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A typical Thursday

December 13, 2012

IMG_4390Kandyans wake early – the students I live with are on the go by six at the latest.  If they don’t jolt me into life, the sound of Buddhist chanting over a loud speaker, and the cold shower will. 

I’ve not been to the ‘mess hall’ for breakfast since the first day when I walked into string hoppers (noodles), so breakfast is bread and cheese triangles.  The first sign that it’s going to be hot is taking my frozen bread slices outside on to the balcony and waiting a couple of minutes for them to thaw in the shade of the palm trees.

With a cup of Sri Lankan tea, I settle down to finish planning my first class in our communal area.  Last night I was listening to an article on the BBC about Slumdog Millionaire which will be a good follow-up for my first exam class, who learned some money-related vocabulary last lesson.  Many students here struggle with understanding spoken English so I’ve been looking for opportunities to give them more listening practice.

On the 5 minute walk over to the classroom, I bump into the other English teachers, and academic dean, who asks me if I can edit the English brochure for one of the courses later in the day. 

After the high level class it’s a quick dash to meet up with the mixed level group of students’ spouses who I teach for an hour of informal general English. Then I sit in the library, looking out over green and cows, to prepare for the afternoon lessons.  As it’s a specialist college, the library is choc-ful of books on pastoral care, world religions, and the Sri Lankan conflict, so I often get side-tracked into something else!

lunchLunch in the mess hall is normally rice and two or three curries – yum.  At first the students asked me lots of questions about how I coped eating with my hand, and dealing with chilli, but now I’ve earned my stripes as a typical eater! 

students posing for a photo after a performance on Cultural Day2pm is time for our new English club.  The main aim is to help people to speak English, rather than their native Tamil or Sinhala, and build their confidence.  Biscuits are a great incentive, too.  We start with the names of famous people on our heads, playing a yes/ no game to guess their identity then move on to discuss what we can guess from people’s clothing. I’m pleased to see that the office staff are supporting the club too, with a good turn out of receptionists and accountants among the students.

Then a change of personnel… Straight after English club I grab my bag of tricks and head down to the nursery – a little person’s haven of small chairs, tiny tables and a chalk board ready to teach the kids on campus – ranging from the very littlees aged 2 1/2 to 6, to the oldest boy who is 13.  Halfway through ‘three little pigs’ and one of the IMG_4042smallest children has put her shoes on and umbrella up, ready to return home.  I gently bring her back to class.  Three of the very small people from the first class stay for the more advanced second class which leaves it slightly chaotic.  And one of the little ones pops up again halfway through the last class of teenage boys.  Leaving her to play in a corner while we focus on the present continuous, I reflect that volunteering is all about being flexible!

Bzzzz. By the time I say goodbye to the boys at 6.15, darkness has descended and the mosquitoes are grazing.  I walk back up to the women’s hostel as the noise of crickets builds, greeting students spilling out of their houses on the way.  Grabbing my word sheets and mozzy repellent I head to choir practice where the musicians are already warming up on the piano and three different kinds of drums.  I have no idea what I’m singing but do my best to keep up with the students as we practice rousing Sinhala and Tamil songs ready for the Christmas programme, not to mention my little English carol duet.

By eight o’clock we’re all baying for dinner.  Today it’s Kandeepam’s birthday so we sing to him before devouring the chocolate bars he’s bought everyone as a treat.  We wash our own plates before and after eating then pad back to our accommodation as the bats zing past our heads.

remove slippers signI sit with Sulo and Lishni in our common room while they finish a Tamil film, then we chat for half an hour about their lives – often hard – and complain about our long singing practices.  Ten o’clock and it’s time for bed.  After shoo-ing a large spider out of my room I collapse under a mosquito net, enjoying a few minutes of Kindle before sleep.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jane permalink
    December 14, 2012 11:57 am

    The curry looks amazing, my mouth is watering already and its not even lunch time! Have you been to the Temple of the Tooth?

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