Moama Anglican Grammar School students and staff headed to Sri Lanka during the June/July School Holidays to participate in a Service Trip. Working alongside Habitat for Humanity, this contingent experienced Sri Lankan culture while doing their bit for those who are less fortunate.  Students Kerrie Dick and Angus Mawson blogged about their experiences. This is the first entry.

Kerrie Dick – June 19
Today was longer than usual, literally. A 7am departure from home, 8am arrival in Echuca and eventually, around three hours later, Melbourne airport.
Excitement was thick in the air, just like the suspected humidity, as we made our way through customs and on to flight, SQ 228.
It was seven hours and 20 minutes before we would set foot on solid ground again.
Singapore kindly added an extra two hours to our day.
As we walked through the halls of the airport we felt the extended day catching up with us.
It was only a short wait until our flight to Colombo and soon we were once again airborne, on our way to Sri Lanka.
Three hours later we landed in Colombo, welcomed by hot weather and incredible humidity.
We then made our way to Negombo by bus and arrived at our hotel.
Now our trip had really begun.

June 20
After a restless night’s sleep the weather was apparently ‘cool’ for the locals as they dressed in jeans.
Our hotel provided us with a buffet breakfast of Sri Lankan specialities.
Lady finger bananas seem to be very popular as we spotted hundreds of bunches for sale in shop after shop.
As one of our first cultural experiences we were taken to a fish market.
Foreign smells lingered and waves from the sea crashed only 100m away.
We hopped on the bus and made our way to Kandy, with one stop, purchasing SIM cards and icy poles and then continued on to the tea factory.
A visit which included a quick tour as workers swirled around us, moving hundreds of boxes of tea while in bare feet.
We then hopped on the bus again, stopping for a buffet lunch and then taking the final route to Kandy.
We browsed the streets of the bustling city and found ourselves at a Sri Lankan cultural dance and fire walking.
It was quite unusual, but entertaining as dancers performed flips and danced with fire. The Grand Kandy Villa was the final stop of the day.
We enjoyed a delicious, yet spicy meal and easily found our way to bed ready for a big day ahead.

Angus Mawson – June 19
I’ve found I have a love-hate relationship with planes. Different variables affect different things but I guess it comes down to: Who? Where to? And for how long? Personally the plane flight felt shorter than I expected it to be.
We had massive multiplayer games of differing sorts, some turbulence and plenty of movies.
At the moment I’m laying here in a sweat-drenched T-shirt, in a natural sauna, which would probably kill me if it weren’t for the blessed air conditioner spewing spurts of short-lived cool air into the room.
We’re on beds that are barely 180cm in length so our toes dangle off the foot of the bed.
The room is a soft yellow apart from the cream white ceiling, which holds the shaking fan that vainly wobbles, trying to keep us cool.
The fridge hides under a tall table adjacent from the TV, bearing only two water bottles, and sitting on top of the table is a miniature pot whose yellow-brown flowers are winning the participation award for coping in this humidity.
The local time is 2:22am so we’ll have five hours of sleep before we have to get up again.

June 20
I awoke today feeling very refreshed.
Breakfast was an interesting assortment of lady finger bananas, pawpaw, jam, finger buns, eggs and eggy pancakes.
I’d just like to mention how interestingly the Western (especially American) pop culture has hidden itself under the skin of this place.
In the dining room there is a signed Justin Bieber poster and a Selena Gomez billboard across the street advertising kids’ clothes.
This evening we left Negombo for a three-hour drive, which incorporated a visit to a tea factory.
We sang, played ‘‘I spy’’ and observed the luscious greenery of the farms we passed. Shades of emerald hid cows, stray dogs and what looked like ruins that families called home.
It was confronting and beautiful at the same time, so I wasn’t sure how to react.
Following the drawn-out trip; we finally pulled up beside a long, corrugated-iron building on the side of the road.
Through the reception’s shield of cool air stood a doorway, which sprayed a thousand fragrances.
Boxes upon boxes of dried tealeaves stacked to the ceiling.
Workers in hairnets and masks – but no shoes!
Girls in saris of turquoise leaves guided single tourists around, waving at the door as you come in.
We trekked up the levels, through another sauna disguised as a stairwell, to a gift shop and tasting area.
A young man with a speedy tongue and a deep accent led us through the process: picking, drying, grinding, fermenting, and sorting.
Afterwards we were invited back up to the tasting area for a tea on the house and the chance to buy some for ourselves.
Caramel, English breakfast, jasmine … the list went on. I settled for the strawberry-apple blend; ‘‘Ceylon Silky Nights’’ the tin read.