Everything can change within 5 minutes

Trip Start May 21, 2007
Trip End Aug 08, 2015

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Thursday, September 13, 2007

 Yesterday/this morning must be the most surreal, random experience I have had since being here.
It all started out as a typical day in Preschool, with them making origami dogs. The only strange thing so far was the dog's had yellow heads and red bodies!
In the afternoon we attended a presentation at Tangalle Prison with Nayani (about 35km outside Hambantota). Smile, along with other organizations/businesses who were represented, sponsor some children of prisoners. Yesterday was the time to give them all a small gift and money. From what I gather, the presentation was just one part of a 6day programme for prisoners and their families, which included medical advice, counseling etc. 
The ceremony took place inside the prison, with the prisoners gathering around the side to watch. It was intimidating at the start to have a hundred or more prisoners starring at you, but I soon became comfortable! We sat at the front with the other representatives. At the start of the presentation, I was asked to light a candle along with a few others. I've no idea why or what it represented, but I'm guessing it was a Buddhist ritual as it happened just after they did some chanting. 
The visit also warranted the sari to be brought back out of the wardrobe. It was an experience to say the least trying to hop on and off a Sri Lankan bus in it, but I made it with everything still intact! After the prison Nayani had to go to the market. The market's here have great atmospheres and everyone kept stopping us and commenting on our Sri Lankan attire! They were all positive which was nice!
We were about 10minutes away from Hambantota on a crowded bus when Mark got a phone call from Ronali. I was only hearing one side of the conversation and Mark looked shocked but all I could pick up was "no we haven't heard, what's happened? "Where do you want us to go?". For some reason I thought either there had been a fire at the center or a burglary! The reception then went midway through the conversation, so we had gotten only a sketchy message about a tsunami of some sort, which we thought had happened here. The phone went dead just as Ronali had said "bring your passports and money"! So for the rest of the journey we tried to get through on the phone to find out exactly what was happening but the network was understandably jammed. Ypur mind starts to go into overdrive and all thoughts were what will happen to the children and people of Hambantota if somehting happened because, unlike us, they can' t  drive to safety in Colombo if need be like us.
We jumped off the bus, leaving Nayani who had another 15minutes on the bus. As we walked up the drive, all the builders kept saying "news, tsunami". Turned on CNN and found out exactly what was happening and how everywhere within the Indian Ocean was on Tsunami alert. We eventually got through to Ronali who told us to go pack a change if clothes and go down to the church as that would be where everyone would be. And sure enough she was right! We were picked up on are way down by a member of the congregation who was on his way to get us. He had phoned us as we were about to leave saying "come to the church now". I'm glad we knew what was happening before or we wouldn't have had a clue! Nayani was at the church when we arrived - I still don't know how she managed to get home, change her clothes, and get back to the church before us as this all happened in about 30minutes! Anyway she said she wanted us to stay at her house as she didn't want us to be alone. We didn't try to argue as we knew if we didn't stay with her, everyone would be worrying about us. So we spent the night there and were entertained by Sadaycha and Sheehan, her children. I don't know how the kids do it - they weren't sleeping until after 11pm and were in jumping on my bed at 545 this morning - young blood!
 When we arrived back at the house early this morning, all the tsunami threats had been cancelled. However, school was closed today as a precaution, but no children turned up anyway. I have to say there is a great sense of camaraderie amongst Sri Lankan's - I think it must have been a taster of what it was like during the war last night! They look out for each other like no other people I know and did everything within their power to make sure we were safe last night. Also the teachers here look out for us so much and are very protective of us, as last night and this morning showed. I'm sure the whole event brought back terrible memories for people who live through the Tsunami. Nayani had said Sheehan and Sadaycha had cried when they heard it on the news as they were scared. 
Thankfully now everything is getting back to normal and the school will be open tomorrow. Until then I think we are all looking forward to an early night!
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