Time has absolutely flown since I last wrote. I cannot believe I have been living in Sri Lanka for a month now and just how many experiences I have had, both good and bad.
Haley and I did wonder whether we were about to crack under the strain of constant cooking and cleaning when our oil disappeared and we of course jumped to the conclusion that we had been robbed. After finding it in the cleaning cupboard however we realised that it made no logical sense for a robber to break in for some coconut oil and leave our laptops and ipod which were probably of more value to steal. There have also been sleep talking issues as I complain of Haley's Scottish 'oh nooooo's' which jolt me awake in the night time and she complains of my profusely swearing and Drake rapping.
Despite this however, teaching is beginning to improve. Walking into a classroom is no longer as daunting as it was and after singing 'my name is miss Sydney, how are you today' with the grin of an idiot on my face for the umpteenth time, the lack of dignity in teaching small children doesn't affect me anymore. It does still alarm me when the children bow down to touch my feet at the end of the lesson and it takes all my might to not kick them in the face as their fingers tickle, but I would never dare tell them not to in case I'm inadvertently insulting the Buddha-there are so many ways in which this is possible so we stay away from the subject entirely. The schools are also incredibly lax with timetables. One day at Mihiripenna we didn't teach for the whole morning because it is tradition on a student or staff's birthday for them to feed the staff tea, biscuits and fruit to celebrate. In my opinion this seemed more like an expensive punishment and I have made a private mental note to tell them my birthday is in the holidays. The netball has also commenced and is by far my favourite subject to teach. The sari is very restrictive and I have to get Jamie to do the standing on chairs to hold the ball up as my legs physically cannot stretch that far. We have now had two netball lessons however and things are looking up. It's difficult with nothing other than one ball and a huge language barrier but they enjoy it and is the only physical education they get which is not theory. It's also the only time I've seen Sri Lankan girls be feisty so I leave out the rule of staying three feet from the person you are marking so the girls can pummel the ball out of the boy's hands. The 5:30AM starts can grate on my mood sometimes, especially on Monday's to Wednesday's when I teach at SGV when the bus doesn't even wait for me to lift my foot off the ground before it starts moving. Bus doors never close out here and it's not uncommon to see a man in a suit doing a running jump onto a bus that just hasn't stopped. It can also be incredibly cramped and there is no such thing as staying a polite distance from the person next to you like in England. If you are at a suitable height they will happily rest their elbow on your shoulder or lean against your arm.
The somewhat suppressed life of a Sri Lankan woman has lead me to seek refuge in short bursts of exercise around the school field in my harems and ugliest shirt, a past time the headmaster and other lingering men like to stare at in bemusement. I'm surprised no one has complained. The monsoon season however means that the ground is constantly sodden so I have taken to using a skipping rope to loud dub step in our tiny kitchen. This hopefully will prevent the expensive scenario of having to buy another (larger) underskirt and top for my sari. Sometimes the chants from the Buddhist temples win the contest of volume however and I end up skipping to that instead of dubstep. The monsoon rain has been relentless. Haley and I left for a walk in the scorching heat, only to an hour later find ourselves wading ankle deep through rain water with Haley telling me to watch out for the leeches. The monsoon has also created little rivers on the side of the main road which the locals actually fish in. Where the fish comes from completely baffles me.
We have run into a few skirmishes over the past couple of weeks with both humans and animals alike. One night after a meal at our friend Calpa's, we made the twenty minute walk back to our house only to notice a man repeatedly driving past us on his motor bike. After some nervous glances we thought we had lost him as we made the left turn down our quiet road. Before we know it, he comes whizzing by and whacks me on the back with his hand-hard. Haley was armed in a shot, I've never seen anybody whip out an umbrella so fast, 'SYDNEY GET BACK' she yelled whilst waving her phone light about so the gate watcher would undo the padlock on the gate. The night ended in a double checking of the locks on the doors and although he probably just wanted to touch a white person like most of them, I definitely won't be taking any walks after dark by myself. A less violent encounter occurred when I tried to teach the wrong grade three class and their form tutor began babbling in Singhala frowning at me. The babble soon turned into a yell which turned into a shriek when I tried to go and teach the other class. This lack of understanding due to the language barrier, although at first making me feel very ticked off, after made me realise how issues between different cultures are so easily turned into mountains out of molehills simply by a lack of understanding.
After our second well wash at Lakshmi's, my feeling of being refreshed, revived and natural was soon broken as we clashed face to face with a huge, sweaty, snotty water buffalo. If it had not been for Lakshmi I think I would have jumped in the swamp then and there. Lakshmi firmly ordered us to move to the side out of the path of the water buffalo where we stood in terror (at least I did) until finally its owner came. I felt a pang of anger towards him as he nonchalantly made buffalo noises and whipped it onto a different path- where on earth was he when we were about to get trampled ten feet into the ground? As if someone were playing a joke on us, five minutes later some stray Sri Lankan dogs decide to get lary on our path and before I know it I'm shoving past Tony, Joan's friend who we had just met from London trying to run away from these absolutely terrifying dogs. The fact that a majority dogs out here have rabies didn't make the prospect of being bitten any better either.
These incidents are not entirely unwelcome however as they add something to dynamic to our otherwise fairly tame lifestyle. On Friday night we don't go out for a drink, we go out to get loo roll and get excited to read our books and buy a coconut pancake. Teaching is absolutely exhausting and can be very testing when you have had a rough night's sleep due to the train-which still sounds alarmingly loud and I think just sounds rude so early in the morning- and humidity. The monsoon season also means that mosquito's multiply and I genuinely worry of the possibility of getting trench foot from never having dry feet.
This weekend we are off to Mirrissa for a much needed break and hopefully relax on the beach if the rain lets us. Thank you for my letters to those of you who have sent them!! Keep sending they make my day and feel free to send out chocolate. It sounds trivial but it can actually be the making or breaking point of a tense situation, thanks to Tony who brought us some dairy milk from London, Haley and I were so grateful.
Love to friends and family xxxxx