Thursday, 17 May 2012

Tsunami alert, scorpions, new classes, new money!

Greetings |Friends,   from a very sunny Sura Medura
Not many pictures of our activities today as my valiant little notebook came up with a message to say it had  lost its operating system ! Poor thing , I sometimes know what that feels like ! I've also" lost" my camera so am relying on my mobile phone and my IPAD for photographs over the last few months.  MUST  back up to the spare hard drive more often!! .

The Tsunami Alert  was the most dramatic event recently.
Many systems I attempt to put in place here either don't work because I'm being unrealistic or because I confuse myself and others with them. Like - I just changed the lock on the front door due to the "loss" of the key. Then I found the key securely hidden under an upstairs mattress where I'd put it the day of the Tsunami alert .
I'm not surprised that I had forgotten what I'd done as I was , it seemed to me irrationally and unusually , pretty scared as I hastily decided what should be moved upstairs and what was essential to " save" .
You can imagine that the effect of a serious alert on the people who survived the 2004 Tsunami was traumatic.
Most people got on with evacuation and all the Europeans who would move from the beach were speedily ferried to safe ground but when the all clear was given there were quite a few people very shaky.
As I sat in the first floor accommodation with a couple of Canadian guests I kept remembering the TV pictures I was watching on Boxing Day 2004 and the amateur photographs in the local small museum here in Hikkaduwa.
  The dogs and monkeys started to run inland on the first earthquake tremor , Valy came belting into the house as if to say "I'm off" and then went missing for two days returning without her collar and very dirty. Zigger stayed under any bed he could find and was very frightened.
I noticed that the birds did not disaappear and was comforted by that as I had read somewhere that in 2004 the birds also flew inland.
Of course this house upstairs is very safe and a long way from any predicted flood waters. I was imagining being inundated with homeless people and wondering how I would be able to cope with that.
 Since the alert Mangelika and I have been making up an emergency box of water, rice, milk powder,tins of tuna, candles and batteries etc. And I realised that I need waterproof containers for important documents .After the 2004 Tsunami many peoples lives were seriously damaged by the loss of papers, land documents, qualification certificates, passports etc

However,even the electricity didn't go off so all was well. The alert systems in Hikkaduwa didn't work but police and word of mouth were excellent.
The alert was followed by several days of serious tropical storms which have kept us away from windows and avoiding electric items and of course sent Zigger barking to the darkest corner he can find.

Sisira the caretaker/night guard is always impresing on me the need to LOOK,Look Look !! and that has paid off as I've come across a  couple of nasty big black scorpions , one right next to my bare foot on the bathmat. They  were dealt with in a very nonbuddhist style.

 In April we  had the birth and consequent stink of 3 baby polecats being born in the ceiling space and 2 kittens born in a kitchen cupboard.  The other consequence is a  barking zigger who objects strongly to the invasion by cats. I cant leave any windows open at the moment as the mother cat tries to get back into the house even though we've found a safe place for her and the kittens outside. 

The Camera Class is now taken by a local woman Emesha  who sat in on Jenny Smith's classes in the Autumn and she is helped by Alex a young man who takes part in most activities and helps out in several ways. 
Last weeks task was to capture interesting textures in the garden.
My Laptop skills are not enough to allow me to arrange the pictures on this blog as I want, so sorry for the messy lay out. 
the class choose their favourite pictures to mount in their albums.

Film Night
Our January film night was a great success. a film about an arrogant touring British cricket team challenging a small Sri Lankan village to a match.  By various hilarious means the underdog ends up winning, of course with a fair smattering of love and heartbreak thrown to the plot. Part in English and with English subtitles it was a good evening. 
Film nights will now be enhanced , and less expensive because of our new donated projector which means I don't have to hire one every month and can also show short films in the English conversation classes.

Money, Relief , new purchases.
The most important news is in the letter on the front of the web site - the amazing relief of having enough funding to be secure to continue the monthly classes.
I had not realised how much anxiety funding was causing  me . A great weight has been taken off me and I am determined to make the very most of the amazing generosity of you all.
I have really enjoyed working out the best value for money and purchasing items to make life a lot easier, reduce the electricity bill and service new classes.
the list includes --2 sewing machines , a proper wheelchair ramp, shelves in the kitchen, a cold water washing machine, 2 large lockable plastic storage cupboards, a new film projector, electric extension cables, some decent quality scissors, a new water filter, getting the computers serviced, increasing the fee for the helpers to cover the local increase in bus and tuk tuk fares, a paper cutter, a set of |Sinhala books for the art class, a new keyboard for music class and a stand for it.
A set of plastic shelving so that we can get "stuff " out of boxes and store sensibly, making a volley ball court. increasing the fee of the Dance teacher to a much more reasonable amount for her time and skill.
 A new airtight door on the computer room to save electricity on the airconditioning and some shelves so we don't have to lift everything in and out of that room for different classes. And a range of smaller things like a dish drainer and a decent new washing up bowl and a big dustbin and some new cushion covers, long;life light bulbs to save electricity, an iron and ironing board for the sewing class.
Prices are different from UK e.g.some things seem very cheap to me and some very expensive. Mahogany is used as a matter of course for wooden furniture and the alternative is plastic which sometimes is ok sometimes not. I've used local tradespeople to make items for us and local shops for buying things.

So thank you all

If you could have been present when 5 year old Yusemi met me after receiving her wheel chair, and seen the joy all round you would have found it hard not to weep ,as I did.  The project only contributed a small amount of money to that but set in motion a local intiative which raised the money and has transformed that family to a positive view of the future.

NEW Sewing classes begin
Its not a secret I disclose to many but I am actually a fully qualified needlework teacher. - the kind who can teach but not do!
So the new sewing class with 2 new treadle Singer machines is underway with a local very skilled seamstress. I provide the lesson plans and try to help her to teach and not do it all for the ladies. So far its been   pincushions, shopping bags and next time nightgowns.
Thanks to Hulla for the odds and sods of sewing pins etc that are difficult to buy locally.A big help to get us started. and thanks to Hazel for collecting and sending.
NEW Computer Internet club
This is one afternoon a week and the computer teacher comes in to help people practise the skills they learned in the 7 week basic course. There are Internet cafes open in the tourist area but local older people would feel odd about using them and they are not cheap/
ART Class and the  VESAK festival 
May is the time for VESAK a commemoration of the birth and the death month of  Lord Buddha.
People light their gardens with a range of tiny oil lamps. complex candle lit paper lanterns and now more modern electric lanterns sheathed in plastic against the rain.
|Alex with the lanterns he helped to make

in the garden

Alex teaches Thusange to make lanterns in traditional style

So the Art class made Cards for their relatives and some lanterns for Sura Medura. Here is a picture of the porch lit with lanterns  and oil lamps .
Music class now has total of 4 keyboards and 10 students aged 8 - 16 years and sounds dreadful !! They all play different scales at the same time. And of course the dance class with a total of 40 participants and 2 computer classes with 12 students  continue in full swing. So its all very busy
And I've forgotten to include the Sri Lankan New Year in April which is a big family ocscasion and I was invited to eat much milkrice cake.

Those of you who are dog carers will know what I  feel when I say that today for the first time in many weeks I rejoiced in a cold wet nose AND solid poo !! Here he is with bright eyes again.
He was recovering from the Babesia when he was struck down by an infection from contaminated water then 2 weeks later another collapse.
Finding that the water supply to the house was contaminated was quite a shock. Since changing to bottled water my own health, which has been a bit wobbly, ,has improved considerably. Zigger is now doing well though a very slow recovery and is now on a strict diet. Not being able to walk well for several weeks but with a spaniels insatiable appetite for any food at any time he needs to loose weight.This week he again needed several injections and is clearly too weak to resist disease. The "Animal Doctor" here is excellent and looks after Zigger and Valy well.

Zigger does not allow Valy to come into the house,  though sometimes in the  early morning she sneaks in to remind me its breakfast time while Zigger snores on under the bed.

"I may be small but I'm top dog round here! "

Valy has breakfast. 

Im looking forward to some volunteers coming later in the year and hopefully some more friends on holiday/
Watch this space for the possibility that I might move the project to a smaller more economical building!!
Hope all is well with you  and you are in a pleasant climate with good friends and enjoying life .

Love from all at Sura Medura.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

First Anniversary :Babesia Gibsoni Flying Elephants and NEW MONEY!!!!!!

Dear Friends
This blog has been a long time in coming, begun in February and updated in March. My . reconditioned lap top, internet connection problems and being very busy are my main excuses apart from the fact that Im just not skilled at transferring pictures so I make lots of mistakes. !

First Anniversary Celebration
On Sunday afternoon, 15th January, the whole place was buzzing with activity. A day of events to celebrate a year of classes and activities at Sura Medura at which many games were played and all classes displayed their achievements .  The pictures in this blog are taken by the young camera class members who recorded the day. The opening ceremony was the lighting of a ceremonial lamp. Here the oldest user begins the lighting.


Sura Medura is a busy place
My intention 18 months ago was to have a fairly easy life, plenty of time for sitting by the sea, reading, learning French ,making rag mats, playing the keyboard, cooking adventurously and working half time in the centre.

Well, a leopard doesn't change it's spots and here I am busy every day in the Centre, guarding my 2 hour midday Siesta jealously and trying to keep my Thursday and Friday weekend for the aforementioned activities . Haven't read any fiction for ages, am learning Sinhala not French, making Poi balls not mats and thoroughly enj:oying all the activity . I did manage the oven enough to make  mincepies at Xmas. Due to Zigger's illness I havent seen much of the sea but will do so soon. 

seniour kandy dance group
 As I write it's dawn here and very peaceful though I can hear the ocean crashing on the shore about half a mile away and the non stop chirping pf the squirrels .A dog is howling somewhere, though not disturbing Zigger and Valy who are snoozing happily together on the porch.  
Not a peaceful night --Cats have taken advantage of the large hole in the corridor ceiling to come in to the house at night and create mayhem so I was up twice calming down an irate Zigger and chasing the cats out .

|And elephants might fly!
Manglelika , the housekeeper, and I wait for the man to repair the ceiling  and  the gate and the upstairs shower and the beds and  he promises to come and we say " elephants might fly " . We look up to see a small flock of elephants above, some half way to the earth and others so high as to be almost out of sight. Each represents at job waiting to be done.

The last 3 months have been full of the Xmas and New year activities and guests staying in the upstairs accommodation as it is has been high tourist season. Guests of many nationalities have included 3 members of Hullabaloo Community Quire from Brighton who brought news from home and much encouragement. All the rent goes into the project. It keeps me on my toes to organise the housekeeping and help out the visitors.
The biggest event for us was the First Anniversary Day
 The local people really pulled together to create a hugely successful event. Generous friends sent money for dance costumes and hiring a sound system and some tourists helped out with general organisation and runing silly games. 
The Ladies Tea class and the parents of the dance groups spent all Saturday decorating the whole place with flowers and balloons and making 2 dustbins fulls of orange juice and wrapping small prizes. 
Every child got a ticket at the gate to collect a prize so we know that 180 under 16s came with their  families as well as many adults like the Village officer and the stationery shop manager who brought 20 boxes of crayons and  many other shopkeepers and businesses we have used over the year. 
We reckon over 300 people in all and the atmosphere was great. 
Behind the scenes on Sunday children were being dressed for the dance displays and the camera class were busy recording the events.
These included a  Karem ( local board game) knock out competion; sticky bun eating ,Bat the rat , Stick the eye on the elephant and the Balloon dance  competitions. every competitor got a small prize and the overall winners got 2. 
Generous donations from friends in UK paid for the dance costumes and the overall cost of the day which was about £150. 
It was well worth it and showed the apprectiation for the project from the locals. We ended with a popular Sri Lankan comedy film with English subtitles. Must admit I took the opportunity to snatch half hours sleep during that.
Babesia Gibsoni
this is a very powerful tick parasite that local dogs have some immunity to but zigger has not. It is spread through the monkeys in the garden and he was extremely ill and the past month has been touch and go for him. You can imagine my anxiety. He had to undergo very painful treatments a holding down a pet while pain is inflicted has been one of my most difficult tasks.  Almost in despair we discovered a treatment imported from UK which is usually used on humans and it seems to have worked . I am overjoyed to see him walking again , even though he is quickly exhausted. Hes now eating and finished treatments and we await blood tests to see how quickly the parasite will leave his system. . March update --Blood test CLEAR !!!!!
The new term is up and running
Our February film night is KungFu Panda  and Im out soon to deliver posters to the small shops on the jungle side of the tracks to remind the audience of our next film which is all about a cricket team . Mmm!. might need extra seats for that one.
Camera class is being run by the woman who assisted Jenny , the volunteer who started the class last term and the music class now has 8 participants. Im looking for help with the 18 strong art class who run me ragged. I'm working with them on a themes from  Madol Doova -written by the esteemed local author  Martin Wickramasinghe. It's the adventures of 2 small boys who run away from home and make a farm on an island.  We are taking the class to visit the island near Wickramasinghes home where there is a small museum. 
The discarded water bottles which tourists leave at the gate each day are being slowly fillled with sand for our recycled garden bench project. The young ladies class are creating another Tele Drama, this time about a family of dogs,  and  the computer classes are full with ages 16 - 60. A local businessman has donated airconditioning for the computer room so we hope the computers and music keyboards will better resists the effects of humidity. 
Due to the devaluation of the Sri Lankan Rupee and the rise in oil prices many goods and services are more expensive. That has a caused a rise in all goods and electricity has gone up 40%, bus fares 20%  It's tough on the poorest whose salaries do not rise.
My monthly rent goes towards the core costs of the building and the host charity is  planning that rent from the tourist rooms and from artiist in residence programme will pay all core costs by the end of 2012. that. All the money from eddigoeseast goes to the classes and there are no admin fees as I pay my own way.  The classes cost £300 per month for all expenses. Around 150  people use the centre every week and we provide the expenses for 5 teachers and interpreters and all equipment.
Last month one of the young women got a job with the National Census, I think directly from improving her confidence in speaking English in the class here and Yusemi the 5 year old girl with cerebral policy was given a    wheelchair due to our music teachers fundraising efforts and encouragement from us. Her mother was hospitalized as a result of the strain of carrying the girl.

To remind you of other ways to help.
Use whenever you buy goods online and we get a percentage

Come and stay in our jungle side accommodation

Come and help for between 4 and 12 weeks. - 
 It would  cost you about £1200 including airfare and accommodation  and you have half the weak free for holidaying. All sorts of help are welcome.Right now I could do with someone whose a wiz at computing , a gardener and general maintenance person to take care of a few DIY jobs, painting walls and all sorts  I'll post the flexible voluteer scheme on the web site.

sticky bun eating

PS So thats my news at the moment except for the biggest most  exciting bit .
MONEY is COMING in !!!More about this next time but as a result of a friend sending out an email to many many contacts we are likley to have secured enough regular contributions to run the classes for the next 3 years at least! I cant begin to tell you how much this has reduced my anxiety levels and revitalised my enthusiasm and committment .
Thank you so much to all those of you who have increased your monthly contribution and to the new donors. All the money is going directly to the classes. Ive already made a volley ball court which has been enthusiastically used and is bringing in teenage boys who are not so keen on classes. Very exciting to see .  
a very tired and happy organising team at the end of the anniversary day
Mangelika Eddi Rasika and Sisera
A little more money  makes such a difference and I am planning a dressmaking class for next term as many people have asked for this.  At the moment I'm helping a local 23 year old seamstress Nilakshi to make lesson plans. I am actually a qualified neadlework teacher though not many people know that and some will be astonished to hear it.
I'm not much good at practical needlework but I do know remember the theory so Nilakshi and I will work together to create a good class which will both save money for the participants' own garments and maybe  increase chances of  employment..
So as always , THANKYOU for your support whether it be financial or emotional . Sometimes the latter  is vital to me and both are  much appreciated.

art group fabric banner

Music teacher,Prasad sings