Sri Lanka’s Independence Day is 4th February and it is a public holiday. As such, the school celebrated on Wed. 3rd. The National Anthem was performed by the School Band, ably conducted by a lassie who later also played the piano for the school song. The art teacher had done some clever stuff with banana leaves, broom handles and flags: see the photo. There was then a two hour Assembly featuring various kids impersonating famous figures from SL’s history, as well as explanations of the symbolism in the SL flag, lectures on the importance of self-sacrifice etc. Group Captain Somoneorother talked for less time than I feared on various related topics, and a batch of new Junior Prefects was invested. Mr Vinnie, who had expressed concern to me a few days before about Scottish Independence, had a leading role in organising the celebrations which gave me plenty of scope for teasing him about a certain degree of inconsistency in his views.
I’ve only seen the SL National Anthem written in Sinhala, so I’ve no idea about its literary merits, but I do hope it wasn’t written by the lyricist of the School Song, the words of which are dire in the extreme. Do take the time to decipher them in the photo!
I seem to have no timetabled classes on Wednesdays, so I took the opportunity of going into the computer room and ingratiating myself with the teacher so I could sit in on a class. It was interesting: the hardware is in good nick and fairly up to date and the kids (age 10?) were doing some simple HTML. I drifted round and helped a bit. It was the first time I’ve really felt useful here. That’s not to suggest anything was wrong with the teaching, but it was good to feel I was on my home turf.
Someone on the staff was sharing round a bag of jambo (spelling?) fruit. You’ll see it in a photo. The texture is somewhere between an apple and a radish. Not particularly tasty, though pleasant enough to earn their other name which I’m told is “Sri Lankan Apple”.
Wednesday night was the boys’ night: Sera, Ben and Lino joined me in my room and we sank two or three beers each, accompanied by snacks, before going into the house for noodles and spicy chicken, thankfully followed by ice cream and jelly. As well as Poormina bustling about, there was another small, dark, wiry chap who scuttled around clearing plates etc.
Our little quartet consisted of a Sri Lankan, a Malaysian, a Filipino and a Scot: luckily everyone had some English. It became clear we were using my room as Sera wanted it as a marketing opportunity in the hope that Ben – and other visitors from the parent company – will opt to stay here rather than the Hillside. And why not, indeed? Sera had hinted to me he’d like my endorsement, which I was happy to give. Ben obviously liked the set-up, but as an auditor he had an eye for detail and asked about wifi, tv and cleaning.
Thursday was my first diving lesson and I had to be in Unawatuna for 8:30am. The day was worthwhile, but different from what I’d envisaged. There were two of us students, the other guy being a crew member on the dive boat who was obviously looking to do some Inservice Training. It was hard for him as all the materials were in English. Our instructor was a young Swiss chap called Stefan. We spent the morning doing theory: a mix of watching video and answering multiple choice questions. By lunchtime, my head was spinning with ascent rates, pressure tables, strange sets of initials and so forth. It must have been harder for my fellow-student, due to the language barrier. We could have done some practical in the afternoon, but opted to get the rest of the theory out of the way. Tomorrow (Friday) will be split between practice in enclosed water (a swimming pool) and a sea dive. Saturday and Sunday will follow a similar pattern, I think, then I’ll be a fully-qualified Open Water Diver.
When I checked my mobile phone, there were several calls from Sera which I ignored as there was little chance of a meaningful conversation without visual clues. Arriving back at base, I found him on watch at my room door and feared I’d gone off to Una leaving the door unlocked. But no: Ben’s questions had struck home and last night’s servant – that seems to be what he is – was cleaning my room under Sera’s watchful eye. I asked him about the servant and got a Fawltyesque reply: “He’s a Tamil”.
“Manuel” reported the broken loo seat lid that I had been too embarrassed to own up to yet: I had broken it by sitting down within 5 minutes of moving in and kept putting off confessing.
So that’s it: I might see a fish tomorrow.