I must apologise for being a bit dilatory with this blogging stuff in the last few days. Today is Wednesday, the beginning of our mid-term holiday here at TGS, so I’m free until next Monday!
Yesterday’s Fun Day at TGS was, as advertised, fun. With the entire upper school on their family trip to Saudi Arabia, the day was dedicated to the wee ones, the oldest being the P2-3 boys, who did match up to their responsibilities. Parents, grandparents, smaller siblings etc. turned up in droves, so the school had a buzz about it – augmented by the fact it was also Rick’s birthday. Dozens of small children seemed to be giving him high fives and once the official Fun had finished, we had a lovely birthday cake that the staff had bought for him. The tradition out here is that you bring your own cake in on your birthday and share it out with everyone else: Kris had baked a cake as well, on Rick’s behalf, so we started the day with that and ended up with the staff one. So much for my diet.
I was given the pivotally important task of holding one end of the finishing line for the races, but most of the wee tots obviously felt running through a string was against the rules, so most stopped just before reaching it. After the standard 20m races, we had a “Popsicle (Ice Lolly) Break” and then came all sorts of wacky races: three-legged, obstacle, “ski” races (four people on one pair of “skis” racing another set of four across the flat grass), stepping stone races etc.
This fun was so exhausting that we closed at 11:30 instead of the usual 1:30.
Before work, Sera asked me to hand over the Internet router from my room and Dialog provided a replacement. It seems to be much better, but we’ve been here before so I’m reserving judgement… I have at last managed to get a confirmation of accommodation at Ibis in Tangalle for Thursday and Friday nights, so that’s progress. Last year when I went there, their Internet was off for the whole of my stay, so I don’t have high hopes. It’s a great location though:, attractive, though simple, rooms under the palm trees on the beach running down to the sea. Next stop over the sea is Antarctica, but too long for a day trip!
I’ve been throwing myself in planning this Treasure Hunt, now pencilled in for Wed 8th March. The proximity of this brings home the fact that the end of my trip is racing towards me as I technically finish at TGS on Thu 9th, with just under a week before I fly back. Both yesterday afternoon and much of today have been spent wandering the Fort area, working out routes and places to visit as well as making up questions and so forth. There’s a wealth of nooks and crannies with historical interest in the Fort, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique exposition of “an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries.” (Thanks to Wikipedia for that – the whole article is worth a read.)
I must be getting used to this local food as my lunch today was Prawn Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice) with a fried egg, chicken satay, pappadums, chutney and salad. It wasn’t forced on me: I actively chose it. Mind you, a good piece of rare steak would go down a treat. Either that or roast lamb…
The improved Internet connection has allowed me to chat to Sonia, so I was glad to hear she feels she’s on the mend from her flu bug and was planning to attend the In-service Day at school today.
Watching the parents at yesterday’s event at TGS, I noticed a small number of women in burqas. Although SL is a Buddhist country (70%), there are Hindus (13%), Muslims (10%), Catholics (6%) and others, including other Christian sects etc. (Figures from CIA Factbook which has been generally reliable over the years: let’s hope it doesn’t get Trumped.) Anyway, leaving statistics aside, I’m generally uncomfortable with the burqa: not that anyone says I have to wear it!
Most of the Muslim women here wear the hijab, which seems to me an ideal way of expressing your faith – should you have one – yet not going OTT about it: have I any right to voice an opinion on the burqa? In one sense, I see no reason for people – of either sex – not to wear what they want. Yet there have to be limits, particularly in a fairly conservative culture: whilst the Naked Rambler would no doubt be more comfortable in this climate than Scotland’s, it would be hard to maintain any “right” to walk naked through SL as he would no doubt offend the natives, as well as frightening the Land Monitors (there aren’t many horses!) At the other end of the scale, we – at least I, as a representative of a Western culture – read facial expression as a means of communication, judging other people’s reactions and so forth. Then there’s compulsion versus free choice. If a woman freely chooses to wear a burqa, who are any of us to gainsay it? But to what extent is such a decision free, as opposed to culturally imposed? Even if it was originally imposed by society at large or men-folk specifically, if the wearer now feels more comfortable in a burqa do the rest of us have any right to stop her? I’m sure there must be practical up-sides to wearing a burqa, though (apart from not having to change out of your pyjamas) I’m not sure what they are and am very dubious they outweigh what I’d see as many negatives. Life’s hard being a woolly liberal…
It looks as thoughRichmond College’s Gala is to be this weekend. St Aloysius School had theirs recently, but it’s a poor thing compared with Richmond, Richmond, Richmond! OK, I’m biased. The municipal fields just outside the Fort – even the roads leading to them – are being tarted up with a tunnel of lights and all sorts of carnival rides etc. are being erected.
I must be an unwitting agent provateur: yesterday I came across yet another example of civic unrest. I had just passed some vans marked “SAITM” when I met a few hundred people, some with megaphones, blocking the road beside the bus station. They were waving placards that said “SAITM NO”. I hadn’t found the van in any way offensive, but a little research revealed that the graduates of Southern Asia Institute of Technology and Medicine are being accredited as doctors and the like, to the fury of other students. It looks as though what I saw today is a continuation of the protests in Colombo that I witnessed a few weeks back.
So, off to Tangalle tomorrow but unsure about Internet access so you may or may not hear from me. Back here on Saturday.