a cuppa !We did the tour of the building saw lots of water features and glass ,thanked our hosts and nipped for a beer on the way home!
Needless to say I am really enjoying the variety of work and the involvement the placement offers. At a recent meeting with the volunteers in the mental health programme, and their partner organisations I realised that collectively we are making some very positive big steps in the improving mental health in Sri Lanka and that’s an incredible feeling! And as you’ve read I have no complaints about living in this beautiful country either!

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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!

Countdown to a new life…9 weeks to go!

January 16, 2008 at 4:24 pm | Posted in Friends, Travel | 1 Comment
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Enjoying a short break in Northern Tenerife with good friends Andy and Jack as I’ll not see them for two years. Apart from the usual late nights and alcohol consumption, they’ve been really helpful as Sri Lanka’s been a favourite holiday destination of their’s for many years.

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