17th journey to Matara, Sri Lanka – Diary from 3rd – 23rd of July 2018

I’m sorry that I could not give daily reports when I spent this exciting time in Sri Lanka. So, here you find the entire diary. Pictures have been added to the German version. Please, press button “Deutsch” ( = German) here on the right side. Thanks for reading and appreciating our work and projects in Matara. Edeltrud Pinger, vice president of Neuwied-Matara-Friendship-Association.

July 3rd, 2018

Landing of Qatar Air in Colombo. But I’m the only one of the three of us in that aircraft, whereas the other two companions have to take a different plane some hours later – different travel agencies = different planes. That means: one transfer at night time and arrival at about 7.30 a.m. in Mirissa and the second one, along with a wonderful sunrise on the coast line, three and a half hours later. Impressed by that gorgeous scenery, they even forget to take a picture. So, let’s have a look at the impressive beach, still decorated by a German flag, ignoring the painful result for Germans in the World Championship! – ? But it turns out to be the yellow-red sea-watch-flag and a dark branch on top causing this optical illusion.
After that long and tiring trip, we need a shower, some rest, unpacking the suitcases,…and it’s a pleasure to meet some familiar faces among the hotel staff. We all can feel and enjoy their friendly welcome and soon feel at home again.
Our first guest in the afternoon is Ridmi, who is so happy to meet her German host in whose house she could spend three months at the end of last year. She speaks German quite well now, and she hopes so much that she can come back again with us to Germany on July 18th. She applied for another visa and there are good chances of being given permission to travel, but sometimes, it’s difficult to steer clear of obstacles when negotiating with administrations and embassies. We will visit the German embassy in Colombo on Monday and hope to meet understandable and insightful civil servants who can make a pragmatic decision prepared to compromise.
The second visitor late in the evening, is the English teacher, Mr. Wasantha, who comes a long way after late tuition lessons to give us a hearty welcome to his country. He is such a valuable supporter of our activities at school, serving as a driver when visiting scholarship students’ families, translating conversations into Singhalese and English language, preparing meetings with the High Priest or the principal at school and lots more. After enjoying a refreshing drink, he takes off for a long way home at night time on his motor bike, whereas the three of us can easily head for our hotel rooms and go to bed. It does not take long to fall asleep after a long journey and a sleepless night, although there should be some energy left to write this report.

July 4th, 2018

First day at Anura College! Taking the bus is a bit tiring, but quite okay for our budget. Everywhere on the school premises shining, friendly faces are recognizing and welcoming me. Mr. Wasantha will accompany me and help with translations wherever possible. When visiting the Venerable High Priest’s office, he, too, gives me a hearty welcome and grants a lot of his precious time to tell me about the great exhibition and festivities that took place last week on the occasion of the school’s 125th anniversary. He is proud that so many visitors and special guests had come and could be given fantastic and impressive insights in school activities. In the weeks and months before this event, he initiated – together with staff and students – a lot of cleaning, preparing, arranging, organizing, which helped to make those days a really special event. More and more students come to this school now and there are about 37 children at the new Preschool, giving evidence of successful work. Some buildings could be repaired and painted and look really nice now. It is obvious that the High Priest’s focus is on good and successful schooling and making the teachers understand how important it is to do a good job. There are several young boys, being educated as monks, which might be a bit curious to our understanding, but belongs to a kind of social programme giving children a home and good school education.
We discuss the High Priest’s big plan to build a school hall, new classrooms and a hostel, particularly for students coming from far away. It’s really a huge thing, and he kindly asks for support by the German Friendship Association Neuwied-Matara. As vice president, I’m afraid to tell him that we are not able any more to donate big buildings as we did years ago after the tsunami. But I can promise to try doing some fund raising and contribute to that project as much as possible. It won’t be easy, but we both will try hard, having in mind the children’s future chances.
Some of our scholarship children come across my way and say ‘hallo’. I’m happy to tell them that we will probably meet next week on a big meeting for parents and students in the course of which I can hand over little gifts and letters from their German “godparents”.
Now it is time to visit the pre school, and „sudu auntie“ looks at lots of curious little faces. Good idea to bring some sweets, and there are enough of them, even for the three teachers. It’s really good luck for them to have a generous protectress, the Princess of Neuwied Sophie Charlotte zu Wied. With her help, we can order some new useful toys and teaching materials. The swing in the outdoor area needs repair and will be done as fast as possible. Easy way to make some people happy!
Back in the home science room, some of Mrs. Tekla’s students are baking some funny kind of biscuits. It’s something traditional with rice flour, some spices and coconut milk, baked in hot oil. Very delicious – “rassai”! as Singhalese people might say. To say ‚thank you‘, I hand over a nice pen to each of the young bakers, and are given a full bag of these tasty biscuits when leaving.
That was an interesting and pleasant day for me. Tomorrow, our coordinator, Mr. Ruwan will arrive at the hotel and give us a lift to Matara, which means that one of the buses will not be so crowded.


July 5th , 2018

Lack of time prevents me from telling everything in detail in English language. But pictures might help you:
– Welcome at Anura College by the deputy Mrs. Kanthi
– German lessons in the language room
– Visit of two bank assistants form Seylan Bank, offering a way of saving little part of the scholarship money in a saving-account, which can be a useful way of aiming at a profit when the students will be 18 years old. Good idea!
– Home science teacher Mrs. Tekla and her studens demonstrate old instruments of house keeping
– music and dance room. Dancing teacher Mr. Nalin shows lots of music instruments to guests
– discussing new items for playground of Preschool
– damage that must be repaired soon

July 6th, 2018

It Is really difficult to maintain continuity in teaching, when day after day, new students join the group, particularly very young ones from grade two and three. They still have to learn Singhalese letters, which is difficult enough. How can they learn our letters that I use when writing on the board? So, my traveling companion puts the focus on teaching the youngest ones individually. The advanced and older students repeat what we did yesterday: What’s your name?. Where do you live?, How old are you? They remember quite well. But they are not so much used to interactivity in school lessons. They just are used to listen, to repeat, to listen, to repeat,….We learn some new words hidden in verses amd rhyming in the end. Numbers 1 to ten can be found within these verses and, perhaps, can be kept in mind till next lesson on Tuesday. But if there are again ten new ones, I surrender!
There is another nice cooking project in the Home science room, some sort of fish rolls and another traditional dish made of dark cereals, sweet filling and wrapped in green leaves. Very tasty, but not good for diabetics! And a nice cup of tea to top it off.
There are some polite requests from teachers with regard to improvement of school equipment, but our budget is not inexhaustible , and we have to decide thouroughly if it is really necessary. It’s difficult enough to find more sponsor parents, and about 10 children have been waiting for a long time now – not easy!
Now, letz’s take off for Rohana Special School. The Principal, Mr. Abeygunawardana, gives us a friendly welcome, and we discuss about the exhibition that is to be organized at Paradise Beach Hotel in Mirissa where we are staying. He shows us the wonderful masks that have been made by the deaf students. In the school auditorium we meet mentally retarded students and their teachers rehearsing for a performance of dancing, wearing traditional costumes and masks .What we can see on stage is incredible: extreme concentration, dedication, accuracy and talent, which we would never have expected to such extent. Amazing!
It’s good to see how these students are given the opportunity to develop self-confidence, and they really can be proud of themselves. And I’m a bit proud of our Neuwied-Matara-Friendship-Association and Lions Club Maria-Laach that caused and financed this remarkable project. Of course, we will take home the Principal’s big thanks and kind regards.

July 7th, 2018

Weekend, relaxing, putting myself together for the next hard week when more German lessons will take place, visits at scholarship children’s houses, big meeting of parents and scholarship students at school….
After sleeping a bit longer, I can enjoy a delicious breakfast ( – although I’m served some scrambled eggs instead of fried ones – we will have to try that again tomorrow morning _ ), which means a good start for the day. Sitting on the balcony I can watch the drama of changing weather, starting with sunshine and blue sky that is getting dark and grey within a few minutes, followed by heavy rain and strong wind. After 15 minutes, the sun is back again, and the shields, protecting the reception hall against the rainy storm, can be opened again and let the sunshine in.
In the afternoon, my „godschild“ Ridmi pops in, and we talk about our trip to Colombo on Monday. We’ll go to the German embassy and hope that the visa is finally granted that enables her to come back with me to Germany. Before, there were lots of emails, phone calls, visits to authorities, and we really hope to be successful. We enjoy a little lunch on the balcony of the hotel dining room and a gorgeous view over the Indian Ocean. She won’t have that in Germany any longer – but even our river Rhine is quite attractive! So, let’s go for a walk along the beach and look at the wild and roaring waves. Imposing natural spectacle! That’s it for today, which means that I have time enough to write that short text before dinner and not after midnight as I did in the last days. Kind regards and best wishes to all my friends and those who feel close to our friendship association.

July 8th, 2018

Sunday – appropriate day for visits and outings! My friends hire a native driver and his little bus and go along the south coast to visit a wonderful temple area, (“Mulgirigalla”, 16 km from Tangalle) a huge botanic farm (Bata Ata Farm) and, of course, not to miss “Blow Hole” that belongs to every sight-seeing programme for tourists coming to that area. Looking at the pictures, you might understand a little bit what gorgeous places and sights are waiting for you when visiting Sri Lanka.
My programme is a bit different, and so I take the bus to Ahangama to visit a small family that I’ve known for ages. Some generous donors of our Friendship Association helped them last year to build a little workshop to do batik work. It’s not easy, but mother and daughter manage quite well to produce wonderful frocks, table clothes, even saris and other little bits and pieces, trying to sell them regularly and earning their living. It’s really hard work to maintain the little business and they are really good at doing their work. But it is not easy to build up a good and regular sales market. And when more money is needed to buy a new sewing machine ( – because the used one they bought some months ago does not work well any more -) life becomes a difficult challenge. We will see if we can find some supporters! Vinudi, the little girl, is more interested in her new toy, a fluffy fox from Germany!

July 9th, 2018

here is not much to tell about this Monday – but at least there is something rather important: Getting up at 4 a.m, having a shower – together with a huge spider – going to Matara by 3-wheel, taking the Highway-bus to Colombo, arriving at the German embassy at about 9.20. We have to wait till 10; ridmi hands overt the papers, and they ask us to come again at 1.30 to collect the desiderated documnent: passport with visa inside. That sounds good. And at 1.30 h they make us wait till 14.45 h before we can leave the building with what we both have waited for so long.. Great happiness and relief. We made it !!! Three months in Germany that can be extended..Fantastic! Look at the shining faces! Congratulations!

July 15th, 2018

Time flies and I must try to sum up what’s going on . There can only be short reports and more pictures.
On Thursday, PSPS (Princess Sophie Pres School) organized a wonderful market with the help of teachers, mothers and children. Such a market or exhibition is part of the syllabus and means a lot of work.
– 9 a.m.: ceremonial opening by guest of honour
– presentation of gifts for the protectress, Princess of Neuwied (that I will hand over to her when I’m         back in Germany
– Visiting the market and enjoying the performance

Anura Vidyalaya, Matara: At 11 am, there is the meeting of scholarship students and their parents. There are lots of smiling faces because of the presents and some extra donations from Germany. Great thankfulness is expressed by Thishmi, offering some flowers and a fantastic speech in English – not bad for a student in grade 7.

Anura College – that was object of my last reports with regard to visits and activities – is closely linked to Manthinda Temple School where young monks are offered education, safeness and immunity, schooling and a place to be hosted and fed. Parents are proud to give away one of their sons and gain merits according to their Buddhist belief. For young boys who lost their parents, it will be even more difficult to find a proper place in society when the family doesn’t or can’t care. Escaping orphanage or very bad living conditions, the Buddhist temple can care and look after them, although their childhood and youth might be quite different from that of others – a fact that we might discuss in a controversial way and which is difficult for us to understand. At least, the boys and young men in these pictures look quite happy and seem to enjoy the company of the German guest.

July 16th, 2018

Last day at Anura College. I can’t believe how fast time flies. One more German lesson to prepare writing a letter to German godparents: we learn how to address them, tell about ourselves, name, age, living place, number of siblings, grade, favourite colour, favourite subject at school, ending the letter in a correct and polite and friendly way. Let’s see how many German godparents will receive a wonderful letter in German soon.
Last visit at PSPS – (Princess-Sophie-Pre-School) to check the work that should have been done during the last days. Those stones that I wanted them to dig out and remove from the playground, have been placed to a little different area, but it is still dangerous. Misunderstanding? I wanted them to be removed completely because they are really dangerous in that place. Let’s hope that it will be done now.
Two of my ambitious students have written already their letter in German and want me to take it to Germany. Of course, I will do that. The building constructor, Mr. Silva and I, we check again what must be done. Interlock stones have been used to level the ground between toilets and stairs up to the language room. But there is much more to do before this area is really clean and tidy. He promised to finish the work by Thursday. So he can receive a first installment.
Now time has come to say good bye, I must be back at the hotel by 2.30 because of Rohana exhibition of traditional masks that have been carved and painted by deaf students of that Special School. On my way to the bus stop, I meet Maheesha who could not come to the meeting last Thursday. Finally I got her picture to show her sponsor mother in Germany. Good luck. The bus trip is a horror trip, because the driver does not care about passengers standing. There are many of them just now after the end of school lessons. May be that they are experienced drivers, but it’s extremely dangerous when driving at such a speed, overtaking all the time, using the phone, stopping at once, ….and passengers cannot really catch a hold to be safe. I’m happy to get out of the bus at Mirissa – I have survived!
It’s just time enough to have a short wash, before Mr. Ruwan arrives with students and wooden masks, Principal and his deputy, parents and students. Wonderful, colourful masks are arranged on some tables in the reception hall. We all are happy and thankful that Mr. Nihal, hotel manager, provided everything and even offers a refreshing drink to all participants. Thanks a lot. There are really a lot of masks, of all colours and shapes. Fantastic work that can’t be found better in tourist shops. They have really done a lot since last September when the project started. Amazing.
Now Kanchana, mother and daughter have arrived, and they are given another table to show their batik work. My two German friends had bought some of these nice frocks before and can now act as good examples and models. It’s a pity that there are only few guests in the hotel at the moment, and those who have just arrived seem to be more interested in their room and a rest after a long journey. Never mind. For Rohana students it is a good exercise to prepare and arrange such an exhibition. May be, next time, they will be more successful with regard to good business. After two hours, the exhibition is finished -, and off they go back to Matara.

July 23rd, 2018

The journey to Sri Lanka is over, and a lot could be achieved in our projects in Matara. On our way back, we are accompanied by Ridmi. It was an extremely long fight to get the visa, but finally we were successful. The next adventure can start for her. There is no need of getting accustomed to different temperatures – and at the moment it is even warmer in Germany than in Sri Lanka. We will have to wait for a long time before snow falls, which she loved so much last winter.
Unpack suitcases, get settled, sleep late,….that is done on the first day, but on the second, we get up early to work a bit in the garden, harvesting black berries and beans. Going for walks in the forest with the dog – that will happen very often now. In the afternoon, we visit friends and enjoy their swimming pool, but most Singhalese people cannot swim although surrounded by water. And so, there is no swimsuit for Ridmi. We will try to get one tomorrow.
This morning, there were some administrative aspects to deal with. As Ridmi is no longer a tourist, she must be registered now for the time staying in Germany. We applied for a language course and filled in all necessary documents. It will be important to speak as much German as possible now. She will learn fast, for sure! Welcome to Germany.