Udara Soysa '09 is interning as an English and technology teacher in rural Sri Lanka during the month of July 2008.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
We decided to take a small adventure visiting active war going areas of Sri Lanka this weekend. This would take our minds off the normal routine and hoped to give a new experience. We got a positive response for it from the military thus we headed out to war going areas of Northern Sri Lanka. We were only able to travel part of this journey through a light vehicle (a jeep) as we soon had to change our mode of transportation to a armored plated vehicle as we were nearing areas that had landmines and claymore attacks. We also met with war affected people and felt heartened by their stories. The positive aspect of this journey was the understanding we got that war will be won soon in Sri Lanka and separatism and terrorism would be defeated. I pray that this happen and peace would soon arrive in the motherland.
Most people we met in the military were extremely friendly from junior level officers to top level brigadiers. They were very happy that young people like us ( me and my buddy Nilantha) took efforts to come to war zone areas as well as our efforts teaching in rural areas of Sri Lanka. This was indeed very encouraging.
One thing I realize from this trip is that how we Sri lankan live our lives in combined with death. Apparently people from military to civilians do not care about dying whether it be a suicide bomb attack or through a artillery attack from LTTE groups. I often wonder how this unusual bravery regarding death stems from. Most probably this
stems from the Buddhist belief of rebirth and reincarnation.
It is interesting to note that most people in South and Colombo suburbs rarely got this experience that we got being near war front. Most people however know that Sri Lanka is fighting a war yet they do not see the reality of the war being actually in a war front. This weekends experience of venturing into war front gives a feeling of living a life through a bloody world war. I however really pray that peace would prevail soon in my homeland.
Friday, July 11, 2008
In today's entry, I think I need to concentrate on giving a detailed picture of rural Sri Lanka daily life. Sri Lankan rural life is marked with insane paradoxic ways of life. Here you find some poverty among people combined with amazingly rich landscapes and much human and natural resources. If the resources can be combined, rural Sri Lanka could resurge itself to another Singapore.
The people are generally very friendly in this part of the country. They will invite you to their house and offer you a meal even if they have to offer you their own dinner. They would opt to be hungry that night than let a guest leave unfed. There are highly honorable values among these people. However, lets not forget to mention the great hypocrisies that are engulfing this area as well. The people are socially conservative to the core yet liberal in many aspects. The Sri Lankan rural societies are highly different from their counterparts in Asia or the Middle East. The society itself is a great contradiction.
The weekend is now near and we (myself and my friend Nilantha, who is helping me out in this endeavor) probably will spend the time in Tsunami-Hit beach areas of Trincomalee. There are so many photos to be sent to the blog. Hopefully, that can be achieved during the weekend. Right now, I am at a cyber cafe in Trincomalee town and my time at the computer is almost over. So goodbye dear blog for now!
P.S. The island-wide Trade Union Action this week was a great failure. Life continued as usual.
P.S.S. Tamil Tigers shot at a passenger bus traveling to Katharagama. Four innocent civilian passengers were killed by this brutal action.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I had to come to Colombo to buy some supplies today when the bus I was traveling on suddenly stopped due some commotion by the passengers. Apparently there was a suspicious parcel in the bus and the passengers, of course, thought it was a time bomb. We were soon evacuated to the nearby bus halt. Fortunately, the military and police discovered this parcel was not a bomb but a forgotten package by a passenger. We sighed with a great relief and continued the journey.
The weather in Sri lanka is always hot and the humidity level makes one sweat insanely. I have been drinking water like I have never done before. Interestingly, in Atlanta, I rarely feel the need to drink water.
There are some interesting patterns I see in my students at the classroom workshops. Most of them do understand that their education is very important for them yet there is something that hinders their motivation and energy. We suspect that this is probably due to lack of nutrients and proper food combined with extremely tough weather conditions. I really need to do more research on this.
Another unfortunate incident happened today. I witnessed a bizarre conversation between a teacher and a student. As the teacher and I were walking during the lunch interval, she called out to a student, saying, "Hey, are you that child of xxxxxxx who committed suicide by hanging himself?" The child nodded innocently and I was at a loss for words. I pretended as I did not hear anything at all and later tried to initiate a conversation with the child thinking that I might help. But this child was making a conscious effort to ignore me and not to talk to me. I kept trying, yet failed miserably. I sunk into a deep depression this evening due to this.
Later in the evening, I met a guy from a non-governmental organization and had a good conversation with him for a bit. Later, I asked him how he deals with so much negativity, but he gave me bad advice.
However, there are some positives slowly developing through all the negativity. I realize that many kids are actually trying to make an effort to speak with some English words. The major factor here for us is to break the fear barrier that these kids have for English even if we can get them to use simple lines such as "Hello," "How are you?" and "What is your name?" for the whole two weeks. So far, all I hear from them has been "Yes" and "No." Oh well, its a long journey ahead
It seems there will be an island-wide Trade Union Action tomorrow. Apparently there will not be any public transportation. The oppositional parties are protesting against the government for the high cost of living and rising inflation and demanding the government raise public servant monthly salaries by 5000 RS ($50 U.S.). That is indeed a lot of money in Sri Lankan standards but yet, cost of living is sky high.
Its going to be an interesting Thursday tomorrow.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Arrival in Sri Lanka is nothing but boring. I arrived in Sri Lanka a couple of days ago and witnessed the major security blankets the government puts forward as security measures. The government is expecting terrorist attacks anytime in the city and there are road blocks all around. Unfortunately, many people see this as a way of life. From the interviews I did with many residents, people want the war over soon, however, they do want the government to end the war through military action than through negotiation. Many people have military mindsets. Meanwhile, the weather is extremely humid and hot in this part of the world. It really exhausts people very easily.
After a days rest, we are in the northeastern border areas. The situation here is nothing but joyous. The schools where we are working do not have the basic facilities to function as schools. One child told me last Monday that Tamil rebels kidnapped her sister several months ago to be a child soldier. The situation is really pathetic. I wonder how these children can concentrate on studies even for one single second. These children are as innocent as any children in the world and yet their plight is pathetic.
In another instance, I noticed one child always falling asleep in class, after several instances, I asked him to meet me during the lunch interval. I was somewhat frustrated with him yet I tried not to show it. During the meeting, he started crying and told me that his father had lost his limb through a landmine and he has to work till around 11:00 p.m. on various odd jobs. I felt heartbroken and utterly disgusted at myself for being frustrated with him. I wish kids in America would realize how lucky they are to enjoy what they enjoy. I believe these kids will give up anything to have what the kids in the western world enjoy as basic necessities of life.
The military has been very cooperative so far and it has indeed been a great advantage for us. Furthermore, people have been extremely hospitable too. The food has been extremely brilliant and I need to get some of these recipes for the cafeteria folks at Oglethorpe.
The more I live among these children, the more I realize how much I belong to this country more than any other country. As Dr. Kendra King would say, everybody has to go to his or her roots! I see my self through these children and I see my childhood through them albeit I was blessed with a non-traumatic and safe childhood.
Sometimes it is so hard to keep the emotional stability working in these areas of the country. I made a mental note that I will concentrate more on positivity than delve and suffer concentrating on negative realities that I see around these areas.
What I am realizing now is this is less about teaching English or computers but widening the horizons of these children. It would be impossible to teach anything concrete for these children in a month. But they seem to be more interested in learning about America, life in Atlanta, American jobs and traveling the world. I was silently thanking Dr. Herschler for recommending me to take photos of life in the U.S. to show to these kids. (I actually downloaded most of these photos from facebook, thank you Dr. H). The kids seem to be fascinated.