The beginning of May was monsoon season. Stepping outside was like stepping into a power shower and when the thunder and lightning started it was terrifying. The first night of monsoon I was lying in bed when there was an explosion, I sat up and cried, "Erin a bomb"! Unimpressed she told me it was thunder. An interesting fact that a "helpful" teacher told us as we ventured through the storm to our classrooms- in the first week of May 20 Sri Lankans were hit by lightning and died. Possibly this fact spread around the school as so many children absent because they were scared of the weather. I taught a class of five, which is normally a class of forty.
The boys, Herbie, Michael, Ed and Alex, gave us Shaggy tickets for our birthday. You know, the man who sang such classics as, "It wasn't me" and "Angel". Thinking it would be a good laugh we travelled up to Colombo. It wasn't good fun. IT WAS AMAZING. Whoever thought Shaggy should have retired 10 years ago is a fool. The concert finished at 10 and we had to keep ourselves awake until the bus home at 5am. We went to a pub, then a club and Ed and Alex dragged us to a casino. It turned out to be the perfect place, while the boys gambled I snuggled down into a comfy chair, with a free drink and watched a film.
Vesak is a festival celebrating the birth, life and death of Buddha. Everyone decorates their house and makes lanterns out of bamboo and tissue paper. We were a little concerned about the grade 2's hacking away at the bamboo with huge knives to create the frame, but no casualties that we know about… Isurani and Kalpa came round to show us how to make the lanterns and we now have our own beautiful blue and pink one. During Vesak people organise Dansalas, basically they give away free rice and curry, to gain good points in the afterlife (karma). We went along to an amazing dansala which had curry and ice cream. Liz and Manju took us into Galle, the Navy had built HUGE revolving lanterns, someone else had built a lantern lotus flower and put it in the sea, it was all just beautiful. We also visited Yattagala temple with Danu and her family, which was crammed with people. The temple was lit by thousands of oil lamps and we saw lots of our students there which was nice.
The next week I had a "friendly" cold which would not leave. We had organised a trip to Colombo with our friend Liz to get some new clothes. Erin's mum paid for us to stay in a nice place with clean sheets which had a BATH and BREAKFAST. Unfortunately I spent a lot of it lying in bed. Fortunately it was a comfy one. I did do a bit of shopping and got some new clothes and shoes, so hopefully there will be no more comments about the state of my wardrobe!
ON my birthday we woke up early and opened my cards (thank you!). I had made a cake and took it round to our friends/ teachers as is traditional in Sri Lanka- you give prezzies on your b-day for good karma. All my classes sang me happy birthday, which was very sweet. In the afternoon I had been invited on a surprise journey with Joan and Erin. We ended up at the Lighthouse, a beautiful hotel designed by Jeffrey Bawa a famous Sri lankan architect. We spent the time relaxing and swimming in the two pools. Then with the sun setting we had cocktails looking out over the Indian ocean. We headed home slightly light headed to find the lights on in Joan's house and people moving about inside. I thought it was getting burgled and Joan acted convincingly worried. In fact it was the boys, they had cooked a delicious dinner!
On the 19th as one of her prezzies, Erin organised a surprise day of fun. It started off with pancakes in the morning. Then we went to Galle Fort and had an English tea party, jam sandwiches and all that jazz. After the tea party we went to our fave café. Our friend the owner, had reserved the sofa, possibly the only one Galle and wiped off the menu off the blackboard to be replaced with Happy Birthday Emma. To cap it off they produced the most delicious birthday cake. In the afternoon Erin had organised a surprise skype with Eilidh, Fran and Sophie and it was lovely to see their faces. THEN as a last surprise we went to a very plush restaurant in the evening with everyone.
Omgoodness! I hear you cry. Hasn't there been enough? How can I possibly have more birthday news? Yes this has possibly been the longest and best birthday of my life. As Erin and my birthdays are so close together we decided to have a joint birthday party. We wanted to use our birthday as an excuse to invite all the people who had been so kind to us to our home, and give them cake and tea.
I made 3 cakes using the trusty Moy recipe and managed to bake them in Joan's oven, although it's a stretch of the imagination to call it that. Joan baked a HUGE chocolate cake which was delish. A week before our party we spent an afternoon writing and decorating invitations. The day before we borrowed 40 mugs, some tables and some bunting. On Wednesday we cleaned and decorated the house, filled borrowed flasks with hot water and changed into our best saris.
At 4 we waited to greet our guests. At 4:15 we were still waiting. Erin and I assured each other that we did in fact have friends and that people would come. That annoying insecure bit at the back of my brain that is always ready to wake up at the first signs of self doubt was making me nervous (I know you all have one too!). I was hoping that I wouldn't be writing in my blog that no one turned up.
4:30… Mr Ravindra arrived, a teacher friend from Welhengoda, then Pubudu, then Miss Shirani and family and Renuka and family…. People kept arriving and we didn't have nearly enough chairs and Erin and I were running around like loons trying to give everyone cake and tea. 6 was the finishing time we had put on the invitation but more families arrived at 6:30 and I had to run out and buy some more. In the end 50 people came. It was lovely. Once every one had left there was a pile of presents on the table. Presents? For us? Our idea of giving back to our friends had completely backfired, everyone who came gave us a beautiful present. I felt guilty that people had spent their money on us, but there were lots of beautiful pictures, oil lamps and figurines that I will treasure.
So that leads us up to Friday, when Mum, Dad and Kirsty arrived. I want to save their news for the next blog as we had such an amazing time with them. And I know that any readers will want a proper explanation as to why Mum whipped her trousers off in the middle of a walk and ran around in her knickers. There's just not enough room here…..