I have started going to Sri Lankan cookery classes during the week. My cookery teacher Rohitha, runs an internet café in Tangalle. He is quite an interesting guy and likes to tell his stories, his dramatic roof top escape from the tsunami was particularly animated and intriguing.
His café is on the way to the main beach and is quite a nice place to hang out and have a juice. He has a very Western outlook in comparison to a lot of Sri Lankan's in that he aims to provide the type of things that would really appeal - ie he is the only place in town with a coffee filter machine so I can have a proper coffee. Although it is still a bit off the mark in the coffee stakes, it is still miles better than the grey coloured Sri Lankan coffee with milk powder that you tend to get. He also spent a month in France which is a very big thing for the average Sri Lanka because most only dream of making it to the West. He is very good friends with a French business man who was a regular visitor to Tangalle and who suffered the loss of his young daughter in the Tsunami.
Rohitha assisted with a rehabilitation and rebuild programme run by this French guy in the surrounding area of the main Tangalle beach. The French guy wrote a book about his loss and the impact of the Tsunami on the Tangalle area - unfortunately it is only in French because I would have been very interested to read it, and Rohitha featured throughout the book due to his commitment and assistance.
As a result of this involvement, he was invited to spend a month in France and as a man in the hospitality industry, spent a lot of time drinking coffee, wine and eating continental food. I had been very keen to learn how to cook SL curry while here because it really is so tasty - without a doubt I am going to miss it badly when I go. It makes you realise that the greasy, brightly coloured curry in the UK really is not all that!
SL curry is generally pretty hot and coconut milk based and I eat it twice a day and thought I would get sick of it - but not so far! Was finding it difficult to handle first thing in the morning and prefer just to have the amazing fruit platter that Sue gives me at the Chalets.
The secret really is in the spices and the coconut milk, and they will be the more difficult things to get back home, they are just so available and fresh here. I have been shown how to fry up and grind the fresh spices and I will prob need to substitute some things for dried versions which will not quite be the same. (and this is my backup excuse for when I don't quite master the technique!) The first thing I learnt was dahl, pol sambol and bringol mogul which are 3 pretty common dishes and 3 of my favourites. A lot of the further curries I have learnt, jack fruit, sweet potato, pumpkin, beans, lady fingers and mango are pretty similar in technique which is pretty good and they are not as complicated as I thought they would be.
Meat curries tend to be the same process as well. I have also learnt some "bites" to serve as snacks - our equivalent of nibbles for when you have a beer. Devilled dishes are very tasty too, spicy but without the coconut base, so more Chinese type style and I have learnt them too. I am going to purchase a coconut scraper before I go home because it is vital for prep of the coconut flesh for the milk. Turtle Night Watch, Rekawa
One of the other CWW volunteers Louise works for an environmental NGO based in Colombo. She has been involved in various field trips around Sri Lanka and one of them was with the zoology department from the university who have connections with the night watch turtle conservation project (TCP) in Rekawa, which is about 6km from Tangalle (just beside Netolpitiya where I used to live)
So, there were 7 of us and about 50 zoology students went turtle watching and before hand we went on the 2km nature trail way down to the beach. This consisted of wading through a couple of rivers and looking out for bats and other creatures with our head torches on - we did see a couple. When we got down to the beach, one of the TCP staff told us there were 5 green turtles on the beach. Green turtles are the most common species in SL, but there are 5 present in Sri Lanka, Green, Leatherback, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill.
It takes them about an hour to come onshore and select the area for laying eggs and then another hour to dig the egg pit and they can't be disturbed during this time because if they are not happy, they will just return to the sea and come ashore another day. Once they have started laying eggs, they go into a trance and it is possible to go and watch and be in touching distance of them. Luckily, when we arrived one of the turtles had gone through the time consuming process of digging her egg pit and had started laying her eggs, so we didn't have to hang around too much for this.
They lay approx 70-80 eggs which look like ping pong balls, then they cover them up with sand which takes and head back to the sea once they are happy. Each turtle is tagged so they can monitor how often they come back to lay eggs and the one we watched already had a tag and had layed eggs several times in Rekawa before. They are also measured - this one was 112cm so pretty big, and their health checked for any visible probs. Turtles are not really designed for on land, so it is quite a laborious process for them and you just want to help her cover them up so she can get on her way.
The TCP believe in leaving the eggs where they are buried to leave them to hatch and enter the water themselves. Many other turtle projects dig up the eggs after the mother returns to sea and take them to a hatchery and release them once they are more likely to survive predators and poachers. However, TCP patrol the beach and protect them in the natural environment as well as providing education and research. Website is www.tcpsrilanka.org