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Tales from Sri Lanka

The real work begins

SRI LANKA | Tuesday, 8 July 2008 | Views [718]

The railway tracks on the way to Titus' house

The railway tracks on the way to Titus' house

I wake at 7.30am with a groan. Rosie, my room mate and I are each curled up in our seperate single beds with our mosquito nets around us, like a protective blanket. After shaking off the sleep we head up to breakfast at the dining table, where all meals are served, including the kids lunch.

There are nine volunteers in total, two (including Rosie) work at the Turtle Hatchery and the rest of us work on rebuilding houses in the morning and teaching English in the afternoon.

After breakfast we make our way to the construction site we will be working on. I wouldn’t call it a construction site per-se, as it is the remainder of what used to be the home of a man called Titus, which was destroyed during the Tsunami in 2004.

Although it missed some beaches on the south coast, it completely devastated others, killing some 30,000 people in Sri Lanka all up. Although Kosgoda was not the hardest hit, the tsunami still left a mountain of destruction in its wake.

Titus’ house is about a 10 minute walk from the community centre. So we all trek off in our daggy t-shirts, along the road, past the turtle hatchery and Rosie and turn done a mud road about 300 meters away. Nilantha who works at the community centre comes with us to help out, and so does Brown, the community centres so-called ‘guard dog’. Who, when not running in front of cars, is usually trying to hump something or someone.

After walking past a few houses we hit the railway tracks. Apparently the British built the railway line by the sea so the noise of passing trains wouldn’t disturb those in the city. This proved to be disastrous on the 26th December 2004 when the tsunami hit and wiped out a train, killing thousands of people.

In order to get to Titus’ house we walk down the railway tracks for a couple of hundred meters, having to keep an eye and ear out for any oncoming train.

The house we are going is yet to be built, a good four years on. Our job is to pull down what is left of the foundations so that a new house can be built in its place. We soon get the idea, lots of lugging of concrete bricks and granite rocks to the back of the house for a good few hours while Titus and his wife and daughter-in-law look on. Titus is only about 59 years old, but looks a lot older than that. By 10am we are exhausted and still have an hour to go. You can tell we are not used to working in the heat and its not long before we are sweating are starting to smell a little.

After a hard mornings work we sit down absolutely exhausted. Titus and his wife come out and bring us tea with biscuits, they are extremely generous, as they have bare minimum and are still living in little huts used as temporary housing. The tea is Sri Lankan style, which means ultra sweet! And damn is it good. The last thing in the world I could possibly feel like is hot tea, but surprisingly it is refreshing and after hauling a few more rocks we head home for a glorious cold shower.

11am - 3pm we have to ourselves, although after lunch we have to prepare our lesson plans for the children. At around 2.30pm all the kids roll up and have their lunch. Dudley has just secured donations to feed the children for the next two years. Only a month and a half ago they had run out of money had to cancel lunches.

After lunch my terror 5-7 year olds run into class. Dimadoo and Lazatha are exceptions, as they are a little bit older, around 12. Today’s topics are body parts and clothes. I have about 15 in the class today and only one of me and they do NOT want to listen. With an attention span of 0.005 seconds things soon get a bit out of control and after an hour and a quarter I set them free exhausted. My hat goes off to every teacher out there!

After another cold shower (never thought I’d say this, but I love them) and dinner, we set off along the beach to see if we can find any turtles laying eggs. Alas no such luck, although we spot a few crabs and jumping fish. We instead settle for a bottle of arrack and coke! A hard days done!

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