As always just when I think I have experienced everything and wonder what else could possibly happen, new situations arise and I find myself back in territory unknown and wondering what will come next. Having said that, 2013 has definitely brought with it a feeling of Sri Lanka definitely being what I term as home (for the time being). Teaching seems a lot more familiar and far less of a struggle than when we first arrived back in September. It was only 5 months ago but so much has happened I feel like I've been here a life time. Already January has brought with it the usual bout of illness as all of us has spent at least one day in bed, with the unlucky ones spending a week in bed. I was only one day in bed so I was feeling pretty pleased with myself until a couple of weeks later I went over on my ankle leaving me bed bound. Currently still stuck in the house however means that I can write this blog and do many other things I don't normally do like watch monkeys for hours on end.
The New Year meant new sari's, which I'd bought in Jaffna, and as usual all the teachers commented and pulled and tugged to put it into position. Teaching starts so very slowly in Sri Lanka at the beginning of the year as timetables slowly begin to be created and kids sit about in their classrooms doing nothing. So instead of wasting our time sitting around as well, Jamie and I painted the whole English room bright green and the chairs a Halloween blood colour red. It looks very vibrant. I was feeling a little sad as my Birthday loomed, as is the same with Christmas time, it's when you really notice a massive absence of friends and family back in England. Haley set it off though as she jumped up in the pitch dark of the morning looking like a 'crazy someone' (as a Sri Lankan would say) behind her mosquito net yelling HAPPPY BIIRRRTHDAY TOO YOOU. I thought she was sleep talking as she usually does and wondered whether to lock her in the room to yell it out. As it happens, this time she wasn't. January the 9th came and went in a flash with my Birthday present from Joan still to come as our outing is postponed until things like the flu and twisted ankles aren't about.
At Mihiripenna however, there was no painting to be done, so we have been drifting around the school as the children sweep and burn things. Jamie and I were sitting reading in the English room when suddenly the whole room is filled with smoke as they've decided to burn God knows what right outside the classroom. We have also been having many more chats with the principle of Mihiripenna.. For those of you who don't know, Sri Lanka is famous for its cricket and they take the sport very seriously. So when Jamie told the principle that he didn't play cricket, he was told quite sternly that he might as well go and be a monk then. I was also asked to call Jamie one day when he was ill to ask him if he had 'loose motion' and what the longest word in the English dictionary was. Following this we've also chatted about who I should marry, and discussed the atrocities of using powder for babies instead of breast feeding which he had never heard of in his life and thought was disgraceful. 'Not healthy, who will cook if woman works? She must sit with the baby' is what he says. He has also informed us of the teachers running race (which I will not be taking part in L). For this a male teacher must take the hand of a female teacher as she is the weaker sex and must be dragged along. Jamie was warned to choose his woman wisely and to avoid the 'fat teacher'. I have also been trying to keep the girls occupied with netball. We managed a match with all the girls in the entire school, meaning there were about 30 on each side and it might have resembled more a rugby match. The netball was punctured by the end, but thankfully, it was one of mine and Jamie's last few times of having a ball smacked against our face as we act as goal posts, because they have now built two goal posts out of palm trees.
I have also been making friends with the mothers of Mihiripenna who hang about as their young ones settle in and to make tea. Conversation is limited and one mother comes up to me every week to tell me many times that her daughter's real mum died in the tsunami. She cannot understand my English so I go on every week to ask her how her day was and other trivial questions that I have learnt in their native tongue. Sri Lankan's are very blunt with their conversation topics and manner of speaking so this is not uncommon. I have also had a chat with a woman on a bus who was telling me about her dying husband who has cancer. Manyok is known for its cancer curing property's out here (when I asked which cancer, I was told it cures all of them) so the only consolation I could give was to tell her to feed him Manyok. It's something I found hard to deal with when I first came here, what do you say when a stranger tells you something like that? The best thing I've found is to say something helpful if you can, if not smile and ask them if they've eaten. They get confused if you just say 'I'm sorry', no one says that here. I love Mihiripenna school, I love the walk there in the mornings when I smile at the all the women (men are ignored, their intentions you just do not know and I can't be bothered to find out what those intentions are any more).
Haley and I have also made friends with another family who promptly invited us for tea, literally after we had introduced ourselves. And so it was that we traipsed round for 'tea' which is full fat cream milk power with many sugars, banana's, biscuits, cake, all which is expected to be eaten. They are such a kind family, so kind and accommodating in fact that after Haley swotted away a mosquito for maybe the 3r d time, a mosquito coil was brought right under nose and the lights switched off to make them go away. We sat and talked in broken Singhalese and English for a good 10 minutes in the dark. Ordered rather than asked, we returned the next day for dinner to be sat with their son and his friend. Alarm bells began ringing as we smelled hopes of marriage from the mother's corner and we made a mental note to next time drop in our non-existent 'husbands to be' back in England. The tradition in Sri Lanka is for the hosts to eat after the guests, so we sat round their table with the family standing behind us, refilling our plates until Haley was nearly sick. We both ploughed on through as much as we could however and waddled home feeling like stuffed pumpkins.
Living day to day life in Sri Lanka can only be successful if you are organised because everything needs so much preparation. So Haley and I decided to get back into the swing of making curries en masse to last us through the week so only rice has to be heated. Too bad that once we had prepared all the curries to be cooked our gas ran out, meaning that we had to leave the curries we didn't haul round to Joans late in the evening to gather bacteria until our gas was filled up the next day. Another particularly trying day was after a relaxing afternoon swimming in Mihiripenna then cycling back through the palm trees, to find no water or electricity at home. Double whammy, no fans in a 30 degree humid heat and no water plus salty hair= two very sad and sweaty girls. We have prepared for such incidents though and keep a massive bottle of now green coloured water so that we can cook rice when situations like this occur.
Overall life in Sri Lanka is now very good and it really feels like home now the major hurdles have been passed like Christmas and New Year-not particularly pleasant without the family- And with only 8 weeks until the family come and visits, it oddly feels a bit like they are coming home (because it's my home) rather than on a visit to a tropical country.
Please send me emails and letters, I'm an invalid with limited dvd's and too much time in bed right now
Lots of love to family and friends xxxxxx