I have now been in Sri Lanka for two months and it seems safe to say I have settled in. I never thought it would take so long, you feel a lot more settled once you can understand how to successfully get on and off a bus at the right stop, but it is only this month really that I have started to feel like I'm at home and not making do in a youth hostel for a year. I have stopped noticing the heat as much and even felt chilly one morning as I reluctantly stepped into our cold shower, and the abnormal amount of rice that Sri Lankan's eat now seems normal and both Haley and I can eat it without feeling like we've eaten bricks for lunch and dinner.
There has been some excitement in the small town of Unawatuna in the past couple of weeks. I happened to take a stroll at the same time as some thieves who robbed £15,000 at pistol point off a hotel on Unawatuna road. I didn't actually see them, but there was a mob of men on the street so I flip flopped as fast as I could into the music shop. The shop keeper told me in the shop what had happened. Of course though, being a white woman along in Sri Lanka is never a good idea which I remembered as he closed the door and starting asking me if adultery is accepted in England. Alarm bells rang in my head so I scurried back out onto the mobbed streets and shuffled home as fast as my ankle length skirt would let me. I have told the men on the fish stall in Galle that I have a soon to be husband waiting for me in England which does let me buy my fish in a bit more peace than if I told them that the fish I am buying is to share with a girl, not another man and that I am single. There has also been much excitement in the Haley and Sydney household too as we got sent new pillows by Senahasa, the charity that we are working for. Our pillows were so bad before, like cauliflower flattened and scattered around in a sack. Haley and I just didn't use them and used hoody's instead. So thank you Senahasa!! It was like Christmas come early. Haley and I have also been learning Sinhala at a speedier rate than previously. We take a trip to a café by the sea and test each other whilst eating coconut pancakes and drinking plain tea, which isn't actually plain at all with no less than 6 teaspoons of sugar in a tiny cup. At first the tea took getting used to but as we are developing our Sri Lankan taste buds it has become a part of our every day life. Another exciting moment over the past couple of weeks was when our broken (much like many of the other appliances in our house) dvd player came to life! We have been trying to get it to work since we have arrived, and finally Haley electrocuted herself on it and it started working. Who knows when it will work again.
After being in Sri Lanka for a fair amount of time now, things that I gawped at the beginning now seem normal. So when something makes me stop and stare now, I know it's blog worthy. Whilst walking to do the food shop of the day ( the shop keeper gave us a chocolate on his birthday, most of our friends are people that work on food stalls or in 'food city') we saw a truck taking up near enough both lanes of the road with a massive elephant swinging from side to side as it weaved in and out of the cars. Another strange sight was a boy of about 11 years climbing up a tree about 50 feet high. Haley and I gasped and wondered whether we should call for help, get a net, anything, until some men came and starting collecting the coconuts he threw down (most of which split when they crashed on the floor, Sri Lankan logic always baffles me). I also experienced my first bike ride in Sri Lanka. The roads are terrifying, with absolutely no road rules so I've stayed off the bike, but I have a mantra to do something that scares you everyday so I decided to give it a go. I never realised just how many cyclists there were. The Sri Lankans pointed and yelled 'sudo!!' (white person) as women rarely ride bikes in Sri Lanka. Men came and cycled either side of me with a 'hello!' then yelled 'goodbye!!' as they went along their way. I felt like I was in a cycling group where people left and joined as they pleased. Jamie and I also decided to walk to our school in Mihiripenna, so at 6:30 on a Thursday morning we set off on foot. It was stunning. There was a mist covering the forest and bottom of the palm trees with the sun shining through them. It's possibly the first morning I was able to smile before 8 a.m.
Something very sad and also very disturbing has also happened however in the past couple of weeks. It has recently been made law that people are not allowed to walk along the railway tracks, however everyone ignores this and you see family's and babies making their way home along it. Haley and I have been too scared to try it out as the train looks terrifying, however after a sleep at Mihiripenna café we were feeling relaxed enough to follow suit and try out the forty minute walk home on the track. Today on the way to school Jamie and I saw the train stopped in the middle of the track and people running. Thinking nothing of it other than it must be some weird Sri Lankan tradition to run away from a broken down train, we later found out that two boys had been sliced in half due to not getting off the train tracks in time for the train to come whizzing past. I am so glad I didn't turn my head any further or I would have seen the bodies.
Teaching is still absolutely exhausting but it does make me feel if I can do this I can do anything. The class however were so naughty and loud one day that the teacher next door promptly came in with her cane and hit the ones who were standing on desks. It sounds awful and it is, however the difficulty is that it is the only thing that the children will respond to. Because they are so used to it, nothing else can control them, even the excitement of stickers seems to have worn off. It's a shame they can't be disciplined in a different way from the beginning, but as it is they have always been hit with the cane and it's an accepted form of punishment out here. Because of this, if you get an overexcited class, or a class which doesn't have a teacher (which there are many) there is no way that Jamie or I can control them because they know that we won't hit them. There are good classes though and some of the children are hilarious. They have no concept of creativity or imagination and if I tell a boy to say 'I am a nurse' he won't do it and they just get confused cause to them only girls do this. One particularly funny occasion was when I was teaching them 'I am a boy; I am a girl' I tried to get a boy to say 'I am a girl' and he slammed his fist on the table in macho temper and yelled 'I AM A BOY!!' . They have also gotten into the habit of thumping my feet with their hands if I fail to acknowledge them bowing down to me, and as soon as I go 'ouch' they look and up give me a cheeky grin, which you can't help but laugh back at.
I'm off on a school trip with the staff at SGV this weekend up to Trincomolee. It's a 4 am start on Friday with a day travelling on a bus, then a day seeing sights, then another full day trip back on the bus. We've been told to bring sweets to share on the bus-it's not an option, sweets must be bought and we will definitely be given stern glares and the old bits of rice in the evening if we don't comply. It should be interesting.
Thank you for all your letters and photo's! My photo wall is growing and I often look at the photos and wonder what you are all doing.
Lots of love to family and friends xxx