Sunday, 25 April 2010


Well, here I am in Sri Lanka. Eight days later than expected due to the Icelandic volcanic dust cloud, but here nonetheless. I arrived yesterday at around 08:45 having had next to zero sleep on the planes because of fellow passengers with their headphones set to max, or being bumped into in the aisle seat, or having little leg room or not being able to get comfy. Never mind - I arrived safe and sound. And I was able to watch Avatar. So Thank You Emirates!

After leaving the airport to find a working ATM and then re-entering to buy a SIM card, it was a case of finding the unmarked bus stand and the undecipherably marked bus to take me to the local bus station. There, I took a small vehicle to Colombo and had to pay for a seat for my luggage despite it not occupying a seat! Then I found another bus to take me south to Galle where I navigated my way by hired 3-wheeler to the guest house. The long, second bus ride was pretty crazy! The driver barged into the smallest gap at the slightest opportunity, overtook on blind bends and dived both sides of the road. That is, apparently, typical behaviour. Skilled madness! But despite the living nightmare I found my head nodding from tiredness and, once I'd got there, was pleased to get my head down for an hour.

In the room next door was Sophie, a French volunteer doing an evaluation of ASL as part of her internship. A bright and breezy girl in her mid-twenties. After I'd had a wash and brush-up, she told me a little about ASL. Bec, manager of the project, then arrived and took me on a very brief look at Unawatuna beach and environs where I'll be staying for the next three nights.

Then it was party time! Off to the leaving-do of Mary, a retired teacher of English, working for ASL and quite a character. She'd be an impossible act to follow so just as well I won't be trying! I met several of the other staff and made some useful contacts like Alan and Jo - retired English teachers volunteering in local private schools. Everyone tells me that the teaching of IT is seriously wanting in this area of SL so I'm glad there'll be something for me to do. Jo invited me to her school to observe computing classes sometime, which I look forward to doing.

Today, Sunday, was spent recovering a bit. I accompanied Sophie to the beach and met up with Mary there but I continued for a little walk to get my bearings. I think everyone here has a very odd sense of directions (especially the women!) so I'm gonna have to depend on my own observations. Lunch was a fairly good Dahl Curry and pink rice, eaten at One Love Restaurant, sitting overlooking the ocean with waves crashing under the stilt-supported floor. The owner told me that the Tsunami took away a lot of the beach's sand and that seemed true - it was now a skinny strip surrounding the large bay and it's probably only a matter of time before One Love is consumed by the sea.

A few things I've noticed so far:
  • Everyone here wears sandals or shoes unlike Kovalam (India) where at least half wore nothing. 
  • Dress here is very Western - I only spotted one solitary woman in traditional dress and all men wear trousers or shorts and not Dhotis etc. 
  • People are helpful! They relentlessly offer their 3-wheelers for hire but when you refuse they'll still help find a bus stand and even hail the correct bus without any expectations of bribes being paid! 
  • Kids and adults here are less openly friendly but perhaps that's to do with this being a very touristy area with tourists not being simply confined to accommodation near the beach as Kovalam was - the locals here are just not interested in stray Whites. 
  • Vegetation is very lush and quite varied which must be due to the high rainfall. There was a heavy downpour soon out of Colombo yesterday but thankfully it had stopped by the time I needed to leave the bus. There are fewer coconut trees and banana 'trees'. 
  • It's very humid and hot, just like Kovalam at this time of year, and darkness falls similarly quickly in the evenings.
I spotted my first chameleon today, making a poor job of looking like a bit of twig (its movement gave the game away!) and, best of all, I saw a shoal of large, sun-glinted silver fish, leaping from the water only a few metres away. Fantastic!

Then there was this odd little vehicle...

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