Thursday, 16 December 2010

monkeys, monitor lizards and money ! -

My last breakfast at Sunbeach Hotel.

Siri Madura .December 17th 2010
Well as I hear of freezing conditions in UK, I'm getting used to increasing temperatures here. The rain which was torrential for a few days, making me wish for Wellington boots as I struggled through the mud, seems to have ended and the dry tourist season is beginning.

I moved into Siri Madura on December 1st - 3 months after leaving my house in Brighton . Its a beautiful house , once owned by a rich family but unoccupied for 20 years. Workmen are renovating the place but my room is pretty much finished . Here is Zigger on my bed - in the lap of luxury ! And this is the entrance porch to the Centre-the Chandasevana Arts Centre at Siri Madura.                                                               

The gates are now in place in the stone wall which is down one side of the property providing some privacy for the outside dance and performance area though the other 3 sides are wire fencing.

I hope to have Internet connection before Xmas which will make communication a lot easier as I have to come to the hotel to use the Wifi.
The main Hall will be used for a range of activities and  begins with an arts day for a group of disabled residents from Suthilka Orphanage. Eilidh the other volunteer already has contact with them and it will ease us into a larger programme in the New Year

In the Garden of Siri Madura every morning we are visited by a very slow moving5 ft long monitor lizard and monkeys swing through the trees. In a disused Well we've  found a 10inch long terrapin sitting on a half submerged tree trunk and Sisera, the night guard feeds it fish
Other creatures are not so welcome and I am battling against creepy crawlies that consider the place their home after being undisturbed for so long.
money matters
The grand house and the large garden feel luxurious but just over the fence is a 75 year old lady living in poverty who used to be a servant at the house many years ago.  All around the cheery smiles for the tourists belie the issues which local people face every day. Part of my task is to make it a welcoming community resource and to provide activities which local people can enjoy and benefit from.

I'm not sure how I would feel if I was dependent on, and constantly surrounded by, multi millionaires squandering their money while I struggled to feed my family each week.
The challenge of coping with the climate and the culture change and of working out just who I am and what is right to do here is daunting at times but the support of people here and those in UK is very encouraging and I'm sure we will not loose a right perspective. 
Very good news is that Hullaballoo Quire  raised almost £200 at their gig at the Komedia this week and that means we can definitely start the Kandy dancing class as soon as the outside space is ready. This week the workmen have been making the concrete posts to support the roof of that area in the garden.

I will try to get another blog to you before December 25th but meanwhile have a truly happy festive season and thanks again for all your support.
Love fromEddi and Zigger

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Customs ,Cockroaches and the new Chandrasevana Arts Centre

November 29th 2010

This is SIRI MADURA meaning the Heavenly Palace.

The Chandrasevana Centre, founded by HARF charity after the Tsunami, was based in a house in the village of Dudanduwa. In monsoon storms in May this year the roof was very badly damaged ( though some tell me the monkeys nicked the lead off the roof) and a new more substantial house was offered for reasonable rent by a local business man. This beautiful old colonial style house is over 150 years old and retains many original features - including an open cooking fire in the kitchen. Much hard work has already been done to repair and renovate Siri Madura which has been unoccupied for over 15 years, AND  !!!!I move in today Wednesday 24th November!!!!
Ah well now its 29th Monday and I'm still in the hotel. For various reasons, mainly to do with the gates of the garden not being finished it looks like maybe next week ! A bit frustrating but Ill just have to make the best it . 

The  new centre will be called The Chandrasevana Arts  Centre at Siri Madura.
In meetings this week the final decisions are being taken about how the rooms will be used . HARF needs to let as many  rooms as possible to repay loans used for refurbishment costs and the really good news is that we reckon we can get it to be self financing within 2/3 years.   The house has not been inhabited for over 15 years so you can imagine numerous tasks have to be completed before its ready to be fully used. However its very near being possible to furnish some rooms and hopefully have some paying guests before mid December. In  the last few days the trustees  have been able to ensure that there will be  an air conditioned room for IT teaching , a covered outside area with a concrete floor for the teaching the traditional Kandy dancing circus skills and for workshops, art and drama activities.
So I need to redouble efforts for fundraising.
£9000 would cover the next 12 months and activities provided  for an average of 30 people each week.
Ive drawn up a present list - £5 would fund refreshments for all the participants in the Kandy dance class for a month! that's a lot of orange juice and.  bottled water. A beginners course of 10 hours for 10 people over 3 months would cost about £25 per month.
IT classes will cost app £4 per person per session. and sponsoring a young person to do 5  weeks of art sessions would cost £10
Providing Internet access for  a month £20.

I will add to the list in the next blog in case anyone wants any last minute Xmas gifts. I could always send a card from Sri Lanka allowing perhaps 2 weeks for post.
Well stormy but warm weather seems much more appealing that the snow and freezing conditions in some parts of UK.
Import and Customs Department in ColomboI collected my shipment from the dockside warehouse on Thursday- a very tedious and sometimes funny process that lasted all of 5 hours plus the 3 hour drive each way. We ( me and the taxi driver  who stayed with me every step of this process and was amazingly helpful ) had to exercise diplomacy in chunks as we were moved from one office to another and then back again several times , paying various bits of cash and having to find my own pallet of goods in a warehouse as big as at least 2 football pitches and stuffed with palettes, and then while the stern faced customs official glared at me had to try to open the well shrink wrapped and double cardboard covered  consignment with my tiny travelling nail scissors - trying to cut through sealing tape and wire bands and not daring to laugh, I remembered my Swiss army knife after about 5 minutes of this farce and it got a bit easier.
After a minimal inspection I got clearance but  still more passport inspections and more papers to sign in triplicate and more going back and forward between  the two offices.

I'm not sure if these procedures are a remnant of British Colonial rule or as was pointed out to me later a way of punishing those who, like me, didn't know that they indicate a need for some rupees to be presented with the papers at the beginning of the process.
After rescuing Zigger who had been locked up in a room as he wasn't allowed in the customs area we set off exhausted and at least the driver and I had the same opinions of the process and laughed at the same aspects of it all.  He had been hoping for a quick trip as it was his wife's birthday.  We were very hungry and I was very bitten by day time mosquitoes which although not malarial have been causing a rise in Dengue fever recently. That's a great name for a fever I think.
Though the driver wouldn't tell me what his pay is I later found out that the usual payment of a  van driver for the trip to Colombo whether it be the 6 hours driving time or with the 5 hours in the custom shed , or what ever else the passengers want to do added ,is still the equivalent of £6 - that's the days rate however long it takes-- and many days there is no work. .

I  unpacked the Yamaha Key board which was a donation from A Hullaballoo Quire member and it will be an amazingly useful resource with multitude of programmes and sounds . The tutorial will enable people to teach themselves. And it will certainly draw people into the Centre. There is a musician I met in February who lost his legs to a mine who I hope will assist.

So Siri Madura is looking great and I really am thrilled by the possibilities the trustees now see of becoming self sufficient within 3 years from letting the top floor, either as individual rooms or as a complete unit to tourists. It could sleep up to 8 people and is ideal for a family or a group of friends.
I'm coming to terms with the slow pace of developments and  putting efforts into fund raising - if only  to avoid doing my UK tax return which is still to be done.

I miss friends and the choir  a lot but not much of England so far. And from what I hear of the freezing weather I'm not sorry to be out of it. Getting my head round people getting ready for Xmas and wondering if the roads in the North East will be clear enough to travel this weekend seems very strange,

Here he is-- longing to get down to the beach.
I took Zigger to meet the local vet to check out the various bits of advice Ive been receiving from all and sundry - Was relieved to find that I don't have to give him tablets for a nasty disease as I was advised in UK as it doesnt exist here and Zigger will be extremely relieved to know that I shouldn't bath him every day and its best to keep his coat at average length and not cut extremely short. He is still very much the star of the show and loves the attention. 

 I've found a new use for Velcro!
 One morning I found a 2" cockroach stuck to the velcro of my sandal. Ive only seen 3 of the creatures since Ive been here and Zig managed to eat one of them! He was sick and refused to eat for 24 hours - not even treats so he must have felt really bad.

And here am I - grateful for a fresh pineapple and banana smoothy in the hotel after a 15 minute, very sweaty, walk through the muddy puddles of last night's rain to inspect the progress at Siri Madura.
Do keep in touch. It's great to get your emails and Skypes.

Much love and warm sunshine from Zigger and Eddi.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Miunis Birthday: Zigger scares a monster :Monsoon soaking

Today, Monday November 1st is Miuni's 9th Birthday
She is the daughter of the hotel manager and Zigger is anxiously waiting to see if he will get some chocolate birthday cake- NO way! picture at end of the blog.
Amaya, Miunis 3 year old sister has been waiting all day with the cake ready for her sister to return from school. Having got a tuk tuk into the town to get some bangles for Miuni and some packs to blow bubbles I was caught in a monsoon downpour that the staff have been promising for days. I actually enjoyed the process of getting soaking wet, despite my little umbrella, and drying out again. Zigger was not so pleased and when we returned we found the staff mopping the balcony to stop the rain flooding into my bedroom.

Zigger guards his mistress against a monster.
Last night after dinner Zigger was barking as if a gangster was in the bedrioom - and scared away a big cockroach - at least 2 inches long , well at least 1.5 inches . 
now that Skype and internet connections are sorted I really look forward to talking to friends in UK. and its great when we can see each other. What  magic it is over 6000 miles to see people in their homes and be able to show them where I am.   When Zigger recognized the  voice of a much loved friend he  charged round the room searching for her .He cant make sense of the video so he was convinced he could find her if he looked  long enough. Here he is begging to be allowed down to the sea..

Spreading the word
Ive had many interesting convesations with people in the street and in cafes who ask about the dog and what we are doing here so I'm already pubicising the new centre though I'm a bit vague about what will actually be happening there  there of course.
A few tourist were around at the weekend - townies come down to the sea for a break but there are only a few holiday makers in Hikkduwa at this time of year. All the beachfront cafes are cleaning and repairing ready for what they hope will be a prosperous season at the end of the month.
When I visited in February I talked to a tourist staying a few doors away who was walking the owner of her room 's cocker spaniel. She was concerned that the dog was not taken out.
I saw the dog yesterday -chained up in a cage set into the wall- a very sad creature indeed. left by an English couple several years ago and apparently hostile to Sri  Lankans but he seemed friendly enough to me. At least he looked healthy and well fed. I had to stop myself from wanting to offer to take him.

Talking to a young man this morning who is attracted by adverts from UK about training colleges  which say they can find well paid jobs in UK  to do while studying I felt ashamed at the misleading information. 5 pounds an hour sounds really good to someone who pays 10p for a loaf of bread here, and some of the 'colleges' sounded very dubious to me.
So how to be encouraging his ambition to further his career in the hotel and catering business and yet warn him not to trust and tell him how people can use cheap labour for their own gain. One young man lost  hard earned money to an agent for a place in a uk college only to find he couldn't get a visa or of course his money back

Hulla beenies will be interested to know that Twinkle Twinkle little star and Row Row Row the Boat are  known by every one as they are taught in primary school. Not sure if Kirsty wil be able to fit those into the repertoire. 
When I mention singing and the choir these are the songs that people begin. And that's great cos at least I know the words to them! Indeed  I now know the words to several Hullabaloo songs now as I'm regularly singing along to the old box net files on my IPOD.

TheTsunami is ever present
I'm walking around observing and seeing what a great deal of help might be appreciated here.
The  constant roar of the waves crashing and the constant tearing away at the more fragile beach front properties is a reminder of the Tsunami. People never talk about it until awhile into the conversation as they tell me about their families and recall  their lost relatives and how they cope and look after the surviving children.

Do keep sending me news about  yourselves. The best radio reception from UK is on FM 107
serving East Grinstead and surrounding areas - I was delighted and not a little amused to hear that on Saturday not only Morris dancing but Ferret racing would be a big attraction.
So what I learn and listen too and absorb is a weird miscellany of sometime mysterious and sometime magical information and I'm fascinated by it all and genuinely feel privelaged to be doing what I'm doing even though I've no clear idea of what that might be.

Now its thursday 4th nov . I'm learning how to get the pics onto the blog - im very slow at it.
This week Ive  frequented a cafe selling Italian Americano and delicious iced coffee.

Ive been to Galle in a tuk tuk with zigger on my knee. astonishment all round - hes a very unusual dog for Sri Lanka. My packet of papers to allow me to get on with my uk tax returns arrived and was promptly stuck under the bed!  I seem to be getting more energy every day and finding more ways of coping with the humidity and heat . All in all its a good learning experience and I can see how the centre  will be able to offer a good service to the community here. Looking now for regular  sponsorship in small quantities to ensure that Singalese volunteers who will help with interpreting can be given at least a lunch and travel costs. 
So thats all for now. Enjoy bonfire night in UK.Im thinking of sitting in my camper van with Zigger,on the Race hill looking over to Lewes and seeing all the fireworks and  eating fish and chips.  
We have another public holiday here on 5th nov - wonder if thats a throw back from British colonial times? - no one seems to know what the holiday is for. Everyone concentratin on getting prepared for the tourist season with repairs and painting and clearing the beach.  
I look forward every day to the emails and Skype calls so keep em comin!
love from Eddi and Zigger.;

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Roaring sea , dog poo dilemmas, Skype conversations and sleep.

Monday 25th October. Sunbeach Hotel ,Hikkaduwa.

Here I am sitting looking out to huge crashing waves under a cooling fan whirring above my head. Zigger is fast asleep at my feet. Its 11.0am Sri Lankan time and Im thinking that some of my friends in UK will just about be getting out of bed. Cicero who is the staff member for the new Chandresevana centre has just called by to meet me. He will be the  person stating at Suranodama and is the caretaker and guard.
I met him in February and he's really nice so Im glad he is moving to the new building.
Zigger is a star.
When I walked down the main street yesterday all the shopkeepers and cafe owners wanted to meet Zigger. He is certainly an unusual dog for this area . Of course he laps up the attention. This morning we went on a short walk along the beach but the tide is high and the waves
so we both got soaked and I doubt if I will ever be able to let him run free on the beach as the undercurrent is dangerously strong here. He managed to chase a few small scuttling crabs and disturb every dog in every beach hotel and came back exhausted and happy.  Here he is about to eat coconut with Dylan.
Small creatures abound
I'd forgotten how many ants there are everywhere and how everything needs to be wrapped up. tesco sandwich bags are proving really useful. I allmost forgot to use bottled water for cleaning my teeth and didnt close the mosquito net carefully on Saturday night so have a few bites now. I decided to make a list of all the things people should bring or remember when they come to visit and Im adding to it as I go along, I puzzled about what to do with dog poo- dog owners will appreciate the dilemmas.
But the manager told me to leave it any where but on the public pavements. And now I can see why- kick a bit of sand over it and its soon devoured by ants , crabs etc. ,
Thinking of home.
Remembering that it's Monday of half term in UK and I would usually be wondering if I might go to the Greys pub in Southover St for music night as Hullaballo  Quire, where I'd usually be on a Monday, wont be on this evening.
Skype is great . I can walk about with the laptop and show whoever I'm talking with the sea and zigger and the lovely palm trees. My Skype address is eddipiper42 so give me a call - its a free and easy to load programme. Dont forget the 4.5 hour time difference though or it will be a very sleepy conversation.
I'll download pictures as soon as I can work out how to do it as I usually use Bluetooth and thats not working at the moment. The one above is one I took in February this year. Now, in October the tables have been moved up onto a sea wall with huge waves crashing in against a sea wall.
After all the energy and effort of packing up my house and getting myself and Zigger out here I'g going to have at least 2 weeks lazing and holidaying so I might just have a little snooze in the shade under a palm tree now.
Love to everyone - do keep in touch
Eddi and Zigger