Monsoon has arrived!
Trip Start May 06, 2006
81Trip End Mar 23, 2009
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As much as I was wishing for rain after an unbelievably hot week in Mount Lavinia I wasn't quite expecting the weeks accumilated rain to all fall at once! It stormed the whole night before the rest of the group arrived and then rained for practically all of Sunday. A welcome change at first but slightly frustrating a few days later!
The whole group arrived (about 20 people) which was great 'cos I got to speak English again and walk around in a group so I could actually leave the hotel after dark! Turns out my decision to stay in without other people around was a good idea as one of the other volunteers who had arrived the night before had been given money and jewellry and asked up to a hotel room by two guys - they thought she was a prostitute 'cos she was out after dark and 'cos she was white! I met the two others who were going to the same project and wasn't sure how well we'd get along at first.
We had an orientation the Monday morning, which I really needn't have attended being as it was exactly the same as South Africa bar learning a few words in Sinhala but they insisted so I went along!, and it was another hot day! We headed off to our projects around 1 and I got travel sick for the first time! The roads out here are seriously scary and I have no idea how I have only seen one very minor accident so far. I felt extremely sick and it was a lot longer than I had first thought. They have a crazy driving ability but it oddly seems to work!
We arrived at our project at about 5pm, met 6 other volunteers and were shown to what we thought was the shabby side of the accommodation. The house everyone else was in looked much more appealing but there wasn't room for all of us so we were told we could move there on Friday. As there were three of us (Gina from nr Chester and Ellie from Scotland are the other two volunteers I came with!), it would've meant one being alone which none of us particularly wanted so we moved 3 beds into one room (was very cramped at first but we soon made the other room a dressing room so now it's perfect!). We later found out that we are more than likely going to stay where we are... not beause we can't move but because they have a spider the size of a dinner plate and numerous rats living in the bunglow! So far we've only been introduced to mossies, lizards and leeches so we're quite happy where we are thanks!
We found out that i-to-i (company I arranged these projects through) had ripped us off once again, as the people who had gone to the project directly through the staff there had paid half the amount we did and got their food included which we don't. We weren't impressed at all but there's not much I can do about it right now so I'll save it for better and cheaper internet access to send them a hefty complaint letter!!
Our first night stormed again and continued to do so for the whole of the next day and night apart from about a 2 hour break! This meant that we were not assigned an elephant as we couldn't do anything. We were not happy at all as we were stood around doing nothing for the whole morning and no-one came to explain anything to us at all. We were just relying on the old volunteers. We went back to bed in the afternoon until about 4 and then helped teach. Tuesday pretty much followed the same pattern except and, again, we were not impressed. (I was still loving the rain at this point though, even though it meant we couldn't do anything!!).
Wednesday we were assigned an elephant and just told to pick up the poo... and quite rudely too. Because there are so many of us at the moment we had to share an elephant and we got Kumara. We don't know much about her yet 'cos no-one's told us anything but she usually eats a whole lot of leaves 'cos it's all in the poo! She's also very sick and has to be fed rice as she can't manage too much. The vet got called out Wednesday night 'cos she couldn't stand up.
Thursday got better as we got to help the vet nurse any cuts they have and feed the elephants dough balls which contain their medicine. We also had to brush off their feet and check for any cuts they might have. After that we finally got to do some gardening as the weather had brightened up - hard work but good to finally be doing something productive! We planted coconut trees that will eventually grow to feed the elephants! We also get given fruit and veg from the garden if we work well and we got a pineapple that day! In the afternoon I helped out in the office for a while (although was given a slightly pointless task!) and then the day was done!
Friday morning we sat around and waited for our mahout (guy who does everything for the elephant and who we can't go near them without!) but he wasn't showing up. We were slighlty annoyed at the lie-in we could've had (struggling with a lack of sleep as usual!) when he came around the corner with Kumari (another elephant!) and took her down to the lake. One of the guys in charge told us to go down and we washed our first elephant! It was fun but hard work! Those things are so massive and you don't even realise... she loved it though and was lying down and enjoying the coconut shell (soft shell outside the hard one!) massage! When she moved to changed sides you saw just how dirty she really was before we started! Our mahout obviously thought we worked hard 'cos he asked the other guy to ask us to go and work in his paddy field! That's something I want to do anyway so I might take him up on that offer! Late morning we did more gardening and then headed out for the weekend in the afternoon.
It was nice to finally have done something as the three of us were starting to feel like spare parts as we had nothing to do and no-one was communicating with us! The elephants are such huge and heavy animals and yet they're so elegant with it - we keep laughing at them casually crossing their legs and making no splash or barely any wave when they lie down in the water! Of course, once they get playful you'll get soaked but until then they're so good. The only thing I really hate is the fact that they're chained up when they're not in the water. I know most of them have come from horrible places so to get treated well and fed everyday is a good thing for them but I just find it hard to deal with... then again I'm not sure I'd want them barging into my room at night like they do in the elephant corridor north of us where a village was stupidly built on elephant turf!
Yesterday we headed into Kandy - the big city about an hour away from us. We got the bus in for about 30p, went to the market where I got some spices to send home and a little memento for myself before heading to the hostel. After investigating the ant and spider infestation we then went to a place down the road and had a full body massage for an hour! Head, face and body (entire body which I was a little disturbed with I have to say!). Felt very relaxed after that but also absolutely caked in oil! I'm nicely moisturised today! Shortly afterwards we had dinner in Helga's Folly which was quite expensive but absolutely worth it. It's a very eccentric place that would be perfect for a murder mystery and the 5 course meal was plain amazing! It's somewhere I'd definitely recommend and would love to stay but it's not gonna happen on this trip with this budget!! I often wonder how places like this stay open though as it's right on the top of a massive hill and very hard to find! We got back to our hotel to find a cockroach had attached itself to Ellie's bag and had to catch it under the bin. He's still there now and has been given the name 'cock'... we also have a birds nest on top of our fan and a bird in it who Ellie has named 'Joan'... however Joan will not eat the cockroach for us but I'll leave you to come up with your own lines for that!
Today we've come into Kandy to go to the Temple of The Tooth, have a smoothie at 'The Bar' (apparently extremely good there!) and then possibly watching Kandyain dancing tonight if we get there in time! Again, all relatively cheap compared to England and South Africa!
I can't say I'm enjoying this project as much as the Lion Park and I miss MY babies like mad. It's not easy to pick up an elephant and hug it when you don't feel so happy! Helene also just told me they're getting 3 more white cubs next week so I wish I was there to see that! I'm hoping next week will get better and we get given more stuff to do (even if I have to weed all afternoon!!). We've decided on a fitness routine for the afternoon as we're all feeling extremely fat from the amazing food we're eating (it's all way to spicy for me but I'm managing!) and we're trying to make some constructive classes for the kids who come to learn English in the afternoon - it's just hard as they're all at very different levels. Power cuts are about as constant as the rainfall but again something I'm enjoying the experience of.. lots of other random things I've noticed about the country but are again in my journal so I can't remember them all!
Other than that not much news (if you managed to digest all of that!). I hope all's well at home and you're all taking care of yourselves! Miss you all!