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On the Road to Galle

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I think I mentioned in the last email that I was heading to Galle. The road took us into the interior of Sri Lanka then back to the coastline which we followed until arriving at Galle on the south west side of the island. There are only a few main highways so in order to stay on the better, smoother highways (they are narrow and mostly very major curves as they meander throughout the countryside connecting cities and villages) we go way out of the direct route. The drive takes a long while as I mentioned before but due to the hazards of driving in Sri Lanka I am quite happy we are going slow. Plus I really enjoy driving because I get to see lots of the countryside. The interior has many high mountains; some rocky but mostly very lush and green. We drove through areas of trees that they extract sap from to make rubber. Some areas are so lush and green with the trees forming tunnels of shadows as we drive through. Some areas are flatter with stumpier trees and then there are the cultivated areas of rice fields. Some of the trees remind me of the forests at home but many are tropical. We again were fortunate to spot elephants three different times. One was right at the roads edge but we could just slow down to allow me to snap a picture because although they are used to moving traffic they would charge if one were to stop. Especially the lone, male elephants. Along the way we drove through the hometown of Sri Lankan’s president. It is just a small town but because he is second time in power (his 8th of 12 years he can be president) a lot of money has been put into the town. It is on the coast so a harbor has been built. Along with it’s other developments there is a major racetrack, and even an airport! Many people love this President because he was able to put an end to almost 30 years of civil war. Internationally he is not as popular due to humanitarian issues. The jails (not our standard of prisons) are still full of people that have been incarcerated for decades and their case has not even been put in front of a judge. Many are under suspicion but have not been told what that suspicion is! On the edge of that town was a Chinese restaurant and thus began a Canadian style eating frenzy. I had 4 meals in a row that reminded me of home before I was outvoted and headed back to a Tamil restaurant of spice and rice! Did I mention the beer that went with the meal? Big bottles and also very welcomed! We arrived in Galle around midnight and thought it would be easy to get a beach front hotel. Not so. On the 10th or 11th try we tried the other side of the main road and as luck would have it I found myself curled up in a canopied king sized bed sound asleep by 1 am.

Easter Sunday was spent touring and enjoying a beautiful beach, last easter was spent at Bondi beach in Australia! Hummm where will I be next Easter?

Galle is home to a fort built in the 1700’s. I posted many pictures of the site on facebook. After a morning of touring the area we drove up the west coast to Hikaduwa. A well known tourist area with beautiful beaches. We sat on the beach, under an umbrella having a drink and lunch. Yummy prawns and fries! I wanted to go into some of the roadside shops and browse. I did some bartering and buying but I think Rajeeshan outdid me! When he phoned his wife I heard him say, “Sonia said it looked good on me!” He is so enjoyable and so good natured to travel with!

That evening we headed to Columbo to be at the immigration office bright and early to extend our visas. It took all morning but other than waiting dead easy, $55. later we were again off on the road home.

This week I have been busy. When I am not teaching I am at the computer preparing for my 2 day teacher inservice! Tomorrow I will run off booklets I’ve made and get everything organized. Saturday is the womens meet that I am chairing then the inservice is Sunday and Monday. One of my students measured me today and is sewing me a sari to wear on Saturday. They also have teardrop beads to stick on my forehead (my choice if I want to wear one).

It’s 7:30 and dark so I am heading home now to curl up and read. I am half way through THE BOOK THIEF and want to read for a bit before I fall asleep.

Busy days filled with teaching, exploring and smiling faces!

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Hello all, since my last email I have been busy with classes, exploring and more travels. The next few days after arriving home from Trincomalai were busy working days. I am using materials that I was given from CSLI to teach my early morning classes, those and my own creations when I want to expand on an idea. I try to involve them at each activity, either by speaking, working together, worksheets or boardwork. The class is comfortable with me and are not afraid to give answers; they have the ability to laugh at themselves or with others in such a fun way. Trying to get them to use the articles like a, the, or prepositions in their phrases, has been a standing joke. They now know by the different expressions on my face what they need to do when we are orally or visually correcting work. I make the pucking sound when they forget punctuation marks, da dut da du sounds when I want them to finish the sentence, etc. It is definitely worth a laugh to have them imitate me when correcting each other! That class usually varies between 18 and 22 staff workers. I’d say the average age is 27 or so. There are at least that many preschool teachers that I also work with in my other classes. Mostly I am trying to model how to teach young children. I have been singing songs (hilarious because as you all know my singing leaves lots to be desired!) doing lots of action and finger plays, teaching games they can play with 3 and 4 year olds, etc. They have to teach english but their knowledge of the language is extremely weak in many cases so it works better when I have a translator. I was asked to do a 2 day workshop on Sunday and Monday with all the teachers. I want to make it a “Make and take, kind of workshop” plus I want to go over what things I feel should be in a preschool curriculum. I was asked to write a curriculum for the schools and a timeline for what should be done with 3 year olds and what should be done with the 4 year olds. They call them upper and lower kindergarten classes. Using my bkgrd. and the internet I have been working on that and now want to explain it to them so I have been putting together examples of activities, songs, ect. I spent the time between my classes today at a preschool to see what they are doing. This was Rose’s english preschool in Kalmunai which I found out is competitive with the other preschools. (There are ones run by the nuns & the public ones) The parents (not unlike parents in Canada) want their children to succeed and be professionals so think that they should be printing and reading by the end of upper preschool. This preschool has over 100 little guys, all smiling faces wearing their little uniforms. They are like little people anywhere, some pushing, some crying, some so eager to get your attention, some focused and some in la la land! When I arrived it was assembly so they were all lined up and quietly listening to their teachers. I started doing the hokey pokey and action songs so the disciplined children that started the assembly were laughing, falling over and acting just like I would expect excited 3 & 4 year olds to act. The other 13 preschools in the villages around Kalmunai are quite different. The teachers are members of the village and the areas have not got the facilities or supplies that the Kalmunai school has. You cannot begin to compare the differences between a Canadian preschool and the ones here. The only similarity is the children. I wish I could bring over the things that our schools just throw away and waste in a day!

This Saturday is another women’s group and sports meet of girls (similar to the one I first attended at the Lawrence community center) Anthony informed me that I was going to chair the event! He showed me the agenda (invitation) that already had my name as chairperson. I demanded a democracy only to be laughed at and then at a meeting of staff and teachers he asked who thought I should chair the event and of course they all put up their hands! Guess I lost that one……they will all have a good laugh as I stumble to try to pronounce the 10 syllable names everyone here has!

My afternoons are spent working with the two different groups that are doing the online computer program. I originally was going to facilitate the program but instead am teaching and guiding the students through it. One group just finished the first weeks lessons and activities and the other group is still working on it. There are 10 weeks of lessons so obviously we will not complete the program as was originally hoped for. My goal is to have them understand what we have done and give them some time to practise. I also hope that when I leave they can understand the setup of the program enough to try to complete it on their own. The ones taking the program are employed by Rose so are coming for their 1 1/2 hours daily and leaving their workplace office at that time. They are also coming into work early so they can attend my 7 in the morning classes. That’s called dedication to learn English and improve themselves!

Last Saturday after a day of teaching that began at 7 and continued with no breaks for me until 3 in the afternoon I ran home to pack to leave for the south. Don’t get me wrong, I could leave or take breaks but the 1/2 hour between classes doesn’t give me enough time to run home plus I want to organize myself for my next class. I do not like to have the guys wait for me when their time is also important so i just keep going like the energizer bunny! Good thing I brought along my pep pills and vitamins! Anyway our driver and Rajeeshan, Amanda and I left for a driving trip to Galle. That was a very fun time so my next email will chat about that and I will also post some pictures showing you some of the great sites! I need a break and am hungry so bye for now and hope you all had a good Easter!

A quick update on our progress here.

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Hi, Just a quick update on our progress here. Yesterday my K 1 group wrote the first week’s test. One student achieved 50, one 90 and the rest not as good. I do not feel this is a fair evaluation of how well they understood the first week’s lesson, though. I do not agree with their questioning technique and I even find the questions difficult the way they are phrased. I do not think the questions evaluate how much they have learned and am not too concerned with the marks. Our progress is slow, which is quite obvious when I have been here since the beginning of the month and we have done one week’s lesson. There are several reasons for this:

– the first week involved more than just the lesson content
– they really do no get enough time on the computer to practise the skills
– they need more time to process the information (I do not want to rush them and go forward if I feel they are not understanding I give other examples, etc.)

I know they would like to have time to practise emailing more, which I feel is an important skill so I am going to give them another part of the class tomorrow to write an email to you.

I guess by now you know we extended our visas Monday without any problems. Even at that it only gives a short time to accomplish the tip of the iceberg. Rajeeshan says not to stress about the work load but if I am going to do something it is not in my nature to do it half assed. Just found out I am scheduled to do a two day workshop with all the preschool teachers on Sunday and Monday. Supposedly I can just use the knowledge I have in my head and just spend time with them. (I hope you can imagine the expression I had on my face right at that point) That plus I have been chosen to chair the women’s sport’s meet on Sat. ” OK but what if I say no? This needs to be a democracy!” At that point Anthony asked all the folks at the meeting if they wanted me to chair the meet and they of course put up their hands. It was a consensus so I guess that takes care of saying no! The guests will not recognize their names when I pronounce them!

I have my 7 oclock class coming in so will run. After that I am going to the english preschool to observe what they do and check schedules, etc. I am trying to write a curriculum for the preschool to follow but want to know what they already do. I will resume my K 1 classes this afternoon. As the saying goes : No rest for the wicked! I think I must have been wicked in my former life!

Take care,
Sonia

4am wake-up calls galore

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Damn, I had already written a paragraph and touched some stupid button, either that or it was the power glitch, and lost it. Oh well here I go again! Last entry, if I recall, I’d been in Kandy. That put me behind my teaching plan so Saturday was busy. I had classes from 7 am until 4 pm with a couple quick breaks. It does not seem like work though because teaching without having to discipline is the joy I thought teaching would be when I started 40 odd years ago! Maybe I should have taught adults……….or maybe just taught overseas where education is such a priority! Anyway the cool shower was a necessary end to my day to say the least!

On Sunday Amanda and I were quite social. I taught from 7 to 11 then Amanda’s relatives picked us up to go to their home for lunch. I enjoyed seeing how someone from here lives and being invited into a private home. Amanda and I were served at the table first, while we were eating the husband sat in the same room also eating from a dish his wife served and dished up for him. Sri Lankans start with the rice, pancake or noodle type of dish then add the other dishes. They mix the food altogether then using the fingers of one hand they begin eating, also with their fingers. I personally do not want to mix all the flavors together, nor do I want to eat with my fingers so am pleased they respect my culture and offer me cutlery. At the girls’ sports meet one of my students had a fork in his pocket to give to me at lunch! The host also dishes the food for you although again I prefer to help myself in case I do not wish to try the dish or do not want the large helpings they give. That seems OK so hopefully I have not offended anyone. Anyway after we ate and returned to the living room the ladies and children ate. Again I sure am not used to being treated so special but watch out cuz after a couple months I might come to not only love it but expect it!

We went to a son’s house after lunch so again I saw how another family lives. Later that afternoon they took us to show the areas the tsunami hit. We enjoyed one of the beaches where they replanted many rows of trees to replace all those that had been uprooted. The beaches are so beautiful and yet we were the only ones present. After our tour we stopped at their favorite place for ice cream and luckily, or maybe not luckily, it is walking distance from home!

The same evening we were invited to a home of one of my students for dinner. There were many apartment buildings built to house those families that lost everything in the tsunami. They are 4 floors high. Each apartment has a living room, kitchen, small balcony and 2 small bedrooms. They own the apartment so are able to finish it as they pleased. Nilu’s had hand painted flowers on the ceiling. They also put in a sink and counter as well as a couple of cupboards in the kitchen. The rooms are separated with curtains, as are rooms in other houses I have been in. Due to cement walls there are no closets so many have hutches or if they can afford it, wardrobes.

4 am wake up call to hit the road to Rahjeeshan’s home town about 5 hour drive from Kalmunai. It is called Trincomalai and is built on a peninsula so is surrounded on 3 sides by the Indian Ocean. We stayed in a hotel right on the beach. Along that beach front are several hotels or beach huts so the beach is private to the owners and is patrolled by police. It is beautiful so not only did we spend the afternoon there I also went for a night swim. The warm Indian Ocean, lit up by a full moon, with tide washing up and carrying you back to shore, was heaven indeed. Not only that but I had a cold beer waiting for me on the deck after my shower! Before it had gotten dark Rahjeeshan gave us a tour of his hometown. There is a large natural harbor and also one area at the end of the peninsula which is all navy (built years ago by the British) It is not open to the public and is used by the Sri Lankan forces now. At the highest peak on a natural rock hill there is lots of history. At one time it was home to a large Hindu Temple but years ago the Dutch invaded and wanted it as a lookout point to protect anyone entering the harbor. They destroyed the temple using the rock and brick to fence it. The majority of the artifacts were dumped into the ocean and destroyed. The people had hid some of the statues in wells and recently several were dug up with the rebuilding of another Temple. They are made of 5 different metals and are so well preserved that you still see all the details in the craftmanship. Divers have found more artifacts but due to size and weight they will not be resurfaced. We’d seen a few Temples prior to this one but this was special because it was the one Rahjeeshan attended as a boy so he explained his religion to us as he pointed out different things both outside and within the temple.

Another 4 am wake-up and we were on the road home. The majority of the highway we used has been rebuilt (we actually went out of our way to stay on it) but for the last hour or so the pavement was broken and filled with potholes due to recent flooding. You cannot gain any speed on the roads anyway due to curves, how narrow they are, all the animals and vehicles that use them, etc. but the rocking over miles of the broken pavement really gave me an appreciation of our driver. Luckily we were able to see a small herd of elephants in the park land we drove through…..really exciting, even a baby! I also saw spotted deer, peacocks.etc!

We arrived home in time for me to shower, change and get to the vibe for my afternoon of classes. Now supper calls so that’s it for this latest entry. Don’t mind the errors and rambling in these mails, I just want to jot down my memories and hope you also get some of the enjoyment I am having.

PS – Heard about recent snow and also about the flooding going on due to melting…………..crazy weather hope things are drying up and you get some of this heat soon! Average temps here are low thirties!

No rest for the wicked!

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No rest for the wicked! I think I have been wicked, but it is good. We had a super few days in Kandy. I worked on Tues. then attended a going away get together for a couple of Rose staff. All the staff received gifts of shirts, saris , etc. then left for a 3 day holiday to celebrate the New Year. I was given a new long skirt, blouse and tshirt. Each day I wear a skirt (below my kneecap) and a blouse that covers my shoulders. Kalmunai is very traditional and you never see a lady in pants, shorts, ect. so as respect to their culture I am dressing the same. (only not in a sari) Also you never see women on the streets once it gets dark (around 6 or shortly after) We are so looked after that someone is with us if it is after dark. By then we are ready to head home and do homework or relax and hit the sack early because we get up early.

Anyway I digress! After the party (by 5) we got in Rose’s van and were driven up country to the interior of Sri Lanka to a city called Kandy. The driver is excellent the way he maneuvers around switchbacks, narrow roads, other vehicles and the odd cow sleeping on the highway. It was a 5 hour drive but I did not see too much due to darkness. We arrived at Amanda’s great aunt’s house and were welcomed and fed. Yogam, John and granddaughter Sarah live a few km outside of Kandy in a more rural area. Across the road from their house is the forest, filled with birds and tropical plants. The next day we piled into a trishaw and went the 20 min. into town. John and I visited the famous Buddist Temple (pictures to follow soon) Amandas skirt was the same length as mine but she was not allowed to enter probably because they thought she was a local and should have a long skirt. We removed our shoes (they keep them for a fee) and entered the most beautiful, old temple. After that we did a bit of shopping and I got myself some gifts and keepsakes. That afternoon I spent a few hours alone wandering down paths in the rural area. It was really my first alone time since leavng home and was much needed and appreciated. The weather there is cooler due to elevation so it was perfect! Any time I passed a yard with someone in it they would wave and often come and ask where I was from. A New Year’s tradition is to take baking to homes as gifts so I saw many people walking with containers of sweets to deliver to neighbors. Yogam is not Buddist but her neighbors still brought sweets to her just as she brings baking to them at Christmas. The homes I passes varied from larger, cement homes to mud made wall homes with sheet metal roofs or even thatched roofs. The yards are all swept clear and some had flowers planted around.

The next day Sarah, Amanda and I went to the botanical gardens on the outskirts of Kandy. Sarah is Sri Lankan and they presumed Amanda was so they were charged 50 slr’s while because I am a foreigner I was charged 1090 slr’s. Oh the injustice of folks thinking I am American! We crossed a suspension bridge and on the middle looked up to see a monkey hanging just over my head on a cable. there were monkeys all around the grounds which were cute to watch but there were also trees filled with huge bats hanging. The orchid house was so beautiful, I did not know there were so many varieties. A couple hours of walking through the gardens then on to Kandy’s manmade lake in the middle of the city. Because it was New Years many folks were lighting firecrackers so the air was filled with the loud bangs which in course frightened the bats. Huge bats were flying and fluttering upside down in trees all along the lake shore. We also saw fish coming to the surface to be fed like we feed our ducks at home, a huge lizard sunning himself and many species of birds. When we realized the banging was now thunder we flagged a trishaw and got inside just as the skies opened and a hard rain fell. The rest of my day was spent curled up reading; a long awaited activity!

Our trip back home was an experience. Downtown Kandy has an area filled with people and busses coming and going. We found one that said Ampara on the side so rushed to get seats. I sat near the front (so’s not to get carsick) where I could stretch my legs down into the step leading up from the bus door. Wrong!. As the bus made it’s way to Ampara it continued picking people up from roadsides and villages we passes. Question of the day is “How many Sri Lankans can you fit in a bus?” Because I was sitting and near the door throughout the trip I held babies, toddlers, packages and even women’s purses! As for my feet stretching out….the stairs held at least 6 people hanging onto the doorway and sides of the bus because there was no more standing room inside! 6 hours later we arrived in Ampara where Kumar met us with the van. It was an experience but also soooo beautiful. the hill country has tea estates terraced into hillsides, they really are mountains but not like out Rockies because they are lush and green. The heights and valleys were absolutely stunning! The road was narrow, often under construction and made up of many switchbacks so the going was slow. After the van picked us up we went to a village where classes were taking place. I was asked to teach an improptu english class to 15 and 16 year olds. There I was hot, tired and all sweaty teaching off the cuff! The cold shower once we reached home was more than welcoming but our room was not. We’d left a pkg. of crackers on our table and they had obviously been nibbled on and bits of the foil and paper were on my bed under my mosquito netting! Our bedroom is a cement room and the door was closed and locked, the windows also closed and locked so thus the mystery ! We really do not want to know the answer!

I taught today from 7 until 4 with 2 half hour breaks so am not going to last long tonight. It was so hot!

More news to follow and hopefully some pictures to post.

Hi mom, you are getting the same group blog/email but I will phone again soon.
Love you……..Sonia


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