Diary: Work and pleasure in Matara, January 20th – February 3rd

(Corresponding photographs can be seen in German version only. Press button “Deutsch” on the top right)

Friday, January 20th , 2017
Here I’m again – in my second home-country as some of my friends say, who know my commitment and activities in Sri Lanka or at home. Yesterday morning, I started my fifteenth journey to the Indian Ocean, accompanied by two ladies, members of our friendship-association, and our chairman Bernd. Minus eleven degrees C ( – 11 C°) – that’s no joke. Several layers of clothes ( – in German we say: like several skins of an onion) helped to cope with the changes of temperature. First in the plane, then when we stopped over in Doha/Qatar at night and last step in Colombo this morning when temperatures started getting close to 30 C°, some hours later. First activity at the hotel was having a shower and getting dressed completely differently in comparison to yesterday. Now, we first must get used to that difference of 40C° – hardly to believe. The weekend will help to get along with this change, and on Monday we will be “acclimated” and not miss the cold in Germany.

Saturday, January 21st , 2017 

We spent a really lazy Saturday afternoon – which makes us think of a famous song performed by the Beat-group „Small Faces“ in the year 1967, exactly 50 years ago. First, we had to recharge our Srilankan mobile phone, which enables us to communicate with family and friends in Germany and have some conversation apart from “what’s app” – news. It’s an old tradition to write some postcards to people who don’t use Facebook or other modern communication systems. The shop assistant wanted to sell us 25-rupee-stamps for the price of 30 rupees, which we did not accept, and finally he agreed that the value printed on the stamp is the price to be paid. Good and insightful guy! Sitting on the veranda and reading a book….., who knows when this can be done again? We had a first swim in the rough Indian Ocean without swallowing too much salty water; result: a breeze of slight sunburn, which our German friends won’t be able to understand with regard to temperatures of minus 10 degrees.
Some phone calls to plan our programme of next week and the visit of our Srilankan school coordinator rounded off our day which cannot be regarded as too busy. Not yet! Next week will be more exciting.

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Last free day before we start visiting Anura College in Matara tomorrow morning. Why not visiting Galle, a town in the southwest , where Portuguese occupants left impressive traces some centuries ago. Today, more Chinese people can be seen and European tourists, of course. The old Fort, its imposing walls and the big white tower can be regarded as the landmark of the town.
We had an extraordinarily quiet bus trip to Galle, and Rukmani, a good friend and former bank consultant met us at the bus station, although the area was extremely crowded. She was our tourist guide, and with her help we enjoyed wonderful views and took some nice pictures of the town and the huge quay bulkheads. We had a snack at lunchtime, did some shopping and interesting visits, and when darkness fell, we got on the bus back to Mirissa.
In every bus in Sri Lanka the first seats behind the driver are reserved for clergy. Buses are very crowded, and everyone can sit there as long as no monk enters the bus. So, we took these seats hoping that we could remain seated. But at the next stop, a venerable monk came in and immediately sat down on the other side of the bus corridor next to the exit before we could get up. He smiled at us, inviting us to remain seated. Buddhist calm and placidity! Nice to experience. For us it became more and more difficult to remain calm with regard to the aggressive and dangerous driving style we had to suffer. Falling night, pedestrians, bikers, dogs on the side of the road, hardly to be discovered in the darkness, dangerous overtaking where this is not allowed at all at a tremendous speed. Hardly to believe that nothing happened and we arrived at the hotel save and sound. We were very lucky,……and hope that this will go on.
Tomorrow morning, we will have to get up at 6.30 am and look forward to visiting Anura College in Matara. The new school year started on January 2nd and the new prefects will say their oath and promise to serve the school and their fellow students. A minister from the Southern Province will probably take part, which means that there will be a nice ceremony, a function to which we are invited as special guests, too.

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

That’s what Singhalese schools are good at: plan and organize functions and ceremonies, invite important guests (minister of defense and economy of Southern province, representatives of police and education department, and the three of us, of course). On the agenda, there were wonderful dances, rather long speeches, and traditional items (lightening the oil lamp and singing the national anthem) on the occasion of the school prefects’oath-saying, all the prefects of Manthinda temple school and Anura Vidyalaya.
The minister arrived in time, nearly, but even if he had come late, we would have had to wait for him at the junction in front of the school under hot sun. Girls of the western band, had to wear jackets and even tights with their uniform. Traffic was stopped for a while, and the honorable guests were welcomed in a friendly way by young students who handed over betel leaves to show their appreciation. The leader of the school orchestra saluted, turned round and invited the guests to follow the band to the school premises and into the hall nearby.
Well-trained prefects welcomed the guests, students, parents and teachers in Singhalese language and English and accompanied them on their way through a well-prepared programme. There were speeches made by Manthinda school principal and Anura school principal, and later after the oath-saying ceremony, speeches were made by the minister, the representatives of police and education department, by the Venerable High priests and by the prefects. The new prefects promised to respect Manthinda and Anura rules, be helpful and responsible, and work for their fellow-students’ sake and benefit. They really seemed to take their new duties serious and will certainly be good examples for the others.
The ceremony lasted more than two and a half hours altogether. Unfortunately most of the honorable guests had to leave before singing the National anthem. May be, they are very busy, taking part in many, many such functions at the beginning of a school year. But it is not up to me to criticize or give advice. It’s just my opinion that such functions should be shorter, so that more respect, time and attention can be granted by the visitors.
Teachers had prepared a delicious meal which was accepted and enjoyed by only few guests. There was certainly left enough for all the teachers. The three representatives of Neuwied-Matara Friendship Association met Marie and Jana, the young German teachers who started teaching at the beginning of January and will stay till end of March. We planned some team-teaching for tomorrow morning, but we will have to delay, because the students and teachers are involved in sports activities to prepare the sports-meet that will take place soon. No problem, there is some bank business to do and preparation of visits of scholarship families.
When visiting the preschool, me met two new teachers and introduced ourselves. We told them that our protectress, the Princess Sophie of Neuwied, is willing to support the preschool and help to pay necessary equipment such as some more shelves, a cupboard, tables and chairs and four fans which will give some comfort to children and teachers when temperatures are really high. We told the teachers to go to shops at get quotations. After examining, we can decide what we can buy and put this plan into action before leaving Sri Lanka. I’m sure that teachers and children will be happy about this decision and give their thanks to the Princess.
That can be done for the library as well. Curtains might help to keep dust and humidity outside, or even better glass. So, it is necessary to measure the sizes, ask for a quotation and talk to us…., and perhaps, these works can be finished before we leave Sri Lanka at the beginning of February. Next item: Science departments need material that can be paid by donations. We need a list of the chemicals wanted, quotations,…..and then, we can buy what is badly needed.
It is Mrs. Tekla’s birthday today, and we are happy to hand over the appropriate birthday present: a calendar with pictures of home science lessons and other occasions that were taken last September. The home science room is a good place to put the calendar on the wall and to remember many events in school life of last year.
Last information about this busy day: we met some of our scholarship students in the course of the ceremony and later around the school premises. They all seemed to be happy meeting Pinger Madam and her friends. And they all will look forward to coming to the parents’ and scholarship children’s meeting next week, when they all will be given small gifts or letters from Germany.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

I still can’t start teaching German today, because there is a big sports event for the whole school, students and teachers. So, we can do our bank business and visit Seylan Bank in Matara. We will pay in money on our account, change money, and even visit the sports meeting because the stadium is just opposite the bank.
Our Srilankan coordinator, Mr. Ruwan Abegunewardene, comes to the hotel in his small comfortable van and picks us up for the ride to Matara. It’s a pleasant contrast when you compare his quiet driving style to the dangerous trips that we have experienced so far with Singhalese busdrivers. At Sylan bank we are welcomed by savings account officer Mr. Pubudu. Our treasurer, Mrs. Herta and I, we can solve all the little problems that have occurred, with Mr. Pubudu’s help. We hold an account at Sylan bank that helps us to pay the monthly scholarships to about 30 students. Transfer of the money from Germany is too expensive. So, we can have an account here, which is the best solution. Besides, we must change Euro to rupees, because some “godparents” paid some extra money that we will give to the children and their families next week at the parents’ and scholarship students’ meeting. Finished!
Now, we can visit Anura and Manthinda sports event.
If I got it right, today, the best students of various disciplines must show their abilities and are selected to take part in a big competition later, representing their “house”. Probably those who wear real sports dresses, will be the favourites. All others are wearing school uniform, but, anyway, running, playing,….which might be more difficult in a school dress, in uniform trousers and normal shoes. All the lady-teachers are wearing sarees, but I could recognize one woman in sportswear.
We even met the Venerable high priest and some other monks in the sports field, contributing to the colourful crowd of students by their reddish-brown and orange garments. Mr. Wasantha helped with translating our conversation and we really could discuss some vital items in this easy-going and relaxed atmosphere.
Shortly before the end of the meeting, a heavy rain started falling. Some friendly young students were given an umbrella by their teachers and accompanied us to Mr. Ruwan’s van. So, we came back to the hotel in the early afternoon. Melon and pineapple for lunch was a delicious refreshment…., and the sun came back soon to grant a quiet and pleasant afternoon, accompanied by a tiny iugana (or lizard) in front of our veranda..

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

A lot of work is to be done this morning. Students are waiting for a German lesson, but Mr. Ruwan has arrived with a manager of an electric company who might offer a cheaper quotation for the items to be done than the one we had before. Classrooms, principal’s office and staffroom might be upgraded, which is not vital or the very most important things to do, but nevertheless useful and conductive.
Next task is to contact some mothers of scholarship children who have opened an account that cannot be touched before the students are eighteen years old. This was not what we intended when granting a scholarship. Of course, not all the money must be spent by the end of a month; it can be saved when no necessary things must be paid or bought. But if they need something, they should have access. They will have to go to the bank and change the status of account.
Finally, the first German lesson with Mrs. Pinger can start. Miss Marie and Miss Jana, the young German ladies who have been teaching at Anura since beginning of January, have started already and collected all the issues the students might know about: to introduce oneself, to tell about one’s age, age of sisters and brothers, to talk about where they live and to count. Most of them can do that up to twenty, tell their age and other people’s age. But Mrs. Pinger’s and the other visitors’ age need more numbers, and we count up to one hundred. Funny, that in English Miss Marie’s age is twenty three and in German, you must put it the other way round: three and twenty, in German “drei und zwanzig”. When Mrs. Inge is asked about her age, she says “I’m twelve”, which seems unbeliebable and causes indignation and incredibility. Enjoying this strange game, the real age does not seem to be important anymore. Last item is “animals”. The students remember some of them, a dog, a rabbit or a cat. But words like “hedgehog, parrot or kingfisher” are quite new. The teacher is amazed that some boys in the first row know these difficult German words, and finds out that it is Herta’s help who makes them say the new German words before they have seen the picture. Mrs. Pinger seems to be really impressed.
The second unit on this morning is an English lesson with the newly elected prefects who are given the opportunity to learn a better English in order to do their speeches and announcements on the occasion of functions or meetings more easily. First part of the lesson we spend on pronunciation, which seems to be quite difficult for Singhalese people. First reason: English and Singhalese languages are extremely different, whereas German and English, both, are Germanic languages and have similarities in vocabulary and grammar, which makes it more easily to learn. Second reason: In the course of our university education, we can go to England for half a year or more, getting used to the pronunciation when living there for a longer time. The Singhalese English teachers, however, have learned from their teachers who have never been in an English speaking country and go on teaching the same English to their students who will go on teaching the same “Singhalese English” pronunciation. So, it is not easy to improve, but we try hard and can obtain some good results. One question is to know about the students future plans, and there are some lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers and bank managers who might soon upgrade Sri Lankan society. Last item is to talk about their dreams and intention to what countries they would like to travel. The answers are: China, Japan, Korea,….but also Russia, Italy and, no wonder,…Germany!
Some tea and a snack help to pull ourselves together again. But there are new dialog partners and petitioners who ask for help at the new preschool and at Primary section that are quite costly. Fortunately, our president, Bernd Mertgen has arrived, and there are three board members now who can discuss and set priorities. Some motions that are brought forward will be considered and some others will not, according to importance and money. Tomorrow morning, we will meet again and do some shopping.
We are not yet exhausted too much, and can visit Rohana Special School at about 13.30 p.m. Although we are not announced, we are given a friendly welcome by the Principal Mr. Abeygunawardane. We hand over some presents such as hearing aids from Germany and little toys for the children. Besides, we can tell the Principal that a generous German donor might give money to pay for a certain project that will enable the school to offer a vocational education in the afternoon for students who, because of their handicap, might not find a job or regular vocational training. That sounds good, and we will make a big effort to put this plan into action.
It is a real adventure to go back by threewheel with four adults and the driver. We can do that for a while within the city centre, but not on the way from Matara to our Hotel in Mirissa. It is too dangerous and not allowed by the police. So, one of us goes by bus and joins the others after a while at the hotel where a refreshing drink is waiting for the late-comer.

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

I’m not sure if I succeed remembering everything that happened today. (Meanwhile it is 11.30 pm, which means 7 pm in Germany. It might be about 2 am before I have finished this report in German and English. We will see what I can do before falling asleep.)
In front of the Buddha statue at Rahula junction, I meet Miss Ganga, the young waitress I met last year at the hotel. She spoke some German and enjoyed talking to me when serving at my table. She wished so much to have a German-English dictionary and I promised to bring one to Sri Lanka. She came with her sister to meet me and she could hardly believe that I had not forgotten her and her request. I could feel profound sympathy and gratitude.
When visiting the lesson at preschool, we could see the young students threadin glittle plastic pearls, which seemed to be quite difficult for the little hands. These pearls were plastic straws cut to tiny pieces – good idea – and a lot of patience and skill was needed to perform this task.
Mr. Wasantha and the High Priest lead us to a neglected place behind the preschool which really looks bad and dirty. If this area was cleaned and leveled it would be an ideal spot to place the swing, zee-saw and other gymnastic apparatus for children. At the moment these things are placed in front of the classroom, which is not really appropriate. The president and vice-president of Neuwied-Matara friendship association will think about the idea, and they are sure that our protectress, Princess Sophie, will agree. We will ask for a quotation before making a decision definite.
German lessons will be conducted by Marie and Jana today, because Pinger Madam has the money that is needed for all the shopping that is to be done today. President Bernd is part of the “shopping team” and takes care that the money is spent reasonably. Some furniture, two doormats, a small whiteboard and pens, a clock, some balls,…these are only some of the objects needed at preschool. In a small workshop we order five tables that will be produced according to preschool teacher’s idea and can be delivered next week.
After a very short break at lunchtime, I go to Ahangama visiting my old friend Kamala, her daughter and granddaughter. She makes a delicious ginger tea and invites me to have a snack consisting of bananas and tasty biscuits. On the way back, there is heavy rain and I have to wade across the path to the hotel.
We have invited our bank manager for dinner, and it is a good occasion to talk and discuss about some items with regard to new scholarship accounts, about charges which we ask the bank to reduce, because we are a non-profit association and only want to support needy families and school education. She promised to bring up our request in the next board meeting and try hard. It’s about 100 Euro we might save.
That will do for today. I’m so tired and really a bit exhausted. “Suba ratriak” – that is the way to wish a good night in Singhalese language.

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Today, it’s butterflies that must be painted at PSPS. The paper is pink, and now, wings and head and body will be given wonderful other colours. There is concentrated and disciplined work, clear assignments and real joy to cope with them.
It would be useful to meet this clearness of tasks in other issues as well, but with adults that can sometimes be more difficult. Curtains must be bought for the library to protect books from rain, wind, sun and dust. Three women and one men in a clothes shop, this means a real challenge for our president. But he is quite good at getting along with the ladies’ ideas, and in the end his only duty is to open his purse and pay.
We have a look at the science room where a chemistry lesson is going on. Only a few students take part, and I’m given the information that some students did not come today of the bad weather, heavy rain and miserable road conditions, which makes it difficult or impossible for some vehicles to move on such roads. Today it is rather dry, and we hope for better and dryer weather tomorrow.
Really exhausted from going shopping, we are invited by the Venerable High Priest to have some curd and palm honey, which is a refreshing delight.
That must do for today, and I’m going to sleep, because tomorrow morning we will have to get up early and go to Mirissa port, where we are taken by a boat to go whale-watching. I’m not sure if the whales know that we are going to come near their areas and want to watch them. It would be a great pleasure if they showed up. The photographs being taken at these moments will go round the world, for sure!

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

After the heavy rain the night before yesterday and the cloudy day after, we hoped for better weather on Saturday, when we wanted to go whale-watching early in the morning. It is meant to be a real holiday for us without school work and projects. This might be a pleasant reward for everything we have already done so far and are going to do in the following days. We got up at 6.20 am, and at 7 am we were on board of a whale-watching boat and took off. Some of our friends are in contact with a crew member, and so we were kindly invited to join them on this tour for a much lower price than tourists must pay normally. Of course, there was no promise or guarantee of seeing whales or other marine creatures, but there was a ray of hope, and our hopes were not deceived.
The experienced crew could recognize far-away movements indicating a whale, or they turned out to be experts of discovering sea turtles, for example. But first, breakfast was served, a cup of tea, a sandwich and a piece of chocolate cake. Certainly, a special and friendly treat, but – with regard to the heavy sea – I was not sure if it was a clever thing to do to serve a meal to people whose stomachs might not have been used to large swell. But I only saw one young boy getting sick and “feeding fish”. Suddenly, our attention was attracted to big huge turtles making love on top of each another without feeling ashamed with regard to all those spectators. But we were told that this was a normal thing to do for turtles at this time of the year. How could they know that just at this moment, a boat of onlookers comes so close?
Suddenly we heard the load scream in Singhalese language „WALES AHEAD OF US!“ , and although Russian, Chinese and very few German people were not able to understand the words, it became clear that something interesting could be seen on the right side, and most of the passengers ran towards that side, which turned out to become a dangerous situation on board. The captain quickly asked all of us to restore the balance and navigated the boat in circles around the spot of interest. So, all of the whale-watchers and all photographers had the chance of taking amazing pictures. Our friend Inge Martin, whose pictures I have often used in my reports, did her best to shoot marvelous pictures, and she really did. Thanks a lot!

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

This morning the journey to Matara by bus turned out to be a tiring adventure. The red government buses do not stop everywhere and first, I felt lucky that they did and let me in. The reason was not because there were so few passengers; on the contrary, the bus was packed full. I felt squeezed and unable to breathe or move. No privacy, no physical distance. Fortunately all doors and windows were wide open, which helped to stand the heat. First in my life I received a ticket in that bus indicating exactly the places you got in and wanted to get out. Anyway, the young conductor kept the track over the situation. I don’t know how he did it, but he did.
Arrival at Nupe junction. The difficulty was to get off this bus. Two men had to get off first before I could, but they had to get on that bus again, which was not easy. I felt so happy when breathing the air outside that bus and feeling free again somehow.
It was good to visit my sponsor child Ridmi, and her grandparents were realla happy to meet me and to give me their thanks for my support given to their granddaughter. It is a big relief to them. Unfortunately I forgot to take any photographs, but all the pictures are in my heart.
I meet my friends Inge and Herta at Mr. Ruwan’s place, and they are waiting for me and for Rahula and Sujatha – scholarship boys’ and girls’ arrival. Three girls and two boys are there after a while, and we start talking about their development at school, about their A-levels that will start in August. Conversation is a bit difficult because they don’t speak much and are not used to communicating in a foreign language. With Mr. Ruwan’s help we manage to get some answers. They tell me about their preparations for exams and that they will be informed about results in January 2018.
Their future plans are still the same as some years ago: doctor, engineer,……. They will have to work hard to reach the best results, which enables them to go to well-known, good universities and to study the subjects that they favour. Now, they are given some little gifts, and two of them have written already a letter to their German godparents, and I will hand it over to them when I’m back in Germany next week. Two of the girls are writing emails to their sponsors, which is even faster. We wish them good luck, and they show gratitude and respect in their special traditional way.
Mr. Ruwan’s wife has prepared lunch for the three of us. I will never get used to the Singhalese way of serving their guests, not having the meal in community with them. They just stand by and watch and make sure that the guests eat enough and finish their meal with satisfaction. For dessert, there is curd, a buffalo yoghurt with sweet palm honey. Our hosts want us to east more, but we are full and thankful for this delicious meal.
Next item: Visit at Ruwanthika’s place. She is Mrs. Inge’s scholarship girl and she wants to become a good tailor. On two days of the week she is going to school and doing a kind of apprenticeship in sewing. Living at her uncle’s place – because there is not enough room at her mother’s place – she feels good and can live in her own room.
At the age of 23, she must try to make her living ,and she is quite ambitious to become really good at school and have good results after one year of training. An own sewing-machine would be a great help, but that’s just a dream. Her godmother Inge understands that it might be a good idea to have an own sewing machine at home and practicing as much as possible. So, the dream becomes true, and Ruwanthika is taken to the “Singer”-shop in Matara, and after some minutes she has become the owner of a sewing machine that will help her to build a secure future, that is what we all hope from the bottom of our heart. It will not be easy – but it is a good start. Thanks a lot, Inge Madam!

Monday, January 30th, 2017

 Today, it is the last chance of talking about new projects and discussing them with our Srilankan coordinator Mr. Ruwan and the constructor Mr. Silva. He handed over the quotation for the construction of the new small playground that we talked about last Thursday. One advantage is that the untidy, shabby and run-down space behind the preschool can be tidied up, restored, leveled and used in a better way for the youngest students. May be, it is a typically German trait or nature to have nice, clean places. But why not use these qualities to have another proper and neat area on these school premises. Of course, it means quite a lot of money that must be spent on this project, but we think, it is worth being done, and perhaps we will receive some generous donations when we explain the necessity.

For a long time, Anura school office has been asking for a photo copy machine, and now this dream can come true. Usually, children’s needs have priority, but the students can benefit when good work sheets and other teaching material for more practice and exercises can be acquired with the help of this device. Our friend Mr. Ruwan takes us in his van to the shop, and with his help we try to explain that we want to support Anura College and the students and make a donation. Indeed, a good discount can be bargained, and an operator will come to the school tomorrow morning and instruct the staff. Mrs.Kanthi, school deputy, seems to be very pleased and proud because of the upgrading in the principal’s office.

In the evening, the three of us prepare the parents’ and scholarship-students’ meeting that is to take place tomorrow morning. There are all those little presents, parcels and letters for the children, some extra money for some of them from their godparents. There are lots of little bits and pieces, give-aways like pens, writing-paper, rubbers, colour-pens and sweets for each of them and sisters or brothers. Five big bags are packed. Good work!

Tuesday, January 31st , 2017

Our TR (Taxi – Ruwan) is in time and takes us to Matara. With all those bags, it would have been impossible or a suicidal mission to go by bus. Shortly before 10, mothers, some fathers and the students ( – who have been at school since 7.45 am – ) come to the language room and seem to be quite excited about what is going to happen. All together, there are 32 scholarship students now who receive monthly support. Six of them are not Anura students, two of them are “old girls”, but all the others go to Anura Primary or Anura College. Most of them are present, three are absent, but two of them are represented by their mothers.

Mr. Wasantha welcomes all of them and translates my English words into Singhalese. My friend Mrs. Herta helps to find the right presents for the corresponding children and her sister, Mrs. Inge Martin takes a lot of pictures that can be seen here. Shining eyes and happy faces predominate this meeting. I try to explain our association’s philosophy, saying that the focus must be on the children’s education and development. That is what Mr. Wasantha and Mrs. Tekla also explain in their speeches later. We can feel children’s and parents’ gratitude and satisfaction, and it is a very touching moment for us when they kneel down to show their thankfulness and respect. We really want them to understand that our German sponsors want these children to face a good future and make use of the chances offered by their support.

Finally, three of the scholarship students make a short speech in English and express their gratitude, which is a really touching gesture.

After the meeting, some more mothers have come to ask for their children’s acceptance in our scholarship-programme. We must refuse, because we must find new godparents, first. With more than 30 scholarship children who we have accepted so far, administration and management becomes more and more difficult. In each case we want to watch efficiency, progress, correspondence, authorization,…etc., which is not easy and becomes more and more demanding the more scholarships we have to administrate. We will try hard to grant more.

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

We have planned nine visits to scholarship-students’ families that we have not visited before. And some more of those that we have visited before, kindly invite us to come again in order to show their thankfulness by inviting us to a cup of tea or some fruit. We cannot promise, because we do not know how much time we will need and how far we will have to go. Mr. Wasantha picks us up, and he has made a plan and suggests visiting the most remote places first and then, coming back closer to Matara.

First visit: approximately 35 km to go. We arrive at the bus stop where Dinithi has to get on the bus in the morning. But her place is still far away from this bus stop. Her father is waiting for us and tells us that we cannot go on by car. So, we leave the car on the road and follow him on a rocky narrow path, downhill, uphill, under hot sun, passing by tea plantations, banana plants,…..and finally reach the house. Dinithi’s younger sister and mother welcome us in a friendly way. Of course, they want to offer some refreshment to these tired and sweating guests. What about some coconut juice? Like a squirrel the father climbs up a huge palm tree with a big knife and cuts some coconuts. Some minutes later we are offered these coconuts in a strange but appropriate way. We enjoy the taste and refreshing effect, not using any glass or straw. Life is not easy in such a remote area, but basic requirements can be satisfied. Dinithi has to get up very early and make her long way to the busstop, and come back in the afternoon, which takes again a lot of time. Our scholarship cannot prevent the long and tiring way to school and back home, but she can attend more tuition lessons now and improve chances to attain better results.

On our way back to the car, Dinithi’s mother comes with us to give us company – and must go back again this long way. We hardly can imagine that the two girls have to go this way every morning in the darkness, and again in the afternoon under hot sun in most cases. We are lucky to have an umbrella!

This first visit seems to be a wellness-trip compared to the second one that we are facing now. We still are about 40 km away from Matara, and we try to find the second address on Mr. Wasantha’s notepad. We arrive at a bus stop where Sandunika starts her trip to school every morning, together with her older sister. We can go on some way in the car, but the three of us have to get off several times to prevent the car from touching the ground. And then, the end of the line! We all have to leave the car and walk on. We are lucky to meet a man who knows the place we are looking for and offers his company. But first he brings two more umbrellas that we can use to have some protection under heavy sun. We have to walk uphill for a while, and it becomes more and more tiring under these temperatures. We are sweating and gasping on that twisting path and finally reach the place in question. Sandunika’s mother is waiting in front of the house, a place that does not really deserve the name “house”, a shed-like dwelling, two dark rooms, an open fire place on the ground, one bed (for two parents and two children), a branch of a tree as a clothes rail, no table, no cupboard,…..but three plastic chairs that we are offered to take a seat. Next to that shed, there are some walls under construction, maybe, started some years ago, and no chance or perspective of being finished one day. There is speechlessness and horror, lack of comprehension with regard to such living conditions for two parents and their two girls, 12 and 16 years old. We are told that the two girls have to leave the house in the morning at about 4 am, using a torch to find their way down the twisted path to reach the bus stop and going to Matara by bus. 3 ½ hours in the morning and 3 ½ hours back in the afternoon. I remember the sad face of a girl that I saw yesterday at the scholarship-students’ meeting, a shy and speechless being, difficult to understand or find an explanation. Hopelessness in the mother’s face seems to be evident, and we are not sure what to do to give some hope. We look at each other and know that something must be done. We will discuss about this case in our board. The little help we can give now is a drop in the ocean.

Our friendly guide leads us back down the hill and invites us to his place to have some refreshment. One of his neighbours has come, too, to welcome us and offers a tasty ripe jack fruit and shows us how to eat it. Last night we had jack fruit as vegetable in the hotel, but this sticky sweet fruit is very tasty. And our sticky hands can be cleaned by means of palm oil. Pure nature! And really cheap skin care!

Those two visits and this last invitation took much longer than expected. We only can do one last visit at Dilmi’s house. It seems to be a functional and modest little house, but in comparison with the previous place it is nearly luxurious. Dilmi used part of her monthly supports ( – she has been in our programme since last September – ) to buy a writing table, and she proudly shows us this table and the bill. She is already quite good at English, no wonder that this language is her favourite subject at school. The scholarship enables her to attend more tuition lessons, which increases her chances. That is exactly what we want to achieve and thus, make a better future more probable. There is still the previous visit in our minds. We are lucky to spot a beautiful peacock on our way back, although it can’t make the situation better.

Evening falls and we are so sad to disappoint all those families and children we could not visit today. Mr. Wasantha will have to explain what happened and promise that they will be the first on our list on the occasion of our next visit. This last evening is not as joyful as we have expected it to be. We must pack our suitcases, and, at dinner time, there are lots of things to discuss, looking back in sadness and satisfaction at the same time, and looking forward to continuing our work.

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

We are back to Germany. During the last three days in Sri Lanka, we were so busy that I wasn’t able to continue my reports and post photographs. I’m going to do that in a big continuous text and corresponding pictures on our Friendship-Association’s website, soon. Our friends will certainly understand this procedure, and I will tell you when this is going to happen. On the whole, it was a busy, eventful and really good time, in the course of which we could do and effectuate a lot; there are five new scholarship children who received their first monthly support last Thursday and will be supported continuously in the future. Some more are waitlisted and would be happy to find a sponsor soon. Thank’s a lot for your concern and interest here on Facebook. It’s a good feeling to know that our activities and support for the neediest in the area of Matara are appreciated. We definitely know that we cannot save the whole world, but for us, it is a duty to help and save in a way we can do it. It is not forbidden to join and support us in different ways!!!