7:10 am on June 30
Today we are returning to Kandy for a stop at an elephant orphanage and sanctuary. It’s about a two to three hour trip there. I expect that we will be there for a few hours, most likely with another stop while we are there, and then it is about four to five hour trip to Mannar. Last night, Brother Yohan said that we should arrive before 9pm. I suppose this is the target as this is around the time the boys should be going to bed.
Tomorrow, I am hoping that we get to observe some classrooms and then teach by Tuesday.
11:15 am July 1
Yesterday, Liz and I were picked up by Brothers Yohan, Selv, Alfred and Sister and one of the boys for another round of sightseeing. We began the day by picking up breakfast, which we ate after a quick stop at a tea estate, Blue Fields, for a tea, some shopping and a chat. After this short stop, we went to a waterfall where the children bathed and played, while we ate and then took pictures of the joviality from the safety of a high point. It was a cool day and the waters were cold, so when the boys came out, they were definitely chilled. After this breakfast stop (string hoppers and curry. Yummy!), we headed to an area outside of Kandy, the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Peradeniya, where we waited for a lunch delivery that the van would deliver to the boys. Once we had picked this up, we then went to the elephant orphanage to see elephants, some of which had been wounded or otherwise impacted by the war. We saw them feed and then, after a quick rain storm, we went down to the river to see them bathe. I touched an elephant for the first time in my life, saw up close how they ate, saw a mother feed her child, saw them gather together as a herd with the young protected on all sides. These things that I had seen at a distance at the zoo or on television specials, I knew first hand. I could have had my picture taken with one, perhaps even ridden one, but I am too conscious of hustles. I don’t like to be caught up in them or to put myself in situations from which I might not easily extract myself.
After this trip, we headed to Mannar with a stop to drop off Brother Alfred who was returning to Colombo to fly to India (we didn’t realize that he was going until he was already gone), a stop to see a Brother who was on his way to Pakistan, and then on to Mannar. After a week of traveling, we finally arrived late last night. The boys helped us bring bags into our rooms. While Liz went to bed, I took dinner with the Brothers and Sister before myself going to unpack, settle, and prepare for the next day.
Today we started later in the day. I showered, dressed, did some laundry. I then came for breakfast where Brother Selvidas was already waiting. We chatted a bit about the classes. 45 minute periods. The curriculum is determined by the government. He wants us to follow the curriculum and insert some fun into the work. He will provide the syllabi for us to follow this evening.
Soon after breakfast, Brother Nelson took us to the English Medium school up the road from the Brothers’ place. There were upper and lower kindergartens and grade 1 there. Liz and I observed in the preschool classes, helping the children as they learned to write their letters. Their exposure to English has been limited at that age. While they understood some questions, they did not know yet how to respond. I focused on helping the children to correctly form their letters, trying to make connections to the pictures the books provided. Q for queen and quill, for example. U for ukulele actually had a picture of what seemed to me to be a cello. The corresponding pictures seemed generally to be strange, unrelated to the lives of the children. Quill and ukulele? Hmm. The students did seem to do quite well with forming their letters, but I wondered how much I could teach them, what I could teach. After visiting the classrooms and coming back to the Brothers’ house, I told Liz that I would be more comfortable in secondary classes. I wonder if it is possible to spend time with both, switching halfway through the day. We will see and chat with Brother Selva. This morning he noted that the most qualified teachers are generally sent to the secondary schools while those with the least training go to the primary schools. I am a teacher. I am a teacher educator, but as far as English instruction, I am much more comfortable with secondary children. I don’t know how much the children know, how much I could teach them at the younger levels. I suppose, in the end, I need to let go and go where I am called to go.