Willkommen in Ceylon. Wer es warm und tropisch mag ist hier bestens aufgehoben. "The wonder of Asia" empfängt seine Gäste mit einem Hauch von Indien, Vietnam, China, Bali, Arabien und doch ganz anders. Von wegen Wintereinbruch... Bei 30 Grad im Schatten laufen europäische Gemüter nur langsam zur Hochform auf. Ist europäische Hochform hier überhaupt gefragt?
Sri Lanka bedeutet für mich:
- auf dem Fahrrad zwischen Tuktuks durch die Straßen zur Schule zu düsen
- den Indischen Ozean rauschen zu hören
- Reis zu jeder Tages- und Mahlzeit serviert zu bekommen
- unter einem Moskitonetz zu schlafen
- Einheimische stets mit den Händen essen zu sehen
- Frauen in Saris zu bewundern
- keinen einzigen Namen von Schülern richtig aussprechen zu können
- Streifenhörnchen, Adler, Affen, Warane, Hunde, Riesenfrösche und Libellen beim Frühstück zu treffen
- den Tag mit Yoga zu beginnen
- Regenschirme mit der Aufschrift "sunproof" aufzuspannen
- Lunchpakete im Bananenblatt mitzunehmen
- Ginger-Tee und Lime-Water zu trinken
- Lotusblumen zu bewundern
- im Straßenverkehr stets in die falsche Richtung zu schauen (Linksverkehr)
- Südfrüchte-Frühstück: Papaya, Mango, Kokosnuss, Ananas, Passionsfrucht, Drachenfrucht, Wassermelone, Minibananen...
- Curry und Chutney immer und überall
- Gewürzsymphonie: Kreuzkümmel, Nelken, Kardammon, Chilli, Zimt, Sternanis, Ajowan, Sesam...
- spicy! Schärfe die ins Schwitzen bringt
- Verwirrung: Kopfschütteln heißt ja!
- 4,5 h Zeitverschiebung
- Zitronenöl als Bodylotion gegen Moskitos
- allgegenwärtiges Ayurveda
- Buddhastatuen, Tempel und Räucherwerk auf dem Weg zur Erleuchtung
The one world foundation school offers free access to education and training for more than 1.000 students. Most important is the English unit, which works with pupils from 6 to 25 years, in order to improve and develop their English language skills, which are essential to their further career goals in the internationally oriented emerging market of Sri Lanka.
Ahungalla is a quite small, rural town at the south-west shore of Sri Lanka. It is close to the colonial city and tourist destination "Galle", which offers many cultural and historical sights. The school has been built by Kathrin Messner and her husband on private expenses for many years in little thoughtful steps. Unfortunately it got totally destroyed during the Tsunami in 2004 but with the help of many private and public donors and the engaged efforts of the Messners it could be rebuilt at another place even bigger and better structured than before. The old location remains as a hotel and resort which helps to finance the school. However, the daily school routine is quite expensive and its persistence relies on private donations as well. If you are interested in supporting the free education unit in Ahungalla you would contribute to improving chances for many kids from a rather underprivileged rural area.
Even 50 Euro a year could make a difference and are directly put into the school account. Please find more detailed information here:
English please... A sentence I thought and said a lot while teaching during my first week at the school in Ahungalla. The kids mostly speak Singlish (a mixture of Sinhala and English) or Sinhala. Both is hard or impossible to understand (for me).
I worked with very young and also elder learners in different groups and settings - twice a day in the morning and the afternoon. All kids are quite shy, insecure and not ready to speak. Their pronunciation follows no real sound system or strategy while their mother tongue is at the far other end of phonetics. This is very challenging for them. Many kids are just used to copy text from the blackboard. As their new English volunteer teacher I introduced myself with many listening and speaking activities such as TPR, rhymes, songs, chants and games. Especially bodypercussion with English words was totally new for them and they were quite excited about it. For the upcoming weeks my challenge will be to make them speak more - in a proper English.
After the second week I have to admit, that the Sri Lankan children that I am teaching are just like the kids in Austria: very diverse and very sweet. They get totally excited about new games and songs, they love to draw and enjoy it most excessively to listen to one of the big picture book stories. Many of them are very talented when it comes to learning foreign languages including a completely different letter-system. We can just imagine how hard it must be to learn a new alphabet before learning a new language. I experienced this in my previous university days when I was studying Chinese, which took lots of effort and energy. In the end I always wrote or pronounced things wrong. Here, with learning English, it is the same thing for them.
Many games, songs, rhymes, chants and tongue twisters have filled my lessons and will continue until my last day. In my opinion, this is what the children can benefit from the most. Some of them even started to use given phrases naturally in the classroom. This was very exciting to watch. Other than that I will keep working orally most of the time because I feel that this contributes most to a successful language learning process. here at the OWF in Ahungalla.
MY EXCITING LIFE IN SRI LANKA
The following notes randomly report about my daily life here in Ahungalla. School experiences are listed as well as free time activities and adventures.
RELIGION AND CULTURE
Buddhism is the major religion in Sri Lanka. It is given a place of preference in the national constitution and public life, although Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity are also practiced by smaller portions of the population. The main ethnic groups are: Sinhalese (Busshist), Tamil (Hindu), and Muslims. Sri Lankan Buddhists and Hindus share a number of beliefs and ritual practices. The moral codes of both recommend moderation and restraint and the concepts of karma and rebirth are central: actions in the current lifetime will determine the kind of life into which one will be reborn. I feel, that this belief creates a positive and calm energy. It makes foreigners feel save and welcome, especially when travelling.
To grasp something about people´s daily life I visited some teachers and kids at their houses. The clash of wealth between the guests staying at Bogenvillya resort and the people living in the countryside was overwhelming. Families, neighbous and friends are working together, pooling their strengths and are caring, sharing and trading. I felt that family or community values are up above all individual needs and that personal fulfilment has to step back.
Some other cultural peculiarities have been mentioned in the Blog part of this homepage: On one hand one can find a very polite and humble culture in Sri Lanka, on the other hand people literally use their elbows, especially when travelling, because there are just so many people on the road. It is impossibly to get by otherwise. This also applies to queuing and the space between individuals in rooms, at bus-stops or in trains - there is none. "Sorry" is not appropriate when you bump into someone. You just keep going. "Bless you" does not exist. Traffic rules are recommendations - you may follow them or not. Everything seems to be more easygoing, whereas rules for appropriate attire are strict: no knees, no shoulders, bathing in full clothing (T-shirt and Jeans)... This shows respect to the body and soul of every person. On the other hand "selfi-taking" is appropriate in any situation with random people: "Selfie, Miss?" I was asked every day in school and on the road. Hiking means walking for about 10 minutes on a paved way to a small peak that could also be reached by car - everything else is considered as high-performance-sport which is not desirable in the free time. Understandable, when it is still normal to work physically hard at home in the garden, the village, the community, the temple... Bus driving is accompanied with ear damaging loud music because it makes people dance on the bus. A school trip for example is planned in consideration of the driving hours because that is where the party happens: 6,5 hours one way driving for a 45 minute hike seems perfect, even if European ears and legs may not really be made for it.
However, I enjoyed every bit of cultural exchange and the accompany of my great different friends from Sri Lanka.
Different smells, tastes and textures are daily fare here in Sri Lanka. What for example is a woodapple, Sour Soap, or Bhatura? What are Rotis, Hoppers and Ladyfingers? Now I know... Mostly I was quite happy about my new culinary experiences.
Vegetarian ayurvedic food with a choice of red, yellow, white or brown rice is daily business at the Wathuregama resort, occasionally also served with fish or chicken. Who is graving for steak, pizza, burgers or pasta must visit western restaurants or an international hotel close by.
What I missed most: cheese & whole-grain bread!
Left-hand driving, rattling Tuk Tuks, four lanes in two, permanent honking, disco on the bus, up to five people on one scooter, trainsurfing with open doors and clattering wagons, bikes perforated by rust and promenading people in between... That is normality here in Sri Lanka. Once used to the crazy traffic and transport situation you get even used to crossing the street without being nearly killed.
Now after some time has passed, I am totally overcome by the realization that in Europe we should definitely honk much more!
BENTOTA, HIKADUWA, GALLE, COLOMBO & SIGIRIYA - Touristy program at its best
At the weekends I travelled by bus and train to see some cities in the region, including the capital Colombo which is just as any other Asian metropolis: fast, innovative, high-contrast, under construction, loud, smelly, busy and full of Tuktuks. Its has a inviting and cosmoplitan atmosphere, situated directly at the beach, decorated with leftover colonial buildings and fort walls.
Galle is just charming, historic and full of architectural sights. Hikaduwa introduces itself as a happy hippie surfer´s town with snorkling and diving spots, seafood restaurants and hip cocktail bars.
Sigiriya is one of the main tourist sights in the Sri Lankan Midlands. It is a overhanging rock block - unfortunately not released for climbing - which was shaped and formed by an ancient king to a castle like building. The landscape around it is dominated by rice fields, coconut plantations, tee plants and rubber trees. I went there with a new local friend who works as an architect in Colombo. The drive took us about five hours by car - one way - for the distance of 230 kilometers. So you can imagine how straight and good roads in the backland of Sri Lanka are... The drive was quite adventurous and I am glad I got this experience in as well.
DAILY ROUTINE AT SCHOOL
At school I got an insight into the life and attitude of kids and younsters in Sri Lanka. Kids in the first grades are very keen on learning and on exploring new things, later they become more and more used to just follow instructions. Sometimes it was hard for me to make them speak and interact but with thoughtful input, activity methods and lots of energy it mostly worked. I experienced great lessons with wonderful children in a very hot and humid sourrounding.
In the third and fourth week we coloured rainbows, sang songs, talked about family life and cultural differences. I worked many hours and got involved into a Sunday lesson program which gives children from other schools the opportunity to engage into additional English courses. I met enthusiastic teachers, ate my lunch at the school cafeteria and watched the kids playing cricket in the school yard. I am grateful for all experiences and teaching times I could get, even if my European soul got quite tired a few times from all the loudness, intense teaching hours and weather conditions.
Thanks to everyone at the OWF school in Ahungalla!