A sad start to the day. Late last night, volunteer Jared Estrada learned of a death in his family so this morning he broke the news that he will be leaving us to attend to matters at home. We will miss his energy and enthusiasm, but our hearts go out to him and his family in the difficult days ahead. Safe trip home, Jared. We miss you already.
Well, even sad news couldn't hold us back from more hard labour today, but on the way to school, we stopped off at our Master Builder Podi's house. Two weeks ago, with the help of TRIP Canada, his house was completed and today was the opening ceremony, attended to by Podi and his family, some local Buddhist monks, his neighbours and us. The house looked beautiful, the ceremony was fascinating, and we were all blessed by the monks (we now have symbolic white strings around our wrists). Then we had tea, coconut rice, onion sambol (a very spicy caramelized onion dish) and some traditional new years candies and cakes. These were fresh, of course, since we are here during Sri Lankan New Year's!
Fueled by the delicious smorgasbord at Podi's house, we got to the work site and formed new teams so people could learn some new skills and work with other people. At the school, Team Mix-a-Lot got down to more cement mixing and pouring (my lucky back got it's second day on that) and we managed to finish another classroom floor. Tomorrow we get to move on to plastering the walls - a nice break from shoveling and chain gang bucket-passing. At the monastery, the volunteers finished plastering the walls and while that dried they all got to work digging a trench for the sidewalk around the building. This involves pounding spikes into the ground to loosen the dirt - even the head monk got in on the action - all done under the scorching afternoon sun.
Tomorrow, Team Buddah gets to cement the massive floor in the new monk quarters, but rumour has it they're getting a cement mixer for this task (cheaters)! Apparently it's a small batch mixer so I bet they'll quickly switch back to the manual method of mixing to make bigger batches to pour.
All in all a great second day. Backs are sore, arms are achy, and hearts are warm (probably from the heat).
Sri Lanka, April 2012