We are currently staying in one such guesthouse, Blue Horizon, it was all but destroyed by the Tsunami as it is right on the beach, the sea is only about 10yards away! The owner lost not only his business but also one of his children, 14-month-old Sanka and although he hasn't said, we suspect that his false leg is also a result of that fateful day. There are still very few tourists and we had the pick of rooms. We have a large room with balcony overlooking the sea, en-suite bathroom with all mod cons including a cold shower and our own wildlife, including cockroaches, geckos, ants, bee's nest, bird's nest etc etc. The only ones we don't like are the cockroaches and they get swiftly dispatched with a whack of a shoe. (We're also trying to get rid of the bee's nest in the bathroom, bit disconcerting when you're having a shower. Talking of showers it's great fun when it rains and we've had some amazing thunderstorms, mainly at night. The rain drips in just above the loo.......get the picture? Also water leaks in through the wall and we have our very own water feature running through the room. It sounds grim but actually we really like it here and it makes us laugh, we've learned where to put our luggage so nothing gets wet! The sea is awesome; the waves great for surfers are initially really scary, they thunder and boom up the beach at an alarming pace and height. The first night here we hardly slept, convinced that the sea was pounding into the rooms below
. We're used to it now and even ventured out yesterday to paddle along the shoreline, far to dangerous to consider swimming in. We don't have a cook at Blue Horizon so we have to go out to eat and walking along the track by moonlight is like being back at Kibblestone and walking up to the Wheatsheaf. Just a few differences:- the sea pounding up the beach, crabs scuttling across the path, beautiful fire flies dancing in the darkness, unknown critters providing a chorus in the background. After a dodgey start we are tending to stick to vegetarian dishes but veg rice, veg noodles and veg curry lovely as they are can get a bit monotonous. So we've started to venture into fish, which is delicious and of course freshly caught by the fisherman in their ASL boats.
There are some me of you back home who we know would find it very amusing to know that we spent 2 days last week at a conference........at one time it seemed that Chris's working life was all meetings. We could have been in the UK, banners announcing the conference, registration and name badges, laptops and screens, only difference was we were the only white faces and the proceedings were all conducted in Sinhala! 21 NGO's were represented and the work they have done is quite overwhelming, it made us wonder what the Government were doing? One big difference we did notice was that ASL have kept admin down to less than 5% of donations, some of the big NGO's are spending as much as 40% on overheads, they are the ones who arrived in 4 wheel drive vehicles. (we arrived by tuk tuk).
So what are you actually doing? I hear you ask. Well Paul has been welcomed with open arms as to date ASL have had no volunteers with any building experience. He has become the Building Manager and has numerous building projects to oversee. Toilets (just like working at Kibblestone) feature largely but there is also lots of rebuilding work going on at some of the 90 schools ASL has "twinned" with schools abroad
. In addition to the 18 houses he was expecting to oversee the building of, there is also another housing project for up to 24 houses, 3shops, children's play area, community centre and Dagoba. (That's your homework for tonight find out what a Dagoba is.........we had to). It's funded by a group of Canadians, 20 of whom are turning up here at the end of the month to help with the building. The plans aren't even agreed yet! Oh and we mustn't forget the visitors centre for the turtle conservation project and the 3 swimming pools. All in 3 months!!!!! As for Chris she'll be managing the Twins project and the field workers who go out to visit schools, keeping in touch with donors to let them know how their money is being spent and finishing off a project at the local school for hearing impaired kids. Deaf children tend to get abandoned by parents and around 110 live at the local school here in Tangalle. ASL have had the dormitories spruced up, toilets, showers and wash rooms built, the kitchen virtually rebuilt, new mattresses and mosquito nets. Next job is to try to get some of the beds replaced and get sheets that actually fit the beds. A bed for each child would be good, currently 51 under 10's share 27 beds, not a world we are used to and we have to keep reminding ourselves that we can not put Western standards on what we see and do. The other thing that would help is to get mains water to the school, having built showers and toilets we discover that water is supplied by bowser, the last time Chris went there wasn't even enough water to wash the meagre amount veg for dinner let alone for 100+ kids to shower.
How life can change in 3 weeks............................................
Of course our flight was fine, 1-hour delay but we arrived safely in Sri Lanka in the early hours of 6th Nov and had a very comfy night at a Western Style hotel near the airport. The drive down from Colombo to Tangalle was sobering to say the least. Once we got to Galle on the south west coast we started to see the havoc caused by the Tsunami. Houses flattened, with only concrete bases left, some with walls half standing, others with concrete pillars and staircases left looking like they were half built. Boats stranded on rocks and by the road- side battered and broken their ribs exposed for all to see. Two carriages of the train where 3000 people are said to have died are left where they stood. There is still much evidence of people living in temporary houses, even worse some in wind torn and mildewed tents. Is this what you want to hear? Well, amongst all of this there is also evidence of progress, we see lots of Non Government Organisations (NGO's) from all around the world announcing house-building projects, some already complete. Shops and markets have been rebuilt so that normal life can restart and the Charity we are working for, Adopt Sri Lanka have helped to rebuild 50+ Guest Houses along the south coast