Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Galle and volunteering day 1

It's a natural tendency of mine to automatically compare every country I visit to India and it was this reason that I was very much impressed with Sri Lanka. Being a tourism dominated economy, they tend to show their best face at all times. This includes roads, rail links and the simple amalgamation of man made structures and nature. On the entire highway from Colombo to Galle, there is hardly any stretch that is not covered with houses or shops and yet it looks so natural and almost in the wilderness. The highway meanders along the seashore the entire route from Colombo to Galle. Along with me another volunteer, Bronte from the United States was participating in this volunteer trip
I reached Galle around 2:30 in the afternoon and was greeted by the in-country coordinator of the volunteer organization, Mr.Michael Ferreira.He and his family were my hosts for this leg of my stay in Sri Lanka. Their house isn't big but it is directly facing the Indian Ocean. I met the other volunteers who were living with me in the house. My roommate for the week is Daryl, a fifty year old social worker from Canada who is in Galle for three weeks to teach at the Buddhist monastery school. After a hearty lunch prepared by Mrs Pushpa Ferreira we sat down to have long discussion about the volunteer trip. By evening some of the other volunteers returned from the beach. Three of them had just finished their trip and were heading back to the US.Soon I was introduced to my 'mentor' for the week, Jennifer Birch. She has been working at the rural school in Galle for the past four months and at an orphanage near Chennai,India for six months previously. We discussed what we wanted to teach the 12th graders tomorrow. The long discussion and chit chat was followed by a sumptuous Sri Lankan dinner. The food that Mrs. Ferreira makes is quite delicious and sort of similar to Indian food.

The next morning, I was woken up around 5:30am by the loud sounds of the mosque close by. Unable to sleep again I took my music player and walked to the ocean front. It wasn't a beach just a rocky shoreline, so I just found myself a nice rock, sat down and listened to music. Within ten minutes the entire scene reminded me a lot of Asthachal( for those of you who are not familiar with this term, it is the silent/quiet time we were asked to spend watching the sunset at my high school). I couldn't watch the sunrise(it was right in the opposite direction) but the watching the ocean itself was very calming and I enjoyed myself in the cool breeze for an hour. We had a continental breakfast at the house and left for the school.

The children at this school are from poor families yet there was quite a cheerful atmosphere at the school. We first met the principal of the school who is very nice and thanked both Jenny and I for our help. We went to the class and almost in unison all of them got up and greeted us. I introduced myself and got to know them a little better. Almost all of them were around 17 years old.Quite interestingly the boys sat on the left side of the class and the girls on the right.I made a mental note to discuss this with Jenny. Monday's lesson included job applications, writing CVs and interviewing in English. It was quite hard to explain and having no teaching experience didn't help either. Around halfway into the class I talked to one of the guys and they asked me to join them in a game of cricket. Finally finding some common ground I got to know more of the class much better. We left the school finally at around 1:00 to have lunch at home.

We had the afternoon off so I decided to tag along with Jenny and some of the other volunteers to the Unawatuna beach. Known as one of the top ten snorkelling reefs, this beach is a very popular tourist destination. The beach was dotted by a number of restaurants and hotels which quite marred the natural beauty of the place. We had hardly spent about an hour at the beach when it started raining cats and dogs and we had to take refuge at one of the restaurants which was oddly named Happy Banana.

We waited till the rain slowed down to a drizzle and then took the express bus till the Galle Railway station from where we had to grab a tuk-tuk to Mr Ferreira's house. The food was ready and a quick dinner ended my first full day in Galle. Extremely sorry for not being able to post all the pictures. It will happen soon I promise. Just not been able to find the time to upload the pictures.

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