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In Sri Lanka

7:30 PM, November 15th

November 14th, Day one in Lanka
I arrived in Sri Lanka little after mid-night on the 14th. Mr. Wijayaratne (pronounce Vijayaratna) of Sarvodaya International Unit had come to pick me up with a vehicle and the driver. Sarvodaya headquarter was almost two hours South from the international airport. When we got to the headquarters it was about 2:30 AM. I was put at a guest house by School for Deaf Children. It’s a one story house with two rooms, a living room, a kitchen. The room had two twin sized bed with beautiful green mosquito nets attached to it. It has been a while I had used the mosquito nets. Even though, it’s somewhat humid temperature was at 24 degree centigrade and was raining. Immediately, I slept and woke up only at 11 AM.

Around noon, Mr. Wijayaratne came to pick me up. He mentioned he had ferried twice already. Obviously, I was deep into sleep and I had no clue. But, after that long trip and time difference, I didn’t feel a need for to be too much apologetic.

Bandula, chief of International Unit at Sarvodaya, seemed busy with other group and had little time for me. Even though, we were to discuss my program we couldn’t talk until late in the evening. There is one group from Netherlands and other individuals, which seem to have occupied Bandula. And, the two staff he has are new to the unit and have little information for me. Thus, most of the day I spent hoping to get to talk to him. I had little idea what I could do plus language barriers make things little difficult to do on my own.

In the afternoon, Dri Ariyaratne, founder of Sarvodaya, came by the International Unit to fetch me. We walked to his house, which is inside the headquarters, and chatted for a bit and together we walked to Deaf School, he wanted me to introduce to the principal but he wasn’t around and Children were off the school as 15th was a holiday (Poya day – Full Moon day) and 17th is presidential election.

I had dinner at the Canteen, which is an interesting place. It is Sarvodaya staff and volunteers, by American standard it’s a pretty run down place but our South Asian standard pretty nice. Even though you pay for the meal, it’s a buffet style and everyone has to do their own dish (I thought it was really a neat idea, this way there is no sever and boss, everyone is equal true Sarvodaya spirit). During the lunch, I felt so awkward on whether or not to use my hand to eat. As I took food, a girl working there brought me a spoon and a fork (because I am the guest from America) but everywhere around me was using hand. I wanted to use hand also but I realized it was very difficult to do in public spaces (even though I eat with hand all the time at home, I don’t remember eating with hand in public spaces for a long term). Apparently, I had internalized using spoon and fork in public spaces. At the end, I used hand as I didn’t want to remove myself from the surrounding.

November 15th

I went to bed early but couldn’t sleep well. I woke up at 4 and remained awaked after that. At about 6 O’clock I took a short walk around the Sarvodaya headquarter, it was as if I was in Nepal. I could have been walking in any place in terai, similar roads, similar houses, shops lined by the road while a thela wala stood to sell hot tea and bread. The billboards stood exactly the same way as they would have been in Nepal except for it’s language. Even one video store had posters of Hindi films – Salam Namaste and Ajnabee along with some English movie posters.

Dr. Ariyaratne had invited me to for breakfast at his place and later on to go to Kegalle to site visit. I dutifully followed as it was a holiday and offices would be closed. We took off at about 8:45 in the morning in Sarvodaya owned vehicles. I was with three senior staffs of Sarvodaya. This gave me an opportunity to get to know them and talk a little bit. Language again is a big issue, all the way, I wished I would understand Sinhalese it would make whole thing easier and experience richer.

Kegalle is a town about 90 KM (50 miles) north east of Sarvodaya Headquarters in Moratuwa. The Sri Lankan roads and traffic were again similar to Nepal’s. People drove from every in every direction without care to other vehicles. Thus, it took almost four hours to get to the place, we did stop at a point for tea for sometime.

In Kegalle, Sarvodaya needed to get a new building for district centers. We looked at a nice three story house. It was a good house with quite a chunk of land but built on hilly surface. I was told that the current district center was to be given to another project where a school for girls will be built with the cooperation Navitas and Sarvodaya. The school apparently won’t follow the tradition curriculum but a new curriculum has been designed and is labeled “live and learn”. The focus, I was told, will be in teaching life skills and not necessarily in formal education. The course is designed by former Education director of the country, who was also in the group.

On the way back we stopped at another district center, where we ran into election monitors from Afghanistan and Burundi and a Sri Lankan. As had been the theme all day, Dri Ariyaratne started to introduce me, “he is from Nepal but is the Executive Director at Sarvodaya USA. After completing his work there Shisir wants to go to Nepal and start Sarvodaya, get rid of king, and create Sarvodaya style village republics.” I started laughing even before he started that, because that’s what he is been telling whenever he introduces me. In response, he said, “Isn’t that true?” I had to concur, “that’s the plan”.

We returned back to the headquarters after 6PM. I am tired and want to sleep but then I have to eat too…..just waiting for dinner time ………….


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