Its raining, its pouring...

Trip Start Oct 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2006

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Where I stayed
Kodikara Guesthouse

Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Monday, October 30, 2006

... not today though, so that's nice. But the last week has been pretty rotten weather. We've had some amazing storms with the loudest thunder I've ever heard in my life and rain that not even Cardiff can compete with. We got back last night to some bad news that the town where we're living and the next door towns along the way to the airport all had severe flooding and 90 people died this weekend with many more homes being seriously damaged. Some people tried to escape the flooding in a tuk tuk which was carried away in the current of the river created and they were trapped and died. Our suburb was pretty much fine although apparently the water came up to knee-height, whereas just a mile down the road the water levels were head-height. It was a dry day yesterday and a really hot day today so a lot of the water has dried up and the roads are all open again but some of the schools we teach in were shut today and on our way to one school we saw lorries and cars that had been abandoned because they couldn't get through.

(Just wrote loads of stuff and then the computer crashed. Now you might never know why you can't blame a crab for being a crab...)

Anyway, I was trying to give you a bit of an idea about one of the schools we go into. St Josephs is probably my favourite school at the moment - the classes can be pretty rowdy and the awful lesson last week was there but we've established quite a rapport with students and teachers there over the past month and it does have a nice atmosphere. It's also one of the schools where its easy to see that we're making a difference, both as teachers and as part of the organisation Travellers Worldwide. We still get asked "Your country from? Your name is? Father name is?" but it tends to be the instant reaction and when we stop and ask them to repeat it they do correct themselves, so there's progress there somewhere! Travellers also sponsors various projects within the school so in the past couple of years we've provided a volleyball court (plaque reads 'Travelers Worldwide'), helped renovate the hall ('Travellers World Wide'), and donated a religious statue/focus for prayer (no plaque). Last week we were priviledged to be invited along to the school speech day/ festival where the playground we paid for was being opened ('Traverllers World Wide'). As part of the day's festivities we were invited along as guests to the opening of the playground, the speech day (in which I must confess I had a little snooze - imagine graduation in a foreign language. Absolutely no clue what was happening but there were some certificates and about 5 speeches that I bet were probably more boring if you could understand!) and then a special lunch. All in all it was a really nice day.

Today was a great day teaching at St Josephs. We haven't been allowed to teach any of the teenagers because they have exams coming up and need to finish their syllabus, of which English isn't a part apparently, but today there were so many absences due to the flood that we did conversation practice with the year 9s, 10s and 11s (14, 15 and 16 year olds). We split them into groups of 4 or 5 and each took a group, rotating groups after 20 mins and it was really good fun. I had with me the photos of some of you guys so I chatted through families with them and they loved it. Alice and Chloe (my younger sisters) both now have boyfriends in Sri Lanka (you guys don't get a say in the matter apparently); Dad's age was guessed at 30, then 80 and then 48; and Bournemouth was described as 'very, very beautiful' from a misty, murky photo of all of us last year. And we even managed to play the Godalming Game very successfully.

This weekend we headed off for the beach again. It did have a cultural element to it this time though because Unawatuna is right near Galle, the old part of which is set within the walls of the dutch fortress from the time of the occupation. Interestingly it was the fortress that saved Galle from the Tsunami because of the drains that had been built in and the protection that the walls offered. Although the water came in thick and fast it also drained out very quickly and didn't do too much damage. Deborah and I headed down to Galle on Thursday evening and stayed at Mr Kodikara's guest house - think he might be one of the loveliest and quaintest Sri Lankans I've met yet. On Friday Deborah and I walked all round the city on the ramparts which was pretty cool. Then we headed off to meet the others in Unawatuna for the rest of the weekend. This was where we were meant to be going last weekend but couldn't because of the bombs in Galle.

Unawatuna was a slight disappointment because it rained so much! We stayed in a nice beach-front hotel (with hot water - such a luxury!) which had really nice staff. Friday night is Happy Banana club night which was definitely an experience! Not sure its one to be repeated but I have discovered a liking for Arrack and Sprite. Yummy! Saturday was pretty relaxed - the sun came out at about 11.30 am (photo in album) and then when we were walking along the beach at 2.30pm there was a huge rain storm without any warning and we got absolutely drenched (also in album)! Sunday was a lot brighter and we swam in the sea and chilled out. Long train ride back to Colombo on an old train without electricity. Once the sun had set at 6.30pm it was a long, dark and slightly scary trip. Never again will I take lights on trains for granted!

We've taken the train along this line a few times and it is so beautiful. From the train (and the bus) you get a really good view of Sri Lankan life. Some of it can be quite heartbreaking as well as you can see some of the slums and poverty that's around. You can also see the damage from the Tsunami and although there is often building work and repairs right next to it, occasionally you still see people living in the emergency tents and with the temporary roofing that was established. There are loads of graves and headstones along the way too. Just outside Hikkaduwa station there is a train that was caught up in the Tsunami. At points the train runs right next to the coast and when the Tsunami hit many people ran up from the beach and jumped onto the moving train to get away. Unfortunately the second huge wave brought the train off the tracks and completely flooded the carriages and destroyed the train. The train was so overcrowded from all the extra people that were trying to get off the beach that when that more than 1000 people died on that train alone. The wreck of the train is left there as a reminder of what happened and its definitely very sombering to go past.

Well, I will sign off for the moment. It doesn't seem to have been as lighthearted today - sorry! I could now tell you about getting my hair cut in Colombo which was slightly traumatic but very funny. Or about our friendly jeweller Mohammad ('No money, no honey' was a particular favourite). Or about the most amazing meal last night back at Echo for which Sam's parents picked up the bill. But time is running out and I need to get back but check out the photos...

Love to you all. Talking about all my photos with the children today has made me miss you loads so I think a quick trip to Cargills to pick up some M&Ms and a diet coke is in order. Not that I'm saying that's all it takes for me to get over you guys... Am going to stop digging this hole and just say goodbye. Once again, thanks to my crisis-management team this week - a bottle of Arrack will certainly be coming your way!

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