Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Taking Chances

“What do you say to taking chances? What do you say to jumping off the edge? Never knowing if there’s solid ground below or hand to hold or hell to pay…”

At sixteen you decide on courses for CAPE with an idea of what you what to do in life, two years later you’re thumbing through university prospectuses hoping you’re making the right choice for the career path that you’ve decided upon.

We take so many chances everyday hoping and praying that they’ll work out for the best and sometimes they turn out far better than you ever could have dreamed.

Just about a year ago I took a chance. I accepted an eleven month placement in Badulla, Sri Lanka. I agreed to pack up and move clear across the globe to a city I’d never even heard about before where they spoke a language I didn’t know for almost an entire year.

Well that year is almost over…and it wasn’t always an easy year. Then again nothing worth having comes easily but it was worth it. I speak enough Sinhala to not get lost and I also know my way around the south of Sri Lanka so I’ve come a long way since I arrived here in the wee hours of July 28th 2010.

I helped write an annual work plan and a semi-annual report; I’ve participated in Tracer Study analysis and facilitated a workshop on monitoring and evaluation; I’ve scaled some pretty ridiculous hills in terrible footwear to speak with beneficiaries and I’ve had my world view challenged more than once. I went outside of my comfort zone and instead of breaking am now stronger for it.

So what do I say to taking chances??? I’m all for it and I’m looking forward to taking some more in the Fall.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Sound of Silence

Each country has it’s own unique mix of sights, sounds and smells. It’s part of the fun of travel…discovering a culture through one’s senses. The way a mountain air caresses the skin in the wee hours of the morning and way the sun dips below the horizon on the coast.

The scent of incense hangs heavy in the air early in the evening and each morning is punctuated by the preparation of a variety of curries. Passing through the market on the way to work one smells the fish and the fresh produce. The produce so fresh that one can still the earth from which it has been removed mingling with the aroma of spices.

Without doubt however, I’d say that I’ve experienced Sri Lanka as an auditory adventure. Badulla is awake at the crack of dawn…the neighbour begins welding around 5.45 each morning and the sound of metal on metal fills my bedroom and I am jolted out of sleep. Around the same time the garbage truck comes around the strains of “It’s a small world” and it is clear that the day has begun.

As I complete my morning rituals and light beings to stream in the windows the house is also filled with the sound of women chattering and planning for the day.

Walking through the market each day I am greeted by the vendors hawking their fare. You have never heard a more cheery greeting than a Sinhalese street vendor saying “Good morning, Madam” – one gets the feeling that they genuinely want you to have a good day. The greetings seem to come out of thin air as you walk the through the market but they are always there and in the same breath they return to advertising their vegetables in Sinhala.

Throughout the day the sounds of various birds and wildlife can be heard. The buzz of large insects seeking refuge from the sweltering heat and the low of cattle in the field adjacent to the office.

Suddenly, one hears the sound of drums and singing…a firecracker goes off in the distance then another – maybe nearer, maybe farther – and music, a voice on a loud speaker speaking in Sinhala. In most cases it’s a pera hera (festival) a religious celebration of some sort…a parade on the road just passing through. It may be an electoral campaign – the firecrackers in celebration of someone from the district receiving a nomination.

As the day winds to a close and the shadows lengthen in the town of Badulla the soundtrack takes on a different quality. It’s the sound of dogs howling in concert and a variety of bird songs. Women’s voices can be heard recounting the day’s activities mixed with the sound of clanging pots as dinner is prepared over a fire in the yard. The tink-tink of metal on metal continues with an annoyingly steady cadence until it doesn’t.

Some nights one can hear the exuberant singing of groups of men…the exuberance that can only come from one too many glasses of Arrack (Sri Lankan liquor). Last night was punctuated by the sound of fire crackers – I did not get to watch the World Cup finals but was able to ascertain the performance of Sri Lanka as they sounded to celebrate the heights of the team’s performance and shouts of elation air.

When silence comes in the sleepy hill town of Badulla it is deafening. It hangs in the air in such stark contrast to the symphony of sounds that characterised the previous hours. But silence is such a rarity in Badulla.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Only Time

How do I have just about fifteen weeks left on placement?

How has it been twelve weeks since I last posted something here on the blog?

How do I have a mere seven weeks to my 22nd birthday?

The passage of time is a truly interesting phenomenon, sneaking up on you when you least expect it.

Since returning from my Christmas holiday I’ve been increasingly busy at work – not only in Badulla but also in the main office in Colombo. And coming on the heels of what were my two most productive weeks of placement I realise that there is more work left than there is time.

That super productive two weeks started out as a two day trip to the city but I ended up participating in the annual work planning. I still have follow-ups to do on the monitoring and evaluation work I did last year, a whole new assignment on labour markets and let’s not forget ‘T’ for which I only recently received permission.

Where does time go to hide? In many ways I know that I’ve been living in Sri Lanka for seven months – I’ve got some pretty decent Sinhala and stories to prove it. And yet some days it feels like I’ve only just arrived and more importantly like I’ve still got so much to do and learn.

But seriously time…send me a message, let’s do lunch or something. I really feel like you’re running away, maybe we can talk this over. I don’t feel much older than sixteen, on many days I feel younger and yet everything (and everyone) around me seems to be pointing to the fact that I may indeed be a grown up so if you could also provide some insight as to when that happened, I’d be appreciative.

Well, I’m going to ease back into the blogging and keep this post short. Plus I’m sure you’ve other things to do with your time Winking smile