Easter Break

For our Easter break we decided to make one more attempt at travelling to St David’s in Pembrokeshire, having failed to get there on two previous attempts both of which ended up with us being brought back home on the back of a rescue trailer. Thankfully this time we managed to not only get to St David’s but also to our two other planned destinations and safely back home without incident in our new, to us, van.

Our first destination was Lleithyr Farm, Whitesands Bay, St David’s.  This was a really nice site with a very well stocked shop, nice clean facilities and a small animal petting area which housed goats, pigs and ponies amongst other small farm animals. Whitesands Bay was only a 15 minute walk away and St David’s could also be reached on foot within 20 – 30 minutes. The site was fairly quiet owing to the recent heavy snow, which hadn’t actually effected the site, but had made travel through parts of Wales more difficult than usual. We spent 2 nights on the site and would definitely use it again if in the area.

Next stop was a site just outside Caerleon called Whitehall Farm. This is a small Camping and Caravan Club Certified site which has space for 5 motor homes or caravans. The site is run by Trevor and Ann. We were made very welcome by Trevor on our arrival who was a perfect host making sure we were settled into our pitch and showing us all the facilities on offer. We even had access to a whole field just for exercising Gromit which was brilliant because we could really wear him out chasing his ball frantically up and down the field for ages which meant we got a peaceful evening whilst he settled down for the night in the front cab of the van. Spent two nights here and will definitely visit this site again.

Our third and final site was another Camping and Caravan Club site although this time it was a large site run by the club itself called the Hereford Club Site. The site was ok but there was a constant smell of silage coming from one of the nearby fields which was a bit off-putting after a while. We had booked two nights on this site, but ended up not returning to it on the first night as we ended up staying at Barb’s cousins house, preferring to join in the drinking and revelry than driving back to the site late at night. The site did have a dedicated dog walk and a very large pond which was very picturesque and well stocked for fishermen, many of whom use the site for this purpose, but it just felt a bit impersonal to us. I don’t think we are very keen on the big overly organised sites much preferring the smaller more relaxed sites.

This was the longest period we have spent in a van, mostly our breaks are 2 or 3 nights, but we really enjoyed it. Gromit making the front cab his own sleeping area was great as it gave us time to relax on our own and made it easier to move around the back of the van when using the toilet or kitchen area’s. I think we both agreed we could have easily stayed on the road for a few more nights if we’d been able to.

If you go down to the woods today…

First camping expedition of the year, 2 nights at the Camping and Caravan Club Delamere Forest Site.

Snow was coming down heavy as we left for the site on Friday evening but I’m glad we persevered as we got to enjoy a lovely winters weekend in the forest.

Most of these pictures were taken on the Saturday morning. I went out really early with Gromit and we had the forest virtually to ourselves.

Barcelona

Wow! what a beautiful city.

Having just left rain and wind-swept Britain behind to find ourselves enjoying a cold beer whilst basking in warm bright sunlight, we once again questioned why on earth we still haven’t emigrated south!

We spent virtually all of our first days holiday travelling having risen at 5:30am and finally reaching our hotel at 7:00pm. Actual combined flying time was about 2.5 hours, all the rest was getting to, through and from airports!

We didn’t wander too far from the hotel on the first night as we were quite tired and hungry, so settled for a quick visit to Burger King, something we rarely do, and watched the Strictly Come Dancing final on the television in our room, something Barb was extremely pleased about.

As we really only had one full day to enjoy Barcelona I had downloaded a city guide app for my phone so we could easily locate the best things to see, unfortunately owing to the inaccuracy of the GPS signal this did not go as well as I’d hoped and ended up with Barb and I having a difference of opinion on the usefulness of modern technology!

After a quick visit back to the hotel to obtain some street maps we once more headed off to see the sights.. here are a few images taken during the day.

Barcelona Bubble Maker

Barcelona Bubble Maker

Barcelona street art

Barcelona street art

Roof top terrace at hotel H10 Montcada

Roof top terrace at hotel H10 Montcada

Sri Lanka Trip – Day Fifteen

Today was the last day for Salman and I, however, as we had a late flight out, we planned to make the most of it. We arranged to be dropped of in Colombo at the hostel where the girls would be staying for another week, in the hope that we would be able to leave our bags there until we were ready to catch a taxi to the airport. Thankfully our plans worked out and after all five of us had deposited our bags in the hostel, and said goodbye to Rangana and the driver from the village, we headed of to the beach.

The Beach Area, Mont Lavinia, Colombo, Sri Lanka

The Beach Area, Mont Lavinia, Colombo, Sri Lanka

We came on to the beach near some restaurants and hotels but as we’d arrived quite early none of them appeared open. We decide to have a walk along the beach and a paddle in the Indian Ocean as we went. We really only had a choice of two directions and after half an hour of walking past lots of small fishing boats and a couple of small slums we realised we’d chosen the wrong one. We headed back the way we had come and, thankfully, by the time we arrived back at our starting point the beach restaurants were beginning to open.

A few drinks and a meal later it was back into the sea for another paddle and then back to the restaurant for one last drink before it was time for Salman and I to make a start for the airport. The girls retrieved our suitcases for us and we all said our goodbyes before we dragged our cases up to the first major road ready to get a taxi.

Salman had originally arranged to call a friend half an hour before we needed the taxi but unfortunately his friend didn’t answer so we tried to call a taxi direct. While this was all happening a tuk tuk driver, from a group of them parked up nearby, overheard our conversation and offered to undercut the cab fare by 800 rupees. (approx £4.00)

After a brief discussion we agreed to take the tuk tuk and so began another death-defying journey along the roads of Colombo. The journey lasted an hour and most of it was pretty scary by normal standards. The video clip below shows just four minutes of the journey to give you some idea of the experience. In retrospect it would have been far more sensible to pay the extra £4.00 and travel in a fume free air-conditioned vehicle but it wouldn’t have half as exciting!

From this point it was all the usual routine of checking in passing through immigration and security then waiting around for gates to open. All our flights were pretty much on time or only slightly delayed and we ultimately ended back in Manchester Airport at 7.30am to a cloudy but mostly dry morning.

The End.

Sri Lanka Trip – Day Fourteen

This will be mine and Salman’s last full day in Sri Lanka as we expect to be taking our first flight home at 8.30pm tomorrow. It had rained in the night but for once it hadn’t woken us up, although Nicola told us she’d heard it some time in the early hours of the morning. As I was sitting outside our room, before going for breakfast, we had another downpour which only lasted 10 minutes or so but came down quite heavy as you can see in the video below.

 

After breakfast I was again sitting outside our room checking emails when I saw a troop of monkeys heading through the village. After the monitor lizard incident I made sure I always had my camera at hand just in case, so I quickly ran after them as they headed through the trees. They moved pretty quickly and didn’t pause long enough for me to get a sharp shot but I did manage to catch this one.

Monkey

Monkey

Our plan for the morning was to spend more time with the English teachers and Himanshi in the English Activity room. We showed them all the extra materials we had bought yesterday and showed them some more Teaching English as a Second Language resources available online. Today we finally felt as if our input had been beneficial, receiving good feedback from Himanshi and the teachers and from some of the Senior Managers who called in to see what we had done.

We finished in the activity room around half eleven and headed back to our rooms again. I was sitting outside working on the laptop again as several Village staff passed by. We got talking and they asked me what I thought of Sri Lanka and I showed them all my pictures on this blog to show them what we had seen and done during our stay.

We have no class this afternoon so we are planning to go to the main playing field in the village and have a game of football with the kids for an hour before taking a walk into Piliyandala for a pizza around 5.00pm.

More later…

Just got back from playing football and I am absolutely knackered! It must have been at least 30C in the shade. Heading into Piliyandala a little later than planned as I can’t actually walk properly at the moment. For once I’m really looking forward to that cold shower!

May add more to this later if we get back in time..

We decided to scrap the walking plans and just jumped a tuk tuk into Piliyandala. After doing a quick bit of shopping for a couple of tee shirts and some underwear, so I would have some clean clothes to travel in tomorrow, we headed off to the local Pizza Hut for another very filling meal.  I reckon I’ve lost about 2 inches off my waist living on a diet or rice and noodles so I’m hoping that the last two evenings meals will go some way to putting it back on again.

Tomorrow’s plans are to head into Colombo around 9.30am, head to the beach area and hopefully drop our bags off at the hostel the girls are going to be staying in for their last week here in Sri Lanka. Then I plan to have a quick dip in the Indian Ocean, just so I can tick that off the list of things I’ve done, and then probably find somewhere good to eat before heading of to the airport late afternoon..

Next blog update will probably be sometime when I get home and have had a good rest..

Kindergarten Child through railings

Kindergarten Child through railings taken a couple of days ago

Sri Lanka Trip – Day Thirteen

I might not get the full day typed up today as, hurrah!, we are going out to eat in Colombo tonight. I think I’ve referred to the quality of the meals we’ve been having since arriving back Piliyandala and the trouble Fern’s been having with the options we’ve been given , but, to be honest we’re all a little tired of the extremely limited variety of our meals.

Salman on the other hand has been invited out to dinner by friends of the friends he met up with last weekend, so at least he has been getting one good meal a day. Fortunately his contacts have now come to our rescue as they have advised him on how we can get a taxi into Colombo for a reasonable rate and where the best areas are to go looking for good restaurants. So at 4.30pm were heading into town for a slap up meal…

Finished breakfast early so spent the fee half hour trying to take pictures of the birds and chipmunks in the trees around our accommodation. I failed miserably with the chipmunks as they don’t stay still for a second but I did manage to get a picture of a bright yellow coloured bird called The Black-hooded Oriole.

Yellow Bird

Black-hooded Oriole, known locally as Kaha Kurulla which translates as Yellow Bird

We didn’t have kindergarten this morning so we spent the whole morning in the computer lab trying to give some more input into the English Activity Room. I was asked to try to see if it was possible to download some of the interactive games off the BBC Bitesize website for offline use but unfortunately I don’t think it is possible as the games are protected from download.

On my way back from the school I met the strange dog who has befriended me. Unfortunately, whilst the dog is very friendly it is also very dirty so I don’t really think too much contact is healthy, the dog, however, does not feel the same way. The main problem with this is that I have to sit outside our room to pick up the WiFi so the dog has taken to passing by our room every so often to see if I’m around. Last night she slept outside our room for most of the night! I feel too mean to chase her away though. She’s a pretty ugly dog and I’ve decided to call her Igorina!

My new best friend Igorina.

My new best friend Igorina.

This afternoon we have our small primary class to teach, however, Salman has gone back into Colombo with Nicola, the only one of our group with any real teacher training, and they wont be back in time to help with the class! They were going to bring back some much-needed teaching resources, so now we are really going to have to improvise this afternoon.. eek!

The solution we came up with to entertain our small primary class was to show them Wallace and Gromit, A Close Shave on my laptop as we figured the children would still be able to get the gist of the programme even though they wouldn’t understand much of the English narration and we could explain some of the plot as it went along. As it turned out we didn’t have to explain much and the children all laughed in the same places as you would expect children back home to laugh.. universal comedy at its best 🙂

Our Primary Class watching Wallace and Gromit

Our Primary Class watching Wallace and Gromit

We next showed them another Aardman production, Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists. This one did not hold their attention quite as much as many of the jokes are a bit more subtle and by the end of the lesson it was mostly the boys watching the film and the girls looking through all the pictures on my phone.

After class we quickly refreshed ourselves and headed into Colombo. The minibus dropped us at a place called Galle Face, an open grassy area on the seafront with a promenade. It was a very lively area with many hot and cold food stalls and vendors selling beach toys and kites. The girls went for a paddle on the beach while we all waited for the sunset. Unfortunately just as the sun reached the horizon it dipped behind a bank of clouds so it wasn’t quite the spectacle we had hoped for but still very nice to feel the sea breeze and enjoy the vibe of the area.

Galle Face Beach, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Galle Face Beach, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Salman had an appointment to attend to with a friend of his fathers, so we arranged a place where we would all meet up at 8.00pm. As soon as Salman had departed we had a quick look around to see what we could do next. Rebecca almost immediately spotted a green awning on the side of a building a few yards away, this usually being a sign of a restaurant or bar, so we went to investigate. In this case it turned out to be both bar and restaurant, The Bavarian Restaurant and Pub, however, as we would be eating later when Salman returned we only made use of the bar.

When we reached our meeting place Salman rang to say he was running a little late so we took another walk along the Galle Face promenade and went onto the short pier to enjoy the view and the breeze after which we went back to meet Salman and head off to a restaurant his contact had chosen for us. With the exception of Salman we all chose western type meals with Fern and I having fish and chips and Rebecca and Nicola choosing steak and potatoes with pepper gravy. It was so nice to have a substantial meal for a change, well worth the effort and cost of coming into the city I think.

We finally headed back to the Village just after 9.00pm arriving back before my daily 10.30 call to Barb.. We are already discussing the prospect of going to the Pizza Hut near Piliyandala tomorrow evening.

Sri Lanka Trip – Day Twelve

I was hoping by now that I would be getting more used to starting the day with a cold shower. I’m not! I really don’t like it! Also my mosquito bites are well into the double figures in spite of coating myself in some semi toxic spray every evening and staying as covered up as is possible in this climate. Ok that’s the moaning out-of-the-way.. on with the adventure.

Today began with a visit to the proposed English Activity Room to show the schools English teachers and Himanshi the games we had bought yesterday. I’m not sure if they were totally enthusiastic about our purchases but after we explained our thinking behind buying them they seemed slightly more on board.

They were, however, quite impressed with the freely available teaching materials on the BBC Bitesize website which we had tried to demonstrate earlier in the week. We had originally been unable to access the site due to the restrictions set up on the schools computers, However, after Salman and I had discussed the benefits of the site for the activity room, the school Director gave the go ahead for the two computers in the activity room to have access to these materials set up.

Demonstrating BBC BiteSize to the English Teachers

Demonstrating BBC BiteSize to the English Teachers

I still get the feeling that, as far as the activity room is concerned, our input is not quite meeting their expectations, not through lack of will on our part but from not really understanding exactly what they are expecting from us. When we arrived today I got the impression that the teachers were expecting us to help create some activities, however, we don’t have any raw materials and Himanshi has already developed a large range of activities, so we are not quite sure what else we can add other than more financial support.

At 10.30am it was over to the kindergarten to basically entertain the children for the rest of the morning. Once all the children were gathered together we put on our performance of Little Red Riding Hood which received lots of applause from a fairly bewildered audience.

After the Red Riding Hood performance the girls did a fantastic job of keeping most of the kids entertained until lunch break. They sang a lot of songs and got small groups of children up to help with the counting songs and to act out The Three Little Bears. They did this entirely on their own as Salman was called away to talk to a reporter from The Sunday Times Sri Lanka Edition, and I was busy taking photo’s. The Kindergarten teachers were also around and they joined in whenever the children got distracted.

Kindergarten kids enjoying the show.

Kindergarten kids enjoying the show.

When the kindergarten session was over the girls were then asked to meet the reporter so they could describe their involvement in the project. Salman had already given the link to my blog so my version of events was freely available. Earline was also present to provide information about the work of the SOS Children’s Villages Organisation.

The team meets the Times reporters

The team meets the Times reporters

Today was not quite as hot as yesterday but it was still pretty humid and it doesn’t take very long away from the air conditioning for everything you’re wearing to become quite damp. We had almost two hours break for lunch but we mostly spent it sheltering in our rooms away from the midday heat.

Just as we were getting ready to take our usual 3.00pm class a monitor lizard sauntered past our rooms. It wasn’t the biggest monitor lizard I’ve seen but it was impressive nonetheless. I hung back to get a few shots of it while the others headed of to the class but I still made it in time for the lessons to begin.

Wandering Monitor Lizard

Wandering Monitor Lizard

Sri Lankan pupils letter of reply

Sri Lankan pupils letter of reply

Today was a pretty tough lesson I thought, owing the mixed abilities of the class. Nicola had brought lots of letters from The Mosspits Lane School in Liverpool and each of the children were given a letter. The task then was to get the children to write a letter back to the person they had received the letter from. Some of the children did really well but many struggled with it. I tried to help my group by writing a basic letter with blanks left for their own name, age, favourite things etc. but I have to admit I did find it difficult keeping them focused on the task.

We finished off the session with some quick word matching games and then I finally succumbed to their demands for me to take lots of pictures of them and to let them take pictures too.. This I think is their favourite activity when I’m around..

Here's one the kids took. I don't know how they got this effect!

Here’s one the kids took. I don’t know how they got this effect!

 

Sri Lanka Trip – Day Eleven

Straight after breakfast we were taken to a large school in Colombo where Himanshi had set up the first English Activity Room. We were shown all the innovative ideas Himanshi had come up with to meet the aims of the room on a very limited budget. Then Himanshi and three other English Teachers from the school brought 40 pupils into the room to demonstrate all the activities available to the children.

The exterior of the first English Activity Room in Colombo

The exterior of the first English Activity Room in Colombo

Even by ten thirty in the morning it was becoming a very hot day. At least once a day since returning to Piliyandala we have experienced a monsoon downpour. These have mostly happened in the early hours of the morning and usually wake us up as the rain batters down on the metal roof of our accommodation building. Yesterday it came around noon and lasted for about half an hour, but today we had no rain and I think this is why the day felt much hotter than any of the previous days.

A room full of adults and children can get very hot at the best of times

A room full of adults and children can get very hot at the best of times

Very few of the rooms in the school have any electricity so there are no fans in the classrooms, The Activity Room is only about 20 feet square, so when you add eleven adults and forty children into the room on a very hot day it gets very sticky. That said, we enjoyed the demonstration and were very impressed with Himanshi’s creativity. Before leaving the school we were taken to another room and given a packed lunch, unfortunately this room didn’t have any air conditioning or fan either so we were all very happy to finish the visit and get back into the air-conditioned mini bus as soon as we could.

The Classrooms are very basic compared to the UK

The Classrooms are very basic compared to the UK

After the school visit we headed further into Colombo City to buy some Resources for the Piliyandala English Activity Room. We bought all the stationary items the we’d agreed to buy and several English Learning games which we thought would be very useful too. We also bought an Oxford Concise English Dictionary and an English-Sinhalese Dictionary. Then we headed back to the village for lunch.

Buying resources for the Piliyandala English Activity Room

Buying resources for the Piliyandala English Activity Room

Just for the record, on our way back to the village we spotted the supermarket we’d been trying to get to yesterday. It was within 200m of the point at which we’d turned back. At least the others now know it actually exists!

At 3.00pm we went over to the kindergarten school to teach another small group of primary children. We split the kids up into three groups of 3 or 4 with Fern taking a group on her own, Rebecca and Nicola another group and Salman and I the third group. Today we brought over all the games we’d bought for the activity room, by the time we finished at 4.30pm I think every group had played with every game at least once.

One of the girls from mine and Salman's group

One of the girls from mine and Salman’s group

As we were getting ready to go back tour rooms Nicola informed us that tomorrow we would be ‘entertaining’ all the kindergarten children all 150 of them!! Apparently they are going to set up a CD player for us so it will be back to singing ‘Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ again. Also we are supposed to be putting on a short play for them.. eek!

Shortly after we had returned to our rooms the girls turned up at our door with a few props and said we had to do a rehearsal of the play ready for tomorrow. We are doing Red Riding Hood again and Salman has been given the part of Grandmother. Fortunately I’m the Woodsman again so only a small part to play at the end so hopefully I’ll be able to get some amusing images like the one below 🙂

Salman rehearsing the part of Grandmother for tomorrows performance of Little Red Riding Hood

Salman rehearsing the part of Grandmother for tomorrows performance of Little Red Riding Hood

Sri Lanka Trip – Day Ten

Well the vodka and orange may not have been all I was expecting but it was certainly relaxing as it gave me the most unbroken sleep I’d had to date, however, there was a price to pay as it managed to upset my system in a way even the previous seven days of rice and spicy lentils for breakfast hadn’t managed! ce la vie.. must have been that bloomin orange crush!

Today it was back to work. Our experience so far at Piliyandala has been very different to the one we had at Anuradhapura. I think the reason for this is down to the differences between the two villages. Anuradhapura is a much smaller village and everything centres around the village green. With the exception of a couple of kindergarten kids all the children go to outside schools in the mornings, returning around 1.00pm. So any work we did with the village kids was quite informal and we were much more accessible to the kids for play at the end of the day.

Piliyandala is a much bigger village which covers over 14 acres. It has a large school which all the children attend. The school is a Hermann Gmeiner school and is run in partnership between SOS Villages and the Government. The buildings are owned and maintained by the SOS Village organisation while the school staff, administration and teaching resources are provided and paid for by the government. It has over 900 students ranging from kindergarten to A-Level grades. The Piliyandala Village also has a full medical unit and facilities for providing ongoing training to all the mothers and other employees of the Sri Lanka SOS organisation.

A Small part of the Piliyandala School complex

A Small part of the Piliyandala School complex

This means the village is much more spread out and we have been housed away from the main village green where people on training courses stay, in fact there is a large group of mothers from all the other villages staying here at the moment. This has meant we haven’t really been in contact with any of the village children other than waving to the odd one or two as we’ve been moving between our rooms and the entrance to the village.

We’ve had the impression since arriving in Sri Lanka that the primary objective of our visit for the SOS Villages organisation was our input into the development of an English Activity Centre. I think at a national level our teaching input has been a lower priority, although all the teaching resources we left at Anuradhapura were very much appreciated by the staff at the village and our lessons were certainly appreciated by all the children.

Our first task of the day was, therefore, to visit Mr Wijepala, the Director of Education at Piliyandala, Mr Rathnadurei, Deputy National Director of SOS Villages in Sri Lanka, and Mrs Himanshi Yasinghe who has been tasked by the government to introduce the English Activity Room programme to schools throughout the Western Province of Sri Lanka.

We were then shown a presentation about the project before having an open discussion of ideas with Mrs Himanshi, Mr Rathnadurei and several of the English teachers at Piliyandala school. The outcome of the meeting was that we would be taken to see an activity room that had already been set up at another school tomorrow morning and then would go and buy some materials for the Piliyandala room from the resource funds we’d brought with us.

Discussing plans for the English Activity Room

Discussing plans for the English Activity Room

Another thing we’ve experienced quite a bit of during our visit to Sri Lanka is misinterpretation. A clear example of this occurred today. Before we finished for lunch Salman and I went to visit the head of the kindergarten teachers to find out what input she wanted from us in the way of teaching. We came away with the understanding that we would all meet up with her and the other teachers to discuss what resources they already had and how we could best be utilised before we began any real teaching tomorrow. After lunch when we all turned up with no teaching resources we discovered that they were all waiting for us to deliver a lesson to a small class of primary children who only had a very basic grasp of English!

Salman and the Sri Lankan teachers then left the girls and I with the children while he went to have the discussion with the teachers that we thought we had originally agreed. I don’t know who were the most gob-smacked us or the children but after some awkward periods of silence we resorted to the tried and tested ‘Heads and Shoulders’ song, yes Karen your advice was well heeded, closely followed up with the ‘happy clappy’ song and ‘Simon Says’.

We enacted the Three Bears story using three teddy bears we found in the classroom with some other props and Nicola as Goldie Locks and Red Riding Hood with each of us taking a part. Rebecca narrated and played the part of Grandmother, Fern was the Wicked Wolf, Nicola was Red Riding Hood and I was the Woodsman who chopped of the wolf’s head. I’m not sure how much they understood as they spent most of the performances staring at us with stunned expressions on their faces. We finally fell back on the tried and tested drawing and colouring in which occupied the kids for the rest of the lesson. It will be interesting to see what we end up doing tomorrow afternoon!

The cast of Little Red Riding Hood and the bemused audience.

The cast of Little Red Riding Hood and the bemused audience.

After we’d finished for the day we decided to take a walk to the local ‘further away than we thought they were’ shops! In fact we never actually made it to the shop we had intended to go to as it turned out to be much further away than we thought it was. For we read Fern and I, the others now think we imagined the shop on our way back from Piliyandala yesterday.. I know it’s there somewhere!

We mostly bought biscuits, crisps, coffee, juice and a few other items we were missing from home to supplement our daily rice and spicy lentil meals.. We got a tuk-tuk back as it was getting dark and you really need to be able to see what’s coming at you on these roads.

Just nipping down to the local shops

Just nipping down to the local shops

Goodnight 🙂

Sri Lanka Trip – Day Nine

Whilst Salman had a busy day ahead of him, meeting various friends in Colombo, the rest of us planned only to make a trip into Piliyandala town to do a little shopping later in the day. After we had all met up for breakfast the girls went back to their rooms for more rest, Salman readied himself to be picked up around 9.30 to 10.00am and I readied myself to write-up the last two days reports in my blog.

It was around 11.00am by the time I’d written up the first report and I’d gone to sit outside our room with the laptop so I could pick up the WiFi signal. I managed to upload the blog just before a very strange-looking female dog decided to investigate me. In order to finish what I was doing I threw a biscuit for the dog to go and eat to distract her from me, big mistake, dog now wants to be my best friend! I wouldn’t mind but the dogs here are not very clean so I’m wary of getting any fleas or mites off it. Ended up having to go back to my room with the door closed so I could get on with my work!

Met the girls for lunch at 1.00pm and one of the village organisers asked us about our plans for the day. To cut a long story short she ended up organising two tuk-tuks to come and pick us up at 2.00pm for a very reasonable rate of 170 rupees each way per tuk-tuk. The cost of tuk-tuk journeys are usually much more expensive for tourists, however, we got the special rate because we were working at the village. It was also arranged that the same tuk-tuk drivers would collect us in Piliyandala at 5.00pm to bring us back to the village

The journey into Piliyandala only takes about 10 minutes but it was fun to experience riding in the tuk-tuks in spite of my previous comments about the chaos which reigns on Sri Lankan roads. I also noticed another hazard to add to the cows and dogs, potholes! Our tuk-tuk’s had to weave across both sides of the road to avoid a variety of potholes on our journey into Piliyandala and the floor of a tuk-tuk is very close to the ground so you notice these things!

View from a tuk-tuk

View from a tuk-tuk

Piliyandala town, like a lot of towns in developing countries, is a ramshackle pile of concrete boxes with very few paved walkways and very little for the average tourist to see, however, that also means that all the shopping is at local rates not tourist prices, unless you buy on the street then they try to get whatever price you will pay! We were dropped of outside a ‘shopping Centre’ which was actually one shop with four levels. I managed to get a couple of Batik sarongs and a Sri Lanka Cricket team top for less than £10.

After we finished at the ‘shopping centre’ we wandered up and down the main street where I found a shop to top up my local mobile phone. 1000 rupees (£5.00) will allow me to make roughly 6 or 7 half hour phone calls back to the UK which is great value.

After a bit more wandering around we made another important discovery! A Wine Store!

The girls ascertaining the price of a bottle of Carlsberg

The girls ascertaining the price of a bottle of Carlsberg

With the exception of the small beer I’d had with my lunch yesterday, none of us had had a drink since we arrived in Sri lanka, which I think was a good idea while we were living and working so closely with young children. However, as it was the weekend and we decided we’d earned a little liquid relaxation and, as Salman doesn’t drink, he can always be the responsible adult 🙂

We hadn’t noticed alcoholic drinks being sold in any of the supermarkets or local shops so I’m assuming it is only available from these licensed ‘Wine Stores’. We ended up buying between us 2 bottles of Carlsberg lager and a half bottle of Sri Lankan Vodka for just under a fiver. I couldn’t find any fresh orange juice, which I like to have with vodka, so ended up buying a large bottle of slightly fizzy orange crush to go with it.. I suspect I’m not going to get the taste experience I’m hoping for.

When we met up for our evening meal the woman who had helped organise the tuk-tuk’s asked about our time in Piliyandala and then noticed that Fern was only eating plain white noodles. Poor Fern was then interrogated at some length about her eating habits, after which we were provided with some dry crackers and marmalade, which Fern then felt she had to eat even though she didn’t like them either! For the rest of us we can only hope that some good comes out of this conversation as, although the food is palatable, there isn’t much variation from rice or noodles with spicy lentils.

After our meal I went and split the vodka with the girls before heading back to my room to do a bit more blogging and reading whilst having a relaxing drink. Salman got back to the village just after 10.00pm and after he’d told me about his day and showed me some of the things he’d bought I phoned Barb for our daily 6.00pm GMT phone call before retiring for the day.

PS. The vodka and orange concoction was definitely not the taste experience I had hoped for!

Down-town Piliyandala, Sri Lanka

Down-town Piliyandala, Sri Lanka