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…

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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trincomalee

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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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