Final update from Sri Lanka 21/04/2010

Matt Marshall :: Wednesday 21st April 2010 :: This Story

Ocean Stars Sri Lanka Nursery

Wow, sorry I haven't updated for so long, so much has been going on and the trip just seemed to get more magical everywhere I went. I finished my work in Batti and had a chance to go on a trip with the teachers and children of Urani playgroup to the local playgroup, which was brilliant to see the kids having so much fun and the mothers who came along all looking so proud; all asking for their child to have a photo with me! Then the celebrity treatment continued as I was invited to a sports day programme organised by Eruvil playgroup - as the chief guest! Although I was too shy to make a speech as they wanted me to, I got to hand out prizes for the various events which was great fun, even if it all took place in the baking sun! So with a whole folder full of audit reports and requests and documents I left Batticaloa and went on to Negombo.

Spending Easter weekend in Negombo was my most difficult time in Sri Lanka until that point. I ended up having to spend 4 days in Negombo waiting for the department of immigration to open so I could renew my visa. Then the driver took me to various British embassies and consulates etc. until I managed to tell him where I actually needed to go. THEN somebody drove into the back of his car, gave him Rs500 (£3) for the damages and drove off! eventually I got my visa stamped for the princely sum of Rs6000 - enough for 4 or 5 days at Joseph's! And the next day I set off for the jungle.

The 6th of April is one of the days from this trip I'm sure I'll never forget - I woke up listening to the waves crashing on a negombo beach through my hotel window. After a few hours driving and a couple of fantastic meals I fell asleep listening to elephants crashing against trees all around me through - well a couple of poles. Rohan's place at Morakanda is truly one of the most spectacular places I have been - and probably will ever be - lucky enough to stay. The whole place just runs out into the teak plantation so harmoniously and the views are so untouched and natural, it is a rare thing indeed to be so close to nature. The guys there were great too, walking out onto the warm rock face to help me spot elephants, and then watching the sunset with me, and Upali cooking me the most wonderful meals! On my last afternoon he took me on a walk through the jungle to see even more spectacular views and walk barefoot through elephant watering holes (and an ants nest which wasn't so fun!) Although I did so little for 5 days I will take away so much from that place and so many memories to look back on when I'm back in cold England.

From Habarana, Janapdeen took me up to Vellai Manal (which is Tamil for white sand - I'm getting there!) And a lot of you will know how nervous I was about staying in his family home - but as you all told me there was absolutely nothing to worry about. His whole family were amazing to me and the whole village seemed to want to make me as comfortable as possible - I lost track of how many people's motorbikes I rode on the back of. One moment that struck me as to how rural and traditional this village is was during a nursery session when the teacher brought us a drink - not a bottle of coke or water but a fresh king coconut, which she hacked open with a huge knife. This just sums up how beautifully these people live - the biggest crime in the area seems to be monkeys stealing fruit from trees! Janapdeens house was a real hub of the community - kids were always wandering in and out (some times difficult to tell who was who's child!) and I think I met most of his brothers and his mother etc.

While I was staying in Vellai Manal it was Tamil and Sinhala new year, and something totally unprecedented happened. "Dead Man's Cove" is the body of water only around 1km from the village but access to which the people have been totally denied for around 10 years. But this year the Navy opened the beach so I spent the day eating with the locals, watching a cricket match between the Navy and the locals and getting to swim with some of the boys from my evening class who loved splashing around and having swimming races. Although this is obviously a massive step in the relations between the two peoples of the country, there was a feeling that this access was only granted as a result of the Sinhalese holiday and the same treatment wouldn't have happened if it had been a purely Tamil or Muslim holiday - but it was clear progress nonetheless. The classes themselves didn't warrant my worrying either - in the mornings I played with the nursery and in the evenings I tried to teach the older kids (around 8-11) some English. This mostly took the form of the teacher drawing pictures or writing the Tamil words and the children spelling out the English. It was great to see the shy class of 12 transform into a much more confident class of about 32 by the end of the week! Janapdeen was feeling ill for a few days from a nasty insect bite so the children mostly walked with me to and from the school, and some of his friends who were on a tour from Batticoloa were kind enough to take me with them to "Pigeon Island" off the coast of Nilaveli beach. They were even gracious enough to put up with my shocking attempts at eating rice with my fingers!

It was quite a change from the great feeling of Trincomalee to waiting in Negombo (again) not knowing whether Laura's flight would ever come and even if I would ever get home - but I won't go into that too much.

After staying in Negombo for 2 nights I decided it would be best to come down to Galle to visit the small Ocean Stars project there. I arrived here yesterday at another hotel at which I feel incredibly out of place, and today Rev Dareeju took me to the project and for a tour of Galle. He is such a fantastic and enigmatic host, and took me to see tea plants growing, to taste cinnamon plucked freshly from the plant and then down to a Buddhist Temple and Galle Fort, before going to lunch at his house. It has been a great chance to see a totally different side of Sri Lanka - although it is all too clear the problems tourism is causing for this area. Again the value of knowing a "local" was immeasurable, I was able to see things off the conventional tourist routes and enjoy yet another authentic Sri Lankan meal. Today was also improved with the news that Laura has booked a ticket for a flight tonight so with any luck she'll be here tomorrow - only a few days after we had originally planned. I'd like to say thanks to all those who took a concern in the developments and I'm sure a few prayers were said that she'd make it here - and it looks like things are back on track.

Sorry for such a long update, turns out I've done a lot in the 3 weeks or so I haven't written! And there's still so much more I've left out but I'll be back in 9 days to tell you all about it....

Thanks for following what has been such an amazing trip and I look forward to sharing the details with everyone.