I've just had the weirdest weekend of my life that I thought it deserved a blog of its own. I have never experienced anything like it and to be honest I don't really want to ever again. Once was more than enough.
This weekend was the the staff trip when I really got to see Sri Lankan culture in its true illogical bundle of madness. The morning of the trip began with a bang as I traipsed up the stairs at 4 in the morning to get my rucksack and saw what I thought was a man walking towards me in our bedroom . It was only as I had literally thrown myself down the stairs with a loud scream that I realised I had reacted to my reflection in the mirror. This actually set the tone for how the rest of the trip was to be.- confusing and slightly scary with an after effect of tears. An hour later than we were told, the bus arrived. Very tired and looking forward to going back to sleep, we all blearily said good morning to the staff and their families before wrapping our sarongs over our ears to block out the noise. Sleeping was obviously not on their cards though as they refused to let us sleep, tapping us to shove chickpeas into our hands. This again set the tone of the weekend as we stopped every couple of hours for food and some sort of tea. Foodies may think why am I complaining? The irritation stemmed from the fact that it lengthened our stiflingly hot non airconditioned bus journey by a good few unnecessary and very painful hours. A permanently over filled stomach did not aid the situation in any way. There was a constant white noise of Indian music at an antisocial level playing, or if that failed, the teachers played the drums and sang whilst the men slurred their words from being too drunk on Arrack. One of the male teachers made the bus trip decidedly horrific rather than just plain bad as he threw up from too much drink.
One element of the trip was entertaining as because of the language barrier, we never knew what we were getting off the bus for. It was indeed normally for food, which I am now sick of, but a couple of times it was a temple and then suddenly without warning it was for a bath in the hot springs. All the other teachers suddenly appeared in their sarongs pouring buckets of naturally hot water over them, however unprepared as we were, we proceeded to do the same fully clothed. The first hot water I have washed in in two months and I have never felt so clean.
We eventually reached our destination of where we were to stay for the night. By this point, the calming effect of the hot springs had worn off and we were all painfully aware that none of us had taken or brought any malaria tablets with us. Therefore it was with relief that Haley and I lay like two twixes in a twix packet on a tiny single bed with the mosquito net pressed against our backs and feet. We were surrounded by the staff and their children sleeping all around us on the floor and the power cut meant that the four hours sleep with no fan that the Sri Lankan's allowed us before waking us up for breakfast at 4 in the morning were fitful.
The day began rather uneventfully as we seemed to spend about ten minutes at each location- either a beach or a temple- before rushing off to the next food point for more curry or cream crackers ,which they eat an alarming amount of considering how bland they are. We were forced to peruse more slowly however at a number of naval bases as the tour guide moved at an irritatingly slow pace, causing the most excitable teachers to yawn. The head of the Sri Lankan navy even cared to join the men in their drunken stupor on the bus as we drove round the naval base whilst he drank. The day dragged on. Shattered, really dirty and constantly uncomfortably full, we ended up sleeping on the concrete floor of a school that evening as the staff made so many stops for food that the bus driver refused to drive us to our destination that evening as it had gotten so late. We had been firmly told to bring lunch and sweets to share. No mention of pillows, or mugs for tea which apparently were essential or mats to sleep on which all of the other teachers had brought. I had a sense of dejavu as Jamie, Tom, Haley and I slept like sardines with no mosquito net in an open school on the concrete floor which we brushed for insects and dust. I clung to my rucksack for a pillow and decided that crying was no use, so delirious from tiredness and probably to the annoyance of the others, I laughed myself to sleep.
Again, up at the crack of dawn with the children yelling HELLOOOO in our faces. I'm becoming rather proud of my growing patience, however this was not the time or place to pretend that I had developed my character for the permanent good as I held back swearing and settled for a 'go away'. Another curry and I was beginning to feel sick. Stress spots were appearing on my face and one of the teachers kindly pointed out that I appeared to be suffering from mosquito bites, I just smiled and nodded. Again we set off- back home!! Jamie, Tom, Haley and I were raring to get back, all wondering why on earth we had agreed to join this trip. We were promised a return by the afternoon- sleep and sanity would soon return and the smell of arrack and curry would soon go away. How stupid we were to believe them. Many more food stops and another 'bath' in a murky lake where I suddenly felt groping hands and saw a man's head appear inches from my own, I was on the verge of a break down. We all were. It was well into the evening by now and we were all so shattered and overfed, dealing with anything more than slightly overwhelming felt like too much to handle. We ended up back in Unawatuna our home town at midnight, feeling happy and relieved, all congratulating each other on surviving such a diabolical weekend. Feeling ill but happy, Haley and I couldn't wait to have a shower and a drink that wasn't Sri Lankan tap water which we had been forced to consume that weekend due to a shortage of our own bottled water.
Lo and behold our water had run out. No brushing of the teeth, no shower, no drink, no toilet flush. I was well past laughing and cried myself to sleep, feeling ill and depleted of any energy to carry on trying to pretend like it was a good experience that I was going to come out of in one piece. The next day Haley and I traipsed over to the boys house to use their water facilities and regain the will to carry on living out here. A couple of days later and my stomach bug has gone and I can now safely say I view my lumpy creaky bed in a new light. It is my haven, it might as well be a bed of feathers, anything after those two nights on the staff trip. I also think, if anyone were to ponder the question what does it feel like to be a refugee, I could have a pretty good stab at the answer.
I've been told about another staff trip in December, I think I'll refuse but if any of you want a try let me know and I'll inform them.
Lots of love to family and friends, the postal system is very slow at the moment so sorry if you haven't got replies to your letters, I just don't have them yet