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RCSL’s new English Language Centre in Mandur Village

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A couple of weeks ago, Rose Charities opened a new preschool and centre for English education in Mandur village. Housed in a beautiful, spacious and sunlit building right in the center of town, the school has been bustling with students, parents and teachers from the moment it opened. Three preschool classes are running in the mornings, while the afternoons are dedicated to students aged 10-17 who attend afterschool sessions for English or exam prep. There is a plan to hold adult classes in the evenings as well. For my final two weeks in Kalmunai I’ve been teaching intensive classes to a small of group of 17-year-olds who are going to be writing their A-level exam this year. They’re a great group and we’ve been having a ball in class, playing games, chatting, doing roleplays and dialogues and other speaking activities. Their improvement in the last two weeks alone has been astounding and just goes to show what a little confidence can do for your speaking ability. These students have had the English knowledge all along; they just needed a chance to put it into use in a setting where they felt comfortable!

Long overdue update

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Okay, so I’ve been a bit negligent in updating this blog. Okay, quite negligent. Yes, I know I haven’t written a thing since early October. I’m bad, I know. Stop looking at me like that. I KNOW. The problem hasn’t been a lack of things to write about; there has been so much happening and I have had so many new and interesting experiences that when I sit down to write something here, I never know quite where to start. Plus I get a bit self-conscious at the thought of people I don’t know reading what I’ve got to say, and it just became an easy thing to keep putting off. I hope I haven’t disappointed anyone out there…  So are we cool? Okay.

It’s January 26th today, which means I arrived in Kalmunai exactly four months ago. It’s strange now to think back to that early morning drive down Main Street, because so much of what shocked and amazed me on that first day has become so normal and expected that it’s hard to imagine things any other way. I can see myself getting back to Vancouver and saying, “Where are all the mangy dogs and banana shops and sidewalk garbage fires? Where are all the cows?” I barely take notice now as I weave between roaming cattle on my bicycle, but it when I first arrived it felt as if I’d stepped into a different world. I couldn’t believe how different it was! And it is different in a lot of ways, but the more I’ve gotten to know this place and its people, the more similarities I’ve been able to recognize between here and home; between people living in Eastern Sri Lanka and people living in at least parts of Vancouver –Yaletown really is incommensurable. I’m kidding. There may be vast differences in our lifestyles, our religious customs, our economic situation, but on an individual level we’re all after the same things. I made some great friends here and I’m sorry to be saying goodbye to them.

I’ve got more stuff to talk about, but it’s getting late now and the mosquitoes are biting my feet. To be continued.

A weekend workshop in Vellaveli

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In Vellaveli district last weekend, a two-day workshop took place with the object of providing training and professional development for the area’s preschool teachers. In total, about 60 preschool teachers attended a variety of seminars aimed at improving different aspects of their teaching toolkit. For my part, I ran a 2-hour session with a focus on teaching basic English vocabulary through songs. I introduced the teachers to eight fun and easy-to-learn songs that each teach a handful of themed English words. I chose these particular songs because they include actions to be performed while singing.  I had a good laugh watching a group of adults doing “the hokey pokey” for the first time, but I suppose I too must have looked ridiculous standing at the front of the class singing “Mr. Sun”!

A trip to chaotic Colombo

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Hi everyone! I thought I’d share with you a little of my experience visiting the Sri Lankan capital Colombo last week. Rose Charities Sri Lanka CEO Anthony Richard and I traveled there together to do the bulk-purchasing of school supplies for the coming 2013 school year.  This was my first time really seeing the capital, having traveled right through and onward across the country to Kalmunai immediately upon my arrival. Hoo boy! Is it ever a bustling, chaotic, noisy, traffic-filled city, and so different from the laid-back feel of small-town Kalmunai! We spent most of our time in the market district, Pettah, where we were doing our purchasing. This is the busiest market in the country, and the busiest I have ever seen.  It’s a maze of narrow streets filled with small shops of every description, each with merchandise spilling out onto the sidewalk and surrounded by throngs of people looking for the best bargain. I’m told you can buy just about anything here, and I believe it! The tiny lanes  are completely jam packed at all times with three-wheelers, motorcycles, bicycles, and people carrying impossible loads on their carts or on their backs. You can barely walk in there let alone use a vehicle, and yet people come through with their full-sized delivery trucks turning the place into one of those unscramble-the-tiles-to-make-a-picture puzzles as people try to get their three-wheelers just a little farther to the outside or move their motorcycles into an alcove or duck into a shop themselves as these trucks squeeze through at a crawl with no more than inches to spare on either side. And of course everyone is honking and shouting constantly and the trucks are kicking up dust and belching blue-black smoke into everyone’s faces! What a scene! While I stood looking dumbstruck, Anthony took care of business and we managed to extricate ourselves  and return to Kalmunai the following day with the supplies needed to run all the Rose Charities preschools. Just another day at the office, Sri Lankan-style. : )

Here, things are moving along. It’s day 6 for me now…

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Here, things are moving along.  It’s day 6 for me now, and my schedule is starting to fill up with classes. It’s looking good. We’ve begun daily morning classes with the office staff, and I’ve joined afternoon activities with primary school kids in Vellaveli village. On Saturday, we had the first class with the preschool teachers. I’ve had positive feedback about the class so far, and it sounds like more teachers will be joining next week. That’ll put us well over 20 students. Rajeeshan has placed an ad for English lessons and has already had a quite a bit of interest. We’ll try to start up two additional classes of 10-20 students (as many as we can get), for hopefully 8 hours a week total, so that will offset some of the cost of my accommodation here. So things are shaping up nicely so far.

In other news, it is HOT! My god! It’s been over 35 degrees on the thermometer, to say nothing of the humidity. I hope I acclimatize soon, ’cause I’m cooking over here! 🙂  Also, been watching the cricket world cup in the evenings. At first I had no idea what the hell they were doing, but I’m starting to pick it up now. Sorry to see NZ ousted, but it doesn’t matter; Sri Lanka is going to take the whole thing!!!


Terry Fox Run 2012

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CSLI teachers sacrificed their beauty for charity!! Today we auctioned our teachers and raised money for Terry Fox Cancer foundation. The student(s) with the highest bid got to “pie” a teacher in the face!!


… and  of course some video clips :

Would you ride a pedal-less FLIZ ‘running bike?’

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Thank You

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Lori-Ann It would be inappropriate to dedicate this journey to you as I know it brought much apprehension to you. But I would love to dedicate all the joy it gave me , to you. This was my dream for so long and you made it happen. I love that we co…


Final Observations:

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Homogenous: For all the speak about diversity & being a mosaic, we are extraordinarily alike. In traveling the breadth of Csnada, i came within a breath of 80% of its population, and to me we share very similar values & lifestyles. Considering a c…


The Nuthouse

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As we affectionately know them. The Johnsons have been dear friends of ours for 12 years. We featured together on Canada’s Decorating Challenge, a ploy of our wives, after we met in West Vancouver. They have since moved to Halifax where I had the …


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