Two weeks of intensive work in Matara, Sri Lanka – Diary

Dear friends,

Although promised in the previous article, it was not possible for our vice president, Edeltrud Pinger, to report regularly during the past two weeks because of her numerous daily activities and her arduous daily schedules. On the social platform ‘Facebook’ this can be done more easily, and texts and pictures can be posted quickly. That is the reason why all those entries have been collected and will be published here and now. A lot of photographs have been inserted meanwhile in the German text to illustrate most of the exciting and interesting events. Please, enjoy reading and looking at the pictures in the German version.


September 1st, 2016

Arrival in time at 4.40 a.m. I can fetch my suitcase, change Euro to Rupees and get into a small van whose driver has to stop at two other hotels before he drops me at Mirissa. The new Highway really saves a lot of time, and I can even get a breakfast when we arrive at the hotel. The waiters recognize Mrs. Pinger and remember that she likes a fresh mixed fruit juice with fried eggs on toast and grilled tomato. Good start, isn’t it?
The suitcase can get unpacked, and it is really surprising where all these things were hidden that can now be found in cupboards, drawers, wardrobes. Besides 30 kg in my suitcase, there were 13 kg in my hand luggage. They didn’t mind at the airport, but I was aware of this fact because I had to carry them. No sleep last night, which means that I’m rather tired now. Will probably have a snooze and be back again here tomorrow!

September 2nd, 2016

First job-completion and transactions, pleasant surprises and nearly-catastrophes take off: Visit at friends’, plans and appointments for the coming weekend, nearly losing a purse, having friends for dinner at the hotel and a threatening total final break-down of my computer with no hope for repair,…these are the events of the second day – but as you can read this report, the last item becomes doubtable.
Starting with some bank business in Koggala. Going by bus meant physical and mental strength, outgoing character and absolute fearlessness. Fortunately I was offered a ride by threewheel by a young man who turned out to be one of my hotel’s receptionists. He was on his way from Galle hospital with his parents; he recognized me at the bus stop and invited me to join them on the way to my next stop in Ahangama, where I was about meeting my old friend Kamela who took me to her modest house in the back-up area of Ahangama. She is one of the first people I met on my very first journey to Sri Lanka after the Tsunami, in 2005. She used to roam the beach in Koggala area to sell batik dresses, skirts and shawls to tourists. A lot of women did so, but she impressed me by her decent, friendly and amiable character and way of making contact with people, which has always been and still is a tiring job. Year after year I met her on the beach; she invited me for tea in her modest little house where she used to live with her daughter. We started exchanging some letters and postcards and she was extremely thankful for the little support I could give to her. We always meet when I’m in Sri Lanka. At her age, she is still doing her job which has become much more difficult and demanding. Tourists try more and more to bargain excessively, which minimizes her income. The biggest ray of hope is her 8-months-old little granddaughter, enriching her hard life. Again, she invites me for tea which I always remember to have a special nice ginger flavour. I’m served biscuits, cake and bananas, but there is some disappointment because I cannot finish off everything she is serving.
Back to Mirissa by bus, I feel wedged in the crowded bus, and my Germanic frame is not a big help in comparison to the smaller, slimmer Singhalese passengers. Suddenly my feet touch a strange soft object, but it’s difficult to find out what it is because of the narrowness around me. When my neighbour gets off the bus, I can change seat and look down: There is my purse that has somehow fallen out of my bag!!!
Our association member Elke, being on a half-round-the-world-trip, had started her trip in Sri Lanka in June, had taken the new signboard to PSPS (Princess Sophie-Pre-School – see website ) and now came back again here to the “shining country” after visiting Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and before continuing her journey to Ethiopia to end up in New Zealand . I invited her for dinner to my hotel and handed over some sun lotion which she had asked me to bring from Germany in return to some objects that I will take back there, because she doesn’t need them anymore. Mr. Wasantha, Anura English teacher, joined us and we could discuss some items with regard to my visit at school on Monday. When my visitors had left, I wanted to report all those „events“ on Facebook. Bad luck! Break-down of my computer, no signal, no connection, although there were recharged batteries, electricity in my room and no power cut in the system. What to do? Ask my “expert-husband” for advice via what’s-app: switch off computer, remove batteries, wait 15 minutes, try again with connection to the supply system only. If that doesn’t work – no chance! Tough luck! This might have saved you further trouble reading all my reports…., if I hadn’t finally noticed that the room service had changed the cable of my computer to the cable of the bedside lamp!!!! This means that you have to continue “bearing” my reports or switch off – which I hope you won’t do 🙂

September 3rd , 2016

This Saturday was meant to be a quiet and relaxing one. I started writing the English translation for my text of last night that I was not able to finish because I was too tired. For lunch, I had two small bananas and some passion fruit which are so expensive in Germany but can be enjoyed here and are always available…and extremely delicious.
At 10 a.m. I met a German teacher lady who wants to teach swimming to Singhalese students. It’s really strange that the complete island of Sri Lanka is surrounded by water ( – which seems to be quite normal for an island – ) but only few people can swim. There is a swimming pool at Rahula College, but I’m not sure if the school administration is ready to provide it for swimming lessons, particularly when it might not be used to train their best swimmers for competitions, but to teach students from other schools who don’t own such a pool. There will be some discussions about readiness to do so, about convincing schools and families of the necessity and finally about money. Is it worth the attempt? We will see on Tuesday.
By the way – why should I not use the pool that is in front of my hotel room and have some physical exercise? Good thing to do and I go for a swim. The water could be a bit cooler, but never mind; it’s a good feeling to make my body work for one hour. Later, my mobile phone shows some unanswered calls, and I find out that Sunny and Mirani tried to invite me to a silver wedding party tonight. – Why not?
But first, I have to meet our coordinator Mr. Ruwan and his daughter who come to see me at the hotel reception. We talk about several items, about things to do at school, about repair work, about organizing meetings of scholarship students from Rahula and Sujatha College at his house, about a project we want to initiate at Rohana Special School, etc.
That will do now, and the next challenge is approaching. Sunny picks me up in his car and drives me to Matara where the silver-celebration is to take place. We are the first guests in a big hall and meet the couple and their son. Tables are laid for about 150 guests, and they all arrive in a short time. First attractions: lightening of some fireworks on that big wedding cake, sprinkling the couple with some strange white foaming material, singing and clapping their hands, and finally cutting the cake to offer a small piece of it to each of the guests. There are presents given to the couple celebrating their jubilee, hugs and good wishes. Some drinks and starters are offered and finally, the buffet is open to the guests.

There is rice, vegetables, meat and fish and much more. Looks and tastes really delicious. I might have used a fork, but it is not the first time for me to use my fingers as it is usual in this country, and I like it. I feel good at the big table together with people I have not met before. They are all very friendly, smile at me or talk to me and don’t give me the feeling of being a stranger. After the meal, some men start dancing, and Sunny invites me to dance with him, which seems to be quite unusual, because I’m the only woman on that dance floor. But it was his idea and he should know. At least, the guests, men and women, give me an approving smile and I hope I didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings.
I’m taken back to the hotel by a friendly guest who has to take the same way back and passes Mirissa. It was a long but really good day. Off to bed now!

September 4th, 2016

This day turned out to be an ideal sunny Sunday until the usual heavy rain started at about 6 p.m. The colours of the sky changed from azure-blue to mouse-grey; the blinds between reception and the pool area were lowered, guests left their sun chairs and the pool boys collected all the mats in a hurry.
But that does not mean that the people leave the swimming pool. Temperature is still fine and, anyway, you are wet. But evening falls, and the darkness tells them that the evening buffet will be opened soon, which makes them go to their rooms to have a shower and get dressed for dinner.
This Sunday offered the best opportunity for visiting a friend in Galle, because tomorrow, lessons will start at school and thousands of little duties must be carried out. The ride by bus was again a real challenge, particularly for local people who don’t like when European backpackers use a second seat for their huge rucksacks. They hold the opinion that no rucksack has the right to sit and must be kept on your knees whatever the space might be between your breast and the seat in front of you. Then, it becomes really funny when the person sitting on a window seat wants to get off the bus and has to pass rucksack and owner to reach the exit, particularly when the corridor is crowded, too. Long discussions don’t make sense, when you want to get off the bus and your neighbour does not speak your language. I think that Germans are less patient in such a situation and will become extremely angry. Singhalese people move and push, show clearly what they want and somehow find their way out of this embarrassing situation without speaking.
In Galle, I manage to find my friend Ms. Rukmani in the crowd in front of the busy bus station. She is one of the early and first contacts we made in Koggala, because we needed an experienced bank clerk to help us with money transfers, paying bills and having a look at our bank account when all those building activities at Matara schools took place. I remember that our manager, Mr. Sagara Abegunewardene, was very grateful for Rukmani’s help at BOC bank and appreciated her very much because he could rely on her. I meet her every time when I’m in Sri Lanka. She picked me up at the station, accompanied by a young friendly couple, and all the four of us went to a nice seafood restaurant to have lunch. A wonderful place to sit and enjoy the meal, the beach, the sunny weather, wonderful scenery, roaring waves and good company.
Later, Rukmani’s friends offered me a ride in their car back to Mirissa, which I didn’t refuse and happily accepted. Who knows how many backpackers might have crowded this bus? But now, it is enough of doing nothing and of dissolute life-style! – Tomorrow morning, 7.30 a.m., I will be off to Matara, working at Anura College, and there won’t be any time left for being lazy.

September 5th, 2016

Early start without breakfast that will later be served at the college. Crowded bus, but I’m getting used to it. Meeting teachers and students at Anura College who welcome me in a friendly way. I meet Mrs. Tekla and the English teacher, Mr. Wasantha, who is dispensed from his duties to help me with translations and who will accompany me this morning.
Today the pre school-students start the third term after their holidays, and they attend a little ceremony of worshipping Lord Buddha. One of the little boys seems to suffer because of being separated from his mother and the sobbing only stops after being given a small duty to fulfill and after a short meditation. (Bad luck that I did’t have my camera prepared.)
Mr. Silva, our constructor arrives in time to discuss what must be done at pre school during the next days. There is still some water coming in from the middle of the roof, and on one side there should be installed some shields to be rolled up and down in case of rain. I ask him to give me a quotation for these works and some others outside the building, and he promises to do so this week and start work on Saturday that is meant to be finished before I leave on 16th. Let’s hope for the best.
In the home science room, Mrs. Tekla shows me the huge album of more than 300 photographs taken on the occasion of the sad funeral of the late Venerable High Priest of Manthinda Temple School and Southern Province. Hundreds of people can be seen in those pictures honoring the passed High priest on his deathbed, even Sri Lanka’s former president, Mr. Rajapaksha. Anura and Manthinda teachers and students seem to be very sad and miss their former leader.
But life must go on, and so I would like to meet his successor, the new Venerable High priest of Manthinda Temple School. He invites me to his office at 11 a.m. and I get the opportunity to meet and to talk to him. I understand that he gives priority to the students’ school education, and that ceremonies, functions and other extracurricular activities should be less important and give way to lessons and learning. He will certainly need a good feeling of diplomacy to convince the school community to understand and accept these new policies, but I can agree with him and wish good luck. With regard to the projects and work of our association, he showed clear appreciation and will be happy when we go on doing what we have done so far.
Back in the home science room, two mothers with their daughters are waiting who want to be accepted in our scholarship programme. When examining the background of the families, I can agree that they really deserve being supported (in the same way as 1000 others). They are lucky that we have found again two sponsors who are ready to help these girls from grade 5 and grade 8. Mr. Wasantha helps to translate the essentials of our philosophy to make clear that it can be a big chance.
On my way home it was an adventure to get on the right bus. Even the third attempt was not successful, and I had to get off because the conductor told me that the bus was not going to Mirissa but had to turn into another road. He showed me the way to the next bus stop where I could finally catch the bus to reach my aim. The fact that I did only have to pay 20 rupees instead of 35, saved my day!!!

September 6th, 2016

Today, German lessons start at 10 a.m. I’m accompanied by Mrs. Annett who is planning the swimming project (see report of September 3rd). Let us hope that school administration, sports teachers and parents agree. I think that there is no problem of convincing students to participate when they are given this chance. I want to show her around and talk about our association’s buildings and how they are made use of for the students’ benefit.

The science classroom , mainly used for chemistry lessons, well equipped and opened in 2012, is still closed. But we can have a look through the window. What is that? I’m completely shocked! More furniture, boxes, dusted equipment on top of the original furniture,….make a disastrous mess. It is impossible ( – I’m not sure since when and until what point of time – ) to teach science lessons here. I’m extremely furious and must pull myself up not to insult or scold an innocent person. I’m told that the science building at Manthinda Temple School had been getting renovated during the holidays of last month, but the works could not have been finished completely, which means that all this equipment must remain (for how long?) somewhere. In my opinion, it is a bad decision to store all those things here, because it means no illustrative science lessons at all. That was our intention when we constructed this building. Finally I was told that everything wil be done to find a quick solution!
Whatever this might mean. There are 32 young people in the music and dance room, because the language medium room is being used for something else! There are some advanced students, some who came in January for the first time and absolute newcomers. Not easy to cope with. We start counting up to 32, and as there is a big mirror in that dancing room, we can double that number. They all can tell their age and count up to 64, I can tell mine as well.
Now we need some change and sing a German song. There is not only singing but also moving, because the words in that text can be demonstrated by gestures. It’s great fun, and I’m sure that they will keep the words in mind because of the funny movements and gestures. That’s the end of the first unit. Little break to have a cup of tea. Passing the said science room, I can see that the door is open now and that some students, being given orders by teachers, get the objects out of this room and take them to another place (?). I’m told that cleaning will be done immediately after having removed all those objects. Tomorrow, perhaps, normal illustrative chemistry lessons can take place. Wow! Big surprise – or even a miracle!?
The second group of German language-learners is a group of advanced learners, all of them, and they remember quite well how to work with numbers. We go on talking about birthdays of our own and of family members, which involves learning again the names of months. They also remember how to say “good bye” in a formal and informal way. “Auf Wiedersehen” and “Tschüss!” If only I knew half as much of all this in Singhalese!

September 7th, 2016

Today, there was only one task to fulfill: visiting scholarship students’ families. For my driver, Mr. Wasantha and his small car, for the shock absorbers and underside, it was a real challenge to reach some remote areas on bumpy, non-asphalted trails. Reducing speed helped a lot to finally arrive at those places.
In very few cases the living conditions inside the houses or huts were even worse. Most of these families live in modest conditions, and try to cope with living a simple life. There were warm welcomes, and after the fifth visit and the fifth cup of tea or glass of king coconut juice, we kindly had to refuse and do without. It was a shocking fact to find out that this small gesture of hospitality could be an excessive demand caused by lack of nearly everything.
The main reason for these visits is to demonstrate interest and concernment. We want to understand why children have been suggested for our scholarship programme, how they make use of the donors’ support and if improvement and better development of the children’s school career can be ascertained. Without the English teacher’s help in translating it would be impossible to find out about these items. We can see that most or part of this scholarship money is used to pay tuition classes and give the children a better chance of prospering in their education. To make this support last, it is decisive to correspond with the German sponsors and make them aware – by regular letters and reports – that their monthly donation means meeting success. Younger students can even write in Singhalese language, because our manager, Mr. Sagara Abegunewardene, and our board member, Mrs. Vindya, both living in Germany for a long time, can help to translate – so, no reason of neglecting correspondence.
The neediest cases demand some immediate aid, and we will buy some mattresses, chairs, racks and a small table to offer a minimum of dignity in human life. We certainly cannot save the whole world, but we can make an attempt, in some cases at least, to improve it a little bit. Big thanks to our donors who enable the friendship association to put this intention into practice.

September 8th, 2016

Today, there are about 40 students in my German lesson, which means applying appropriate methods. The biggest problem is that students here are not used to speak up, when answering questions. Some are shy, but most of them have just never experienced using their voice and giving individual answers, communicating with fellow students or teacher within the lesson. They just listen to the teacher (in most cases). And when they are not used to speaking in their mother tongue, how much more difficult and unusual it is to speak in a foreign language. We do some practice of voice formation and I make them shout their answers as loudly as they can. The result is no roaring of a lion but some chirps of a mouse. The noise outside ,produced by all kinds of vehicles and by car horns is not helpful either. Good idea to sing a German song, easy words, easy tune and big fun.
Next event: visiting Rohana Special School. It is amazing to see how exemplarily this school for handicapped children is run. Well behaved, well educated, the handicapped children are guided by the principal and teachers to make best use of their limited capacities, which is not a question of money but of guidance and responsibility. Today, they are doing a project, learning about social skills, which is vital for them. This way of running a school and offering the children as much chances as possible, developing their talents…..cannot be appreciated enough. They are really doing a good job there, and our association will continue supporting them.
Now, we start our shopping tour. Mr. Ruwan’s nice Italian van gives us a good service, but unfortunately it is too small for two big mattresses, two racks, chairs and a table. The company will deliver some of these things. Table, chairs and six whiteboards must find their way to school or to the family in need next week with the help of another vehicle. When visiting the bank, I can deposit more money to our bank account and get changed some Euros into rupees for me. Additionally, all the money must be changed that German sponsors gave to me individually to give their scholarship child some extra support. It will be handed over to them next Wednesday when we are having our meeting.
Ruwan and I, we are played out after this tiring afternoon, and I’m very thankful to him for giving me a lift to the hotel. There is not much time left to relax, because one hour later Mr. Wasantha picks me up again and invites me to accompany him to his English evening class with four gentlemen who have decided learning English and use this language in their job as chief executives or top managers. Mr. Wasantha introduces me, and the gentlemen want me to tell them about my professional career, about education, economy and industry in Germany. My English pronunciation is a bit different from their teacher’s, but I speak slowly and try to give them an impression of developments and realities in Germany. They told me that Hitler enjoys popularity in Sri Lanka, but I have to tell them that popularity should not mean appreciation in that case. I’m not sure if they were aware of details!!! They know the brands Mercedes and BMW and ask lots of questions with regard to school life, food,…etc. and time flies. It was a really nice meeting, and before saying fare-well, we take some photographs to keep this special history lesson in good memory.
After taking me back to the hotel, I thank Mr. Ruwan for his precious help. After dinner there is the only longing: going to bed. Half of my time here is over now. I can’t understand how fast time went by. Perhaps I should read all those reports that I posted in facebook. But not now! It’s enough! – Good night.

September 9th, 2016

Last lessons for this week in two clearly separated groups of beginners and advanced students. We really did good and reasonable work and finished with a song, which seemed to be an appropriate closure of the week.
Why not have a short chat with the deputy Principal, Mrs. Kanthi? In spite of her lack of English language and my absolutely poor Singhalese language, we managed to make ourselves understood. In the staff room I was happy to meet the biology teacher Mr. Samman whose help we can rely on, and the dancing teacher, Mrs. Lakshmi who had invited me to her wedding when she got married to the dancing teacher, Mr. Nalin, last January. Now, the couple is impatiently waiting for the arrival of “their third dancer” in two months time. Best wishes!
Another visit at Anura Pre school: Because of the support given by our protectress, Princess of Neuwied, we can buy some more equipment. The teachers wanted to have a carpet, which I did not regard as “down-to-earth”, so we finally could agree on a nice carpet made of synthetic material that can be cleaned easily. Good solution.
There is the meeting of 3 Sujatha and 3 Rahula scholarship girls and boys to take place at Mr. Ruwan’s house at 2 p.m. Most of them have been supported by their German sponsors for more than six years now. Although they have been learning English for about five years or more, their capability of speaking and responding in a conversation is rather poor. Most of them have their focus on science or other different subjects but not on English conversation. We somehow manage to speak a little bit (or better, it’s me who is speaking!). They are given presents and an extra small amount of money from our association which they (all!) want to spend on tuition lessons. I kindly ask them to write a letter to their sponsor parents that I will take back to Germany next week. I even hand over an envelope to each of them, so there is no excuse of not satisfying my kind request!
Late lunch at 4 pm at Mrs. Tekla’s place for Mrs. Annett (swimming expert) and for me. My friend has never worn a Sari before, so Mrs. Tekla’s daughter helps her to do it. It is always a pleasure to see how fast and accurately this can be done by Singhalese women.
Finally a visit at a child’s 8th birthday, one of Mrs. Tekla’s friends’ sons. We are really tired after that long day and must refuse staying long. But Tekla is fond of introducing us to their friends’ family and so we accept. It’s going to be a nice party for the young boy, and we wish him good luck and a happy birthday. I realize how different living conditions can be all over the world and in Sri Lanka, when comparing this event and the surrounding to the situations we met when visiting some of our scholarship children last Wednesday.

September 10th, 2016

Weekend!!! At last!!! However, I have to think about what still has to be done next week. On Monday there is a school holiday (but shops and banks are open, which means that I can so some more shopping with Mr. Ruwan, and go to the bank).
Saturday is a day for outings. A teacher and his family have invited me to visit the new zoo near Hambantota , that was opened in March 2016 by the President Sirisena. It is not yet completely finished, but will certainly become an interesting project. The most important thing is being applied already: Singhalese people pay 300 Rs, but I have to pay 2,500 Rs., more than eight times the price and more expensive than the fee that you have to pay for the zoo in my hometown Neuwied. Perhaps, this is deterrent and scaring for tourists, because I seem to be the only one – although I can’t consider myself as a tourist. Never mind. I can see lions, elephants, monkeys, water buffaloes, zebras, different kind of antelopes or gazelles, wild boars and donkeys….You are taken in a bus through this zoological area, which turns out to be a good idea in view of the lions and elephants.
The next stop is a hot spring which people like to visit because of its healing power. Nearly all the visitors have brought little containers or bowls to dash their bodies with that water. There are several basins. The one in the middle probably borders the original fountain and you can watch real sparkling and rising bubbles. .
Nearby is a very nice and pleasing playground, which I have not yet discovered in that way here in Sri Lanka. Next to it, a vivarium can be visited with lots of rabbits, huge guinea pigs (may be, it was something else), all kinds of fowl and fish tanks. Not to forget a real market offering vegetables, fruit and more. Most interesting for children are the stands with some ugly funfair objects in striking colours that attract their attention. We enjoy having our breakfast and lunch in the open. The children are happy, mother has a lot of work to satisfy them all, and father does the tiring job of driving the small car with six people in it, entertaining the German guest, showing and explaining everything that can be found on the way.
I’m more than grateful for this day that showed me Singhalese life in a family, offered Singhalese meals and other impressions of flora and wild life. “Sudu auntie” = white auntie was part of this family and was given the opportunity to join in everything they did. That really was something extraordinary and I enjoyed it a lot. Bohome istuti = thank you for this wonderful tour.

September 12th, 2016

This week starts with a day off and extends the weekend because of a Muslim holiday. There are quite a lot of Muslim people around here, and that means a school holiday, although shops and banks are open. My friendly companion, Mr. Ruwan, serves again as a good driver and takes me to shops and to the bank.
For a particularly needy family we buy some chairs, a small table and even a study-table and a chair for the scholarship child in that family.A neighbour, Ruwan’s friend, happens to come along and gives a helping hand. Last week already, we bought two mattresses and a rack which have been stored temporarily in a room at school. On Wednesday, all these objects will be taken to the family’s place. Thanks go to a close friend for this generous donation.
Rohana Special School would so much like to have a photocopier, but it is difficult to find one in Matara. We try several shops, but all in vain. That means that the school must send someone to Colombo to find it there. Finally, we are lucky and can buy all the necessary equipment in a big shop. With regard to a European white lady buying a photocopier, the young manager assumes that a donation might be given to a school, and immediately, she grants a reduction of about 10 %, which we accept joyfully. Tomorrow morning, they will send an expert to Rohana School who will install the device and give an introduction.
In the afternoon, I’m happy to welcome some friendly visitors at the hotel: grandmother, mother and baby. It is a pleasure to have them here and to enjoy a cup of tea and some cake.
That will do for today. Why not have a shorter report from time to time?

September 13th, 2016

At 9.30 a.m. I’m invited to come to the photo session taking place at the preschool.Pictures are meant to be published and attract more families to send their children to this place. Preschool teachers are not paid by the government and have to make sure that there are enough young students whose parents pay a monthly fee, which is quite a lot for very needy families. When preschool teachers can prove good work, prepare the children well for primary section and this fact is advertised publicly, they may attract more students to ensure their income.
There must be good reasons for parents to send their children to a “Montessori”. The origin of this label is an Italian teacher who found out that children’s development can be advanced best when they are given help to finally do things by themselves. They should be given chances to discover, to find out by themselves, become their own builder and not being taught in an authoritarian way. I’m not quite sure whether all so-called Montessori-teachers are aware of this. I’m confident that Anura-Montessori-teachers do their very best to educate and forward those children and give them a real chance to face life and further school education.
It is really hard work before an appropriate picture can be taken. I would have preferred the nice paintings on the outside wall of PSPS as a suitable, friendly background. But chairs must be installed in the open; children are told to sit quietly, head, knees and feet straight forward, hands on thighs and knees. That is difficult to achieve with 12 young children, although teachers and the photographer try hard.
Finally, children are in the right position and teachers and I are asked to stand behind them. Finished?….No, not yet. Sunlight reflections are too disturbing, and we all have to change places and stand in front of the washrooms. No nice background, I try to oppose, but I’m told that the background is of no importance because it is added later in the photographic lab. Let’s hope that it is a nice and suitable one for children.
I remember my parents‘ old photo albums, black and white pictures, my mother as a child with her parents, sisters and brothers, austere faces, a photograph taken for eternity…..It must have been a similar situation at those times. Of course, I’m looking forward to receiving such a photograph and show it to our protectress, the princess of Neuwied whose name is given to this preschool. After this photo session I try to take some more pictures with my camera, but somehow it is difficult today to find some bright and cheerful faces.

September 14th, 2016

That is the day of our scholarship meeting. Most of mothers and children come earlier, and suddenly Pinger Madam discovers that she has forgotten all the envelopes with money in her hotel safe. Fortunately, Mr. Ruwan drives her to Mirissa, she can fetch what is necessary for the meeting and is taken back in about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, Mr. Wasantha and Mrs. Tekla made use of the time to talk about the work of our friendship association, appreciating the results with regard to nearly 20 scholarships at Anura College.
Finally I’m back and we can start. One by one the children are given their small gifts and the envelope with money, which means an extra amount on the occasion of my visit additionally to the monthly scholarship transferred to the children’s bank account. I tell them a bit about their donors who I know to a certain extent: family members, friends, association members, former students……and even those who I met for the first time when we celebrated our decennial anniversary. There are shining eyes and big smiles, sometimes some shy and embarrassed behavior when receiving the gift and the envelope with some money. Those whose sponsors I didn’t meet before my departure did not have to go empty-handed and were given some bits and pieces and a small amount of money by the friendship association.
It’s a bit strange for me when children kneel down to show their deep respect, and even some mothers did so before leaving. That is not unusual here in Sri Lanka, and it is done to thank and venerate parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, teachers or other benefactors. Although I told them earlier, not to do, they handed over some presents for their sponsors and for me that must be packed into my suitcase without being squeezed too much. Finally, Thishmi, a young grade 5 student, rises to speak in English in front of the audience and gives her honest thanks to all who are involved in enabling these scholarships. It’s really admirable that such a young student is self-confident enough to speak freely and showing her honest thanks and respect. Do you remember the voicelessness of the older students I mentioned last week?
We were lucky to find a bigger van and a driver to transport mattresses, rack, chairs and study table to the place that we had visited last Wednesday. They had repaired the broken beds, and all this new furniture changed the place and made it a bit homely and more comfortable.
The photographs I reported about yesterday are ready and were handed over to me. The fact that I had complained a little bit about the background not being child-oriented, led to a second version fitting in the colourful wall of the preschool building alternatively. Why not! It’s more or less a matter of taste!
Time over! Tomorrow I will spend some more hours at Anura College before getting ready for departure in the evening.

September 15th, 2016

Last day in Matara, and last things to do! We want to deliver the new furniture to that family that we visited last week and that badly needs these things. A retired teacher offers his van and takes us to the place in the suburb of Matara. May be, you remember the pictures of September 8th , and the ones taken after putting the new furniture into the little house look much better. Some new mattresses, a study table, a rack, four chairs and a table,… it means quite a new look and a new feeling!
There are preparations going on for the Pooja-day at Preschool. All students dressed in white are taught by their two teachers how such a ceremony is celebrated. They ask the young children to give me their thanks that should be transferred to the protectress, Princess Sophie of Neuwied. Again they kneel down in front of me to show me their respect. I have to touch their heads and say a blessing. My way of enjoying a friendly fare-well is a bit different: I use the American gesture “Give me five” and clap my big hand against their small hand, which they seem to enjoy very much and we repeat it several times. There are really strong claps and the children’s eyes are shining, which is a great pleasure for me.
Mrs. Tekla has prepared a fare-well-lunch with the help of some other teacher ladies. When I see the table with all the tasty dishes, I’m not sure how many guests are invited, because it might have been prepared for twenty or more. Fortunately, some more teachers join us and sit down to have their lunch with me. Thank you very much.
There is the cleaning material donated by the Neuwied company Limbach that I give to Mrs. Tekla. Some of her home science students want to test it, and as a result, cleaning can become a real pleasure.
Now it is time to leave for the airport. Yesterday at the meeting, I was given so many little presents for the sponsors and for me that my suitcase seems to be as packed as at my arrival, but it is not as heavy as before. Pepper, tea, nutmeg, gin jelly rolls, batik pictures and more – and not to forget lots of letters.
At the airport, some minutes before the take off, I suddenly hear an announcement: “Passenger Mrs. Pinger is kindly requested to come to the information desk.” What has happened? I’m a bit worried, but it turns out to be a nice surprise. Because of some overbooking of the plane they ask me to sit in the business class instead of economy class. Things could have been worse. Why not flying business class? A comfortable seat, easily to be transformed to a kind of bed, a glass of champagne (or just sparkling wine) and some cashew nuts, a delicious meal….and much more. After fourteen flights (or better fourteen outgoing and thirteen return flights) this is the first time that I really fall asleep for some hours and feel quite relaxed when wakening up. A bit of a jetlag, but no problem. At home, I will soon start sorting out things, quotations, bills, new addresses, new ideas to be discussed in our association board,…..But not today – all that can be postponed (…as Scarlett O’Hara used to say in “Gone with the wind”)