Work work work!

Trip Start Aug 11, 2013
Trip End Sep 17, 2013

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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Western,
Friday, September 27, 2013

Finally found a minute to come and update you all on my adventures here in Sri Lanka!
What a week it's been since I last wrote....or two weeks?! However long!

I last wrote while I was on my holiday in Trincomalee, which was wonderful!
The day after my last entry I went snorkelling off Pigeon Island - an ocean protected wildlife park!
We saw millions of tropical fish - from tiny nemos, angel fish, rainbow fish and octopus - to sharks! Yes sharks! Okay they were only reef sharks but they bloody well look the same as jaws - and one that I saw was over 2 metres long! They were amazing... god knows where I got my bravery from but I swam after it and watched it just skluking around in the dark waters. It was amazing!
The sea was so so rough and there was a lot of razor sharp coral in areas, so it was tiring work, but definitely worth it!
The following day, Hannah and I got a night bus back to Unawattuna to meet some of the other coordinators(George and Jess, and Sophie - the girl who is living with me in my new house along with ten volunteers!!)
The last 4 days of my holiday were spent sunbathing, eating good food and swimming in the sea. The crazy waves at Una and Mirissa reach about ten foot high so it's pretty mental - but great fun diving in and out (Em you'd love it, know what a water baby you are when we go on holiday!)

We returned to Colombo on Sunday afternoon as we had a meeting with the other coordinators before the volunteers arrived on Monday.
SL is huge - much bigger than the group I run alongside George Jess and Sophie in Kotte. About an hour away is Maharigama where another 3 or 4 houses of volunteers are situated...and then a bit further out is Homogama where even more live! So there are maaaany projects being covered by many many volunteers and it takes a lot of organising!!

 Monday was spent waiting at homestays for new volunteers to arrive from the airport. I walked the half mile back to my old homestay (Maligawa) to welcome those volunteers, since they don't have a coordinator living with them.
In true Sri Lankan time they were all late! I went at 8:30am to meet a girl who arrived at 1:30 (luckily I had a hefty Matina Cole novel to keep me going!) 
We then waited till about 4 for the rest of her housemates, another 5 girls. 
They all seem nice if a little fatigued from their journey. A lot seemed a bit more overwhelmed than the group I came out here with - they certainly weren't as impressed with the homestay conditions and the food (little do they know it is utter luxury compared to the rest of Sri Lanka - I guess they'll soon learn). 
But that is the reason I am there - to comfort and support, and the motivate and inspire! Something that comes quite easy when you believe in the work you are doing and appreciate how lucky you are to be seeing the world and travelling around a fantastic country!!

After taking them to the plaza (their first bus ride happened to be absolutely rammed which was quite amusing) to get mobile phones and simcards.. I dropped them back at home before heading back to my own homestay to meet the volunteers I am living with.
So there's Sophie and I and our ten volunteers. They seem like a lovely group...very sweet and good natured girls and we all get along well. They were a bit quiet on Monday and Tuesday but have opened up a bit more now!

So Tuesday was orientation day at a hotel.. We travelled there at 9am in minibuses and the volunteers had a cultural talk a teaching talk and then the psychology placement talk (unlike in my group, everyone on this cohort are all psych graduates and so doing the psych placement and not just teaching).
Ellen and I, as psych project managers, had to do an hour long presentation. We made it pretty discussion based since the volunteers hadn't had much chance to get to know eachother. It worked really well and we had great feedback both from volunteers and from our boss's David and Lee.
We spoke about what volunteers expected their role to be at the hospitals (often a bit out of sink with their true role - some think they will be working as a psychologists assistant in a plush office....oops!) and also educated them about mental health in sri lanka and then place they will be going. It was a good day!!

For the remainder of this week (yesterday, today and tomorrow too) I have sent half the day doing NIMH tours and the other half organising transport to the youth centre over an hour away, where the volunteers have their training. It is near impossible to successfully organise arranged transport in Sri Lanka, so just booking minibuses is a real challenge! But all has gone well so far - I haven't lost anyone and only one volunteer has cried so far (watching ECT, which is understandable as I still get a bit overwhelmed even now).

I have actually surprised myself with the amount of information I have (apparently) absorbed during my time here in Sri Lanka, and only realised I'd even done so when I've been faced with lots and lots of questions from volunteers - and found that I can actually answer them!
Being the psych manager I really have to know my stuff about the hospitals and treatments, patients and staff, and the local area and travel - so its all go go go and plenty of responsibility!
Also if any problems arise I have a lot on my plate. As a coordinator I am responsible for all things pastoral, organisation, teaching people how to get to projects on public transport (and taking them there myself for the first 2 weeks). Also responsible for homestay issues (most commonly that they're not getting enough food or the beds aren't comfortable etc etc). Anything from the heat, to the mozzies!!
Then as psych manager, anything psychology based is down to Ellen and I to sort, Timetabling, travel, inappropriate behaviour at project (by both volunteers and patients) - aaaanything like that!
It is hard and tiring work but really fulfilling - I feel like I have a bigger purpose out here now an feel responsible for ensuring that these volunteers get as much out of their time here as I am!!

Well... I guess this blog has been a pretty boring one really! All work stuff - but I just wanted to let you all know what I'm up to :)
Off to climb Adam's peak on Saturday (GOD knows why).. I could do with a rest but am choosing the do a 5hour trek starting at 4am - fun fun fun!
My friend did it a few weeks ago and couldn't walk for like 3 days. Pray for me.

Hope all is okay at home - it's so nice to receive emails from you so please feel free to contact me! I think it keeps me sane....?! 

Lots of love xxx

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