April came and went, along with the emotional reunion with families and Sinhala/ Tamil New year. The two weeks with my family here whipped by, when one minute I was watching children encircle my mum and dad from across the school field whilst they entertained them, the next I was sunbathing by a pool, drinking very non Sri Lankan red wine and eating tuna steak. What surprised me with having my parents here was the realisation of how much I have slotted into the Sri Lankan teachers lifestyle, expecting people to move heaven and earth just because I work in a government school and Buddhism apparently likes that. When a tuk tuk driver refused to give us a Sri Lankan price even with Sinhala coming out my mouth and a sari constricting my body to within an inch of its life, I heard myself pull out the 'but I'm a teacher at a government school' card. At this point I thought, I must remember this can't carry on in England everyone will think I 'm nuts and up myself for no reason at all. With all of the luxury and lying around I even found myself missing my humdrum lifestyle of never-ending menial jobs. I thought that hand washing was the bain of my life, and that making a curry from scratch was so pointless if you had the money to get someone to do it for you and with better ingredients. In fact, I began to think how compact my life has become out here and found it hard to digest that whereas a curry can be made for literally pennies that it was being sold for pounds with a fancy surrounding (the surroundings were great though thanks mum and dad)I began to see how so many people come to visit Sri Lanka and think they are getting an authentic view as they eat their string hoppers by the poolside for £6 and then pay £5 to watch a man hold a monkey on a leash, when as a matter of fact string hoppers cost 15p, are probably eaten in a grotty room with cockroaches and the monkeys belong in the trees where tourists don't go cause they cause too much of a commotion and scare them away. It made me feel proud to have invested my time in a wonderful country which I would not have really seen had I been here for a shorter amount of time, and I felt even prouder showing it to my family.
I stopped feeling so pleased with myself however after our parents had gone and we were immediately thrown back into the sweat and grime of the daily humdrum- starting with New Year. At 9 pm we traipsed to Pritika's house for a second dinner, rammed down our throats Sri Lankan style. It was a late night sleeping/hallucinating from the heat with no fan and up early at 3 30 am for an outdoor shower before heating the milk rice at the auspicious time. A little more shut eye time during the 'fast' until 7 am when the milk rice was to be eaten along with LOTS of cake, banana's, tea…..at least I am now blessed by the Buddha for the year for lighting the milk rice at the auspicious time, even if I did feel sick and like I'd eaten a whole sugar cane tree.
School also took a while to get back into as children launched into me like cannon balls with fingers that wouldn't let go. After taking so long to establish a timetable, it is now clear that it will only exist on paper as our timetable is moulded around the children's eating and playing schedules which change every week. Being whisked away to the home science room for cake and bananas and tea during lessons is also becoming the norm at Mihiripenna as the teachers find something to celebrate. Reasons include the production of vesak cards, the marriage of a teacher's relative and retirement which I think is the only legitimate school related tea and cake celebration we've had.
Plummeting back into the sweat and heat, not to mention the excessive number of poisonous caterpillars deciding to move into our home (excessive being anything more than one) meant that I was ready to throw in the towel and go back home a month early once school had finished. Although any photo's you see definitely show the great times in Sri Lanka, there is absolutely nothing that could show you the grime and fed up feeling that can engulf you with our lifestyle. Even if I had the humour to take a photo of these moments, it's something you can't see in a picture, you have to teach lessons that kids sometimes don't want to know about with sweat literally dripping off your face and then you have to go home and find that there's no water and count the weeks knowing that you've got this many more times over before you can go home and put make up on instead of being told 'you are having the pimples today'. Instead of changing my going home date however, I'm going to India to go on a trek and to see people being cremated in Varanasi. I'm actually pretty apprehensive with what I've heard in the news but I'll go armed with rape alarms and some hefty walking sandals good for running away in.
The end is also definitely in sight as we have only 10 weeks left of teaching. 10 weeks left of playing the clown and wearing a sari which, as much as Sri Lankan's look beautiful in them, I can't wait to be rid of. This does however also mean only 10 weeks left of the Church and McCracken household being complete-me and my teaching partner's. This saddens me a lot. As much as our bedroom does feel like a sauna and smells worse than the toilet sometimes for reasons unknown, this part of Sri Lanka has been tip top. I do look forward to being able to get out the room freely in the night though without asking Haley to move her bed which she bolts the door across with-Haley if you're reading this, you can't do this every time we watch a murder film.
Before I sign off from this blog, I should probably mention that I went swimming with sharks. I just forget what's not normal now…I jest, that was a terrifying absolutely abnormal day in which I realised that whenever I think, there are so many exams to do does it really matter if I die right now, that yes it does matter, cause I've also got many more nights to drink red wine and I'd really quite like to visit Italy and the middle east. It was on a trip to Trincomolee which was a job and a half to get to. The 'night train' turned out to be more of a deafening cockroach infested 'nightmare train' which I would recommend no one to do. On the return journey Haley and I 'showered' with water from the tiny tap next to a hole in the ground aka 'toilet' with alarmed sri lankan's bursting in on us to find us unapologetically trying to wash the sand and sweat from the previous 2 days from our bodies. The shark situation was terrifying. We took a trip to pigeon island which is famous for it's beautiful corals and….sharks. Before entering the water, Haley and I swore that in the case of a sighting we would remain calm and swim slowly to a rock if needs be. When it actually happened however, Haley began having a fit and I left her to save myself, Haley floundering behind. We both stood, snorkelling masks plastered to our face on the nearest rock, looking at the shore which was far too far away. Of course, people wouldn't snorkel there if the sharks were not safe, but still, any shark that looks like it's mouth is big enough to rip a chunk out of me and has a fin sticking out the water is something to be careful of I think no matter what the Sri Lankan's say.
Here's to the last leg away, I hope the caterpillars don't get me before I get home.
Love to family and friendsxxxxx