The end is near...

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

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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Western,
Thursday, October 24, 2013

As it's nearly time for me to leave beautiful Sri Lanka, I thought I'd write one more message! Which I hope you appreciate considering I just electrocuted myself at the mains whilst picking up the extension cable to plug the office laptop in... Bloody Sri Lankan electronics.

Last weekend we had the Friday off for Poya (full moon holiday).
Myself and the new volunteers living in my house - I say new, they've been here a month now and it seems like 3 days!! - travelled to Yala on Thursday night. We arrived there at 2am had 2hours kip and were all up at 4.30am for a safari morning!
Despite being pretty tired at first, it was an amazing experience.. We were at the park from 5am till midday and saw loads of animals.
We saw a huge male elephant - with tusks - which was pretty lucky as only male elephants have tusks and even then 95% of them don't keep them.. We also saw 2 leopards, despite there being just 15 in the 100,000acre park. Amongst other things we saw mongoose, HUGE peacocks, water buffalo, warthogs, reptiles, birds.. It was really good and a good chance to bond with the new volunteers who are a really nice bunch!

From Yala, we had a quick lunch and got right back on the road to return to Unawattuna beach for a relaxing weekend.. The weather was crap on Friday so we  just chilled at our guesthouse and then went out for dinner. We found an acceptable 'western' restaurant and had - STEAK! Actual, proper meat... it was delicious! The owner gave us free beer and cocktails too as we were a bit of an attraction to more people to come in... they proudly played western music (include some Abba haha). 
From there we went to the beach bar where all the volunteers go, called 'Chilli Bar' where they do good beer and cocktails and we went home as the sun rose..
We slept in for most of Saturday as the weather was still bad.. then went out again! Again, we spent the night at Chilli Bar, chatting to locals and some ex-pats living out there - it was good to relax and have a few bevvies!

Sunday was better weather wise - although due to a hangover I was in bed till 1pm...
Did some final present shopping and lay on the beach for a couple of hours before returning to Ethul Kotte for dinner before bed! Weekends are as exhausting as weekdays!

On Monday the newest cohort of volunteers arrived, who are here joining on to the last 2 months of the last group.. So they're here for 8 weeks.
Only two girls moved into our house, seem really lovely and one has been to SL before so that's good.. Wasn't as unprepared for the spicy food and living conditions as some have been (including myself!).
On Tuesday they had their hotel orientation, at which Ellen and I did our psychology placement talk again and answered their questions..

Yesterday was my last full day of projects - seems unbelievable!
In the morning I had HWH and went to both the intermediate and acute wards.. It was actually really nice to spend the morning with the women who I have got to recognise and get to know (by get to know, I mean their behaviours and issues, not through conversation etc). We did lots of arts and crafts and some singing and learning English with a couple of the more capable patients.
From there I spent my afternoon at NIMH on the womens forensics ward. Before that though one of the doctors drrrragged me and the 4 other volunteers to his office to tell us about his daily life.. He is the doctor of the 'long term care ward' which is like a HWH for men - so for males who have recieved psych treatment at NIMH and have been abandoned by the families following discharge, thus having nowhere to go and having to stay at the hospital. They will all be there until they die, which is a real shame considering some of them were pretty much rehabilitated when they were put forward for release - yet now they have deteriorated to zombies.
This doctor trained in Romania and Italy but returned to Sri Lanka because the best job he could get in Italy was an MRI scan assistant. Here he is a GP and takes care of the medical examinations of the men on his ward.. He has 80 patients on the ward, checks 5 of them a day (8:30am-10:00) and then goes and sits in the office drinking coffee and learning Russian unless an emergency comes up... So he is paid 8:30am till 4pm and does less than 2 hours work! Not too bad ey.. He also recieves a great wage by Sri Lankan standards - 2 an hour.. So he earns like 400 a month! Compared to the usual 80 a month that's not bad going and he lives a pretty comfortable life. He is also on the hunt for a white wife and so spent a good twenty minutes trying to convince us to get a job over there and live with him... No thanks.

Last night our homestay couple cooked us a 'special dinner' as it will be my last meal at home (my boss is taking me out for dinner tonight and we don't get meals fri, sat, sun). I literally starved myself all day, really excited for this food... When we got it, we were each given a banana leaf containing about a 5cm squared block of rice, a slice of cucumber and a piece of curried fish. It was tasty but it was about big enough for a mouse! Such a shame - but you have to laugh - typical Sri Lanka!
I ended up running to the local shop afterwards and gorging on biscuits..

This morning, I taught my last ever class at Koswatta (the older guys, ex navy). I love them SO much they're just so funny and sweet and willing to learn! We did phonics and a lot of speaking and pronunciation practice.. Lots of games like tongue twisters and 'pass the bomb' which was a good laugh.. They were sad to see me go and all shook my hand and said 'goodbye captain' which was sweet. They also bought us all a tray of sweet tea (tea here is so sweet it would rot your teeth if you drank a full cup, I literally can't swallow it) and some rottis which was really kind of them.

From there, I made my way here, to the office! I have spent the afternoon writing references for my volunteers which has been pretty boring but actually quite nice to just be indoors sitting down for an afternoon.. It's bloody hot though and the toilets in the plaza where the office is are GROSS. The most disgusting squat toilets I've seen - so I'm crossing my legs.
Tonight Lee, the project manager, is taking me and Jess (who also leaves next week) to dinner at the Lake near Ethul Kotte - looks like a gorgeous place :) should be nice..

Then tomorrow will be my final tour of NIMH for the new volunteers.. Then I'll walk out of the front doors forever. It just feels mental after being there day in day out for 3 months. So strange. There's nowhere else like it, and that's both a good and bad thing!
This weekend Jess and I are just staying around Colombo paying to use the swimming pool of a posh hotel before flying home :) excittttedd!!

I have THE BEST time in Sri Lanka..
After coming here perhaps not in the best frame of mind and with a lot of crap to run away from back home (well mostly just one, man sized pile of crap) I feel that I have 'grown' as a person. Sounds cliche I know...but I feel a lot better for getting away and using my skills and personality to make a difference to people who utterly NEED it. 
I couldn't even explain if I tried, the lives of the people that I have been helping and have grown to love. You just couldn't imagine. We would never ever have to live life like them...even as degenerate, would ever leave us to lie in our own mess, without bedding, without medical care - and in a hospital of all places! We honestly don't know how lucky we are and I for one will surely feel even more grateful for my life when I leave this place.. 
I'm so determined to continue to help people with mental health problems and disabilities, whether that be in England or abroad. I believe so much in the tasks that I have undertaken and KNOW that I and the volunteers alongside me have made a difference - and hopefully one that will last! I feel like that's what I'm meant to do - wherever I am and however little the impact.

Thanks to you all for reading my blogs... I hope you've found them interesting - or at least been able to sleep easy knowing that I'm still alive - haven't even been ill once - forget Deli Belly, I'm a fully fledged Sri Lankan!!

Take care guys and I'll see you next week!!

Lots of love x
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mum on

Oh Gracie you have me laughing one minute and crying the next!! You have had the most amazing experience and its obvious from your blogs that you have put your heart and soul into everything you have done. We are proud of the person you are and even more proud of the person you have become-people talk very flippantly about life-changing experiences but what you have seen and done over there is truly just that. We are all so excited about you coming home and can't wait to see you. Love you darling xxxx

Jane on

You are a legend in your own life time! X

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