Our lovely Jenny, for the last 5 months, has been living and working in Sri Lanka (we’ve missed her!). For this week’s Happy Monday, we want to pass it over to her. She’s been having a wonderful time, and can’t wait to tell you all about her experiences… A very Happy Monday to you all, hope you’re finding the sunshine on this dreary day!
Ayubowan! (That’s how we say hello in Sri Lanka!)
In this post, I will write about my experiences in Sri Lanka over the past five months. My main incentive to visit this wonderful country was to gain experience in the very rewarding prospect of volunteering as an English teacher in a school for the deaf.
Since I visited a deaf school in Kenya at the age of 21, I have made it my ambition to volunteer at a deaf school in a third world country. Since Kenya, the opportunity has never presented itself, until a good friend of mine mentioned that there was a place at a volunteering experience in Sri Lanka! I thought to myself “Why not?” and jumped at the chance.
Upon arrival in Sri Lanka, we were given a chance to relax in our first homestay in Maharagama, which was owned and run by a lovely lady named Savitiri, who was most helpful, and made us feel very welcome in a totally different culture and environment to our own. Indeed, we were taken out of our comfort zones a little bit; I started to realize just how much us British take for granted. For example, there was no computer or video game in sight (a bit of a relief, to be honest!), and the majority of the food they eat in Sri Lanka is rice with various different curries.
Speaking of food, this is where I had my first culture shock. Sri Lankans eat curry (rice, sauce, the lot) with their HANDS! I was a bit horrified because I had had no previous warning! Yet, after a few failed (and very messy) attempts, I managed to get the hang of it. In fact, now, after four months, I think I will have difficulty using a knife and fork!
After a week of drinking in the Sri Lankan culture, getting over ‘Delhi belly’ (which I will not describe), white water rafting, jumping 20 feet into natural pools, and most importantly, going through training, myself and a French lad named Samuel were taken to our homestay near the school we were going to be teaching at in Bandarawela, which is a picturesque mountainous area in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. The journey to Bandarawela was to take roughly six hours, which we were forewarned about; however, we were not told just how mountainous the area was! Cue lots of being thrown about on the coach!
After the basic conditions of our first homestay, the second one (our home for the next eight weeks) turned out to be a bit more luxurious; Samuel and I had a whole flat to ourselves. We would be given meals every day, apart from lunch, which we would eat at our school.
We were then taken to our school for a welcoming visit. At this point, I was not sure how to feel; scared? Excited? Happy? To be honest, I think I opted for all three! I just did not know what to expect. As we approached the school gates, we were greeted by a sea of white; the children were standing just inside the gates, in two very long orderly lines with huge grins on their faces.
Walking up the drive, in between the long lines of children, who were waving at us and smiling, I felt tears start to my eyes. I was expecting a welcome, but not of this magnitude! And still, there was more to come.
We were taken into the school hall, where speeches were made by the principal, who then beckoned us forward to light a candle set on a plinth, which was a brilliant honour. We were then treated to some dancing and singing acts performed by the children. I could not believe that the school had made such a supreme effort, just to welcome two newcomers!
The very next day, upon arrival at the school, I expected to just be observing lessons, but no. I was thrown straight into teaching! On a positive note, this was a good thing, as it meant there was less chance for me to be nervous! However, as I looked down at the expectant year-11 faces, I have to admit, I did feel like running away! I decided to start by teaching them the names of things in the classroom, such as a pen, paper, book, rubber, pencil case and so on.
Over the next week, I tried to look at the knowledge and learning abilities of the children, so I could determine exactly how and what I would teach them. I was given the freedom to choose what and how I would teach them, which was good, as it gave me the chance to look at each class’s individual abilities and think about how I was going to go about teaching them.
I was in for a little bit of a shock. The school is by no means a bad school (in fact it is a very good one, seeing the abilities in all the children, rather than the disabilities) and even has a Sri Lankan English teacher. But I did notice that the children, when learning English, the children were told to copy English examples from the board, as opposed to actually being told what they were writing. The English they were told to write was sometimes very advanced, and a lot of the children had no idea what they had written.
I decided that I would start from the very beginning and use very basic English. I started by teaching the children the BSL alphabet – which they knew to an extent – and then progressed to teaching them English words bit by bit, such as colours, weather, moods etc. I worked hard at using visual resources such as pictures and mime to help them to link the object to the word, so they could learn to recognise English words.
At the end of school, almost each day, the boarding children went to the playing field near their boarding home to play cricket and do keep fit exercises. This was a nice change from the world of computers and mobile phones! Even when a teacher was not present, the children went outside to run, play cricket, volleyball and many other sports!
Aside from working at the school, I have found the time to explore Sri Lanka, and see what the country has to offer. I will not waffle on about every single thing I have done, but I will list the most impressive parts: –
Climbed Adam’s Peak – a 2250 metre high mountain that has steps, yes, steps, going all the way up to the top! Even more impressively, we started climbing at 2:30 in the morning to see the sunrise from the top, which was glorious!
Experienced a lot of Buddhism – The main religion in Sri Lanka is Buddhism. The other day, I saw the actual Buddha’s preserved body! It was made up to look so real, it was creepy! I even had a cup of tea with a Buddhist monk in his house!
Learnt to drive a Tuk-Tuk – Sri Lankan taxis basically! In Sri Lanka, you see these three-wheeled cars all over the place. It was so much fun to be able to drive one!
That’s all about me for now. I would also like to mention that the playing field at the school I worked at is in dire need of a revamp. The playing field is on a steep mountainside and lacks a fence, so whenever the children play their sports, their volleyballs, cricket balls etc get thrown over the side and lost. The school struggle to afford to pay for all this extra equipment. There is also the fear of the children falling off the side (yes it is that steep!) and getting seriously injured.
Therefore, I have decided that I would like to help them pay for a fence around their playing field. It seems like such a small thing, but even the smallest things can make a huge difference! This is where I would like to ask for YOUR help. I will be setting up a fundraising page in the near future so people can make donations, however big or small, to help this wonderful school that I feel very privileged to have taught at.
That is all for now. I really hope you enjoyed reading (or skimming through) this post.
Much love, hugs, and kisses,