I can't believe a month has gone by since I last wrote on my blog. I was hoping time would seem to slow down while I was here in Sri Lanka but it seems to be speeding up. Despite the fact that it is still terribly slow at work and I seem to be spending quite a lot of time not doing much. There have been times however, when I have had a flurry of activity. I have delivered a couple of training sessions to the staff, which seems to have gone down well, I think. One can never be too sure and I still can't always tell whether the waggle of the head is an approving waggle or a disapproving waggle.
I also went on some home visits with the doctor and a couple of the nurses, which was interesting to see people's houses, especially those who are living down jungle lanes. Mind you I was a bit shocked when the doctor took a fancy to a plant in one client's garden and decided to liberate a cutting. I was equally shocked when she thrust said cutting into the nurses hands when she thought the owner was coming back! We are also putting in an application for some funding from VSO for a project and attended a meeting in Colombo a couple of weeks ago. I was to be picked up at 7am, which meant 7.30am Sri Lankan time to start a meeting at 9.30am. It takes two and a half to three hours to get to Colombo. We got there in a little over two! It took quite some time for my knuckles to return to a normal colour after the white knuckle ride. The journey back was equally as hairy, although we did stop to buy rambutan, which was delicious. You often find people selling food along the roadside, mostly fruit and veg but sometimes fish as well. Some of the fruit and veg is seasonal and so you often get stall after stall of a particular type. Rambutan is a small fruit, which comes in a red spiky case and is a little like a lychee but much better. So we munched our way through a bag full of these. The doctor instructed us to put the discarded peel in a bag, only to wind down the car window and throw the lot out on to the road.
I have also had my name in the national paper! It was to do with an article at work and not any personal misdemeanour.
My daily routine usually means getting up about 6.00am. My neighbours have already been up sometime by then and often hear the clank of the chain of their well as they gather their water. I am fortunate to have piped water but I have to put the pump on each morning, which doesn't always work but I have just about perfected the knack of bashing it with a piece of wood, which seems to do the trick. I then do some clothes washing in my high tech appliance. This is a large orange bucket. I have found it is best to do a little every couple of days and the soap powder is so caustic that things do get clean after a little soaking. It does soak away most of the dye though. So most of my things are faded and are beginning to have that how much longer will they last look. Breakfast is usually fruit and buffalo curd, (like yoghurt) which is delicious and is doing nothing for my waistline. I then either catch a bus or cycle to work, both of which are fairly treacherous. The biggest risk I face being here is definitely the roads. Right of way is given to the largest vehicle on the road, even if it is overtaking and travelling on the wrong side of the road! I usually get home around 5pm and often go a do a little shopping, either to the local roadside stalls or a trip into town to one of the two supermarkets, which are small by UK standards. It gets dark about 6.30-7.00pm and it is best to be back at home by then. I cook on a two ring camping gas stove, which I have recently discovered has a small grill in the middle. It only works on one side but I have managed to make toast. Triumph!
Everything grows at a rapid pace, including things in the garden. The landlord arranged for a chap to come round and cut down the coconuts a couple of weeks ago. The technique is to wrap a cotton belt around the ankles and then shinny up the tree with a large knife sticking out the back of the lungi. Unfortunately, the chap who came round had been on the arrack and was very drunk and managed to chuck half the coconuts into the plot next door and damage the neighbour's water tank.
I was deadheading some flowers the other week, thinking this is just like being back in the UK until I disturbed a snake! It was about four feet long and very agile. Fortunately, I think it was as spooked as me and shot off in the other direction. Needless to say I have stopped my morning inspection around the garden. Apparently, the knack is to stomp to let the snakes know you are coming. I have adopted the knack of not going there.
It was my birthday at the weekend and although I had a stonker of a cold I went to Colombo. I stayed in a friend's luxury apartment, with all the creature comforts, air conditioning, hot water, bath, duvet! I had a very nice time and was thoroughly spoilt. I was treated to a wonderful birthday breakfast, followed by a little shopping, followed by watching movies on the widescreen, followed by a fabulous birthday cake and then on to a friend's house for pizza! It was also really lovely to receive cards, phone calls and text messages from folks back home. It is such a treat to receive post.
It is a poya day on Monday, so I am having a long weekend and going to Unawatuna on the south coast with three friends. I am catching the bus to Colombo this afternoon, which will take three hours and meet the others at the bus station, (which is not a nice experience) and then catch the bus south, which will take another three to four hours. I have got used to the idea that it takes a long time to get anywhere in Sri Lanka, which is just as well.