Sunday, 30 January 2011

Frustrations,Progress ,and one less hairy knee..

The mask which brings good fortune to Siri Madura

Frustrations = Internet and email access
I was unable to access the site for awhile so sent an email to blog readers. In the last blog I was rejoicing that we had dial up internet access at Siri Madura and would soon be getting wifi .
Well!!!!!!!!!!all change . Im now using a dongle - the dial up is off, the wifi is set to go but the phone line is disconnected- I got a really good technician to service my lap top and note pad and now neither of them work properly !! However  Ive managed to get onto the internet this lovely sunny Saturday morning when its not too hot and the monkeys I can see outside my window are grunting away as usual and Zigger is snoring contentedly under the bed having been out for his morning  toilet and had his customary ginger biscuit in leau of dog biscuits. The local ginger biscuits are very gingery indeed but Ive become accustomed to them now.
So it looks like Im back to intermittant email contact. My small IPOD allways works well when Im in range of Wifi so its not total lack of communication.
.This is me using a ginger biscuit to try to get Zigger to look at the web cam.  He now has a fenced area in the garden so that he can be off lead and run about and chase the ball. I hope that will reduce some of his excess weight. He gave me a terrible fright when he staggered up to me swaying from side to side , panting furiosly and clearly asking for help but I remembered something I'd read and covered him in cold wet towels and after about an hour his heart rate was back to normal. He had been running about at midday and was just too hot. I learned later that a solution for overheated animals and humans is to put and icepack under the armpits to lower body heat quickly. Im sure those of you in the UK will find that very useful in your present climate.

Tuk Tuk rides with Rassica - one hairless knee!

A depiction of female monks bringing a special plant from the Buddha, in India, to a temple near Umawatuna, Galle.

Below is Eilidh holding a turtle in the turtle sanctuary which we visitited on a fun day out . A trip in Rassica's Tuk tuk with Zigger and a hotel guest Clare to see the " Cinnaman " man who lives on one of many islands on a vast lake and farms Cinnman and demontrates, outside his cool mud walled home. how he strips the bark and uses the cinnamon. It tastes more lemony when fresh than the old dried stuff we get in UK. I don't have any pics of this trip after the turtle sanctuary as I dropped my camera there. In the evening the turtle farm owner got a tuk tuk for an hours trip to bring it to sunbeach to see if it was my camera. I hadn't noticed that I'd lost it. The turtle sanctuarty needs volunteers for a day just to help feed the turtles and when they are ready release them into the ocean. they collect the eggs and care for them until they hatch and keep any disabled turtles who would not survive - some blind. some with damaged legs. 
 The beauty of the shell patterns was amazing. And the small newly hatched turtles soooooo sweet. Each tank is signed by the UK benefactors who support the place.

We also went to a spice garden where the herbalist produced many lotions and oils for ayuvedic medecine and proceeded to magically and painlessly remove hairs from one of my knees with a special lotion. I was very impressed but the price condemned my other knee to remain hairy.  
I am planning to create a Tuk Tuk rides guide with Rassica and we planned to meet this week to discuss the booklet but then Rassica had to rush home as Mutu his wife had started to give birth - 3 weeks early- to their first child - a girl -and all is well. So the booklet plan will have to wait awhile. It would give me the excuse to go on interesting journeys and I could sell it to raise a few more Rupees for the Centre.

she loved the keyboard
The Chandrasevana Arts Centre welcomes the locals. 
This was a big event for us as we advertised a film evening to the people living nearbye so that they could satisfy their curiosity about all the work that has been going on  over the last few months and find out what we are doing here. As usual technology was a little problematic at first but projector and sound system and laptop eventually worked in harmony and  we had an audience of around 25 to watch  A Mr Bean film.  We set up a display of photographs of the  arts days and put a line of tiny oil lamps to light the way and served water or  coca cola -cold from the fridge and room temperature - an important choice for people here. Afterwards the requests for a Bollywood film and a Sri Lankan film have set the programme for the next 2 film evenings. It was very clear that people welcome the Centre and the acitivities and are keen to take part  so I am much encouraged by this evening even though rain started half an hour before we opened and stopped some people from getting here.

We have a volunteer, James, from Suffolk here for 2 weeks and he is helping and will do some work in the garden.    We are thinking of putting a notice on the gate to see if any tourists would like to come and do a couple of hours practical work, like painting and clearing the garden while they are in the area.                         
fabric painting of initials
Visa application I am progressing with my visa application for the " My Dream Home" Visa - for people over 55 who are allowed a 2 year visa if they can deposit £10,000 retunable surity and reasonable pension income. Im hoping to borrow the surity by various means as I don't have much savings but my pension is sufficient. Compulsory private health insurance is a big obstacle - extortionate charges but I am sorting it all out with the help of generous friends and all the money is returned after the 2 years with interest whichb I undersrtand is quite a bit higher than current UK rates..
Sukitha Days.
We have completed 4 of our 6 days with the disabled groups from Sukitha orphanage. On one there was a power cut all day. So candles were needed even with all shutters open. The penants show intials in English and in Singhalese. There is such joy on some of the faces-- and some residents who seem withdrawn manage to smile and take part as best they can. 
games in the garden
I won't be able to continue with these sessions when Eilidh returns to Scotland as she has brought funding for them and each day costs about £80.  

Today ,Sunday, the carpenters began putting up the roof of the outside area which will be a theatre space and soon the Kandian dance teaching can begin .
We have found a local music teacher who will begin a weekly class for keyboard and drums. This man is disabled and drives himself around in a converted Tuktuk .His English is very good and I will help with this class and engage participants in some art/ discussion along side the music teaching. 
Eilidh begins a weekly art and play class for 8 to 14 year olds tomorrow and is full of interesting ideas for that.
After the film night we have had several requests for English conversation classes, and this is my inroad to the emotional health/ peer support idea that brought me here. I'm planning those now.using simple paper creative art exercises, adapting some materials I used in UK ,to get conversations going.

the wiahes tree in the garden
 Many parents are keen on the English class idea but  of course my time and money is limited and this is an Arts Centre so most things will have art or craft basis. We are still searching for local people with good English to run the groups and translate for us. Many people would like to set up activities for young people in the centre but at the moment we don't have the money to pay the teachers.

So suddenly  I'm very busy and could be too busy. I find the heat slows me down and I do get very tired so have to take care to get rest time in the day and not take on too much. Tonight a mosquito or 2 got under my mosquito net and began feasting , unable to sleep, Im writing this blog - it helps to stop me from scratching ! 
Off to the big supermarket in Galle in the morning to stock up on essentials and treat myself to some real cheese - I cant bring myself to tell you how expensive that is !!
 I have to say that this project is so very worthwhile and the local people are so pleased that this facility is open to them and especially for the young people. Your support is really paying off now and Im thrilled to see the results of all the planning and preparation.. If you want any information do please email me on  or write a comment in the space below the blog.
Hoping that there are signs of Spring in Europe and you have had the worst of the winter by now.
All bestwishes  from~Eddi and Zigger at  sunny Siri Madura, Sri Lanka.
lunch for the Sukitha girls

time to leave the creatiive arts day

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Hello from the Chandrasevana Arts Centre at Siri Madura

 Pic is Eilidh Graham with participants from Sukitha orphanage at the Creative Arts Day 

Dear Friends,
This blog was begun just after Xmas  but I was sick for a short while and didn't complete it. All Ok now and I was well looked after with people bringing me food and making sure I was OK. Missed the New Year celebrations which was probably good for Zigger as the firecrackers figured loud and long.

Internet !!
Yes we now have our own Internet access and Skype - without a web cam as yet but its great. Might mean I get to bed a bit later perhaps. It has been very difficult to get online using the hotel WiFi system.This is a temporary dial up system but the Wifi will be with us "soon ". It seems the company  had run out of the hardware and is waiting for supplies. Ill then have TV as well , though not expecting to want to use it much until the rainy season .
Well this is supposed to be the dry season but we've had rain and dullness all over Xmas which is not good for the tourists.We seem to be having heavy rain every day after about 5.0pm which is not how it should be in the dry season but there's plenty to do here for the tourists.

People are off in the tuk tuks ( a 3 wheeled 2 stroke engine with a cab that takes up to 3 thin people or 2 and small dog! )to the turtle sanctuary and the gem mines and Galle street festival and the cinnamon maker on the lake and further afield to Kandy and tea plantations and National parks and Elephant reserves.
And the people are smiling as usual trying to keep the visitors happy

Paying Guests.
The first guests came to stay on the first floor and  killed a rat we've been trying to get rid of for weeks, and I learned what old houses sound like when 4 adults are stomping around above my head  throwing boots at a rat in the middle of the night! Shortbread biscuits
Well the oven wouldn't stay lit !! so my star biscuits and mince pies are still in the fridge waiting to be cooked !update - oven now repaired and biscuits cooked and eaten !
I find the contrast between those who live in  nice houses with electricity and a car and usually several motor bikes outside and those who only next door are living in a wooden shack with an outside standpipe and no electricity quite strange.
Many of  the older Sri Lankans seem to prefer the simpler way of living and it is what they are used to and I guess less stressful and much cheaper.
Pic- Sorry about the underwear but the thought you might like to see the shy dog who lives in the outside loo
Creative Arts Days
We've had our first Creative Arts day which was amazingly successful - 10 residents of Sukitha orphange aged between 12 and 42 years came and loved the day. They all have a handicap of some kind though difficult to tell with some who simply have no means of support and no families. 
With the theme of Myself we made name banners to hang round the hall, each person painting their Sri Lankan and their English initial and decorating the pennants. After 5 weeks of 10 participants per week the place will look much friendlier as its rather austere at present. A wishing tree sadly revealed what few hopes for the future the women have.
The day cost 50 pounds including refreshments and lunch and transport for 16 people and all expenses.
Well worth it as you can see from the pictures. --
Hanging the  laminated hopes on the wishing tree.
Sisera who is the night guard come all rounder who was a great help all day.
We are trying to get everyone involved in Siri Madura to make their own pennant with their Sinhalese and English initial.
Cahli the adult in this picture  helps us translate and brings her severely disabled daughter ( next to her) who seemed to enjoy the day.The man is the driver of the bus the participants came in. 
So Activities have actually begun and the Centre is more or less fit for purpose. Quite a lot of work still to be finished but its much more clear how we can use it now.

These days will be every Wednesday for 5 weeks till all the Sukitha residents have attended. Of course they will want more but that's the funding limit at the moment. I 'm keeping careful track of the money and making a record for the charity of all activities.

Film Evening 
Our next  venture is a film evening so that local people and the families of people who worked on the restoration can come and see the house and learn what we are about. A trio of local musicians and a Mr Bean film and some home made biscuits is the current plan for that. And I hope to be able to give you news of the Kandy dancing as soon as the outside space is finished and also about the IT training. We now have 4 reconditioned computers and once the installation of the airconditioning is complete a training room to keep them in.
Some of you have asked if you can send things. Of course a great deal of equipment and all sorts of goods will be welcome. However we can buy everything we need here and postage from UK is very expensive so you need to balance out the cost of posting. Sea mail is cheaper but it takes several months and involves us in a trip to Colombo ,costing about  60 pounds  and a day at the customs sheds to collect it. So it needs a lot of thought before you decide to send any goods. 
I hope  you have enjoyed the festive season and wish you all the best for 2011.

Many thanks for your continuing support.

Love from Eddi and Zigger.
January 6th 2011.