Not blogged in a while, a few major changes here in paradise. Joan has arrived and is beginning to settle in- she is taking over Jo and Alan's role, as she says she is "2 in 1". We've spent the past few weeks trying to help her settle in, giving her sari parties and taking her to see the sights.
The second thing is that we are now teaching at Unawatuna School where we live instead of Welhengoda- one of our favourite schools. Someone wrote an anonymous letter to the government complaining that Erin and I lived in Unawatuna but did not work there. We were really sad to leave Welhengoda- all my lovely grade 1's and 2's who dragged me into the classroom. My grade one class- who when I shouted MONKEY- would stop what they were doing and shout "NAUGHTY MONKEY" it became a very strange but effective method of classroom control!
So as not to make this blog too long I'll skim over January- we started a new school, our desk officer came to visit, we swam in rainforest waterfalls and went to our friends birthday party. Mainly we were introducing Joan to the local community.
At Mihirpenna it was sports month so we spent every afternoon from 11 until 1:30 playing badminton and Frisbee. During one badminton game my sari fell down. No joke. The pin at the front fell out and it began to unravel I COULDN'T WORK OUT HOW TO FIX IT! I hid in the classroom for the rest of the day and I walked home with my sari wrapped tightly around me!
Herbie's family came to visit- it was lovely to meet them all and we put Herbie's mum in a sari which looked amazing! They took us for a nice meal and we had a ceilidh and bbq at Children's Hope for the owner's birthday. We got a lift home on the back of someone's truck! Yess. All my "travel aims" for Sri Lanka have now been realised.
1. I have ridden a motor bike
2. We have been given a lift in one of those HUGE trucks where you can sit in the front and look down on people.
3. I've travelled in the back of someone's trailer.
The 4 stages of cultural shock
Any of you that have received any letters/emails will know that the beginning of Feb was Black Week. Both Erin and I had reached stage 3 of our time here- frustration. The teachers at Mihirpenna- the ones we had worked so hard to impress, were angry at us. The ones at our new school Unawatuna were angry with us. Teaching was hard- it felt pointless and I began to question why I came out in the first place. Stage 3 had begun.
Writing this in retrospect it seemed silly to cry so much. But we had tried so hard, offered everything we could think of to impress them, we had played hours of sports in the middle of the burning day. We had offered, netball, Frisbee lessons, a library, offered to come in before and after school for tuition and clubs, covered other teachers classes, started an art club, painted the furniture etc. Nothing. Only anger and I was tired of trying to please teachers who were determined to be angry/ ignore us, mainly because of our age and gender. Their anger and disdain and the hopelessness of achieving nothing weighed down on Erin and I. I can't explain the feeling- when you're so far away from anyone who seems to care.
During Thursday of Black Week when I got home from school there were my badminton girls, incredibly hyper, demanding to be taught and my door- locked. Erin had gone shopping and had the keys. I stood sweating in my sari surrounded by fifteen 10 year olds shouting at me "teacher. TEACHER. TEACHER. TEACHERTEACHERTEACHER. BADMINTON" Tears began leaking out again.
Erin came back, opened the door and said that she would take the badminton club. She gave me the hug that I needed and I went up stairs.
I lay on my bed and cried. I felt stupid and silly but it was unstoppable.
Moy arrived in the nick of time.
Not literally. Not physically there in Sri Lanka. Her words drifted across the ocean and popped into my head at exactly right moment. Family members can probably already guess what she said
"Don't be so ridiculous darling".
I laughed. Like the crazy fool I was. I got up splashed my face and went outside to play badminton. I was being completely ridiculous.
The fourth stage of culture shock.
We went to Hikkadua- simply to get away from Unawatuna- we love una, but are constantly under scrutiny. We stayed in a horrible dingy hostel, there were cockroaches on the walls- there was no water in the bathroom, no sheets and the last time it had been cleaned was before anybody reading this can remember. It was perfect. It was cheap. It had a good atmosphere, it was right next to the sea, it had delicious food and a table tennis table. We spent our weekend on the beach, reading, sleeping eating. Fantastic.
We've spent quite a lot of February with Kalpa- she took us to a beautiful local museum, to the beach, we've been round to her house for dinner, her mother has taught us how to make the perfect cup of Sri Lanka tea, we've been swapping lessons (Sri Lankan for English). I mention her because we have great fun with her and she is truly unlike any other Sri Lankan girl we have met. She wants to die her hair red, texts boys (veeeery strange in Sri lanka!)and wants to travel the world! This month she reminded us of all the things we loved about Sri Lanka, our friends, the food, the sun, the sea and the amazing places to visit.
We agreed with Miss Sirani that we would paint the classroom wall. When we arrived with the painting equipment we were told that we could not possibly PAINT- we were WOMAN. DEAR GOD did we even know what a paintbrush WAS? Besides we were teachers and couldn't lower ourselves to mere painters. We tried to argue as they wanted a group of boys to do it- the ones who painted our furniture and made a hash job. Sirani insisted and so the boys had fun slapping paint about.
When Miss Sirani left at 10:30- we shooed the boys away . They had succeeded in covering the whole floor and it seemed any wall but the one they were supposed to- it looked TERRIBLE Erin and I spent the next 6 hours and another two tubs of paint finishing the job. I spent an hour and a half with a tub of water and some newspaper desperately trying to get the paint stains off. Many of the students came to observe join in or just laugh at the teacher cleaning! By the end of the day the water had ran out and we didn't have the right sort of paintbrushes and so had resorted to using our fingers. At 4 pm we were exhausted but had finished! I picked up the last half full tub of paint and dropped it. It spilled All over the floor.
We went round to Liz's house for the weekend- Liz is the English teacher at Children's hope. She lives just around the corner in a wee 3 room flat- no kitchen- just a gas stove and some cutlery- she had to buy glasses as we were coming round! She made a delicious prawn and pesto dish and whipped up some cocktails which were fab. We had a really good time laughing and chatting about home.
It is worth it
Carmen came down from Colombo and offered to take us for a nice meal in the evening. Erin and I decided to walk there along the back road. For the 20 minute walk we were met by smiles and shouts of hello- I felt like a celebrity. Grade ones shouted after us a-a-a -a apple! Children came running out to say "Hello- how are you?" One of my grade 2s- shouted to me "come here" smiling and beckoning- something I had just taught. It was lovely and made us really feel like party of the community "MISS EMMA B-b -b ball" "MISS ERIN- How are you? I'm HOT!".
Joke of the month
Male English teacher (E.T) who normally barely talks, says to me, "I was reading about the world's fattest man today in the newspaper"
Me, "Oh really"
Male E.T "He lives in England"
Me, "Oh really, I didn't know that "
Male E.T "I just wondered if he was your father?"
Lots of love to you all at home!