Monday, January 31, 2011

And then the wheel came off and other adventures… our final days in Sri Lanka

Our last work day dawned a little cloudier than the early days. Half out team went with Jill and Peter to help with an English boot camp in a rural area. We expected about 150 students to show up but reports are as high as 2000 students attended. The team members who went to the school had a great time and were all really happy to have had the experience. The comment heard most often was that the team were amazed by the polite behavior of the students toward the teachers.

The rest of the team went to the job site to spend a final day trying to finish a few tasks; painting (a lovely Sri Lankan yellow color that is growing on us), bricking two half walls, pouring five more columns…. All was accomplished despite the skies opening up after lunch with a torrential downpour!

Back at the beach, a lobster feast had been planned for late afternoon and no one was disappointed. I am not really sure how they managed to cook the lobster in the tiny little beach shack but they did and it was wonderful. The traditional last night dinner is sarong night and this year included saris as well; a number of the women bought beautiful saris in town this week and Raelene was available to help everyone get dressed. Almost everyone wore a sarong or sari and we were a pretty good looking group (Jim and Jud were not appropriately attired but we allowed them to stay for dinner anyway). We were also happy to have Anil, Ruwan, Ranjith, Raelene, and Jill and Peter with us for dinner.

Tim was presented with an honorary MLA – Master and Leader of All; this title is only good in Sri Lanka. He promised to use his newfound power for good. The honorary title was accompanied by a beautiful lint brush from the District of Clearwater; it was admired and coveted by the entire team. We had a group discussion around activities that team leaders could be involved with at home, the primary one being a proposed fundraiser to raise money to put a roof on the second building. We also discussed ongoing support for scholarships and involvement in the Kamloops Tangalle Friendship committee (KTFC). It is also interesting to have team members talk about their feelings around the trip – we tried to get everyone to give a highlight. It is really amazing to think about the bonds developed between the team when most of us only met two weeks ago.

Thursday morning was bittersweet; our last great breakfast at Palm Paradise. We said goodbye to 5 team members (including our Team Leader, Tim Kasten), who are fortunate enough to have a little extra time to travel in Sri Lanka. Have a great time Jud, Rose Marie, Tim, Debbie, and Ethan. The rest of the 17 team members got into three vans at 10:00 am for a 4:30 am flight!

First stop was at the job site where tears were shed, pictures taken, hugs given, and e-mail addresses exchanged. Leaving the colleagues here is always hard! About 45 minutes into the drive, the wheel came off (literally) one of the vans. The driver got new tires installed yesterday but the lug nuts were not properly tightened! Luckily Derek was able to find a couple of the lug nuts and after a short repair, we were on the way again. Next stop was Galle, however it was very slow going; today seems to be a day for candidates in the municipal elections (in March) to sign up so there was one parade after another.

We had a good lunch at the Rampart Hotel in the walled fort at Galle and then had a stop at the Government souvenir store. By the time we were on the way again, the skies had opened up and torrential rain (along with thunder and lightning) followed us to Columbo. If we thought the early part of the drive was slow, we were shocked by the traffic in late afternoon; at one point there were 5 lanes of traffic (all going one way) parked on the single lane highway – then we had to get an ambulance through. It took 4 hours to travel from Galle to our dinner stop in Columbo (95 kms). One of the vans lost a windshield wiper; Derek gamely tried to put a cloth over the bare blade (to no avail) but 5 minutes later the wiper blade was delivered by a kind tuk tuk driver!

It was a very long day (14 hours from Tangalle to Columbo must be a new record)! Arrived at the airport at midnight and we said goodbye to another 3 team members: Sarah will spend a few more days in Sri Lanka and the Browns’ – Norma and Jim who will not return to Kamloops until Feb 22 (touring Sri Lanka and Thailand). As I write this (at 1:30 am) we are waiting for our check-in gate to open for the 4:30 flight. If we get through quickly enough, we should have time for foot rubs before we board.

Farewell Sri Lanka – many of us hope to return again; the experience was fantastic!

Lisa Lake
DWC Participant

Update: With final boarding announced, one of our team members realized that she had lost her passport! She used it in Duty-Free and then it disappeared. Qatar Air would not board her without her passport so Terry was running through the airport checking to see if anyone had found it while thinking about needing to remain an extra day to help her get a replacement from the Canadian Embassy. The rest of the team (except Terry, Gemma, Ashleigh and I were already on board), and luckily, the passport was located (as Qatar Air were preparing to offload luggage) so for a second year, I needed to sprint to the gate in order to board the flight! On the brightside, I did get an amazing foot rub!

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