The holidays started off with us clambering like fugitives out of the locked gates as we were catching the 5:30 bus to Colombo. We then got a CRAZY train from Colombo to Anuradapura- it was so bumpy that when Erin tried to snooze she almost fell off the seat! People were hanging out the doorways the whole journey. Anuradapura is a really, really old monastery (I paid attention to all the historical stuff- honest!) We went to the Jetvana dagoba- the biggest brick building in the world and another dagoba over 300 metres high which volunteers were rebuilding. People were sitting all the way to the top and were re- building it by passing up one brick at a time. In the evening we went to visit the Sri Madha bodi tree which, Erin and I sat with the chanters for half an hour soaking in the amazing atmosphere.
The next day we donned the new saris we had bought the day before and headed to Polonaruwa to see more ruins. On arrival we found a really nice cheap hotel (when we walked around the other side of the hotel we realised why- it was only half finished and when it rained in the night we were soaked!). That day we went exploring around the garden and to a huge lake.
We were admiring the buffaloes on the other side of the lake when a trinket seller said to us "elephant, elephant", it was 100 or so wild elephants on the other side of the lake! We wanted to get closer. Two fisherman were going past in their canoe type cataraman. They sit on a canoe and it's supported by another small canoe. (I think of it like a motorbike with a side car). We persuaded them to take us closer to the elephants, all four of us scrambled down the rocks in our brand news saris, we careful clambered into the canoe it didn't sink and so the men paddled off with only a warning of "NO dancing!" We got close enough to see the elephants washing and the baby elephants which were so cute, it was AMAZING! We then went to sit in a café, there was a thunderstorm and lightning struck literally a hundred metres away from us-we could see the forks and the thiunder rumbled at the same time .
The next day we were doing more of the ruins…. Erin and I decided the best way to do them was in a tuk tuk and to go and have a swim in the lake, the boys decided to soak up more of the ruins and joined us later!
We then got the bus to what we thought was Sigiriya. It wasn't. It was raining. And a thunderstorm began. And then the buses stopped running. We wandered up the road for a while in the dark when thankfully a passing tuk tuk stopped and took us to Sigiriya, stopping only (to Herbie's delight) to point out a cobra on the road.
Next we tackled Sigiriya rock (type it into google!) On top of this 370m tall rock thousands of years ago was built a monastery- we climbed up about a thousand steps- some which looked like they would tumble down if you put any weight on them! The view was worth it though!
Finally we headed to Kandy, an amazing city in the middle of the hill country. We stayed in a nice guesthouse on a hill, and spent the evening watching a thunderstorm , and attemting to get rid of the 3 frogs in our room!
Next day we took the train from Kandy to Colombo, I sat in the open doorway for the whole way which was amazing watching the scenery goes by. Erin chummed me back a day early so I could do my personal statement and decide what I wanted to do at uni (ARGH!)
Learning how to surf
Just a brief mention that Erin, Michael and I decided to learn how to surf. A nice instructor from Cornwall offered to give us lessons. I say surf instructor but I'm not sure he'd ever taken a lesson before. After giving us a 2 minute instruction on land he took us far out into the huge waves of the Indian ocean. We attempted to keep our head above water and a hold of the board, but after an hour of being tossed like clothes in a washing machine we decided to escape to dry land. Especially when asking for our instructor for help he replied "er… I dunno"…..
After our lovely holiday I was quite looking forward to going back to teaching. All the pupils were glad to see us which was nice, we got practically kidnapped by one grade one class- 5 year olds are surprisingly strong! One of the teachers was so happy to see us that she gave us a "delicious" glass of gloop. The consistency of frog spawn, grey and bogey looking she kindly forced a mug on us each for a few days! In the same class, I was marking a child's jotter- she pointed at my back and said- "hmm, black, dirty, sweat." Lovely picture I know…She then ordered 4 six year olds to scrub my back with their hankerchiefs and then blow on it…! I felt so sorry for them!
Mr Ravindra, Monica and Sue
Monica and Sue are Alan's sisters who came over to visit him for 2 weeks. They were a breath of fresh air, and Monica and Vic treated us to a lovely swim in their hotel swimming pool, and a HOT SHOWER (my first since arrival.) FAB.
On Wednesday we had a holiday (I PROMISE WE HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN WORKING!) Mr Ravindra the head of English at Welhengoda invited us to his house with Alan and his sisters. We had a lovely day, he gave us a delicious lunch and took us out on a boat on a huge lake to an island to see how Cinnamon grows. There are cinnamon trees- who knew?!
A short mention about this amazing charity. Erin and I had been cleaning out the Senahasa charity's sports room (among other items found, 12 fly swats, long johns, flip flops, a tie, cds and Sainsbury vitamins!) There was so many disused children games etc that we thought they should be given away to another charity. We decided to explore a building labelled the Volunteers Village. It is owned by Children's Hope- a charity set up by local people for local people. 500 members of the community had got together to discuss their problems- then they had come up with their own solutions and this charity now helps them meet these solutions. Everything from English tuition, sewing lessonsm to practical skills to help school leavers. They refurbished a premature babies ward which had rats and the walls were covered in fungus. They run a school for disabled people, a deaf and dumb school and many, many other project s. We were introduced to a deaf and dumb boy who the director met on a beach begging, they took him in, taught him how to read, write and speak sign language and he now has a job. It was a truly inspirational charity, both in terms of their solutions to problems and fundraising ideas, however they are running out money, resources and need more volunteers.
Erin and I set up a meeting with the director and he is keen for us to get involved with so many projects, from teaching swimming to helping at an abused girls home (they need girls to go in and socialize and simply be there with the girls). Everyone was so welcoming and I am SO excited about getting involved! As our clubs are STILL BANNED!
We had a lovely afternoon with Isurani and Kalpa today at another of Kalpa's aunt house. We gave them British names and they gave us Sinhala names. (People may notice some similarity with their names and Isurani and Calpa's names!) Isurani is now known as Paula Bell, and Kalpa is known as Kate Mc Kenzie.
Hope everyone is well, keep the news coming!
Lots of love,
Indu Aloka (My new Sinhala name meaning moon light!)