Sunday, 27 February 2011

A Few Photos of Sri Lankan Food and Packaging

This is proper paper recycling! Here, paper bags have been made by recycling pages from old school text books and exercise books. My "short eats", like the roti and toast in the centre, always come accompanied by interesting reading or pictures. Even pills from the pharmacy will come in little hand-made paper bags. It's incredible to think that the price of these must undercut machine-made, mass-produced brown paper bags.

This is typical of a fish rice-and-curry "lunch packet" from a "hotel" and this one came from a place just two or three doors away from my office. It tastes better than it looks! The shop is a rather squalid little place with a couple of well-worn plastic tables and chairs but the food is more like home-made cooking than the packets you get from the bigger places. Yes, it can be hellishly spicy! I used to buy these for lunch every day (the contents vary daily) but now I have them made by the housekeeper at my digs - Concy, the mother of Jude, one of ASL's field officers. Either way, my lunch packets cost Rs.100 - or about UK£ 0.60 or about US$ 1.0, a bargain by my reckoning!

The various pictures on the left were for sale at a market in Galle. They wouldn't have been out of place in India, either, and they (or larger versions thereof) can often be spotted adorning homes or three-wheelers (as tuc-tucs are called here.) I find them rather hideous but then my taste would be considered extremely bland by Sri Lankans! On the right is more paper recycling, with the cone containing Gal Siyambala, aka Velvet Tamarind. I've tried them - they're sour and often used in traditional dishes. It's not a cultivated tree so these have been gathered from the wild.

On the left are Wood Apples - they're about the size at cricket balls with an incredibly hard outer skin. You have to crack them with the back of a heavy knife-blade or a hammer to open them, a bit like you would a coconut. Inside are a lot of seeds surrounded by sweet brown-ish pulp which you scoop out and put in a blender to make a fruity drink. On the right is fruit known as Bael or Beli, which is similarly hard to crack but a little smaller and more fibrous inside. In the centre are Papaya, Embul plantains (small bananas), green oranges and a large Jambola. I usually have a third of a Jambola for breakfast each day - it's not quite as tasty as pink grapefruit but it's not far off and, being less juicy, it's easier to eat with your hands.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Goal 7 - Play and Have Fun! #30Goals

Goal 7 in the 30 Goals Challenge that I'm doing was to bring some fun to the classroom.

Here's one of the fun activities I came up with - words added by Teacher Vajira during our Image Editing class:

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Clive Goes For A Day Out To Matara

Oh what a complete waste of time! I had planned a few hours of shopping of Matara followed by a class for the boys from the school up the road but neither took place!

It didn't start well. I caught the correct bus but it was heading in the opposite direction - away from Matara! I had double checked by asking two passengers too, but perhaps they'd also have said "yes" if I'd asked if their pants were on fire! Never mind, I realised quickly enough and the driver kindly did an emergency stop.

Then I caught another bus; this time the right one. Well, the right one in terms of it going to Matara, only the wrong one in terms of the speed, the huge number of stops, and craziness of driving. It was so awful that I had to get off 8km from my destination, feeling dreadful. My whole body had pins and needles and I was within seconds of throwing up. Oh Boy! I walked for 3 or 4 km just to recover enough to catch a final bus. Not so great on a very hot, sunny and sticky February day, feeling very green and sweaty, with road dirt clinging to me from the streaming traffic.

It wasn't a successful trip - I was not in the mood for shopping and found no suitable shops, let alone shirts. As time was now running short I came back, after doing what I should have done in the first place - taking a travel sickness pill. It worked, but now I'm shattered.

The return journey was a lot better. I got to the office in time and waited, and waited... and I'm still waiting an hour later! This is the third time I've arranged a special class for the boys and they've not appeared. They're keen, but I'm insisting they bring one of their teachers and it seems the teachers are letting them down.  I don't know why - perhaps because they're not getting paid for it - but they always have an excuse. I'm running out of patience I must admit.

Tomorrow, Sunday, it'll be the girls' turn. At least they turned up once (but failed to appear last week). They seem keen too, and the teacher is a little more enthusiastic. Let's hope they come.

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Addendum: They did come, and it was a successful lesson!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

30 Goals Challenge #30Goals

I'm participating in a "30 Goal Challenge" for educators, organised by Shelly Terrell, a leading light in my on-line Personal Learning Network. I know that I'm not a fully-fledged, qualified educator but my hope is that my experiences and what I do now will qualify me to participate and perhaps I'll get some learning out of it - if not as an educator then as me personally!

I started a blog specially for it: @CliveSir and the 30 Goals Challenge
I'm up to Challenge 4 for which I chose to make a video podcast - it might amuse you!  There will be one challenge per weekday for six weeks; the weekend is for reflection.  That takes me into mid-March if I manage to keep up with the goals.

I'm struggling a bit, to be honest. I am so Slow! It takes up a huge chunk of time but somehow I'm managing to fit it in. A couple of times I've gone to bed past midnight which is unheard of for me and gives me a problem because I can't help waking up early. Overall though, I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't enjoy it!
Incidentally, a snapshot of my connection with Social Media reveals that today:
  • I subscribe to more than 1000 blogs
  • Of which, I read 12 regularly, the rest I search or randomly sample
  • I follow 855 people on Twitter
  • I have 551 Twitter followers
  • I have tweeted 1,769 messages

This, my online Personal Learning Network, has grown to these levels from near-zero in July last year! The majority of people I follow and who follow me are educators of various flavours and I have learnt much from this vibrant community.

I can imagine a few of my off-line friends reading this and just not getting what Twitter and blogging is all about. You should commit to checking it out else you'll be left in the 20th Century. You'll never know unless you join the party, and I don't mean just standing at the kitchen sink!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Sports Meet

They call it a "Sports Meet" but I call it complete and utter barking madness! Ever since the new school year started the kids have been practising for the "Sports Meet" - at every available opportunity. That's nearly two months of virtually zero academic work. It's craziness personified! I voiced this opinion to one of the teachers today and she said, "oh no it's not zero. We managed to do two and a half hours of lessons yesterday." Well no, actually, it's only two hours after accounting for the half hour breakfast break. And this, I am told, is happening in every school throughout Sri Lanka!
So I turn up at the school this morning only to find the girls lining up on the playground. Meanwhile the boys are lounging around or doing what boys do: certainly nothing academic. And the girls are now performing their drills: moving as directed by the teacher with the whistle. They're doing this because the sky is overcast today and it's not baking sun - an excuse they could have used for 90% of the days in the last three months! And they're doing this "because the children love it..." Well yes, of course they do, but everything in proportion, eh?
The boys are now putting the shot, or racing within inches of the girls to no discernible finish line, or doing a high jump into a sand pit, or playing netless-netball and goal-less football.
The teachers are milling around, chatting, and the only one who appears to be doing something with the kids is the one blowing the whistle. The head is busy doing papers or marking attendance sheets but stops long enough to tell me that this spectacle finishes on 21st February - three weeks' time. Meanwhile a teacher is trying to get me interested in his business plan.  I attempt to have conversations with the kids but, to them, that's too much like work, so I return to my office.