Finally, we’re here! We made it to Colombo safe and sound and found Albert, Hilda and Patricia as well as Ruwan, Anil and another driver. Very quickly, we exchanged some money and headed out for the approximately 6 hour drive to Tangalle. Given the option to travel through Colombo or bypass the big city and travel inland on less crowded, safer roads we decided to take the safe route in our 3-van convoy. Soon after a quick refreshment stop, one of the vans’ clutch gave out. Ruwan, the lead-foot larry, way ahead of the other two vans continued on to Tangalle, but Anil’s van turned around to meet up with the stranded group and organize a new vehicle. After a short wait thanks to Anil’s awesome problem solving, we finished the trip to Tangalle, grabbed some basic breakfast from a local store and ate a pre-ordered dinner primarily of fried rice and curries at the Sea Food Restaurant of the Wavy Ocean Hotel, where we will be staying. Here, we also met Jo-Anne, who is finishing up her volunteering for Developing World Connectinos by the end of May and helped me immensely with planning the trip prior to our departure.
I think that the group really enjoyed the drive here, seeing a host of exotic plants ranging from rubber trees to king coconuts. But, unfortunately, everyone was absolutely exhausted and a little grumpy as we chose rooms and had a quick talk about starting work the next morning! Also, we had a little surprise- for some reason, after a few people had showered, there was no water left coming out of the taps. Finally, right before bed, Jacquie came knocking at my door to tell me that a man was peeking through her window at her. I called the manager of the building- Rukman Wedarachchi- who came quickly to see what he could do, but the man was long gone. We decided to close her windows for the evening and leave the hallway lights on to discourage trespassers….
Despite this negative early occurrence, the guest houses (neighboring each other) fit everyone extremely comfortably and are far better than any accommodations I might have expected for a budget student group. Most rooms have private en suites, and the rooms seem to be quite secure. All the rooms also have good ceiling fans to keep us cool and drive the mosquitos (which don’t seem to be too abundant) away! PLUS, we are RIGHT on an absolutely beautiful beach- all sand, no rocks/sea weed, and the surf is so loud that everyone hears it in their rooms; not a bad lullaby to put us to sleep!
Our first full day in Sri Lanka! And it already feels like we have been here for days! Today, we work up at 7:00am, took a quick tour of Ketakalawatta (a previously completed housing community project by Developing World Connections), the Trades Training Facility and the temple, where we were blessed by the head monk and were able to see the BEAUTIFUL temple, full of ornate paintings. After this, we split up by house (guest house arrangement) and the smaller group (7) stayed to start work on the temple wall while the larger group (8) went to the TTF (we are staying in two neighboring guest houses). It was great to meet Anil’s brother, Ranjit, and all of the workers at the sites.
Everyone had a good experience overall- they worked hard and did not complain about the intensity of the job! Unfortunately, due to the temperature, a number of us really didn’t feel very good today- the temple group didn’t have enough water, and even at the Trades Training Facility, where we had enough water, work in the shade was almost unbearable. To make sure that people feel better tomorrow, we are taking more electrolytes (and water) and will encourage less vigorous, more steady, slow work throughout the day!
After working, the group at the Trades Training Facility(TTF) had quite the experience at the local fruit/spice/vegetable market, where Deepal helped us buy a lot of food for the next few days. One participant-Smrita- stepped up to the plate with her unreal cooking knowledge and helped the group decide what to purchase for meals which we will be cooking ourselves! After running around to a number of shops (including a wholesaler where we bought 50 kg of rice!), the TTF group came back to the guest houses to meet up with the temple group who had just been taking it easy playing volleyball and swimming since they returned a couple of hours earlier. As a group, we went for a beautiful cool-down swim as dusk approached- it is very nice to have such a big group that is so positive, respectful and sociable! Smrita directed the team to make a great meal and I had a good meeting with Ruwan, Anil and Jo-Anne regarding our trip itinerary and weekend day trips. It is nice to settle in and get everything sorted out.
Everyone is super excited- this weekend is a huge full moon celebration (Buddhist) and we are planning on doing everything from traveling to an elephant sanctuary to turtle watching to temple tours to surfing somewhere between here and Galle!!! And all of this will be on free Sundays (we’re working 6 day weeks) BEFORE our 8/9 day cultural trip!
It has been amazing so far and until the next entry,