And so the Sri Lankan chapter ends

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

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And so the travel blog ends as it started, back in Baltic Carrickfergus! It's hard to believe that the Sri Lankan adventure is over. Here's a summing up of the last few days in sunny Hambantota.
Wednesday was our last official day with the kids at school. It is fair to say that the last day of Preschool was manic, mainly because there was a lot going on with the opening. There were final practices of the band and Hokey Pokey and Mark and I spent, what seemed like a lifetime, cutting up flags for the bunting to line the band route to the new classroom. It was good that it was a busy morning, as it meant that we didn't have time to think that it was the end of our time at Preschool. It was strange saying goodbye to them, but lived in hope that they would all turn up for the opening on Friday, which most of them did. The afterschoolers only came for lunch. There were no classes as there was on overnight prayer vigil that night so it had to finish early to let the staff get home and back again. It was nice to just chat to them all over lunch and we eventually got them all together for a final group photo.
The prayer vigil on Wednesday night was used to dedicate the new building into God's hands and to be used for His glory. It lasted from 7pm-2am, with people being able to come and go as they pleased. There was singing, prayer and Bible Study. You didn't need to understand Sinhalese to be caught up in the atmosphere and to be involved.
On Thursday it was all hands on decks in preparation for the big opening. I helped with the second coat of paint on the house, which now looks like a bowl of custard-at least it's easy to spot from the road! With my questionable painting skills, it's fair to say that at times there was more paint on me and the ground, than there was on the building. The painting was brought to an abrupt end in the afternoon when we ran out of paint! Fortunately there was only a bit at the back that didn't get a second coat. The evening was spent packing and getting a lesson on how to put a sari on. We thought it would be useful to learn for ourselves as there were 3 of us that would need dressed on Friday morning. I have to say I am still none the wiser and one of the teachers ended up dressing me. I think we all ended up needing help!
Friday was the big day. After 5 and a half months, the new classroom block was ready to be opened. It all went very smoothly. The preschoolers and afterschoolers did their items very well, Richard talked about the work of Smile and the local Catholic priest also did a speech. All the preschoolers were in new uniforms so all looked very cute. After the ceremony, there was tea and buns and a lot of photo calls! Everyone wanted their picture taken with us and we wanted last minute picture of all the children. At one point, someone handed me a random child and asked for my photo with them! Once everyone had left, we had a time alone with the teachers to say thanks and goodbye and to get a group photo. After that it was straight down to a local restaurant for a final dinner and back for some last minute packing.
Saturday morning cam all too quickly and it was time to say goodbye to Hambantota. Before I left, I had gone to the bin on the road. As I put the rubbish in, I thought I saw a tail sticking out, however dismissed it thinking I was just hallucinating due to all the emotions. It was only when I was having breakfast, that Mr Andy shared the story that there was a dead dog outside the new classroom that he had disposed off in the bin. Some things you just don't need to know about whole eating your weetabix! At least it put my mind at rest that I wasn't going mad!
We left for Colombo at 9am, stopping for lunch in Galle and then at a turtle hatchery where we got to see day old turtles and to hold an old blind one. On Sunday, Ronali left us at the airport in the morning and then after a 12hour flight, we arrived in a freezing Heathrow airport, where we spent the night. It was then back to Belfast first thing Monday morning. When the captain says "Welcome to Belfast, it's 4 degrees", it's a bit of a culture shock when you're used to temperatures of at least 30.
So the Sri Lankan adventure is now over. I have had an absolutely fantastic time and wouldn't change it for anything. I'm heading off to Singapore, Oz and New Zealand in 2weeks so hopefully the blog will continue. So until we meet again, it's been a pleasure!
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