Trip Start Mar 06, 2014
9Trip End Apr 21, 2014
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At the start of the week, Katie, Megan, Emily, Kirstin and I settled in to our first week with our host family- Piyarathna, Lakmalee and Vinuji. They are such a lovely and welcoming family! The father Piyarathna, is a manager in a National Sri Lankan bank, HSB. This is regarded as being a very respected and important job in the Sri Lankan culture. In fact, any job in business is regarded as being a very important job!
Lakmalee is our host mum and is such a lovely person. She stays at home during the day, preparing our lunch and washing our clothes like our mums back home! They have a 10 year old daughter, Vinuji who is a grade 5 at the local school.
It is Vinuji's school where I have been working at this past week, teaching English to grades 1 and grade 2. They are so lovely and welcoming! Every morning they wave and shout "Good Morning Ellie" or "Good Morning Teacher". I'm quite lucky how well it has worked out. Next week the tests for grade 3 to 12 start at the school, therefore if I wanted to teach such older classes I would just get in the way of their tests.
I've never taught such young children before, so it was a learning curve for me! In Jaffna, we were teaching nursery rhymes and playing games with the children to expand their oral English as they knew very little written (plus we wanted to avoid doing written work)! Therefore I had some songs fresh in my memory. I was starstruck to find that all grade 1 children already knew all the songs. No exaggeration, all the songs!! The level of English the children know is absolutely amazing. The children in grade 1 already know about colours, animals and typical conversational topics in English.
I find it so amazing to think that such young children know so much of the English language already. In addition to this, they already know their mother tongue, Sinhala, and some Tamil. Comparing this to Scotland, children start to learn French when they are often 10 years old.
Seeing now how such young children can cope with learning another language, I would encourage the learning of an additional language at an early age, as I think that this is when they can learn it best.
I felt so ignorant telling the teacher that I only knew 2 languages- English and a bit of French. In my opinion, I feel that British people are lazy. They are too lazy to learn another language. They feel that because they already know the main language, English, then if they need to communicate with others then all they need to do is speak English. At times even I feel this, even when on holiday in France! Although I know some French, I would hesitate to speak it normally as I know waiters or waitresses know enough English for us to communicate- very ignorant of me!!
The school is enormous! It is the largest Buddhist school in South Asia, consisting of 7000 girls and around 200 teachers. As my uncle Jim said, that's more than half of the population of Sutherland in one school!! I was flabbergasted at not only how many pupils there was in the school but also how big the school campus was. If anything, it's like a university with lots of different buildings.
Grade 1 and 2 consist of seven separate classes with 40-45 pupils in each class (1A, 1B, 1C....). I arrive at school at 06:45! For all of you who know how much I love my sleep, it's such a miracle that I'm up, washed, dressed and had breakfast by this time! Prayers start at 07:30. If you've read some if my previous blog posts you'll see how important religion is in Sri Lanka. Despite this, I didn't realise how important it was before arriving at my school in Galle. Children and teachers pray/chant to Lord Buddah and then to their ancestors and parents. They are thankful for what they have and what they have been given. Children are also very thankful towards the teachers. When leaving class or when leaving school they often kneel down and pray/worship in front of you to give thanks for your time and effort. It is completely different from this in Scotland. However, most children in Scotland do say please and thank you, whereas here I have heard very little of such words.
However, on another note, dogs over here are quite racist. I've had at least 3 stray dogs (inside the school grounds) bark at me because I'm white. It's definitely not a nice feeling! I must admit, I've gone off dogs a bit since being over here. Most if the dogs you see are scruffy, itching constantly and just not the nice to look at. I did feel sorry for them but now I just can't wait to get away from them... Without running! I've been told just to ignore them and despite I'm a nervous ball when I walk past them it's worked so far... Touch wood!!
After I finished school on Wednesday and the girls finished their time in Baby Orphanage, we headed to the remand unit for badly behaved boys. There are only 5 boys locked in this remand unit. Such individuals are locked in such a facility as they are awaiting court cases for the crimes (mostly petty) which they have committed.
When we arrived we met the boys and tried to speak English with them but their knowledge of the language is very limited. Due to committing such crimes, the boys are completely removed from society. They do no attend school and are not allowed to see their parents. This broke my heart! I know that they should be punished for what they have done but I'm not sure as to how effective removing them from their family really is. One mistake should not affect the rest of their lives. They're just so young!
There was one wee cheeky chap at the home. He spoke quite good English and helped us speak to the other boys to find out all their different ages and their names. He was such a smiley boy! You could tell he enjoyed having people visit the home, as no one ever does. In a way, the boys are just left to wait for their sentences.
I'm really looking forward to going into the home again, playing volleyball with the boys and trying to teach them some basic conversational English.
My lessons with 1G, 1B, 1E, 1A and 1D went really well. I was so happy with how enthusiastic and willing they were to learn the Rainbow Song (one they didn't know!!). The other remaining classes found it particularly difficult to understand the differences between certain colours (red and orange) and also the song and the game. In planning for next week I need to recap the different colours. I think that by using concrete objects like flowers, it will allow children to understand the differences much better. After I'll need to revise the song, placing emphasis on the newly introduced colours of pink and purple to make sure they can also tell which one is which.
On Friday, my school was closed due to the Sri Lankan provincial elections. They were using the school as a polling station.
We started our morning of visiting The Department of Probation and Child Care Services to finalise mine and Kirsten's details for partaking in such projects: the unit for sexually abused girls and the remand unit for badly behaved boys. After sorting out all the details we headed for the abused unit to meet the girls and the workers and just introduce ourselves.
There was a lot more girls than I expected there to be. One building held 24 girls whereas the other held 26. It was quite an emotional experience! The girls asked me a lot of questions about my family and friends. Although I knew that the girls wanted to get to know me, I was still being quite cautious as I knew it was an emotional topic. However, all the girls were very lovely and friendly. I'm looking forward to visiting the home again next week, getting to know the girls a bit more and teaching English through oral activities. They talked a lot about singing and dancing so hopefully we'll be able to use these interests to stimulate their English learning.
This past weekend we explored Galle and the little villages just outside of it. We headed to a turtle hatchery on Saturday which was a slight waste of money but oh well it's all about the experience. I did get to see a 4 day old baby turtle though! From this we headed to Mirissa which had the most beautiful beach ever.... No exaggeration! Surprise surprise I got burnt again. But thankfully it's gradually turning into a tan now!
On Sunday we explored the Dutch Fort which is just on the outskirts of the city. It's a really beautiful place and we've already visited it since then.
I'm looking forward to the week ahead and exploring Galle a bit more!