It is 8:13 am and I just finished my recounting of yesterday in a previous post. Liz and I have been up since around 7am, unable to sleep any longer, but this is progress for us both. Slowly we are adjusting to the local time. We are set to have breakfast at 10am and then we are off to do some more visits, perhaps with some down time this afternoon. We will see. I am excited to see what what will come.
Today, we went to the highest point of Sri Lanka. We had to get special permission from the army to go. Brother Denzil happens to have connections with some members of the army, and so off we were. Liz and I had to bring our passports for the numbers to be recorded before we were driven the long way up the mountain, which happens to also house a communications station for the country, finished in the last 10 years. Because of the civil war and damage to the area during construction, the area is heavily guarded with a base at the bottom of the mountain and a base at the top with equipment manned by Naval, Air Force, and Army officers. On a clear day, all ships and flights coming in to and out of Sri Lanka can be tracked and identified. While at the top, we were allowed to take one picture, which I hope that Brother Denzil will send to us via email. We made a quick stop for tea at the base at the bottom of the mountain at a lovely facility for the officers. Great place, very well maintained. There we saw two of the “old boys”, boys of Boys Town who were working there. They paid such respect to the brothers, bowing and touching their feet. It was so evident that they had learned a great deal from the Brothers and valued that knowledge in their daily lives.
After this trip, we went to Aurelia town for some shopping. I spent way too much, $20, on outfits for Ava (my goddaughter and niece), before going to a place next door where I was able to buy a skirt and several baby tops for the children, Salomé (a friend’s daughter) and Ava. We also stopped by a shop for spices for my sister, and then another shop where Liz bought scarves for herself, mother and sister (great bargaining, from $60 US to $25 US for pashmina scarves). I made a list and I have plenty of buying to still do for friends and family. I’m hoping to find a few shops where I can buy leather, scarves, and a few saris. We will see. Most likely, I’ll do some shopping in Mannar and Colombo.
After town, we came made a quick stop so that Brother Denzil could talk to the local priests, before heading back to the retreat center for a late lunch and then a tour of the center by Brother Noel. He showed us where the boys of this campus of Boys Town had previously stayed, the bathing pool, the farms, the places that housed the animals and their manure (used in the fields), a 3D picture that was over 100 years old. We learned of the plans to renovate the former quarters as hotel suites and the possibility of adding cabanas to the property. There are many plans in the works. There needs only to be the funding to do so.
After lunch and the conversation, we said goodbye to Brother Denzil and Malin as they were returning to Colombo. It was a sad departure for us, though we will see them in a little over a week’s time.
We then had some time to rest before dinner. At dinner, we met Brothers Nelson, Alfred (visiting from India) , Selvidas, and Yohan. Paul, the hotelier/manager of the retreat center, also joined us for dinner. There was a social hour and then dinner itself, all while a match between Sri Lanka and the West Indies in cricket was going on. We learned some of the key rules in cricket from Brothers Denzil and Noel at lunch as we watched the highlights in an India versus Pakistan game and then the India versus Britain game.
With the Brothers, there are 76 boys of Mannar visiting the area. Tomorrow, we have been invited to join the Brothers in touring the area, going to parks and local sites. I am hoping that my system will tolerate the time out. We have an early day, starting at 8:30am, tomorrow.
Throughout the day, Liz and I have chatted about a number of things, including the mistaken moments of consensus with the Brothers, learning to let go of scheduling and knowing what is going on, the importance of girls’ education and wondering how this is taken up by the Brothers or other religious orders, how problem-based learning already works in the schools here and how it could be introduced if it is not in practice in most schools, the need for infrastructure development, how perhaps this program should invite Lasallians to “Come and See” and return within 5 years, how it might be beneficial to do a skills inventory of program participants and match them with different schools in country based on those skills, the power of what Brother Denzil said in that there is no one true religion and that, as Liz noted, this may come from a “lifetime of serving and also from a lifetime of hate” as known through the tensions of a civil war, how the civil war affected people and their travel throughout the country. We talked, too, about the high literacy rate (over 90%) but wondered about what that really means and in what languages. We wanted to know more about the health care system and how the educational system works. Lots of topics, lots more still to learn.