It has now been nearly two months since I wrote my last blog, I've just been too packed up with being a Sri Lankan, no time for writing these days just making and eating curries with the mums, speaking Sinhalese and admittedly going on facebook to remind myself that I'm not here forever. England still exists even though it seems hard to believe now I have been pottering through palm tree lined tracks for seven months now. So much has happened I can't even remember it all, but Haley and I have definitely been making more friends the past couple of months which means I have definitely been eating more curry. This week just gone I've spent under ten pounds on food because I've just been fed so much. That's also with me rejecting the daily curry at Srigunarathana one of the schools I teach at.
We are now regulars at our friend Eshara's house and every Tuesday evening we go round to her house to be stuffed with curry, kiri tea and curd. The son is very good at speaking English and the dad is completely fluent so it's actually quite a social evening for us rather than the usual awkward 'I can't understand you, you can't understand me' affairs that Sri Lankan social outings are usually about. We have also been up again on Rumasala hill to Lakshmi's for a well wash and banana leaf curry, as per making a new friend along the way who we later had curry with and visited her entire family who lived up on Rumasala hill also. Her husband died in a tuk tuk accident meaning that they are very poor. If the man of the family dies out here, the woman relies on the community around her to help with the children and the food but it also means that for the rest of her days she will be in poverty unless she is young enough to marry again. We took her children for what turned out to be a treacherous trip to the beach as the children, massively overexcited don't understand that if you can't swim you will drown if you go beyond your depth. Although the Buddhist culture is to give (all the time and everything) Haley and I firmly denied her gift of her wedding dress sari after trying it on!!! It's like you giving away your wedding dress to a new friend you have invited to your house after meeting her last week. I also visit a woman called Pritika who has adopted me her daughter and insists I call her aunty pritika 'nanda pritika' every Thursday after school. She has a vocabulary of about 3 English words however I like to think my Sinhala has improved enough to not hinder our friendship, I'm probably wrong, there are many periods I sit there speaking who knows what language whilst she looks at me confused. The first time I visited was rather embarrassing as her nephew who had never met me opened the door and I couldn't explain why I was there as I had forgotten Pritika's name! After a few minutes staring repeatedly saying 'I come from school' in Sinhala (like that would change anything if someone you didn't know was trying to get into your house) he let me in and thank God Pritika remembered me. She feeds me lots of food and teaches me Sinhala. Today I helped her make egg rolls- egg curry in fried dough- which her sister sells in a little Sri Lankan shop in Unawatuna.
Last week I also experienced my first Sri Lankan funeral. It's not what you would expect. The Buddhist culture means that life and death is accepted as it is, death is no big thing. As Jamie and I went to teach grade 3 class we had 'MALEGEDURU' yelled at us over and over, meaning 'FUNERAL' . It was more like we were off to a beach party. The whole school went to look at the dead body and pay their respects, because at our village school Mihiripenna the children all live in the same community. The man who had died was in his early twenties, had a wife and one daughter, he had died in a tuk tuk accident. It was my first experience of seeing a dead body and it knocked the energy out of me for the rest of the day. He was all stitched up from the accident and was lying there looking like a sewed up wax work. The children skipped past as fast as they could to get to their soft drink which they were given afterwards. The Mihiripenna community is one of the most heart warming things I have seen. I went one afternoon with Senehasa trust to give scholarships to children who are intelligent but cannot afford extra tuition to further their studies and get them and their families out of poverty. I forget when I'm teaching the children in their identical government provided uniforms just how poor some of them are. Many have dead parents and one family had ten people all living in 3 rooms together. They are so happy though! They all know each other and stick together, and although it's a very small world they live in they look a lot happier than many people I've seen walking around in the UK.
We have also been out in Columbo and Hikkadouwa a couple of times to let off steam and to show the two new cricket boys here from England and a new teacher placed further up north around. The place we stay in Hikkadouwa is great for its price but the pillows smelled so bad I couldn't even put my head down on it, and seeing as I spend my days on sweaty buses and teaching next to rancid toilets aka holes in the ground I think that's saying something.
The past month Haley and I have been fighting rats and monkeys living in our home. The rats are pooing everywhere and eating all our clothes which is a problem and our so called 'rat trap' apparently doesn't kill the rat. The Buddhist culture does not abide killing however so there is a rat trap we have been advised to get which is covered in glue. The idea is you place the food on the glue and the next morning you have a flailing rat stuck to a plate of glue, you are then meant to set the rat free 3 miles from your home (to probably then go and contaminate someone else's home). But 3 miles? Do they expect me to take it on the bus? We've also been woken up in the early hours of the morning by an almighty thumping just above our heads in the roof. We decided it was a monkey, it was too big to be a rat and Haley took off downstairs to sleep on the chair in case it came through the ceiling. I put faith in the strength of our paper thin ceiling but left my mosquito net off and the door open ready for a speedy escape. It went away after thrashing away for two nights but I got bitten by so many mosquito's I was certain I would soon go down with Dengue fever. I didn't, but I did get an unsightly blistering rash all the way from my thumb to my wrist. Seeing as the doctors here haven't been much help so far and the ceiling had held up, I decided to also put faith in my immune system and let it go by itself.
So many other things have happened but I don't even know what's not normal any more, we've seen many many monitors (small komodo dragons), chased a rat round our kitchen, been to a village that had never seen foreigners before-there was even more staring than normal which I didn't think possible however I found out it was. I have also been invited to sleepover at Pritika's house the night before Sri Lankan new year to get up at 4 in the morning and help cook the milk rice at the 'auspicious times' so that Buddha will bless me for the year to come. 2 weeks until our family's come out! I've made the mistake of telling my Sri Lankan friends how beautiful my sister is so now they all want to feed and meet her, probably to try and marry her off.
Buddha Saranai (Buddha bless you) only 5 months left!! Time goes too fast xxxx