Kerra volunteered with VESL in Sabarugamuwa Province in Sri Lanka for three months in September 2012, she has recently sent us this great blog post about what she did on a day to day basis…be prepared to be jealous!
I wake up at 6 o clock just as it is starting to get light. Just after 6 I am usually brought a cup of tea which wakes me up! As I’m drinking my tea I am also putting my sari on, this used to take me a long time but after a few months practice I can usually be dressed in 10 to 15 minutes, provided I don’t have any sari disasters or decide the sari is not neat enough so rip it off and start again! Then I have to make sure I match my jewellery to the sari and have tied my hair up neatly. If my sari is not neat then I will be changed by one of the teachers when I get to school but I can happily say that doesn’t happen so much any more!
Finally at about 6.40 I sit down for a quick breakfast of fruit. I cannot manage rice and curry before 7 in the morning and the fruit here is so fresh and delicious! Usually I have watermelon and papaya. There is just enough time for me to fill up my water bottle ready for the day at school (very important as we have some very hot days here), grab my school bag and my umbrella (also very important as it often rains when I’m leaving school) before we leave the house at 7 o clock.
I am living with one of the English teachers at my school so we go to school together. My house is just off the main road and is surrounded by huge green trees, it feels like I’m living in a jungle! This is especially true when I see monkeys swinging in the trees and huge lizards wandering around! It is about a 10 minute walk from the house to the main road past paddy fields, a pond with lotus flowers and many smiley children waiting for their three wheeler to school.
It is a beautiful walk with green, rolling hills surrounding us, towards the end of the road however there is a big steep hill! No problem at all, if anything it will keep me healthy………. but try doing it in a sari!!! I usually stumble up the top of the hill, sari hitched up and not very ladylike at all to face the next part of my journey to school….. the bus!!!
As I wait for the bus to come around the corner I prepare myself! Then the bus comes and I am quickly pushed on as the bus does not stop long for people to get on and I don’t want to be left behind or worse, half on and half off! Once on the very crowded morning bus I stumble to find somewhere to hang on before the first big bend as well as trying to move forward to let all the other people on! The road to school is very beautiful, lots of green hills and coconut trees but I can see none of it as I cling on for dear life on the bus! However I do feel every bend as we zoom around the corners! Some drivers are very good and the journey is okay but when I get a driver who thinks he is in grand theft auto I often leave the bus shaking! Soon I fall off the bus to arrive at school just before 7.30.
As I walk through the school gates children come running up to me to shake hands, give me high fives and ask me how I am. One of the first things I taught the pupils were different ways to answer “how are you?” instead of the normal “I am fine thanks”. So instead I hear “I feel fantastic”, “I am happy today”, “I am great thanks”, “I feel amazing” and many more.
I teach in a primary school which has 1000 pupils from Grade 1 to Grade5.The school day is from 7.30 to 1.30. On Mondays and Fridays there is a whole school assembly which is held outside. This always begins with 10 minutes of chanting and meditation as the majority of the pupils are Buddhist. I love listening to 1000 children chanting and it is a really calm and peaceful start to the day. For the rest of the week the children chant in their classrooms and you can hear the echoes all around the school. If there is no assembly I usually chat to some of the other teachers and check my plans for the classes that I am teaching that day.
There are 20 classes in the school and I teach all of them. I have Grade 3 and 4 twice a week and Grade 1, 2 and 5 once a week. There is also a special educational needs unit and I teach there once a week. Normally I teach 6 lessons a day which are either 40 or 30 minutes long depending on the age group. By 8 I am in lessons teaching. It is lovely seeing all the children and teaching across all the grades. I am focusing on speaking and listening skills in English so my lessons normally include lots of games, songs, speaking, listening and generally lots of noise!! At 10.40 the school stops for interval and this is when I eat my lunch with the other English teachers. Lunch is always rice and curry which has been prepared that morning by my host and is always delicious.
Of course I eat it the Sri Lankan way: with my hands and yes I do think it makes it taste better!
After interval I have 2 more lessons before an after school club which start at 1. On Mondays I run a singing club (I can’t sing but that doesn’t seem to matter!), on Tuesdays I teach an English class for the teachers which I love and usually turns into a big chat, on Wednesdays and Thursdays I run English clubs for different pupils. I enjoy all the clubs but I think I enjoy the teachers one the most as we end up chatting about many different topics and learning so much about each others cultures. As well as having many, many laughs! My clubs are normally finished by 2.00 unless it’s the teachers which can finish any time but I think the latest was 3.45!
Sometimes after school we go to one of the teachers houses for tea and cake, or else we will do some shopping in the small village before getting the bus home. Thankfully the buses are usually less crowded when I leave school and the drivers don’t seem to be so crazy so sometimes I get a seat and get to look out of the window at the amazing scenery. I can get home any time between 3 and 5 in the afternoon but whatever time I get home the first thing I do is have a shower, or my daily bath as it is called here. Everyone seems to have a bath (shower) at this time and it makes sense, it is the hottest part of the day so you are very hot and sweaty, because of this the cold water is amazing and not a mission! After I am clean and slightly cooler we have tea with some sweets, biscuits or cakes and sometimes all 3!!
I spend my evening planning my lessons for the next day, reading and watching tv even though I have no idea what is happening! I live with the English teacher and her aunt so it is fairly quiet in the evenings but it is a good chance to recharge batteries and prepare for the next day. Some evenings a family friend comes over who speaks no English, he has been named my Sinhala teacher as he has helped me practice my Sinhala.
Around 8.30 I have my dinner which is usually more tasty rice and curry but can also be other delicious Sri Lankan dishes such as string hoppers, hoppers, roti and even sometimes pizza!! I usually go to bed just before 10, very tired from a busy day but happy and looking forward to doing it all again tomorrow!