This is the final blog entry from students Kerrie Dick and Angus Mawson, who were part of a group of Moama Anglican Grammar School students and staff who travelled to Sri Lanka in the June/July school holidays. The group worked alongside Habitat for Humanity to build houses for villagers.
A half-hour sleep-in was hardly noticed by most. Our morning was filled with either excited (or tired) faces as we prepared for our weekend away.
A small group of us wandered down to the local ATM in the splintering hot sun while that heat managed to be too hot for others.
Mr Rudge found a dead snake (which he claimed it be a python hit by a car) on the side of the road and carried it back to our hotel to play a small prank, which was quite successful (no one was harmed, safety first of course).
After the ‘snaked’ student had recovered we loaded the bus and hit the Sri Lankan highway. After another experience with Sri Lankan roads our bus driver safely transported us from A to B.
Our Sea Lotus resort welcomed us with a beach view from the dining area while we ate a buffet lunch.
We settled into our rooms, mine being on the third and top floor with a balcony overlooking the beach. Once our lunch had settled we ran quickly into the water and enjoyed a taste of the Indian Ocean. While swimming a team of fisherman had begun to pull in their huge fishing net.
Many of us grabbed hold of the rope and began to help pull in the day’s catch.
Tourists swarmed around the final product as fish flipped and smaller fish were retrieved and thrown back into the ocean.
Our evening meal, a buffet, included a vast range of edible substances that were enjoyed. Another birthday was celebrated with a cake, for my fellow blog writer’s birthday. We finished off the night chatting on the beach and made our way up four flights of stairs and into room 214 for a much needed rest.
Our second day of relaxation started with a wake up call by Larney to complete a 1.5km run across the beach and up and down stairs.
Our bodies were replenished with yet another buffet breakfast and we then got ready to drive into town to explore the local Sri Lankan shops.
The streets were busy as we avoided getting hit by tuk tuks, motor bikes and bicycles.
The smell was quite overwhelming in some places but easily forgiven by the smiling faces of Sri Lanka.
Many people were very interested in where we had come from, but also more interested in us purchasing something from them. After our bags were generously filled we the bus once again and made our way back to Sea Lotus resort for a buffet lunch.
After we waited our required time, the ocean welcomed us with building waves and blue waters.
After sand and salt had made our eyes sting and our throats sore we quickly rinsed off and then jumped into the Sea Lotus swimming pool.
Our dinner was a meal with an Australian influence as we enjoyed a barbecue, Sri Lankan style.
We ate outside overlooking the ocean and soon after enjoyed another talk on the beach and finally were welcomed by our beds.
The day started with a failed wake up call for exercise as I enjoyed a sleep in until 8.30am.
A quick change and short swim found me having breakfast at around 9am and then another swim in the salt water followed by a swim in the pool.
Our time at Sea Lotus was drawing to a close as we packed our bags, had lunch and then loaded the bus, waving goodbye to our weekend away.
Our stop on the way back to Nandawanam hotel was a Hindu temple overlooking the Indian ocean.
The temple was filled with intricate designs and paintings of human and animal figures that engulfed us in a mass of colour.
Monkeys roamed through the temple, overlooking vistors coming and going.
A small walkway created a sense of vastness as the blue ocean was the only thing that could be seen. Market stalls created a border for the vehicles and people that travelled through.
We made the most of Hindu posters and small sculptures and got on our way to what seemed to be home sweet home.
The green exterior of our hotel was welcomed when we arrived. Our afternoon was very relaxed and unstructured as we waited for our tea. Once we had eaten, less tired eyes retired for a well earned rest.
Nothing could really top Wednesday. Today was probably the hush after the storm.
Work was the same as usual – fulfilling, tiring and strenuous – stacking bricks and bucketing sand and gravel have become commonplace.
As per usual, following work we strolled to the oval for our daily games of cricket/volleyball/skipping but fewer people showed up to today’s match.
A buff guy with a cannon for an arm shot the stumps down every ball, but a fiery Aussie fought back slogging sixes willy-nilly until retiring by hitting catches.
The game was short lived as we needed to leave early for a special meal in Batticaloa.
Hosing down and refreshing hastily meant we left the hotel within half an hour of arriving.
On arrival we were greeted to a busy street whose traffic new no bounds.
Walking out of the bus there was a line of shops and stalls with neon lights and cheery salesmen.
Everything smelt of butter and petrol and the shop signs outshone the stars.
Seven o’clock local time was almost pitch black and very busy.
Boys bought technicolour sarongs and flashy vests; the girls went for aromatic perfume and decorative pants.
Of all the days, today’s conditions were probably the most Australian – it was hot and humid with the occasional gust of dusty breeze.
We took leave from our morning work for a trip to the local school.
Bags with books to donate in hand we strolled into the schoolyard next to the outdoor classroom and into the principal’s office.
We were greeted by a short man in a red flannelette shirt and escorted to the library.
Piles upon piles of books of every size and colour, paper and cardboard crowded the small plastic covered table.
We dispersed onto the plastic seats and office chairs with royal blue upholstery.
Six or seven little children lined up timidly into the room, goofily smiling and crowding behind each other like cartoon characters behind a thin tree trunk.
After a few explanations of what we would be doing a more confident girl bounced in to recite a three-verse poem about a snappy turtle.
Upon blasting out our eardrums and expectations the rest of the children joined in to sing their ABCs.
After a long story time we joined up to play games with the children and arm wrestles raged and piggy backs ran amok.
We had one job left to do.
We filed out again across the yard straight through a tunnel of children, teachers, tables and chairs and overhanging artwork stapled to wire like clothes on a fishing line.
We aligned ourselves and sang our national anthem with pride, then finished with the school song.
We left longing to spend more time with the children, but we were also famished so lunch was promising.
Heading back we settled for lunch and ate and got ready for our final day of the work the week.
The wind swept with a haze of dust particles and cooled our sweaty brows making it pleasantly humid.
Work that day went like a breeze. We were still in a buzz from the school visit and the heat wasn’t getting to us as easily as usual.
To our surprise following our second break, a news reporter and camera man hopped out from behind the house who were reporting on Habitat’s work in Sri Lanka.
After filming us working, the reporter went to interview Mr. Bowles and other students.